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Performance Management of U.S. Job Training Programs: Lessons from the Job Training Partnership Act

Author: BURT S. BARNOW AND JEFFREY A. SMITH
Published in PFM, Vol. 4 No. 3

Performance management systems that provide (relatively)
quick feedback to program operators play an important role in
employment and training programs around the world. This paper
brings together evidence on the effects of such systems, drawn
primarily from the widely studied U.S. Job Training Partnership Act
(JTPA) program. The questions addressed include the effects of
performance standards systems on who gets served, on what services
they receive, on the technical efficiency of program operation, on the
economic efficiency of program operation, and on strategic behavior by
program managers to “game” the system. Though incomplete on
important dimensions, the available evidence makes it clear that the
JTPA standards did little to enhance the impact of the program on
employment and earnings, while at the same time inducing attempts to
“game” the system by actions such as terminating participants at a
time that would maximize measured performance rather than when
services are no longer provided. We conclude by drawing policy
conclusions from the available evidence and making suggests for future
research.

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