July 16, 2014 Press Releases

RFA Launches “Invest in What Works” Policy Series, Unveils “The Power of a Penny”

Today, Results for America launched the Invest in What Works Policy Series to help drive attention to the continued need to invest public funds in evidence-based, results driven solutions that improve outcomes for young people, their families and communities. The new policy series will examine how all sectors can and must use data and evidence to direct resources toward programs and practices that work. Bloomberg Philanthropies graciously provided support for the launch of the Invest in What Works Policy Series.

To kick-off the policy series Results for America, along with the Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, today released the first report in the series: The Power of A Penny: Building Knowledge to Invest in What Works in Education. Authored by Robert Balfanz from the Johns Hopkins University, the report examines why and how the U.S. Department of Education (ED) should leverage a 1 percent investment in evaluation — a penny on the dollar — to develop and implement a comprehensive evaluation system.

“Bob’s report highlights a simple, yet powerful idea: by wisely spending one penny out of every dollar on learning what works, the other 99 cents can go much further,” said Michele Jolin, managing partner, Results for America/America Achieves. “In order to maximize the impact of public dollars – and the return on taxpayer investment – we need to make decisions based on what works. That’s what the Invest in What Works Policy Series is all about: driving attention toward results-driven solutions so we can achieve better outcomes for young people, their families and communities across America. ‘The Power of A Penny’ is a compelling example of the kinds of reports we look forward to releasing as part of this new series.”

Balfanz outlines eight recommendations the Department should implement to help ED better use evaluation funding to improve its programs. As Balfanz says in the report, “such an evaluation system could significantly increase the impact and cost-effectiveness of federal investment in education, and build the knowledge base to help teachers and school leaders solve chronic education problems.”

The eight recommendations include:

  • Use scientifically rigorous methods to evaluate programs and build a cumulative evidence base;
  • Focus program evaluations on finding what works, where, when, how, and under what circumstances, rather than a thumbs-up or thumbs-down verdict on the entire program;
  • Pay attention to needs and timing constraints of the end users of evaluation results;
  • Invest in capacity building and infrastructure to disseminate, explain, translate, communicate, and use program evaluation results;
  • Revise federal rules to maximize the use and impact of program evaluations;
  • Incentivize the use of cost-effective and evidence-based educational evaluations and educational programs;
  • Establish a Chief Evaluation Officer at the U.S. Department of Education; and
  • Fund the right kinds of evaluations.

Read The Power of a Penny: Building Knowledge to Invest in What Works in Education

This report is part of Results for America’s “Invest in What Works Policy Series,” which provides ideas and supporting research to policymakers to drive public funds toward evidence-based, results-driven solutions. The series will include policy papers, expert roundtable discussions, and public events. Bloomberg Philanthropies graciously provided support for the launch of the Invest in What Works Policy Series. For more information about Results for America’s recent activities, including its most recent federal Investing in What Works Index, click here.

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