The Department of Education’s purpose is to establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education. Its mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation (wikipedia.org). The Department carries out its mission in two ways. First, the Department pursues goals of access and excellence through the administration of programs that cover every area of education and range from preschool education through postdoctoral research (ED.gov). Second, the Secretary and the Department are constantly engaging in national discussion over how to improve the quality of education for all students (ED.gov)
Originally, the Department of Education was founded in 1867 to assemble information on schools and teaching that would assist all states to create effective school systems (wikipedia.org). They were able to do this by providing for teachers, school administrators and education policymakers a platform on which to share with one another the latest discoveries in what works with teaching and learning and helping communities work out solutions to difficult educational issues (ED.gov). In October 1979, The Department of Education Organization Act was passed into law. This law mandated that the United States organize and create a cabinet level agency that would assist the President in making policy decisions involving education. In May of 1980, Congress established the US Department of Education, called ED (wikipedia.org).
The U.S. Department of Education serves an astronomical number of individuals. All of the individuals in the United States and then anyone else who may be looking to come to this country for an education who is willing to pick up the phone or look on the internet to ask for help. The U.S. Department of Education is willing to help individuals of all ages (Monica). “We serve students from low income families through grants, infants, toddlers, children, and adults, through No Child Left Behind. We serve any student who qualifies for grants and loans through our FAFSA grants and loans. We serve parents, teachers, and education administrators, through our many websites and publications of the U.S. Department of Education” (Monica). It serves around 4,200 of the federal government’s employees. There are an estimated 37.9 million primary school students (grades 1-6), 16.5 million secondary school students (grades 7-12), and 17.5 million post-secondary school students (college level). Combined, that’s an estimated 76.8 million students (wikipedia.org).
Currently the Department of Education administers a budget of 62.6 billion dollars. The budget has of course changed somewhat since the department’s inception. Looking at Table 1 (ED.gov) will show just how drastic the change has been from then until now!
The Department of Education’s structure is very complex. The official title of the head of the Department is the Secretary of Education. The Secretary must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary is a member of the President’s cabinet and the Department’s public figure with the task of promoting public understanding of the goals and objectives of the Department. The Secretary also advises the President on federal policies, programs, and activities related to education in the United States. The PresidentAs a member of the President’s cabinet, the Secretary is the principal advisor to the president on federal policies, programs, and activities related to education in the United States. The secretary is nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate.
The Secretary is aided in the overall management of the Department by the Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary. The Secretary also appoints an Assistant Secretary to oversee each of the eight program offices. They are as follows (See Table 2. usinfo.org):
? The Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students administers programs designed to enable students with limited English proficiency to become proficient in English and meet challenging state academic content and student achievement standards (ED.gov).
? The Office for Civil Rights enforces federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. (ED.gov).
? The Office of Educational Research and Improvement supports research and demonstration projects to improve education; collects and analyzes education statistics; disseminates information on research findings and education statistics; and provides technical assistance to those working to improve education (ED.gov).
? The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education is responsible for providing leadership, technical assistance, and financial support to state and local education agencies for the maintenance and improvement of both public and private preschool, elementary, and secondary education. OESE administers programs designed to advance the academic opportunities of the nation’s neediest children (ED.gov).
? The Office of Postsecondary Education is responsible for formulating federal postsecondary education policy and administering grant programs and other initiatives that provide assistance to postsecondary education institutions for reform, innovation, and improvement. OPE is also responsible for the accrediting agency recognition process and for coordinating with the states on matters that affect institutional participation in federal financial assistance programs (ED.gov).
? The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services provides support for programs designed to educate children with special needs; provides for the rehabilitation of youths and adults with disabilities; and supports research to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities, regardless of age (ED.gov).
? The Office of Federal Student Aid administers the systems and products related to providing billions of dollars annually in federal financial aid to millions of students pursuing postsecondary education and training opportunities. The office provides information and forms for students applying for loans, grants, and work-study funds, as well as technical information for financial aid administrators, lending institutions, auditors, and others in the field. In 1998, this office became the first performance-based organization in the federal government, with increased accountability for results and greater flexibility in operations (ED.gov).
? The Office of Vocational and Adult Education supports a wide range of programs and activities that prepare people for employment and that provide adults with basic skills necessary to obtain a high school diploma or the equivalent (ED.gov).
The very first Secretary of Education was Shirley Hufstedler who served under President Jimmy Carter. To this date, there have only been nine people to hold that position. To name a few, Terrell Bell was in Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet and Richard Riley was under Bill Clinton. Currently, that position is held by Arne Duncan who previously served as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (ED.gov).
A telephone interview was conducted with Monica at the Information Resource Center for the US Department of Education. She was posed the question, “What are some accomplishments by the United States Department of Education?”
“There were two great accomplishments by the U.S. Department of Education. The first accomplishment was that of overseeing of the implementation of the elementary and secondary education as reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Program in 1965. The second great accomplishment that comes to mind for me is that of the Higher Education Act (Monica)”.
The No Child Left Behind Act is an Act that was signed into law by President Bush in 2002. The intention for this law is to improve the educational opportunities for disadvantaged students; to narrow the achievement gap. To do this, it required states to demonstrate annual progress in raising the percentage of students that understand in the subjects of math and reading by using standardized test scores. It set deadlines for the individual states to enlarge the target group of students tested and the frequency of that testing. The No Child Left Behind Act also increased funding for programs such as kindergarten through third grade reading programs, before school programs as well as after school programs, provide the states with the flexibility to use federal funds however they feel will best benefit their state (ED.gov).
The Higher Education Act is an Act that helps to carry out a program of making grants and contracts designed to identify qualified individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prepare them for a program of postsecondary education, to provide support services for such students who are pursuing programs of postsecondary education, to motivate and prepare students for doctoral programs, and to train individuals serving or preparing for service in programs and projects so designed (ED.gov).
The passing of both of these acts into law have had a positive impact on the economy in more than one way. First, they have created employment positions within the government in order to serve the individuals who qualify for the educational programs. Second, they have given employment opportunities to the educated individuals who previously would not have those opportunities. Third, the next generation of family members will have a better foundation. They will have not grown up in poverty.