June 12, 2013Op-ed

Huffington Post: Keeping Score: Using Evidence to Improve Lives

by Michele Jolin

Federal/ Economic/ 2013/

As communities continue to feel the painful ripple effect of across the board sequestration cuts by the federal government, it prompts a question: What would be the impact of budget cuts if these cuts were instead determined based on which federal investments are actually delivering the best impact?

Unfortunately, it is harder than most would think for the federal government to make decisions based on results. Only a limited number of government programs use data and evidence to guide funding choices or conduct evaluations to understand the impact after programs are implemented, meaning we know startlingly little about which government programs are working and which are not. To begin tracking progress on this front, Results for America, an initiative of America Achieves, created a scorecard: The Investing In What Works Index. It highlights the extent to which federal departments are using evidence and evaluation when allocating scarce public resources. Looking specifically at the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, we judged federal agencies on a number of criteria, evaluating their success in using evidence to improve outcomes for young people, their families and communities, noting where congressional and/or departmental action is required to enable evidence-based investment.