Maxine Gilling on Lessons Learned from a Study of How Politics Influence Evaluation Policy

Hello, I am Maxine Gilling, Research Associate for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). I recently completed my dissertation entitled How Politics, Economics, and Technology Influence Evaluation Requirements for Federally Funded Projects: A Historical Study of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from 1965 to 2005. In this study, I examined the interaction of national political, economic, and technological factors as they influenced the concurrent evolution of federally mandated evaluation requirements.

Lessons Learned:

  • Program evaluation does not take place in a vacuum. The field and profession of program evaluation has grown and expanded over the last four decades and eight administrations due to political, economic, and technological factors.
  • Legislation drives evaluation policy. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 established policies to provide “financial assistance to local educational agencies serving areas with concentrations of children from low-income families to expand and improve their educational program” (Public Law 89-10—Apr. 11, 1965). This legislation also had another consequence: it helped drive the establishment of educational program evaluation and the field of evaluation as a profession.
  • Economics influences evaluation policy and practice. For instance in the 1980’s evaluation took a downturn due to the stringent economic policies. Program evaluators resorted to lessons learned through writing journals and books.
  • Technology influences evaluation policy and practice. The rapid emergence of new technologies all contributed to changing goals, standards, and methods and values underlying program evaluation.


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