Workforce Investment Act:

Improvements Needed in Performance Measures to Provide a More Accurate Picture of WIA's Effectiveness

GAO-02-275: Published: Feb 1, 2002. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 2002.

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Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1998 to bring most federally funded employment and training services into a single, one one-stop center system. GAO assessed three programs that provide service through this system. States and localities have begun to implement the new performance measurement system for the three WIA-funded programs but report several challenges. States had to change the way they collected and reported performance data. They also faced challenges in implementing these measures due to their complexity and the resource demands created by new measures. Some developed new procedures to obtain access to sensitive records. The performance levels are of particular concern to state and local officials because failure to meet them can result in financial sanctions. As a result, states may be choosing to serve only those job seekers who are most likely to be successful. Even when fully implemented, performance measures may not provide a true picture of WIA-funded program performance because data are neither comparable across states nor timely. The measures include many of the indicators relevant to an employment and training program, such as getting and keeping jobs and increasing wages and skills. Although measures exist to gauge the performance of the three WIA-funded programs, there are no measures to gauge the performance of the one-stop system as a whole. At least 17 programs provide services through the one-stop system, and most have their own performance measures. Although these performance measures may be used for assessing outcomes for individual programs, they cannot be used to measure the success of the overall system.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor supports and encourages the identification of promising practices and sharing information among state and local systems. Some states have developed tools to address the lack of timeliness in UI data. For example, Florida developed short-term measures to provide a "dashboard" look at how all major programs are performing.

    Recommendation: To help states address the challenges using UI data to measure outcomes, the Department of Labor should develop ways for states to share promising approaches that help states address the UI timeliness issue, providing methods to help states monitor and improve their programs in a timely manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To help states supplement UI data, Labor awarded a grant to the State of Maryland in 2003 to develop an interstate communications network that would provide states and other grantees with low cost access to wage record information not covered by UI. The pilot project, called the Federal Employment Data Exchange System (FEDES), collaborated with the Department of Defense, Office of Personnel Management, and the U.S. Postal Service to provide access to federal civilian and military employment records maintained by these agencies. All three agencies formally entered an agreement to participate by November 2004. Agencies representing 22 states are now participating in FEDES and another 7 states are negotiating data sharing agreements to participate. In addition, Labor's TEGL 28-04, which took effect on July 1, 2005, explains that states may use additional wage data to supplement UI records and identifies numerous data sources available to states.

    Recommendation: To help states address the challenges using UI data to measure outcomes, the Department of Labor should develop ways for states to share promising approaches in the use of supplemental data sources in closing the data gaps for covered and uncovered employment in UI.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor announced a new approach for funding and expanding the Wage Record Interchange System (WRIS) on August 27, 2002. In Training and Employment Notice No. 2-02, New Approaches for Funding the Wage Record and Interchange System, Labor states that it will continue to fully fund WRIS to eliminate barriers to state participation and avoid the complexities of setting up a system to manage state self-funding. This will allow states to share UI wage data across state lines to measure the performance of WIA and other workforce programs.

    Recommendation: To help states address the challenges using unemployment insurance (UI) data to measure outcomes, the Department of Labor should continue to fully fund the Wage Record Interchange System in order to facilitate the sharing of UI data across state lines.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor worked with OMB and other federal partner agencies to establish common performance measures that would apply to job training programs administered by six federal agencies. These common measures were issued in Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 17-05 on February 17, 2006. The TEGL replaced prior guidance with a single, unified Department of Labor guidance document on the common measures and WIA performance accountability system. It includes a single definition of what constitutes a credential that all states and localities must use to report on performance indicators. According to the TEGL, minimizing different reporting and performance requirements enhances the ability to assess the effectiveness and impact of the workforce investment system.

    Recommendation: To ensure uniformity in data collection and reporting so that performance results are more accurate and comparable across states, the Department of Labor should issue guidance delineating a clear definition for what constitutes a credential, and, once the guidance is released, ensure that states use it to report on this indicator.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor worked with OMB and other federal partner agencies to establish common performance measures that would apply to job training programs administered by six federal agencies. These common measures were issued to all states in Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 28-04 on April 2005 and took effect on July 1, 2005. The TEGL includes new guidance on who should be registered as a WIA participant for tracking purposes. Labor provided training on the new measures and also developed a free, online tutorial on implementing them, which is available to all Labor staff.

    Recommendation: To ensure uniformity in data collection and reporting so that performance results are more accurate and comparable across states, the Department of Labor should provide clearer guidance using objective criteria on who should or should not be registered as a WIA participant for tracking purposes and, once the guidance is released, work proactively with states to implement it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor issued a training and employment guidance letter on revising negotiated performance levels on February 12, 2002, allowing states to submit requests for changes immediately thereafter. The guidance describes criteria and procedures Labor will use in considering state requests to renegotiate levels of performance under WIA.

    Recommendation: To eliminate possible disincentives to serve some job seekers and ensure that states and local areas will not be unduly penalized for economic downturns, the Department of Labor should expedite the release of guidance on revising negotiated performance levels and allow states to immediately begin the process of renegotiation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Labor did not delay sanctions for a year. In 2002, Labor stated that its responsibility for oversight and fiscal integrity would allow the agency to take into account the availability of accurate and relevant data in determining whether to impose financial sanctions when analyzing program year 2001 data. The earliest a state could be subject to financial sanctions would not be until program year 2002, because they would be applied only after the second successive year of a program.

    Recommendation: To give states and local areas more time to implement WIA performance measures and establish baseline data needed to determine performance levels, the Department of Labor should delay the application of financial sanctions for at least one year or until it is judged that states have their data systems sufficiently in place to successfully track WIA outcomes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To help states measure one-stop performance and provide for one-stop system measures, Labor awarded a grant to the State of Washington to develop outcome measures across multiple workforce development programs and measures for One-Stop Centers and provide states with technical assistance to implement them. The Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (the Board) drafted guidance identifying integrated performance measures for workforce programs, which it called Integrated Performance Information (IPI). In 2004, the Board presented the draft at two IPI sessions attended by a total of 10 states and provided them with technical assistance. Some states instituted pieces of the IPI system and at least 3 other states are preparing to implement parts of it. Final IPI guidance was issued in February 2005.

    Recommendation: To help states measure one-stop performance, the Department of Labor should ensure that the development of optional one-stop system measures is completed in enough time for states to implement them at the beginning of program year 2002.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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