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The Implications of Policy Pre-Post Test Scores for Street-Level Bureaucratic Discretion

JHHSA, Vol. 32 No. 2, (2009)

Substantial reductions in audit error rates observed over the past few years suggest eligibility workers have moved toward an eligibility compliance culture described by Bane and Ellwood. However, the results of this study indicate that social service caseworkers responded correctly to 49% of the targeted policy items at the pre-test stage and 68% at the post-test stage. Such findings provide preliminary support for the hypothesis that, in instances when caseworkers lack policy knowledge, they use their own discretion. Such a finding not only supports Lipsky‘s theory but also supports the notion that administrators should be encouraged to utilize ‗mastery learning‘ procedures whereby caseworkers are retained in new-hire and follow-up training classes until they have mastered 100% of targeted policy information. Retention of caseworkers may also reduce federal and local audit errors and errors in crediting the reduction of caseloads to social service policies when in fact significant components of them have not been implemented (learned or utilized). And, most importantly, retention in training classes may increase the appropriate provision of services to the needy.

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