Policy News

The Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) provides periodic updates regarding evaluation in government affairs. Updates are provided by task force members and were originally published in the AEA newsletter.

Evaluation Policy Task Force: Call for Nominations

May 2023

From Nick Hart and Katie Howell, AEA Evaluation Policy Task Force

The Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF), established in 2009, has been the driving force behind AEA’s influence on evaluation-related policy at the federal level. The EPTF is now recruiting new members and invites you to apply.

The EPTF has influenced the understanding and use of evaluation within the federal government in the years since it was founded. In recent years, EPTF has consistently called for attention to and resources for building evaluation capacity within federal agencies. The group has also recommended AEA support for the Administration's position to incorporate Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge as evidence in federal policymaking and contributed to a survey of federal evaluation officials that identified challenges, resources, and opportunities for strengthening evaluation on the federal level. Of note, EPTF created AEA’s Evaluation Roadmap and informed the findings of the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.   Read More

The EPTF is currently chaired by Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation, who has over a decade of experience working on evaluation policy issues in the federal government. Other EPTF members continuing in 2023 include: Lisa Aponte-Soto, Nicole Bowman, Kerry Bruce (Board liaison), Katherine Dawes, Diana Epstein, Leslie Fierro, Melvin Mark, Kathryn Newcomer, Demetra Nightingale, Gregory Phillips II, and Maurice Samuels (Board liaison.

The Task Force meets monthly for approximately one hour. Applicants may anticipate spending at least an additional hour per month to assist on Task Force statements or other materials, often with a timely response needed. Per the AEA appointment policy, the Executive Committee, the chair of the EPTF, and the Executive Director will review the applications and appoint the new members of the EPTF. As applicants are considered, these criteria will be used to guide the selection process and prioritize eligible candidates:

  • Commitment to supporting the mission and goals of AEA.
  • Knowledge of and a history of prior involvement with the AEA.
  • Background in or related to evaluation policy, and a commitment to improving federal evaluation policy.
  • Familiarity with the field of evaluation and capacity to understand and represent the field to others.
  • A broad perspective on evaluation and willingness to advocate for the many and diverse views of evaluation.
  • Knowledge of the federal, state, local, and Tribal policymaking process and experience with policy development initiatives, particularly interaction with the federal government.
  • Representation of all levels of government affected by federal evaluation policy, including state, local, and Tribal evaluation experts.
  • Experience with public presentations of evaluation to a variety of audiences.
  • Diversity of the Task Force and representativeness of the breadth of members and interests of AEA.
  • Ability to work in a collaborative, fast-paced environment.

Please submit self-nominations, including the reasons why you would like to serve and a description of your relevant experience or qualifications, by June 30, 2023. Please email your submission to evaluationpolicy@eval.org.

New Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building Launched

August 2020

From Nick Hart, AEA Evaluation Policy Task Force

Beginning this fall, evaluators will have a new opportunity to engage on evaluation policy through a new federal advisory committee established by the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act). The committee – called the Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building – specifically includes about 30 experts with a range of backgrounds and perspectives on government data uses.   Read More

The advisory committee is expected to convene in mid-September 2020. The committee will serve as a mechanism for extending the implementation strategy of the recommendations from the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. The Evidence Commission’s recommendations were previously endorsed by the American Evaluation Association in 2017 and align with AEA’s own Roadmap for Effective Evaluation, reissued last year.

The advisory committee includes three federal evaluation officers and several other evaluation experts:

  • Len Burman, Urban Institute
  • Todd Richardson, Evaluation Officer at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Matthew Soldner, Evaluation Officer at the U.S. Department of Education
  • Ken Troske, University of Kentucky and former Evidence Commission Member
  • Christina Yancey, Evaluation Officer at the U.S. Department of Labor

One area the committee is expected to specifically consider is how the federal government can create a data service that, among other purposes, meets the needs of the evaluation community in accessing and linking administrative records.

With strong representation for the evaluation community, AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force will continue to monitor progress on the advisory committee and its work plan to identify opportunities for AEA engagement. AEA members are also encouraged to participate and join public, open meetings of the advisory committee to ensure the priorities and needs of evaluators are well-represented in the next steps.

More information about the advisory committee is available at www.bea.gov/evidence.

Updated AEA Guidance on Evaluation Policies

September 2019

From Stephanie Shipman, member of the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)

I am very pleased to share AEA’s recently updated Roadmap, An Evaluation Roadmap for a More Effective Government. Since the Roadmap’s publication nearly a decade ago, it has been widely used by federal agencies to help develop and sustain their evaluation capacity. I also found it extremely useful in consulting with other governments on how to organize effective evaluation offices. The Roadmap provides recommendations for how to institutionalize evaluation in government. AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) revised the Roadmap over the past year to incorporate member feedback and reforms for federal evaluation, statistical, and data access policies enacted in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018. AEA publicly applauded Congress’ passage of the Act, saying (I)t demonstrates that elected leaders agree that program evaluation is an essential activity for understanding how programs operate and for improving public policies.  Read More

The revised Roadmap is designed to help federal agencies as they move forward to implement the Act’s requirements. Read more here about the framework and the revision process.

The Roadmap was originally produced in 2009, in response to then President Barack Obama's calls to increase the use of evidence in policymaking. The Roadmap provides a framework to help agencies develop an evaluation program to support organizational learning. It also recommends ways Congress can help institutionalize evaluation in government. Key principles of the framework include:

  • Support independent evaluation offices with adequate resources and skilled staff
  • Ensure all programs and policies are subject to evaluation
  • Select appropriate evaluation approaches from a broad range of methods
  • Establish and publish evaluation policies and quality standards
  • Plan a body of strategic evaluation work in consultation with stakeholders
  • Disseminate evaluation results widely and follow up on their recommendations

Since 2009, much has changed in the evaluation landscape. In 2010, Congress enacted major reforms to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), aiming to increase use of evaluation evidence in policymaking. In 2017, the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking issued unanimous recommendations that suggested formalizing the role of evaluation in federal agencies with chief evaluation officers. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 requires federal agencies to establish chief evaluation officers and to publish evaluation policies, annual evaluation plans, and multiyear “learning agendas.” In the same period, AEA has published statements on cultural competence in evaluation (2011) and evaluator competencies (2018), and updated its guiding principles (2018).

To ensure the Roadmap’s continued relevance to discussions of evaluation policy, the Task Force solicited input from AEA membership on the usefulness and relevance of the Roadmap through the AEA365 blog, EVALTALK, AEA Newsletter, and a listening session at the 2018 national conference. The revised Roadmap - retaining the same framework as the original, while incorporating updated AEA policies and the new federal evaluation requirements - was reviewed and approved by the board.

AEA leadership and the Task Force hope that members will find the paper useful in sustaining effective evaluation practice and in communicating to partners and stakeholders the importance of an independent evaluation function for informing effective management and public policy. Please send any comments or suggestions to the Task Force at evaluationpolicy@eval.org.

The Dawn of a New Era for Federal Evaluation

January 2020

From Nick Hart, chair of the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)

Big reforms for federal evaluation policy are coming over the next several years, thanks to a new law enacted in early 2019. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act was finally passed by Congress with bipartisan support in late December, then signed by the president several weeks later.

The new law, championed by then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), represents a milestone moment for evidence-based policy in the country, setting the stage for improvements to privacy protections and data accessibility, but also for federal evaluation policy.   Read More

Here’s what the new law means for evaluation policy:

  1. The law requires the largest federal agencies to establish evaluation officers. Some agencies already have the positions, but many do not. When implemented, evaluation will be recognized among senior leadership throughout government, which is promising for both the production and eventual use of evaluation.
  2. The law instructs agencies to establish written evaluation policies and develop annual evaluation plans. These policies will help assure evaluations adhere to principles and practices widely supported by the evaluation community, while the plans will ensure that agencies are accountable for actively engaging in evaluation activities.
  3. The law orders the Office of Personnel Management to develop plans for recognizing evaluators with an occupational series in government, as is already done with statisticians and economists.
  4. The law directs agencies to begin the process of developing publicly available learning agendas. These devises serve as strategic plans for research and evaluation that will help identify data needs for priority research questions.
  5. The law requires the Office of Management and Budget to inventory the resources available in agencies that support evidence-based policymaking. In practice, the inventory will likely lead to the first comprehensive assessment of the amount of funding allocated for evaluation activities in government since the 1970s.

While the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act will not address all of the capacity and implementation issues evaluators face in federal agencies, the new law will set in motion major reforms that recognize and increasingly institutionalize evaluation activities across the federal government. Effective implementation of this promising strategy will likely require participation from the evaluation community to hold agencies accountable moving forward

Feedback Requested for Updating AEA's Evaluation Policy Roadmap

November 2019

From Nick Hart, chair of the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)< /p>

AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) announced during the fall conference, Evaluation 2018, that its members are exploring potential updates to AEA’s framework for helping agencies develop and sustain evaluation capacity. AEA’s Evaluation Roadmap for More Effective Government was originally produced in response to then President Barack Obama’s calls to increase the use of evidence in policymaking.  Read More

Since its publication nearly a decade ago, the framework has been used by several U.S. federal agencies for informing the development of their written evaluation policies. While the framework has been useful in shaping numerous policies, much has also changed in the evaluation landscape.

In 2017, the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking issued its unanimous recommendations in 2017 that suggested formalizing the role of evaluation in federal agencies with chief evaluation officers. AEA publicly applauded the commission’s approach and the recommendations about evaluation capacity. In 2018, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget announced a government reform proposal that would encourage greater evaluation capacity, with senior evaluation leaders across government. AEA leaders similarly embraced the promising approach as welcome efforts to strengthen government’s evidence-building and evaluation capacity.

Given the changing landscape, AEA’s EPTF is considering updates to the Roadmap to ensure its continued relevance to current discussion of evaluation policy. While the task force received direct input during a session at the conference in Cleveland, we encourage all members to provide input to the process.

The Task Force welcomes input from AEA members through January 31, 2019, on the 17 recommendations in the Roadmap that address scope and coverage, management, quality and independence, and transparency issues relevant for developing evaluation capacity in agencies. AEA members are encouraged to offer suggestions for improving the recommendations, including those that might be prioritized, added, modified or removed, along with supporting rationale. Comments can be provided directly to evaluationpolicy@eval.org.

Sessions on Evaluation Policy at Evaluation 2018

October 2018

From Nick Hart, chair of the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)

The last year has been a very active one for evaluation policy in the United States. During the fall conference, Evaluation 2018, AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) is sponsoring several opportunities for members to learn about major activities and opportunities to provide feedback. Here are a few of the highlights for the conference:   Read More

  • Annual Update on AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force, Nov 1 at 10:30 a.m.: EPTF members will offer a brief overview of EPTF’s activities over the past year to influence evaluation policy and will provide updates on upcoming activities of the task force over the next year, with targeted opportunities for member feedback.
  • Innovative Efforts in State-Level Evaluation, Nov. 1 at 11:30 a.m.: Officials from multiple states will offer perspectives about innovative efforts to develop, implement, and maintain strong state-level evaluation policies. Through the course of this discussion, the task force will explore future opportunities to engage with AEA members on state evaluation policy issues.
  • Executive and Legislative Perspectives on Federal Evaluation Policy, Nov. 1 at 3:45 p.m.: Following the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, federal agencies and Congress have been working to consider a range of changes in national evaluation policy. The executive branch proposed reforms to institutionalize evaluation practice and Congress is considering pending legislation that would require agencies to have chief evaluation officers and written evaluation policies. ETPF members will offer members updates and an opportunity to provide feedback on various legislative and administrative actions.
  • Roundtable Discussion on Updating AEA’s Evaluation Roadmap, Nov. 2 at 8:00 a.m.: Much has changed since AEA members approved the “Evaluation Roadmap for More Effective Government” in 2009. Given the changing landscape of state and federal evaluation policy, the task force is considering updates to the Roadmap to ensure its continued relevance. This discussion formally initiates EPTF’s efforts to encourage member feedback about potential revisions to be considered moving forward.
  • Expert Lecture on Evaluation Policy by George Grob, Nov. 2 at 10:30 a.m.: Navigating the web of procedural and process issues to connect evaluation and public policy can be complicated. Former EPTF Chair George Grob will offer an opportunity for AEA members to learn more about how the policy process works, along with practical advice on opportunities to engage in policymaking.

Future opportunities will also be available to learn more about the EPTF and opportunities for feedback. AEA members can also always submit suggestions through AEA’s Issues and Ideas Portal.

AEA Affirms Need for Integrity and Accuracy of the Census

August 2018

From Nick Hart, Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) Chair

The next decennial census in the United States is right around the corner. April 1, 2020, is Census Day and marks the point at which the constitutionally-required count of the U.S. population officially occurs. Every census is closely watched and scrutinized because the flow of federal funding and allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are based on its count of people. But for evaluators and social scientists, there are other reasons to closely watch the 2020 activities.   Read More

The census is essential for many evaluations, which is why AEA recently affirmed the importance of integrity and accuracy in the census count. Estimates provided from the U.S. Census Bureau provide the basis for many household surveys conducted by federal and state agencies, local organizations, and evaluators. Thus, an unreliable count can introduce bias for every household survey that occurs over the subsequent decade.

In March 2018, the Commerce Department announced a new question would be added to the decennial census form for 2020 to collect information about individuals’ citizenship status, including whether born in the U.S., born in a U.S. territory, born abroad to U.S. citizens, a citizen by naturalization, or not a US citizen. The Commerce Department described the intent of adding the question was to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

While under federal law the use of these data for such purposes cannot be conducted at the individual level, there have been considerable concerns voiced by immigrant communities about how those data could be used. Several states and municipalities have also raised concerns that a question about immigration status could depress response rates, which would subsequently affect federal funding they receive.

Recognizing the potential challenges for data quality, reduced response rates, lower accuracy of responses, and the lack of evaluation about the potential impacts that a citizenship question could pose in the contemporaneous environment, in August 2018, AEA joined 25 other professional organizations in suggesting that the citizenship question be removed from the 2020 census.

“The Census is a once-a-decade undertaking; if we allow the integrity of the data to be jeopardized by an untested, unresearched citizenship question, we will be living with the harmful consequences for years,” AEA and the other organizations said. “We have no way of knowing what future insights will be lost if this data is compromised.”

The comments were submitted in response to a required notice and public comment period for the 2020 census forms. The Commerce Department and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will now have to decide whether to include or modify the citizenship question based on the comments received.

A final administrative decision is expected in fall 2018. In addition to the administrative proceedings, several legal proceedings are underway that could also have implications on the final decision about whether a citizenship question can be included.

Read the full comments submitted by AEA and other science organizations here.

Federal Evaluation Policies in the 2018 Budget Deal

March 2018

From Nick Hart, Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) Chair

AEA's Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) has been closely monitoring key pieces of federal legislation with implications on evaluation practice. Several major policy reforms encouraging evaluation practices in federal government programs have been enacted into law in 2018, and more changes may be likely in the near future.    Read More

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, referred to in Washington, D.C., as the 2018 budget deal, included four key evaluation policies that relate to specific programs and activities in the federal government.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which became law on February 9, 2018, provides funding for government through March 23, 2018, and also includes several provisions that encourage evaluation in targeted policy areas:

  • Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) Reauthorization: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ home visiting program was reauthorized as part of the legislation, including provisions that require grantees to adopt program models that have been subjected to impact evaluations. A portion of funding for home visiting is also allocated to evaluate promising approaches that may be deployed more broadly in the future.
  • Family First Prevention Services Authorization: The child welfare program underwent an overhaul for certain prevention activities in the legislation, in support of reducing inappropriate foster care placements across the country. Child welfare programs will now have requirements for implementing evidence-based prevention activities for foster care, as determined through evaluations.
  • Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Authorization: A new program was established at the U.S. Department of Treasury with $100 million appropriation to support the launch of Pay for Success projects at the state and local level. These projects are intended to partner with private sector entities to operate programs, and payments for services are determined based on achieving outcomes measured in evaluations. The program also includes requirements for coordination of the activities across the federal government and establishes the Commission on Social Impact Partnerships, with non-governmental representatives tasked to aid the review and implementation of the new program and its evaluation requirements.
  • Re-employment Services Grants: The U.S. Department of Labor received authority to provide grants to state governments to specifically support individuals receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits to also receive reemployment services. The program establishes specific criteria for defining “evidence-based” and increasingly shifts funding into programs that meet certain standards over the next eight years. The authority also directs the completion of evaluations for certain grants, and provides additional incentive funds to states who exceed performance on key outcomes.

These major changes to law that affect federal evaluation policy have already been enacted, and will alter the government’s efforts to both support the generation of evaluation and the eventual use by intended audiences. The EPTF will continue to monitor and provide assistance for efforts to implement these provisions in coming months and years.

Evaluation policy updates are published in the AEA monthly newsletter. This newsletter is exclusively sent to members. Learn more about AEA member benefits.