AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | federal evaluation policy

My name is Anne Vo and I am a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education at UCLA. I served as a session scribe at Evaluation 2010 and attended session number 542, President Obama’s Evaluation Policies. I chose this session because I was interested in learning about evaluation policy “happenings” at the federal level and how they may influence the way in which evaluators go about their practice.

Lessons Learned: Members of the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) packed this session with great, interesting information. What follows are a few take-away points and links to corresponding references for those who are interested in additional reading materials.

The Obama administration and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in particular, have expressed increased interest in evaluation and performance measurement. Their viewpoints toward evaluation differ in several areas when compared to approaches that have guided federal evaluation in the past.

  • A more clearly articulated evaluation policy is currently underway. Several key documents that have been produced as a part of this effort include: 1) OMB’s Initiative on Increased Emphasis on Evaluation, which is similar to the AEA EPTF’s Roadmap and 2) OMB Budget Guidance for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 fiscal years, which drives budget decisions at the federal level.
  • While response to OMB’s 2011-2012 Evaluation Initiative was voluntary, agencies that will participate must conduct impact evaluations. Agencies that received the greatest amount of funding (out of the $100 million budgeted) were those that already had great capacity to complete impact evaluations and will do so using randomized controlled trial (RCT) designs.
  • It is anticipated that response to OMB’s 2012-2013 Evaluation Initiative will also be on a voluntary basis. However, the emphasis will be on capacity building and proposals may include a broader array of study methods.
  • OMB’s Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) was the primary diagnostic tool that was used during the Bush administration to: 1) measure program management and performance and 2) justify funding decisions for existing programs. However, rather than rely on PART scores to inform these efforts, the Obama administration is focusing evaluative efforts on “high priority programs” (e.g., those operating under the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor) and the extent to which they are meeting program goals. PART scores will still be used, but primarily as a tool to make decisions about prospective evaluations.

Great Resource: The following documents are great supplemental reading and resources related to this session

OMB Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/expectmore/part.html

At AEA’s 2010 Annual Conference, session scribes took notes at over 30 sessions and we’ll be sharing their work throughout the year on aea365. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice.

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