Department of Education: Excellence in Data Collection Leadership
Editor’s Note: The following quote from a new GAO report demonstrates the Department of Education’s government-wide leadership in ensuring compliance with an essential Good Government law. The complete GAO report is available here.
OMB officials told us they were not involved in Education’s inventory initiative, but said they considered the creation of a data collection inventory to be a best practice for federal agencies. OMB officials added that they were not aware of similarly comprehensive inventories at any other agencies, noting that Education was a leader in this practice.
Department of Education’s approach to inventorying data is setting a standard for other agencies, according to federal watchdogs.
The U.S. Department of Education is being praised by both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its work in creating an inventory of all its data collections.
The GAO report was prompted by a request from the House Education and the Workforce Committee, responding to complaints from states and school districts that data collection and reporting was burdensome and duplicative.
The Congressional watchdog agency found the department has taken extensive steps to establish internal control objectives and mechanisms, such as verifying the accuracy and validity of information about the many data collections. When GAO contacted OMB about the inventory of data collections, OMB officials said creating such an inventory should be considered “a best practice for federal agencies.” OMB added that they did not know of any other agency creating an inventory, and that “Education was a leader in this practice.”
Some of the data collections already included in the inventory are EDFacts, a centralized system of state-reported K-12 educational performance data; its Civil Rights Data Collection; and statistical data collections conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Still to be incorporated is the Common Core of Data and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Data collections such as those tracking federal student aid programs also will be added.
When the inventory is complete, it will contain more than 300 metadata fields covering the context of each data collection, such as the type of respondent (e.g., state, postsecondary, etc.), whether the data collection is voluntary or mandatory, frequency and most recent year in that data collection, and estimated burden time to comply with the collection.
Brand Niemann, former senior enterprise architect and data scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency, and now senior data scientist at Semanticommunity.net, applauded Education’s creation of a data collection inventory.