Gov’t Eval TIG Week: Research Clearinghouses Can Help Guide Government Program Evaluations by Steven Lize

Hi, I’m Steven Lize, program chair of the Government Evaluation TIG. I currently work as a technical assistance officer on the Results First initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Before that, I worked as a senior legislative analyst for the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability evaluating state programs.

Evaluations in government are crucial to ensure that taxpayer funds are being directed towards programs achieving intended outcomes. Performance audits assess the effectiveness and efficiency of agency services. Legislative or executive analyst staff, comptrollers, or audit offices usually conduct the evaluations to inform budget allocations or operational changes to improve delivery. Government and professional standards specify that the evaluators set the criteria for these assessments. This usually requires conducting a literature review to find studies on the program being evaluated.

Rad Resource

The Results First Clearinghouse Database is a repository of research evidence that can be a useful resource for government evaluators to find specific program knowledge. This free, online tool brings together information on the effectiveness of over 3,000 social policy programs from nine national clearinghouses. For each program, the database displays the rating from each clearinghouse, which reflects the program’s level of effectiveness as determined by rigorous evaluations and the quality and quantity of those evaluations. Some programs have more than one clearinghouse rating. You can search the database by keyword(s) or program name and then refine your search using filters, such as categories or settings.  

Hot Tip

Use the database to find high-quality studies for developing performance benchmarks and outcome measures on programs selected for performance audit or evaluation. Each clearinghouse reviews and summarizes rigorous evaluations of different programs. The included studies use research designs that involve valid and reliable comparison groups, such as randomized control trials and quasi-experimental designs. The database will direct you back to the program page of the clearinghouse where you can find the citations of the evaluations used.

Hot Tip

The program page of the clearinghouse also provides details about program participants and settings in the studies used in the evidence rating. Each clearinghouse provides various levels of detail about program context and participants’ racial, cultural, linguistic, gender, health and other characteristics. The What Works for Health clearinghouse even includes a rating on each program’s likely effect on disparities in health outcomes.

The information from clearinghouses can be used to establish the scope and criteria for performance audits and other evaluations to inform government decisions. Learn more about this resource here. Results First Clearinghouse Database Helps Users Access Information on Program Effectiveness.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Gov’t Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the Government Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Gov’t Eval TIG members. 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. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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