August 12, 2020 Press Releases

Results for America Releases the 2020 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence

Publicly released at an event co-hosted by the National Governors Association, the 2020 State Standard of Excellence highlights states’ efforts to use evidence and data to respond to COVID-19 and advance economic mobility

WASHINGTON, DC – During a virtual event co-hosted by the National Governors Association today, Results for America released the 2020 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence, which highlights how states are using evidence and data to inform their COVID-19 efforts and to advance economic mobility.

The 2020 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence (State Standard of Excellence) identifies seven Leading States (Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington) and four Honor Roll States (Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island) for their evidence-based policymaking. The 2020 State Standard of Excellence showcases 169 examples of data-driven and evidence-based practices, policies, programs, and systems in 35 states across the country.

The 169 leading and promising practices in effect in state governments represent a 36% increase from the number of leading and promising state efforts in the 2019 State Standard of Excellence. This third annual State Standard of Excellence includes examples in the following areas, among others: 31 related to COVID-19, 96 related to education (an increase of 20 over 2019), and 84 related to workforce (an increase of 25 over 2019). These leading and promising examples provide a roadmap for how every state can build and use evidence and data when making budget, policy, and management decisions, especially during times of crises.

“The COVID-19 crisis underscores the critical importance of using evidence and data to drive decision-making at every level of government,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Results for America. “The 2020 State Standard of Excellence illustrates how many governors and state agency leaders around the country and across the political spectrum are rising to the occasion and investing in what works to meet the urgent needs of their residents.”

The 2020 State Standard of Excellence highlights how state governments can respond more effectively to crises when they incorporate evidence into their decision-making. In recent months, all 50 states have elevated the importance of data in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by creating public-facing dashboards to track key health and economic indicators in their states. States with strong existing capacity to leverage data are better positioned to respond rapidly to COVID-19 and focus their efforts on addressing the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on communities of color. Leading state efforts include:

  • The Connecticut Departments of Education and Social Services leveraged data-sharing agreements to match student and SNAP benefit data to automatically deliver SNAP Pandemic EBT food benefits to 287,000 children when schools across the state closed.
  • Minnesota’s COVID Response Capacity Tracker includes a race and ethnicity data dashboard in addition to metrics on economic and food security, critical care supplies, and dial back indicators.
  • Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training launched an improved cloud-based unemployment benefits system to administer the federal COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that enabled the state to be among the first states in the nation to provide benefits in the face of record-high employment claims and to continue to recertify residents despite the extreme traffic.
  • Tennessee’s Office of Customer Focused Government transparently tracks the allocation of $12.8 billion of federal COVID-19 emergency stimulus and relief funding statewide on an interactive site. Operated by the Department of Finance and Administration, the page is regularly updated.
  • Virginia’s COVID-19 Health Equity Work Group layers geospatial data with race and ethnicity data to establish testing centers in under-resourced communities as well as target the distribution of masks and hand sanitizers in these areas.

Results for America identified seven states that are leading the way on evidence and data: Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington. These states have made significant strides towards creating a statewide ecosystem for investing in what works to achieve better outcomes.

This year, Results for America is also recognizing four Honor Roll States that demonstrated a commitment to evidence-based and data-driven policymaking: Massachusetts (increased from five examples in 2019 to seven examples in 2020), North Carolina (increased from four examples in 2019 to seven 2020), Ohio (increased from five examples in 2019 to seven examples in 2020), and Rhode Island (increased from three examples in 2019 to seven in 2020).

“In Colorado, we strive to be as efficient and effective as possible in delivering critical services to the people of our state. For my administration, that means creating a culture of accountability, and using the latest data and information to drive our decisions,” said Governor Jared Polis of Colorado. “This has also been true for our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate the recognition, and will continue working to provide even better services for Coloradans.”

“In Connecticut, we have been working incredibly hard – even before the pandemic hit – to more effectively utilize data across state agencies to deliver the best results for our residents,” said Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut. “It’s during times like these that we’re reminded just how important that work is. Data has been instrumental in our COVID-19 response efforts, as reflected in the 2020 State Standard of Excellence.”

“As we face a global pandemic, it has never been more important to ground our public policies in evidence and invest in proven public programs,” said Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota. “We are pleased to see our commitment to data-driven policies reflected in our recognition as a leading state in Results for America’s 2020 State Standard of Excellence.”

“In Oregon, now more than ever, we are developing public policies based on objective research and data to make sure that the government better serves all Oregonians,” said Governor Kate Brown of Oregon. “We are excited to be featured as a Leading State in the 2020 State Standard of Excellence.”

“In Tennessee, we have been using data and evidence to measure the performance of each area of state government as well as provide transparency to the public on how we’re doing in meeting our goals,” said Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee. “The creation of the Office of Evidence and Impact in 2019 demonstrates our commitment to harnessing data and evidence to improve fiscal and program management. In responding to COVID-19, we were able to use our evidence-based experience and strong footing around performance management not only to inform public health decisions but also to make sure our citizens continued to receive the level of services they need in this new environment.”

“In Utah, we understand how to sift through data to find key pieces of information that can make the biggest impact,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert of Utah. “We appreciate Results for America for highlighting states that are working hard to become more effective and efficient stewards of taxpayer dollars in 2020.”

“When I came into office in 2013, I made a commitment to strengthen our use of data to improve performance,” said Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. “This focus on data is more vital than ever today so we are grateful to organizations like Results for America who are highlighting our progress.”

Nationwide, there is strong public support for using evidence-based decision-making by state governments. A recent national poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago – commissioned by Results for America – found that 92 percent of Americans think that policymakers should seek the best evidence and data available when making decisions. The poll also found that by a wide margin, Americans think governors and state governments are using evidence and data – and listening to experts – more than the federal government in their responses to the coronavirus outbreak.

“America’s governors are committed to making a measurable, positive difference in the states and territories they serve,” said Timothy Blute, Director of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. “They are using data to inform their responses to COVID-19 to promote the physical and economic health of their residents, and the 2020 State Standard of Excellence recognizes the critical role of data and evidence in state policymaking in this most challenging time.”

“As a result of COVID-19, states are facing tremendously difficult budget choices. The 2020 State Standard of Excellence can help states identify best practices for using evidence and data to inform these fiscal decisions so that they can effectively deliver much-needed services to their residents,” said Shelby Kerns, Executive Director of the National Association of State Budget Officers and Co-Chair of the Results for America State Standard of Excellence Advisory Committee.

“In Massachusetts, we have pursued a data-driven response to COVID-19 that has enabled us to understand the virus and the steps we need to take to keep our residents safe and healthy,” said Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts. “The 2020 Results for America State Standard of Excellence serves as an excellent guide to highlight the work of Massachusetts and other states to support better use of data across the country.”

“Investing in proven efforts produces better results for the taxpayers of North Carolina,” said Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina. “Results for America’s 2020 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence award again notes our state’s progress in relying on data to make strategic decisions that build a better North Carolina for everyone.”

“We appreciate this recognition by Results for America. At the beginning of our administration, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and I made a commitment to use data as we develop state policy and implement new technology to improve the state’s customer service capabilities,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Our InnovateOhio office has improved our data coordination, moved applications and permits online to reduce wait times, and developed a plan to increase broadband access across Ohio. Now we’re making data-driven decisions as we fight COVID-19, and work to keep our economy moving forward.”

“In Rhode Island, we know that successful public policy is rooted in data and evidence,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo of Rhode Island. “That’s never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have leveraged data at every step our state’s response during this crisis and will continue to do so long after it ends.”

For more information about how states are building data and evidence capacity, state leaders can refer to Results for America’s Blueprint for Delivering Results in State Government, which serves as an implementation guide for the State Standard of Excellence.

“This year’s State Standard of Excellence and Blueprint for Delivering Results in State Government demonstrate the importance of data-driven policymaking for state leaders,“ said Josh Inaba, Manager for State and Federal Policy at Results for America. “Now more than ever, states are turning to evidence-based policymaking to guide their decisions – decisions that have tremendous consequences on economic and health outcomes in their states.”

Results for America would like to thank the more than 200 current and former state officials who contributed their expertise to the 2020 State Standard of Excellence, especially the members of the Results for America’s State Standard of Excellence Advisory Committee and The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Results First initiative for research assistance.¹

About Results for America
Results for America is helping decision-makers at all levels of government harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s greatest challenges. Our mission is to make investing in what works the “new normal,” so that when policymakers make decisions, they start by seeking the best evidence and data available, then use what they find to get better results. Results for America has also developed standards of excellence for federal agencies and local governments, including the 2019 Invest in What Works Federal Standard of Excellence and What Works Cities Certification.

¹The views expressed in the 2020 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence are those of Results for America and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts.



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