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The 1990 Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act established an accountability system intended to bring about improvement in vocational training programs. In this issue paper, the authors argue that current congressional proposals to change federal workforce training programs may undermine this purpose because they pay little attention to accountability. The paper identifies three accountability questions that are critical to delivery of training and program improvement: To whom should programs be accountable? Which outcomes should be monitored? and How should performance data be used? Discussion of these questions leads to the following policy-relevant conclusions. First, programs must be accountable to multiple constituents (students, the local business community, the state) because accountability to only one creates imbalanced incentives that could undermine training quality. Second, the choice of outcomes to be monitored affects system operations and can distort perceptions of system performance. Thus, multiple outcome measures and data on instructional processes are preferred. Third, state and local authorities need help in using performance data to make beneficial choices, to strengthen successful training programs, and to eliminate unsuccessful ones.

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