- Troops-to-Teachers — a U.S. Department of Defense program that provides grants to help military personnel become teachers — should have a system to assess and report on the program's effectiveness, said a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.
- DOD had ended the program in 2020 due to a "realignment of agency resources" and after the number of participants hired as teachers fell 81% from 2014 to 2020. But Congress made the program mandatory during a reauthorization in fiscal year 2022, and DOD awarded grants to a dozen programs for that year.
- The aim of the program is to reduce teacher shortages in low-income areas and in academic subjects with high teacher vacancies, such as math, science and special education. However, a lack of participant data and coordination with the U.S. Department of Education makes it difficult to determine if the program is meeting its goals, GAO said.
DOD does not currently track information about participant performance or about the satisfaction levels of school districts that hired teachers through the program, GAO said. Additionally, GAO researchers spoke with several school districts that said they don't keep information on Troops-to-Teachers participation.
The agency does require grantees to submit annual performance reports, but it does not use that information to measure program effectiveness.
In response to the recommendations for assessing and reporting, DOD told GAO researchers that it lacks the resources and capacity to implement these activities.
In addition to those recommendations, GAO also advised DOD to follow through on its 2013 memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to provide program information to the Education Department, which it is not currently doing. Prior to FY 2013, the program was overseen by the Education Department before being transferred to DOD.
"Leveraging information from Education (such as where there are critical teacher shortage areas), and ensuring that Education has relevant information from DOD (such as current program information and grantee announcements to send to state certification/licensing officials), could provide opportunities to enhance the potential of the Troops-to-Teachers program," the GAO report said.
DOD told GAO it agrees with the recommendation of sharing information with the Education Department but only as it relates to staff activities that directly support current program participants. DOD officials said the agency would be unable to support the entire MOA because it lacked the capacity to assess the program's effectiveness.
The Troops-to-Teachers program was originally established by the National Defense Authorization Act in 1992. Between fiscal years 2014 and 2020, there were 26,5050 hires. GAO researchers said that although program participants make up less than 1% of the nation's teaching workforce, many participants are from underrepresented groups. For example, between 2014 and 2020, 72% participants were men, and 42% were non-White.
During that same time period, more than 50% of Troops-to-Teachers hires occurred in six states: California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia, according to GAO.
In FY 2022, DOD allocated about $1.38 million to 12 program grantees, DOD officials told GAO. Additionally, four other grantees used funds remaining from existing Troops-to-Teachers program awards. Those 16 grantees from 25 states were to provide counseling and referral services through May of this year for aspiring teachers who had served in the military.