25 District agencies flunk their own tests

25 District agencies flunk their own tests

The John A. Wilson building, Washington D.C., Thursday, March 1st, 2012 (Graeme Jennings/The Examiner)

Alan

Blinder

Examiner Staff Writer

If District agencies were graded on the same scale as D.C. students, more than two dozen city offices would’ve flunked in 2011, a Washington Examiner analysis of public records shows.

Each year, District agencies set their own performance goals and are judged by how many of those goals they meet. But the agencies’ own report cards show they often don’t meet most of their goals.

In the 2011 fiscal year, 25 city agencies failed to meet at least 64 percent of their goals, the passing mark in D.C. schools.

How they fared
Only four District agencies achieved 100 percent of their goals last year. Other agencies weren’t as successful.
Executive Office of the Mayor: 78 percent
Fire and Emergency Services: 53 percent
Homeland Security: 96 percent
Metropolitan Police Department: 64 percent
Motor Vehicles: 72 percent
Public Schools: 71 percent

"Many of those plans and initiatives were developed by the previous administration and were either put on hold or not fully implemented," said City Administrator Allen Lew, who oversees the evaluation system and whose own office met only 53 percent of its goals last year.

Lew said the Gray administration has conducted its own review of the agencies’ performances and finances. The resulting changes are included in the 2013 budget and will provide what Lew called "much better barometers" for measuring agency success under the new administration.

The agencies that faltered last year varied from the prominent — including the Department of Health (49 percent) and the Department of Parks and Recreation (30 percent) — to the little-known, like the Office of Police Complaints (50 percent).

From agency to agency, the goals varied in scope and significance. Some offices set ambitious goals and achieved them, like the Department of Transportation’s effort to enlarge Capital Bikeshare or the Department of Environment’s expansion of a rebate program for people who purchased more efficient appliances. Other agencies set much more modest goals for themselves, like increasing attendance at the District’s own marketing events.

Some agencies helped ensure higher scores for themselves by setting goals that were actually lower than the previous year’s standard. The city’s public schools set as a goal in 2011 that its students would pass 18 percent of the Advanced Placement exams they took, even though the students passed 28 percent of their exams in 2010. Ultimately, students passed 30 percent of the exams they took.

Just four of the District’s 62 agencies whose records The Examiner reviewed — including the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and the Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs — met all of their goals.

A year-over-year analysis indicates that most District agencies aren’t improving with time. Thirty agencies actually did worse in 2011 than they did in 2010, and five others kept the same scores. The Office of Risk Management recorded the lowest average score in that span: 47 percent.

While some agencies reported improvements — the Office of Employee Appeals improved its score by 40 points — others experienced rapid deterioration.

The Commission on the Arts and Humanities took the greatest tumble. In 2010, it scored 88 percent, but last year, it reported a 33 percent success rate.

Commission staff members didn’t respond to a request for comment.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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