June 2019: Evidence-Based Policymaking Newsletter

The Forum’s Thoughts on the Federal Data Strategy’s Draft Year-One Action Plan:

The Forum latest blog reacts to the newly released draft Year-One Action Plan for the Federal Data Strategy. The blog summarizes the overall strategy and analyzes how the draft action plan’s 16 action steps fit the Forum’s priority areas of elevating evaluation, using evidence for improvement and integrating multiple types of evidence into decision-making processes. You can read the blog here.

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New Director of Policy and Research: We are excited to announce that Mary Ellen Wiggins is joining the team as the Director of Policy and Research where she will lead the Forum’s work on evidence-based policy and policy alignment. Mary Ellen joins the Forum from the White House Office of Management and Budget where she focused on the use of evidence in policymaking, Performance Partnership Pilots, and more! You can contact her at MaryEllen@forumfyi.org.

Using evidence for improvement at the local level: The Forum released a new case study on the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity’s Young Adult Literacy program. The program serves youth and young adults aged 16 to 24 by providing reading, writing and math instruction in preparation for high school equivalency courses. Early evaluations demonstrated that the program was successful, but struggling to retain participants. The program added an internship component with attendance requirements to increase retention.

The necessity of elevating evaluation: The Forum released a case study on the Year-Round Pell Grant. Using evidence to inform policy decisions is particularly challenging when the existing research base is thin, and findings are not clear. This was the case for decisions regarding the Year-Round Pell Grant program which, over the course of the last decade, was created, discontinued, and reinstated. The brief explains how these policy decisions were or were not informed by evidence and how policymakers adjusted the program over time as research studies were completed and their results released.

Using evidence for improvement at the state level: The Forum released a case study on ServeMinnesota, a statewide AmeriCorps grantee, and the improvements they made to their Reading Corps program, a K-3 literacy intervention that uses AmeriCorps members to tutor children. While Reading Corps demonstrated results, some children would regress once they left the individualized daily coaching sessions and returned to standard classrooms. ServeMinnesota added a weekly monitoring session to practice reading skills with children. Students who participated in this weekly session had higher probabilities of reaching literacy benchmarks.

Using evidence for improvement event recap: We partnered with the Urban Institute to bring together policymakers and practitioners from across levels of government and the non-profit sector to discuss using evidence for improvement in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act). Read the summary or watch the video of federal, state and local speakers sharing their successes in using evidence to improve programs. Closing remarks from the White House Office of Management and Budget highlight what agencies should consider as they begin to implement the Evidence Act.

The evidence chapter – what does the FY2020 version mean? The Forum wrote a blog on the ‘Evidence Chapter’ of the FY2020 President’s budget proposal which highlighted the administration’s plans for: evidence-building strategies to learn and improve, evaluation as a tool to learn and improve, harnessing data for learning and improvement, and promoting transparency and accountability in federal evidence-building. The blog highlights how the Administration’s plans and proposals intersect with key ideas from the Forum’s recent publications as well as recommendations from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.

Elevating Evaluation

How to build a learning culture within an agency: Grant Thornton’s Andy Feldman published an article in Government Executive on how to build a learning culture within an agency by taking a “Yes, and…” approach. He offers four guiding principles: use top-down and bottom-up strategies, focus on shorter-term and longer-term ways to gather insights, harness existing and new data, and strengthen internal capacity and create research-practitioner partnerships.

Placing equity at the center of knowledge development: The Center for the Study of Social Policy has released a report on placing equity at the center of knowledge development for efforts to improve outcomes for marginalized communities. The report details a number of recommendations for communities, funders and evaluators.

Why am I always being researched? Chicago Beyond has published a guide for community organizations, researchers and funders examining how the power dynamic between these groups can often block evidence production and use. The guide highlights seven inequities that can get in the way and offers support for organizations looking to better infuse equity into their work.

Prevention Services Clearinghouse Handbook: The Administration for Children and Families released the Prevention Services Clearinghouse Handbook of Standards and Procedures which provides a detailed description of the standards used to identify and review programs and services for the Prevention Services Clearinghouse. It also provides a detailed description of the procedures followed by the Prevention Services Clearinghouse staff.

Evidence-Based Practices

Identifying and promoting common outcomes: Chapin Hall and Youth Collaboratory have released a report and recommended measures for the Youth Outcomes Project, a national initiative to identify and promote common outcomes and measures for systems and programs working to prevent and end youth homelessness. The report is based on a review of federal proposals and evaluation literature and participation from 6 federal agencies, researchers, practitioners, philanthropists and youth with lived experiences.

Integrating Multiple Types of Evidence

Request for Information (RFI) Guide: Project Evident and Results for America have developed a Request for Information (RFI) guide which leads government and human services providers through a series of Collaborative Procurement Questions that can be used over the course of the entire government contracting process, including in an RFI itself, to strengthen the human services contracting process. RFIs allow government, community stakeholders, and human services providers the opportunity to identify relevant community challenges, co-create strategies to solve those challenges, and design the best procurement structures to achieve the desired outcomes.

Focusing government’s C-Suite on data quality: A new op-ed in the Hill highlights the potential for chief data officers, new positions established by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, to better enable agencies to use data as a strategic asset.

Public Forum on the Federal Data Strategy: The Data Coalition is partnering with the Office of Management and Budget to host a public forum on action items for implementing the federal data strategy. The July 8th event will provide members of the public with an in-person opportunity to comment on the Federal Data Strategy’s draft year-one action plan.

Evidence for Improvement

Expanding evidence building across a national network: Project Evident released a case study on expanding evidence building across a national network. The brief explore the challenges HealthySteps, a national program focused on pediatric primary care settings, faced in scaling evidence across new priority outcome areas and a national network – and how Project Evident’s approach helped bolster their ability to use data for continuous program improvement across a varied network.

Six steps states can take to prioritize evidence through the law: The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a fact sheet highlighting six steps states can take to prioritize effective, evidence-based programs through law. State leaders can use a number of strategies to ensure that their efforts are continued through inevitable changes in the political life cycle.