Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

Performance Reporting and Related Challenges

GAO-15-764R: Published: Sep 23, 2015. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 2015.

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What GAO Found

Federal agencies rely on state data sources for performance reporting on employment and training programs, and generally do not obtain personally identifiable information (PII) in the process. Specifically, state agencies provide data to federal agencies for performance reporting after collecting the necessary data from local agencies and other sources, including state Unemployment Insurance (UI) agencies that hold wage records. Many states access wage records through federally-funded data exchange systems using PII to match records. States then submit outcome data to federal data systems used for performance reporting, which are generally considered by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Education (Education) to be low risk in terms of the potential harm that could result from improper PII disclosure.

Federal auditors have previously identified various challenges with performance reporting for employment and training programs, such as those related to data consistency and validation, and federal inspector general (IG) officials and representatives of state agencies said these issues could continue under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Moreover, federal officials and representatives of state agencies anticipate additional changes and challenges to performance reporting for states. For example, while some states currently collect wage and employment data through various methods for Education programs, including follow-up surveys of participants, WIOA will require all core programs to use quarterly wage record data for reporting. Several federal officials and representatives of state agencies GAO interviewed noted that this change may be challenging because of (1) lack of working relationships with other agencies, such as in cases where education programs have used methods other than data matching to obtain outcome data, (2) limited resources, and (3) privacy laws in some states that may restrict sharing confidential data. Meanwhile, federal agencies are developing guidance to help state and local agencies implement WIOA performance reporting. Education and DOL jointly issued proposed regulations in April 2015 that are intended in part to address some of the challenges with performance reporting, although final rules may differ as they incorporate changes based on input from the public comment process.

Why GAO Did This Study

In July 2014, WIOA (Pub. L. No. 113-128) brought changes to the programs that create a foundation for the nation’s employment and job training system. WIOA requires that DOL and Education collaborate to implement a common performance accountability system for six core programs, which the agencies note is an historic opportunity to align definitions, streamline performance indicators, and integrate reporting across programs. These core programs, which DOL and Education administer through grants to state agencies, are: Title I Adult, Title I Dislocated Worker, Title I Youth, Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, and State Vocational Rehabilitation Services programs. WIOA establishes six performance indicators on which states must report for the core programs, such as those related to employment status, earnings, and skills gains in education or training programs, starting in July 2016. This represents a noticeable change from the prior law, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), under which performance indicators varied considerably across several of the core programs, though all of the six programs have already been reporting on performance related to employment and most have been reporting on earnings.

Section 505 of WIOA includes a provision for GAO to issue an interim and final report on federal and state databases and data exchange agreements containing job training information relevant to WIOA, and opportunities to enhance the quality of these data. This interim report focuses on the current state of performance reporting for the core programs at the federal level. Specifically, the following issues are addressed in this report: (1) how federal and state agencies currently report on WIA performance measures for core job training programs; and (2) challenges to performance reporting previously identified by federal auditors and anticipated challenges. The final report will address databases and exchanges in selected states and protection of personal data shared across agencies, and is expected to be issued in 2016.  

To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOL and Education documentation on relevant data systems and data exchange agreements and interviewed officials from these agencies who oversee performance reporting for the core programs. GAO reviewed its past reports and federal IG reports and interviewed IG officials about challenges with performance reporting and data systems. GAO also interviewed officials from five national associations representing state agencies to obtain information on states’ experiences with performance reporting, including current and anticipated challenges. GAO purposefully selected these national associations to gain perspectives on each of the programs WIOA designated as core. Finally, GAO reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations in this report.

For more information, contact Andrew Sherrill 202-512-7215 or sherrilla@gao.gov.

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