December 2019: Evidence-Based Policymaking Newsletter

Advancing the use of core components of effective programs: The Forum for Youth Investment has published a new issue brief detailing a “core components” approach to scaling the use of evidence. The brief defines core components, summarizes the benefits of this approach as a complement to the evidence-based program approach, and describes what steps researchers and policymakers take to identify and use core components. The brief also summarizes three examples of this approach and provides recommendations for policymakers at the federal level.

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Using research to spur new approaches and greater equity: The Forum for Youth Investment has released a new blog focusing on Seattle and King County’s implementation of the Creating Moves to Opportunity (CMTO) program. CMTO tests a more personalized response to the proven idea that place matters for young people. The blog summarizes the research informing this intervention, the promising results so far, and how this body of work has equity implications for research and program design.

Elevating Evaluation

Embracing the emotional aspects of policy research: Mathematica has released an interview with Matt Stagner who previews his upcoming address at the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management. His address will discuss how social policy researchers can embrace the emotional aspects of research to help policy research matter more.

Rapid learning – methods for evaluation change in social service programs: The Administration for Children and Families published an issue brief explaining rapid learning methods, compiling tips for selecting specific methods to use, and providing examples of successful use of these methods.

Early experiences of the performance partnership pilots: Mathematica has released their initial implementation evaluation of the first cohort of performance partnership pilots. The report found that pilots with agencies starting to make system changes frequently coordinated with their local youth-serving organizations. The report also found that not all leaders of pilots’ grantees had a full understanding of the available flexibilities. No pilots created a shared data system in the first year.

Funding the Evidence Act: The Data Foundation has released its new report examining options for allocating resources to meet emerging data and evidence needs in light of the Evidence Act. The report details some of the current challenges in measuring funding allocated for evidence purposes, describes funding mechanisms already available, and recommends actions that federal agencies and OMB could take.

Achieving the promise of the Evidence Act: Results for America has published a new webpage offering a number of resources related to the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The page includes a report on potential next steps in light of the Evidence Act’s passage, a section by section summary of the Act, and a summary of the first OMB guidance on the act.

Disaggregated data is not just a box checking exercise: The Data Quality Campaign has released a new issue brief focusing on the importance of disaggregating data (information about student performance broken down by student subgroups). In partnership with Learning Heroes and National PTA, the brief helps state leaders identify barriers and gaps in student performance.

Integrating Multiple Types of Evidence

Chief data officers see hiring problems persist: Jory Heckman from the Federal News Network examines the Evidence Act’s requirements related to Chief Data Officers and summarizes some of the key concerns relating to hiring, funding, and training that data analysts still have.

2020 playbook for using data and evidence: Results for America has published its 2020 playbook offering 17 ways that the next president can accelerate economic mobility using evidence and data. Recommendations include strategies for using evidence and data to increase economic mobility nationally, tools for helping localities use evidence in their jurisdictions, and strategies for using data to make government more transparent.

Invest in what works – standards of excellence: Results for America has published their 2019 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence and their 2019 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence. The standards examine state governments and federal agencies respectively use evidence and date in budget, policy, and management decisions to achieve better outcomes. The state standards include over 120 examples of evidence-based policies and practices while the federal standards include updated scores from nine federal agencies.

Bringing social safety network benefits online: Code for America has released an analysis of every state’s online benefits application for Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, WIC, and LIHEAP. The analysis provides a new review of human services from the client perspective.

Minnesota and New Mexico demonstrate the power of evidence: The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative has published a new case study examining how Minnesota and New Mexico have ensured that research guides spending decisions during their budget process. The brief examines how the executive and legislative branches of both states and now working together to advance evidence-based reforms.

2019 education data state legislative review: The Data Quality Campaign has released its annual review of state legislative activity relating to education data. The review found over 320 bills introduced in 47 states. Over a third of these bills were bipartisan and 83 were ultimately enacted.

Learning from Colorado’s performance initiatives: The Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab has released a series of six reports summarizing lessons learned from policy changes made during Governor Hickenlooper’s (2011-2019) term such as the SMART Government Act, the Governor’s dashboard, Lean process improvement, and the Performance Management Academy.

Putting Data into Action

Community data dialogues: The Sunlight Foundation has developed a guide for organizations looking to host community data dialogues and specifically engage non-technical audiences on open data.

Getting the most out of your community’s administrative data: The Urban Institute has compiled a series of resources that can help states, municipalities, and local organizations identify, link, and analyze the administrative data sources in their communities to better track outcomes of the social services they deliver.

Incorporating racial equity in data sharing: Broward County, Florida is developing an approach to data that seeks to correct the unintended negative consequences of existing data-sharing systems. The key difference? Incorporating equity principles in system design to ensure that the people with the greatest stake are full partners in the process.

How agencies are reporting spending data under the DATA Act: GAO has released a new report on the quality of data collected and made available on The report notes that the quality of data submitted has improved over time, but further action is needed related to the use of data standards and data governance.

Evidence for Improvement

Embedding a racial and ethnic equity perspective in the research process: Child Trends has published a working paper that promotes new guidance on how researchers can embed a racial and ethnic equity perspective throughout their research process. Some of the steps where equity can be incorporated include a landscape assessment, data collection, data analysis, and dissemination. The five guiding principles for integrating racial and ethnic equity into research from this report are also available here.

States and counties use data and evidence to improve human services programs: Mathematica recently detailed how it is working with state and local workforce and human services programs to better use data and evidence for improvement purposes through a Learn, Innovate, and Improve process.

Evidence use across sectors, around the globe: The W. T. Grant Foundation’s Vivian Tseng reflected on the foundation’s strategy to invest in evidence use and identified a number of ongoing priorities including cross-sector learning, international connections, and critical race theory.

Using data to increase equity and improve outcomes for opportunity youth: The Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions has released a new report highlighting its Equity Counts Initiative which works with Opportunity Youth Forum network communities to build capacity for data collection, analysis, and use at both the network and community level.

The case for government investment in analytics: The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School published a detailed report on why every government executive should care about data. The report summarizes a number of ‘gains’ for using analytics including savings from fraud detection, improved accuracy of programs, and improved revenue streams.

Engaging young people in making change: The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership has published a new issue brief examining ways programs can introduce young people to the power of data. The brief includes examples of programs that teach youth about data for change, elevate youth voices, encourage youth to take the lead, and bring research to life.

Elevating the voice of students: The Iowa Department of Education reflects on their work to engage students on how the department is developing and using its annual survey of school climate and culture.

Evidence on interventions for addressing youth homelessness: Chapin Hall has released a new report that presents the results of a systematic evidence review conducted to answer the question “what is the evidence of the effectiveness of programs and practices to prevent youth homelessness and to improve a range of outcomes among youth experiencing homelessness?”

Research-Practice Partnerships

Forming and sustaining a research-practice partnership: The W. T. Grant Foundation recently spoke with the Administration for Children and Families to learn how its Office for Family Assistance and Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation partnered to develop a learning agenda and sustain their research partnership over the years.

Research-practice partnerships in the Evidence Act: The W. T. Grant Foundation has unveiled their updated website on research-practice partnerships, an important strategy for leveraging data in decision-making in light of the Evidence Act. The site includes information on structuring a partnership, developing a joint research agenda, communicating research and engaging stakeholders, using research, staffing, funding partnership work, and evaluating partnerships.