November 29, 2018 Press Releases

Results for America Releases 2018 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence

Federal Standard Highlights How 9 Federal Agencies Are
Using Evidence and Data to Improve Results

Washington, DC – At an event today at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, Results for America released the 2018 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence, an annual scorecard of how federal agencies are using evidence and data to get better results.

The new Federal Standard highlights how 9 federal agencies – which oversee more than $220 billion in federal investments annually – are building the infrastructure necessary to be able to use data, evidence, and evaluation in budget, policy, and management decisions.

The good news is that we continue to see results-driven, evidence-based efforts advance across the federal government due to the hard work and dedication of career civil servants and bipartisan leaders in Congress,” said David Medina, COO and Co-Founder of Results for America. While we have seen some steps backward this past year – including cuts to program evaluation budgets at some agencies – we are mostly encouraged that the bipartisan movement to ‘invest in what works’ at the federal level continues to grow stronger each year.”

Among the highlights of the 2018 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence:

  • 3 federal agencies received higher overall scores compared to last year (CNCS, MCC, and USAID); 4 agencies received the same overall scores (ACF, DOL, ED, and HUD); 1 agency received a lower overall score (SAMHSA); and we added 1 new agency for the first time this year (ACL).
  • 23 competitive and non-competitive grant programs across 9 federal agencies are now prioritizing evidence of effectiveness when allocating funds (an increase of 2 programs since 2017).
  • 4 federal agencies have developed and are now implementing model practices, policies, programs, and systems which can and should be developed and used across the federal government to help improve outcomes:

    • The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) both invest over 1% of program funds in evaluation, 5% and 1.1% respectively.
    • The U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires applicants for all 5 of its largest competitive grant programs to use evidence-based practices, uses a common evidence framework to make these decisions, and promotes constant use of evidence-based practices through a robust What Works Clearinghouse.
    • The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Officer has the authority and staff to evaluate agency programs, create learning agendas across the agency, and execute an evaluation policy and plan that calls for the public release of all completed evaluations.

Here are examples of some of the most significant evidence-based policymaking developments within these 9 federal agencies this past fiscal year (FY18):

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within HHS: ACF began implementing new requirements for ensuring state and local governments use evidence-based prevention services in child welfare.
  • Administration for Community Living (ACL) within HHS: ACL continued to require that all Health Promotion program funds are spent on evidence-based practices and to provide technical assistance to grantees to help them carry out the requirements.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS): CNCS leveraged competitive preference points in the AmeriCorps program to increase the percentage of dollars flowing to grantees using the strongest levels of evidence-based practices.
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC): MCC executed its policy to evaluate every single grant project the agency funds.
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): USAID leveraged $72 million to spur innovation across six major initiatives as part of its Global Development Lab.
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): DOL required and encouraged grantees in the Re-Entry Projects program (job training for individuals returning from incarceration) to use evidence-based practices and to evaluate their programs.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): HUD increased the number of competitive grant programs that require or encourage applicants to use evidence-based practices — in 3 of their 5 largest competitive grant programs this year.
  • U.S. Department of Education (ED): ED required applicants in its 5 largest competitive grant programs to use evidence-based practices, a first among federal agencies.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) within HHS: SAMHSA indicated it will improve the rigor and relevance of its clearinghouse of evidence-based practices and promote the utilization of evidence-based practices among grantees.

In 2018, four federal agencies took steps that reduced their commitment to data and evidence initiatives:

  • HUD terminated its HUD Stat program, widely seen as a best practice across federal agencies;
  • DOL cut its spending on evaluation in half (from $40 million in FY17 to $21 million in FY18). Recent documents obtained by the Bipartisan Policy Center also suggest the agency cut the amount of funding it transfers to its Chief Evaluation Office for this fiscal year’s program evaluation to $2 million from $13 million;
  • ED decreased its spending on evaluation by over 80% (from $202 million in FY17 to $38 million in FY18); and
  • SAMHSA suspended its what works clearinghouse (NREPP) without launching a complete replacement.

RFA is committed to working with committed federal civil servants and Members of Congress from across the political spectrum to address these issues, and continuing the bipartisan momentum for evidence-based policymaking.  

“Working together – federal civil servants, lawmakers, academics, researchers, and other evidence champions – we can create a more efficient and effective federal government that delivers better results for the American people at lower costs to taxpayers,” Medina said.



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