Designing Evaluations: 2012 Revision (Supersedes PEMD-10.1.4)

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-01-31.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United States Government Accountability Office

GAO            Applied Research and Methods

January 2012
               2012 Revision


Preface                                                                             1

Chapter 1    The Importance of Evaluation Design                                    3
             What Is a Program Evaluation?                                          3
             Why Conduct an Evaluation?                                             4
             Who Conducts Evaluations?                                              5
             Why Spend Time on Design?                                              6
             Five Key Steps to an Evaluation Design                                 7
             For More Information                                                   8

Chapter 2    Defining the Evaluation’s Scope                                       10
             Clarify the Program’s Goals and Strategy                              10
             Develop Relevant and Useful Evaluation Questions                      12
             For More Information                                                  16

Chapter 3    The Process of Selecting an Evaluation Design                         18
             Key Components of an Evaluation Design                                18
             An Iterative Process                                                  20
             Criteria for a Good Design                                            28
             For More Information                                                  29

Chapter 4    Designs for Assessing Program Implementation and Effectiveness        31
             Typical Designs for Implementation Evaluations                        31
             Typical Designs for Outcome Evaluations                               34
             Typical Designs for Drawing Causal Inferences about Program
               Impacts                                                             39
             Designs for Different Types of Programs                               46
             For More Information                                                  48

Chapter 5    Approaches to Selected Methodological Challenges                      50
             Outcomes That Are Difficult to Measure                                50
             Complex Federal Programs and Initiatives                              55
             For More Information                                                  61

Appendix I   Evaluation Standards                                                  64
             “Yellow Book” of Government Auditing Standards                        64
             GAO’s Evaluation Synthesis                                            64
             American Evaluation Association Guiding Principles for Evaluators     65

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                              Program Evaluation Standards, Joint Committee on Standards for
                                Educational Evaluation                                                65

Appendix II                   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                   66

Other Papers in This Series                                                                           67

                              Table 1: Common Evaluation Questions Asked at Different Stages
                                       of Program Development                                         15
                              Table 2: Common Designs for Implementation (or Process)
                                       Evaluations                                                    32
                              Table 3: Common Designs for Outcome Evaluations                         36
                              Table 4: Common Designs for Drawing Causal Inferences about
                                       Program Impacts                                                40
                              Table 5: Designs for Assessing Effectiveness of Different Types of
                                       Programs                                                       47

                              Figure 1: Sample Program Logic Model                                    11
                              Figure 2: Questions Guiding the Selection of Design Components          20

                              Page ii                                                         GAO-12-208G

AEA               American Evaluation Association
GAGAS             generally accepted government auditing standards
GPRA              Government Performance and Results Act of 1993
NSF               National Science Foundation
OMB               Office of Management and Budget
SAMHSA            Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

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Page iii                                                                      GAO-12-208G

                        GAO assists congressional decision makers in their deliberations by
Designing Evaluations   furnishing them with analytical information on issues and options. Many
                        diverse methodologies are needed to develop sound and timely answers
                        to the questions the Congress asks. To provide GAO evaluators with
                        basic information about the more commonly used methodologies, GAO’s
                        policy guidance includes documents such as methodology transfer
                        papers and technical guides.

                        This methodology transfer paper addresses the logic of program
                        evaluation designs. It introduces key issues in planning evaluation studies
                        of federal programs to best meet decision makers’ needs while
                        accounting for the constraints evaluators face. It describes different types
                        of evaluations for answering varied questions about program
                        performance, the process of designing evaluation studies, and key issues
                        to consider toward ensuring overall study quality.

                        To improve federal program effectiveness, accountability and service
                        delivery, the Congress enacted the Government Performance and
                        Results Act of 1993 (GPRA), establishing a statutory framework for
                        performance management and accountability, including the requirement
                        that federal agencies set goals and report annually on progress towards
                        those goals and program evaluation findings. In response to this and
                        related management reforms, federal agencies have increased their
                        attention to conducting program evaluations. The GPRA Modernization
                        Act of 2010 raised the visibility of performance information by requiring
                        quarterly reviews of progress towards agency and governmentwide
                        priority goals. Designing Evaluations is a guide to successfully completing
                        evaluation design tasks. It should help GAO evaluators—and others
                        interested in assessing federal programs and policies—plan useful
                        evaluations and become educated consumers of evaluations.

                        Designing Evaluations is one of a series of papers whose purpose is to
                        provide guides to various aspects of audit and evaluation methodology
                        and indicate where more detailed information is available. It is based on
                        GAO studies and policy documents and program evaluation literature. To
                        ensure the guide’s competence and usefulness, drafts were reviewed by
                        selected GAO, federal and state agency evaluators, and evaluation
                        authors and practitioners from professional consulting firms. This paper
                        updates a 1991 version issued by GAO’s prior Program Evaluation and
                        Methodology Division. It supersedes that earlier version and incorporates
                        changes in federal program evaluation and performance measurement
                        since GPRA was implemented.

                        Page 1                                                           GAO-12-208G

We welcome your comments on this paper. Please address them to me
at kingsburyn@gao.gov.

Nancy R. Kingsbury, Ph.D.
Managing Director
Applied Research and Methods

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Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation
                    Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation


                    A program evaluation is a systematic study using research methods to
What Is a Program   collect and analyze data to assess how well a program is working and
Evaluation?         why. Evaluations answer specific questions about program performance
                    and may focus on assessing program operations or results. Evaluation
                    results may be used to assess a program’s effectiveness, identify how to
                    improve performance, or guide resource allocation.

                    There is no standard government definition of “program.” A program can
                    be defined in various ways for budgeting and policy-making purposes.
                    Whether a program is defined as an activity, project, function, or policy, it
                    must have an identifiable purpose or set of objectives if an evaluator is to
                    assess how well the purpose or objectives are met. Evaluations may also
                    assess whether a program had unintended (perhaps undesirable)
                    outcomes. An evaluation can assess an entire program or focus on an
                    initiative within a program. Although evaluation of a federal program
                    typically examines a broader range of activities than a single project,
                    agencies may evaluate individual projects to seek to identify effective
                    practices or interventions.

                    Program evaluation is closely related to performance measurement and
                    reporting. Performance measurement is the systematic ongoing
                    monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, particularly
                    progress toward preestablished goals or standards. Performance
                    measures or indicators may address program staffing and resources (or
                    inputs), the type or level of program activities conducted (or process), the
                    direct products or services delivered by a program (or outputs), or the
                    results of those products and services (or outcomes) (GAO 2011).

                    A program evaluation analyzes performance measures to assess the
                    achievement of performance objectives but typically examines those
                    achievements in the context of other aspects of program performance or
                    in the context in which the program operates. Program evaluations may
                    analyze relationships between program settings and services to learn
                    how to improve program performance or to ascertain whether program
                    activities have resulted in the desired benefits for program participants or
                    the general public. Some evaluations attempt to isolate the causal
                    impacts of programs from other influences on outcomes, whereas
                    performance measurement typically does not. Evaluations have been
                    used to supplement performance reporting by measuring results that are
                    too difficult or expensive to assess annually or by exploring why
                    performance goals were not met. (For examples, see GAO 2000.)

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                 Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation

                 Federal program evaluation studies are typically requested or initiated to
Why Conduct an   provide external accountability for the use of public resources (for
Evaluation?      example, to determine the “value added” by the expenditure of those
                 resources) or to learn how to improve performance—or both. Evaluation
                 can play a key role in strategic planning and in program management,
                 providing feedback on both program design and execution.

                 Evaluations can be designed to answer a range of questions about
                 programs to assist decision-making by program managers and
                 policymakers. GAO evaluations are typically requested by congressional
                 committees to support their oversight of executive branch activities. A
                 committee might want to know whether agency managers are targeting
                 program funds to areas of greatest need or whether the program as
                 designed is, indeed, effective in resolving a problem or filling a need. The
                 Congress might use this information to reallocate resources for a more
                 effective use of funds or to revise the program’s design.

                 The Congress also directly requests agencies to report on program
                 activities and results. For example, legislative changes to a program
                 might be accompanied by a mandate that the agency report by a specific
                 date in the future on the effectiveness of those changes. Agencies may
                 choose to design an evaluation to collect new data if they are unable to
                 satisfy the request from available administrative data or performance
                 reporting systems. They may also evaluate pilot or demonstration projects
                 to inform the design of a new program.

                 GPRA performance reporting requirements were designed to provide
                 both congressional and executive decision makers with more objective
                 information on the relative effectiveness and efficiency of federal
                 programs and spending. However, due to the influence of other factors,
                 measures of program outcomes alone may provide limited information on
                 a program’s effectiveness. GPRA encourages federal agencies to
                 conduct evaluations by requiring agencies to (1) include a schedule of
                 future program evaluations in their strategic plans, (2) summarize their
                 evaluations’ findings when reporting annually on the achievement of their
                 performance goals, and (3) explain why a goal was not met. Federal
                 agencies have initiated evaluation studies to complement performance
                 measures by (1) assessing outcomes that are not available on a routine
                 or timely basis, (2) explaining the reasons for observed performance, or
                 (3) isolating the program’s impact or contribution to its outcome goals
                 (GAO 2000).

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               Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation

               Since 2002, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the
               administrations of both Presidents Bush and Obama has set the
               expectation that agencies should conduct program evaluations. Initial
               OMB efforts to use agency performance reporting in decision making
               were frustrated by the limited quantity and quality of information on results
               (GAO 2005). Although federal program performance reporting improved,
               in 2009 OMB initiated a plan to strengthen federal program evaluation,
               noting that many important programs lacked evaluations and some
               evaluations had not informed decision making (OMB 2009).

               A federal program office or an agency research, policy or evaluation office
Who Conducts   may conduct studies internally, or they may be conducted externally by
Evaluations?   an independent consulting firm, research institute, or independent
               oversight agency such as GAO or an agency’s Inspector General. The
               choice may be based on where expertise and resources are available or
               on how important the evaluator’s independence from program
               management is to the credibility of the report. The choice may also
               depend on how important the evaluator’s understanding of the program is
               to the agency’s willingness to accept and act on the evaluation’s findings.

               For example, evaluations aimed at identifying program improvement may
               be conducted by a program office or an agency unit that specializes in
               program analysis and evaluation. Professional evaluators typically have
               advanced training in a variety of social science research methods.
               Depending on the nature of the program and the evaluation questions,
               the evaluation team might also require members with specialized subject
               area expertise, such as labor economics. If agency staff do not have
               specialized expertise or if the evaluation requires labor-intensive data
               collection, the agency might contract with an independent consultant or
               firm to obtain the required resources. (For more information, see U.S.
               Department of Health and Human Services 2010.)

               In contrast, evaluations conducted to provide an independent assessment
               of a program’s strengths and weaknesses should be conducted by a team
               independent of program management. Evaluations purchased by
               agencies from professional evaluation firms can often be considered
               independent. Conditions for establishing an evaluator’s independence
               include having control over the scope, methods, and criteria of the review;
               full access to agency data; and control over the findings, conclusions, and

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                    Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation

                    Evaluators have two basic reasons for taking the time to systematically
Why Spend Time on   plan an evaluation: (1) to enhance its quality, credibility, and usefulness
Design?             and (2) to use their time and resources effectively.

                    A systematic approach to designing evaluations takes into account the
                    questions guiding the study, the constraints evaluators face in studying
                    the program, and the information needs of the intended users. After
                    exploring program and data issues, the initial evaluation question may
                    need to be revised to ensure it is both appropriate and feasible. Since the
                    rise in agency performance reporting, an enormous amount of program
                    information is available and there are myriad ways to analyze it. By
                    selecting the most appropriate measures carefully and giving attention to
                    the most accurate and reliable ways to collect data on them, evaluators
                    ensure the relevance of the analysis and blunt potential criticisms in
                    advance. Choosing well-regarded criteria against which to make
                    comparisons can lead to strong, defensible conclusions. Carefully
                    thinking through data and analysis choices in advance can enhance the
                    quality, credibility, and usefulness of an evaluation by increasing the
                    strength and specificity of the findings and recommendations. Focusing
                    the evaluation design on answering the questions being asked also will
                    likely improve the usefulness of the product to the intended users.

                    Giving careful attention to evaluation design choices also saves time and
                    resources. Collecting data through interviews, observation, or analysis of
                    records, and ensuring the quality of those data, can be costly and time
                    consuming for the evaluator as well as those subject to the evaluation.
                    Evaluators should aim to select the least burdensome way to obtain the
                    information necessary to address the evaluation question. When initiated
                    to inform decisions, an evaluation’s timeliness is especially important to
                    its usefulness. Evaluation design also involves considering whether a
                    credible evaluation can be conducted in the time and resources available
                    and, if not, what alternative information could be provided.

                    Developing a written evaluation design helps evaluators agree on and
                    communicate a clear plan of action to the project team and its advisers,
                    requestors, and other stakeholders, and it guides and coordinates the
                    project team’s activities as the evaluation proceeds. In addition, a written
                    plan justifying design decisions facilitates documentation of decisions and
                    procedures in the final report.

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                       Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation

                       Evaluations are studies tailored to answer specific questions about how
Five Key Steps to an   well (or whether) a program is working. To ensure that the resulting
Evaluation Design      information and analyses meet decision maker’s needs, it is particularly
                       useful to isolate the tasks and choices involved in putting together a good
                       evaluation design. We propose that the following five steps be completed
                       before significant data are collected. These steps give structure to the
                       rest of this publication:

                       1. Clarify understanding of the program’s goals and strategy.

                       2. Develop relevant and useful evaluation questions.

                       3. Select an appropriate evaluation approach or design for each
                          evaluation question.

                       4. Identify data sources and collection procedures to obtain relevant,
                          credible information.

                       5. Develop plans to analyze the data in ways that allow valid conclusions
                          to be drawn from the evaluation questions.

                       The chapters in this paper discuss the iterative process of identifying
                       questions important to program stakeholders and exploring data options
                       (chapters 2 and 3) and the variety of research designs and approaches
                       that the evaluator can choose to yield credible, timely answers within
                       resource constraints (chapters 4 and 5). Completing an evaluation will, of
                       course, entail careful data collection and analysis, drawing conclusions
                       against the evaluation criteria selected, and reporting the findings,
                       conclusions, and recommendations, if any. Numerous textbooks on
                       research methods are adequate guides to ensuring valid and reliable data
                       collection and analysis (for example, Rossi et al. 2004, Wholey et al.
                       2010). GAO analysts are also urged to consult their design and
                       methodology specialists as well as the technical guides available on
                       GAO’s Intranet.

                       How evaluation results are communicated can dramatically affect how
                       they are used. Generally, evaluators should discuss preferred reporting
                       options with the evaluation’s requesters to ensure that their expectations
                       are met and prepare a variety of reporting formats (for example,
                       publications and briefings) to meet the needs of the varied audiences that
                       are expected to be interested in the evaluation’s results.

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                       Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation

For More Information
GAO documents          GAO. 2011. Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions and
                       Relationships, GAO-11-646SP. Washington, D.C. May.

                       GAO. 1998. Program Evaluation: Agencies Challenged by New Demand
                       for Information on Program Results, GAO/GGD-98-53. Washington, D.C.
                       Apr. 24.

                       GAO. 2005. Program Evaluation: OMB’s PART Reviews Increased
                       Agencies’ Attention to Improving Evidence of Program Results,
                       GAO-06-67. Washington, D.C. Oct. 28.

                       GAO. 2000. Program Evaluation: Studies Helped Agencies Measure or
                       Explain Program Performance, GAO/GGD-00-204. Washington, D.C.
                       Sept. 29.

Other resources        American Evaluation Association. 2010. An Evaluation Roadmap for a
                       More Effective Government. www.eval.org/EPTF.asp

                       Bernholz, Eric, and others. 2006. Evaluation Dialogue Between OMB
                       Staff and Federal Evaluators: Digging a Bit Deeper into Evaluation
                       Science. Washington, D.C. July.

                       OMB (U. S. Office of Management and Budget). 2009. Increased
                       Emphasis on Program Evaluations, M-10-01, Memorandum for the Heads
                       of Executive Departments and Agencies. Washington, D.C.The White
                       House, Oct. 7.

                       Rossi, Peter H., Mark W. Lipsey, and Howard E. Freeman. 2004.
                       Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, 7th ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

                       U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for
                       Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.
                       2010. The Program Manager’s Guide to Evaluation, 2nd ed. Washington,
                       D.C. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/other_resrch/pm_guide_eval/

                       Page 8                                                      GAO-12-208G
Chapter 1: The Importance of Evaluation

Wholey, Joseph S., Harry P. Hatry, and Kathryn E. Newcomer. 2010.
Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation, 3rd ed. San Francisco, Calif.:

Page 9                                                        GAO-12-208G
Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope
                        Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

                        Because an evaluation can take any number of directions, the first steps
                        in its design aim to define its purpose and scope—to establish what
                        questions it will and will not address. The evaluation’s scope is tied to its
                        research questions and defines the subject matter it will assess, such as
                        a program or aspect of a program, and the time periods and locations that
                        will be included. To ensure the evaluation’s credibility and relevance to its
                        intended users, the evaluator must develop a clear understanding of the
                        program’s purpose and goals and develop researchable evaluation
                        questions that are feasible, appropriate to the program and that address
                        the intended users’ needs.

                        For some but not all federal programs, the authorizing legislation and
Clarify the Program’s   implementing regulations outline the program’s purpose, scope, and
Goals and Strategy      objectives; the need it was intended to address; and who it is intended to
                        benefit. The evaluator should review the policy literature and consult
                        agency officials and other stakeholders to learn how they perceive the
                        program’s purpose and goals, the activities and organizations involved,
                        and the changes in scope or goals that may have occurred. 1 It is also
                        important to identify the program’s stage of maturity. Is the program still
                        under development, adapting to conditions on the ground, or is it a
                        complete system of activities purposefully directed at achieving agreed-on
                        goals and objectives? A program’s maturity affects the evaluator’s ability
                        to describe its strategy and anticipate likely evaluation questions.

                        Evaluators use program logic models—flow diagrams that describe a
                        program’s components and desired results—to explain the strategy—or
                        logic—by which the program is expected to achieve its goals. By
                        specifying a theory of program expectations at each step, a logic model or
                        other representation can help evaluators articulate the assumptions and
                        expectations of program managers and stakeholders. In turn, by
                        specifying expectations, a model can help evaluators define measures of
                        the program’s performance and progress toward its ultimate goals. (For
                        examples, see GAO 2002.)

                        At a minimum, a program logic model should outline the program’s inputs,
                        activities or processes, outputs, and both short-term and long-term

                         Program stakeholders are those individuals or groups with a significant interest in how
                        well the program functions, for example, decision makers, funders, administrators and
                        staff, and clients or intended beneficiaries.

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                                       Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

                                       outcomes—that is, the ultimate social, environmental, or other benefits
                                       envisioned. Including short-term and intermediate outcomes helps identify
                                       precursors that may be more readily measured than ultimate benefits,
                                       which may take years to achieve. It is also important to include any
                                       external factors believed to have an important influence on—either to
                                       hinder or facilitate—program inputs, operations, or achievement of
                                       intended results. External factors can include the job market or other
                                       federal or nonfederal activities aimed at the same outcomes. (Figure 1 is
                                       a generic logic model developed for agricultural extension programs;
                                       more complex models may describe multiple paths or perspectives.)

Figure 1: Sample Program Logic Model

                                       A variety of formats can usefully assist in defining the evaluation’s scope;
                                       the key is to develop a clear understanding of the nature of the program,
                                       the context in which it operates, and the policy issues involved. A logic
                                       model can be helpful as a:

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                       Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

                       •   program planning tool: (reading from right to left) depicting the
                           implications for program design of previous research on the key
                           factors influencing achievement of the desired benefits;

                       •   communication tool: encouraging shared understanding and
                           expectations among policy makers and program managers and
                           obtaining the support and cooperation of program partners;

                       •   program implementation tool: mapping what activities should occur at
                           various times and which groups should be involved; and

                       •   evaluation tool: helping to define performance measures and
                           formulate evaluation questions.

                       In describing a program’s goals and strategies, it is important to consult a
                       variety of sources—legislative history, program staff and materials, prior
                       research on the program, public media, congressional staff—to uncover
                       (if not resolve) any differences in expectations and concerns program
                       stakeholders have. It is also important to understand the program’s policy
                       context, why it was initiated, whether circumstances have changed
                       importantly since its inception, and what the current policy concerns are.
                       In the absence of clearly established definitions of the intervention or its
                       desired outcomes, the evaluator will need to discuss these issues with the
                       requestor and may need to explore, as part of the evaluation, how the
                       program and its goals have been operationally defined (see the
                       discussion of flexible grant programs in chapter 5).

                       Evaluation questions are constructed so that the issues and concerns of a
Develop Relevant and   program’s stakeholders about program performance can be articulated
Useful Evaluation      and to focus the evaluation to help ensure that its findings are useful
                       (GAO 2004). It is important to work with the evaluation requester to
Questions              formulate the right question to ensure that the completed evaluation will
                       meet his or her information needs. Care should be taken at this step
                       because evaluation questions frame the scope of the assessment and
                       drive the evaluation design—the selection of data to collect and
                       comparisons to make.

                       Program managers and policy makers may request information about
                       program performance to help them make diverse program management,
                       design, and budgeting decisions. Depending on the program’s history and
                       current policy context, the purpose for conducting an evaluation may be

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                    Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

                    to assist program improvement or to provide accountability, or both. More
                    specifically, evaluations may be conducted to

                    •   ascertain the program’s progress in implementing key provisions,

                    •   assess the extent of the program’s effectiveness in achieving desired

                    •   identify effective practices for achieving desired results,

                    •   identify opportunities to improve program performance,

                    •   ascertain the success of corrective actions,

                    •   guide resource allocation within a program, or

                    •   support program budget requests.

                    These purposes imply different focuses—on the program as a whole or
                    just a component—as well as different evaluation questions and, thus,
                    designs. For example, if the purpose of the evaluation is to guide program
                    resource allocation, then the evaluation question might be tailored to
                    identify which program participants are in greatest need of services, or
                    which program activities are most effective in achieving the desired
                    results. To draw valid conclusions on which practices are most effective in
                    achieving the desired results, the evaluation might examine a few
                    carefully chosen sites in order to directly compare the effects of
                    alternative practices on the same outcomes, under highly comparable
                    conditions. (For further discussion see chapter 4 and GAO 2000.)

                    To be researchable, evaluation questions should be clear and specific
                    and use terms that can be readily defined and measured, and meet the
                    requester’s needs, so that the study’s scope and purpose are readily
                    understood and feasible. Evaluation questions should also be objective,
                    fair, and politically neutral; the phrasing of a question should not presume
                    to know the answer in advance.

Clarify the Issue   Congressional requests for evaluations often begin with a very broad
                    concern, so discussion may be necessary to determine the requester’s
                    priorities and develop clearly defined researchable questions. Moreover,
                    while potentially hundreds of questions could be asked about a program,
                    limitations on evaluation resources and time require focusing the study on

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                            Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

                            the most important questions that can be feasibly addressed. The
                            evaluator can use the program’s logic model to organize the discussion
                            systematically to learn whether the requester’s concerns focus on how
                            the program is operating or whether it is achieving its intended results or
                            producing unintended effects (either positive or negative). It is also
                            important to ensure that the evaluation question is well-matched to the
                            program’s purpose and strategies. For example, if a program is targeted
                            to meet the housing needs of low-income residents, then it would be
                            inappropriate to judge its effectiveness by whether the housing needs of
                            all residents were met.

                            It is important to learn whether the requester has a specific set of criteria
                            or expectations in mind to judge the program against and whether
                            questions pertain to the entire program or just certain components. A
                            general request to “assess a program’s effectiveness” should be clarified
                            and rephrased as a more specific question that ensures a common
                            understanding of the program’s desired outcomes, such as, “Has the
                            program led to increased access to health care for low-income
                            residents?” or “Has it led to lower incidence of health problems for those
                            residents?” It is also important to distinguish questions about the overall
                            effectiveness of a nationwide program from those limited to a few sites
                            that warrant study because they are especially promising or problematic.
                            The difference is extremely important for evaluation scope and design,
                            and attention to the difference allows the evaluator to help make the study
                            useful to the requester.

                            Although the feasibility of the evaluation questions will continue to be
                            assessed during the design phase, an evaluator should gain agreement
                            on these questions before completing the design of the evaluation. If
                            program stakeholders perceive the questions as objective and reflecting
                            their key concerns, they will be more likely to find the evaluation results
                            credible and persuasive and act on them.

Ensure That Questions Are   Different questions tend to be asked at different stages of program
Appropriate to the          maturity and often reflect whether the purpose of the study is to assist
Program’s Stage of          program improvement or provide accountability. Three types of evaluation
                            are defined by whether the focus is on the program’s operations or
Maturity                    outcomes, or on the program’s causal link to the observed results. Of
                            course, a single study may use different approaches to address multiple
                            questions. (See table 1.)

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                                           Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

Table 1: Common Evaluation Questions Asked at Different Stages of Program Development

Program stage                 Common evaluation questions                                             Type of evaluation
Early stage of program or     •   Is the program being delivered as intended to the targeted          Process monitoring or
new initiative within a           recipients?                                                         process evaluation
program                       •   Have any feasibility or management problems emerged?
                              •   What progress has been made in implementing changes or new
Mature, stable program with   •   Are desired program outcomes obtained?                              Outcome monitoring or
well-defined program model    •   What, if any, unintended side effects did the program produce?      outcome evaluation
                              •   Do outcomes differ across program approaches, components,
                                  providers, or client subgroups?
                              •   Are program resources being used efficiently?                        Process evaluation
                              •   Why is a program no longer obtaining the desired level of
                              •   Did the program cause the desired impact?                            Net impact evaluation
                              •   Is one approach more effective than another in obtaining the desired
                                           Source Adapted from Bernholz et al 2006.

Process Evaluations                        In the early stages of a new program or initiative within a program,
                                           evaluation questions tend to focus on program process—on how well
                                           authorized activities are carried out and reach intended recipients. Staff
                                           need to be hired and trained, regulations written, buildings leased,
                                           materials designed or purchased, participants identified and enrolled.
                                           Program managers generally look for quick feedback on whether action is
                                           needed to help get the program up and running as intended. Evaluation
                                           studies designed to address the quality or efficiency of program
                                           operations or their fidelity to program design are frequently called process
                                           or implementation evaluations. Over time, some of the measures used to
                                           evaluate program implementation may be institutionalized into an ongoing
                                           program performance monitoring and reporting system. A process
                                           evaluation can be an important companion to an outcome or impact
                                           evaluation by describing the program as actually experienced.

Outcome Evaluations                        Once assured that the program is operating as planned, one may ask
                                           whether it is yielding the desired benefits or improvement in outcomes.
                                           Outcome evaluations assess the extent to which a program achieves its
                                           outcome-oriented objectives or other important outcomes. Naturally, if the
                                           program has not had sufficient time to get its operations in place, then it is
                                           unlikely to have produced the desired benefits. Depending on the nature
                                           of the program, this shake-out period might take a few months, a year, or
                                           perhaps even longer. In agreeing on an evaluation question, it is also
                                           important to consider whether sufficient time will have passed to observe

                                           Page 15                                                                     GAO-12-208G
                         Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

                         longer-term outcomes. For example, it might take a study 3 or more years
                         to observe whether a program for high school students led to greater
                         success in college.

Net Impact Evaluations   Where a program’s desired outcomes are known to also be influenced
                         appreciably by factors outside the program, such as the labor market, the
                         outcomes that are actually observed represent a combination of program
                         effects and the effects of those external factors. In this case, questions
                         about program effectiveness become more sophisticated and the
                         evaluation design should attempt to identify the extent to which the
                         program caused or contributed to those observed changes. Impact
                         evaluation is a form of outcome evaluation that assesses the net effect of
                         a program (or its true effectiveness) by comparing the observed
                         outcomes to an estimate of what would have happened in the absence of
                         the program. While outcome measures can be incorporated into ongoing
                         performance monitoring systems, evaluation studies are usually required
                         to assess program net impacts.

For More Information
GAO documents            GAO. 2004. GAO’s Congressional Protocols, GAO-04-310G.
                         Washington, D.C.: July 16.

                         GAO. 2000. Managing for Results: Views on Ensuring the Usefulness of
                         Agency Performance Information to Congress, GAO/GGD-00-35.
                         Washington, D.C.: Jan. 26.

                         GAO. 2002. Program Evaluation: Strategies for Assessing How
                         Information Dissemination Contributes to Agency Goals, GAO-02-923.
                         Washington, D.C. Sept. 30.

Other resources          Bernholz, Eric, and others. 2006. Evaluation Dialogue Between OMB
                         Staff and Federal Evaluators: Digging a Bit Deeper into Evaluation
                         Science. Washington, D.C.: July.

                         Rossi, Peter H., Mark W. Lipsey, and Howard E. Freeman. 2004.
                         Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, 7th ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

                         Page 16                                                         GAO-12-208G
Chapter 2: Defining the Evaluation’s Scope

University of Wisconsin–Extension, Program Development and
Evaluation. www.uwex.edu/ces/pdande/evaluation/evallogicmodel.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for
Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.
2010. The Program Manager’s Guide to Evaluation, 2nd ed. Washington,
D.C. www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/other_resrch/pm_guide_eval/

Wholey, Joseph S., Harry P. Hatry, and Kathryn E. Newcomer. 2010.
Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation, 3rd ed. San Francisco:

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                       Chapter 3: The Process of Selecting an
                       Evaluation Design

Evaluation Design

                       Once evaluation questions have been formulated, the next step is to
                       develop an evaluation design—to select appropriate measures and
                       comparisons that will permit drawing valid conclusions on those
                       questions. In the design process, the evaluator explores the variety of
                       options available for collecting and analyzing information and chooses
                       alternatives that will best address the evaluation objectives within
                       available resources. Selecting an appropriate and feasible design,
                       however, is an iterative process and may result in the need to revise the
                       evaluation questions.

                       An evaluation design documents the activities best able to provide
Key Components of      credible evidence on the evaluation questions within the time and
an Evaluation Design   resources available and the logical basis for drawing strong conclusions
                       on those questions. The basic components of an evaluation design
                       include the following:

                       •   the evaluation questions, objectives, and scope;

                       •   information sources and measures, or what information is needed;

                       •   data collection methods, including any sampling procedures, or how
                           information or evidence will be obtained;

                       •   an analysis plan, including evaluative criteria or comparisons, or how
                           or on what basis program performance will be judged or evaluated;

                       •   an assessment of study limitations.

                       Clearly articulating the evaluation design and its rationale in advance aids
                       in discussing these choices with the requester and other stakeholders.
                       Documenting the study’s decisions and assumptions helps manage the
                       study and assists report writing and interpreting results.

GAO’s Design Matrix    GAO evaluators outline the components of the evaluation design, as well
                       as the limitations of those choices, in a standard tool called a design
                       matrix. GAO evaluators are expected to complete a design matrix for
                       each significant project to document their decisions and summarize the
                       key issues in the evaluation design. All staff having significant
                       involvement in or oversight of the work meet to discuss this plan and
                       reach agreement on whether it can credibly answer the evaluation

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As a government oversight agency that conducts both audits and
evaluations, GAO also uses the design matrix to document and ensure
compliance with the government auditing fieldwork standards for
conducting performance audits (including program evaluations). The
fieldwork standards relate to planning, conducting, and documenting the
study. Government auditors are also expected to document in their plans
the implications of the agency’s internal controls, the results of previous
studies, and the reliability of agency databases for the evaluation’s scope
and objectives (GAO 2011).

The guidance for GAO’s design matrix is shown in figure 2 to
demonstrate the issues, design choices, and trade-offs that an evaluator
is expected to consider. Because GAO addresses a wide variety of
information requests in addition to program evaluations, the guidance is
fairly general but focuses on asking the evaluator to justify the design
components for each researchable question. Finally, the tool can help
stakeholders understand the logic of the evaluation.

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                                            Chapter 3: The Process of Selecting an
                                            Evaluation Design

Figure 2: Questions Guiding the Selection of Design Components

                                                                                                           What This Analysis Will
Researchable              Information Required             Scope and                                       Likely Allow GAO to
Question(s)               and Source(s)                    Methodology           Limitations               Say
What questions is the     What information does      How will the team          What are the design’s       What are the expected
team trying to answer?    the team need to           answer each evaluation limitations and how will results of the work?
                          address each               question?                  it affect the product?
Identify specific         evaluation question?                                                              Describe what GAO can
questions that the team   Where will they get it?    Describe strategies for    Cite any limitations as a likely say. Draw on
must ask to address the                              collecting the required    result of the information   preliminary results for
objectives in the        Identify documents or       information or data, such required or the scope        illustrative purposes, if
commitment letter and    types of information that as random sampling,          and methodology, such       helpful.
job commitment report.   the team must have.         case studies, focus        as:
                                                     groups, questionnaires,                                Ensure that the proposed
Ensure each major        Identify plans to address benchmarking to best         —Questionable data          answer addresses the
evaluation question is   internal controls and       practices, use of existing quality and/or reliability. evaluation question in
specific, objective,     compliance.                 data bases, etc.                                       column one.
neutral, measurable, and                                                        —Inability to access
doable. Ensure key terms Identify plans to collect   Describe the planned       certain types of data or
are defined.             documents that establish scope of each strategy,       obtain data covering a
                         the “criteria” to be used. including the timeframe, certain time frame.
Each major evaluation                                locations to visit, and
question should be                                   sample sizes.
                         Identify plans to follow up                            —Security classification
addressed in a separate on known significant                                    or confidentiality
row.                     findings and open           Describe the analytical    restrictions.
                         recommendations that        techniques to be used,
                         team found in obtaining     such as regression
                                                                                —Inability to generalize
                         background information. analysis, cost benefit         or extrapolate findings to
                                                     analysis, sensitivity
                                                     analysis, modeling,        the universe.
                         Identify sources of the     descriptive analysis,
                         required information,       content analysis, case     Be sure to address how
                         such as databases,          study summaries, etc.      these limitations will
                         studies, subject area                                  affect the product.
                         experts, program
                         officials, models, etc.
                                            Source: GAO.

                                            Designing an evaluation plan is iterative: evaluation objectives, scope,
An Iterative Process                        and methodology are defined together because what determines them
                                            often overlaps. Data limitations or new information about the program
                                            may arise as work is conducted and have implications for the adequacy of
                                            the original plans or the feasibility of answering the original questions. For
                                            example, a review of existing studies of alternative program approaches
                                            may uncover too few credible evaluations to support conclusions about
                                            which approach is most effective. Thus, evaluators should consider the
                                            need to make adjustments to the evaluation objectives, scope, and
                                            methodology throughout the project.

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                         Nevertheless, the design phase of an evaluation is a period for examining
                         options for answering the evaluation questions and for considering which
                         options offer the strongest approach, given the time and resources
                         available. After reviewing materials about the program, evaluators should
                         develop and compare alternative designs and assess their strengths and
                         weaknesses. For example, in choosing between using program
                         administrative data or conducting a new survey of program officials, the
                         evaluator might consider whether 1) the new information collected
                         through a survey would justify the extra effort required, or 2) a high quality
                         survey can be conducted in the time available.

Collect Background       A key first step in designing an evaluation is to conduct a literature review
Information              in order to understand the program’s history, related policies, and
                         knowledge base. A review of the relevant policy literature can help focus
                         evaluation questions on knowledge gaps, identify design and data
                         collection options used in the past, and provide important context for the
                         requester’s questions. An agency’s strategic plan and annual
                         performance reports can also provide useful information on available data
                         sources and measures and the efforts made to verify and validate those
                         data (GAO 1998).

                         Discussing evaluation plans with agency as well as congressional
                         stakeholders is important throughout the design process, since they have
                         a direct interest in and ability to act on the study’s findings. A principle of
                         good planning that helps ensure the transparency of our work is to notify
                         agency stakeholders of the evaluation’s scope and objectives at its outset
                         and discuss the expected terms of the work (GAO 2004). GAO evaluators
                         also coordinate their work with the Inspector General of the agency
                         whose program is being evaluated, and our sister congressional
                         agencies—the Congressional Budget Office and Congressional Research
                         Service—to avoid duplication, to leverage our resources, and to build a
                         mutual knowledge base. These meetings give evaluators opportunity to
                         learn about previous or ongoing studies and unfolding events that could
                         influence the design and use of the evaluation or necessitate modifying
                         the original evaluation question.

Consider Conducting an   When a literature review reveals that several previous studies have
Evaluation Synthesis     addressed the evaluation question, then the evaluator should consider
                         conducting a synthesis of their results before collecting new data. An
                         evaluation synthesis can answer questions about overall program
                         effectiveness or whether specific features of the program are working

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                            especially well or especially poorly. Findings supported by a number of
                            soundly designed and executed studies add strength to the knowledge
                            base exceeding that of any single study, especially when the findings are
                            consistent across studies that used different methods. If, however, the
                            studies produced inconsistent findings, systematic analysis of the
                            circumstances and methods used across a number of soundly designed
                            and executed studies may provide clues to explain variations in program
                            performance (GAO 1992b). For example, differences between
                            communities in how they staff or execute a program or in their client
                            populations may explain differences in their effectiveness.

                            A variety of statistical approaches have been proposed for statistically
                            cumulating the results of several studies. A widely used procedure for
                            answering questions about program impacts is “meta-analysis,” which is a
                            way of analyzing “effect sizes” across several studies. Effect size is a
                            measure of the difference in outcome between a treatment group and a
                            comparison group. (For more information, see Lipsey and Wilson 2000.)

Assess the Relevance and    Depending on the program and study question, potential sources for
Quality of Available Data   evidence on the evaluation question include program administrative
Sources                     records, grantee reports, performance monitoring data, surveys of
                            program participants, and existing surveys of the national population or
                            private or public facilities. In addition, the evaluator may choose to
                            conduct independent observations or interviews with public officials,
                            program participants, or persons or organizations doing business with
                            public agencies.

                            In selecting sources of evidence to answer the evaluation question, the
                            evaluator must assess whether these sources will provide evidence that
                            is both sufficient and appropriate to support findings and conclusions on
                            the evaluation question. Sufficiency refers to the quantity of evidence—
                            whether it is enough to persuade a knowledgeable person that the
                            findings are reasonable. Appropriateness refers to the relevance, validity,
                            and reliability of the evidence in supporting the evaluation objectives. The
                            level of effort required to ensure that computer-processed data (such as
                            agency records) are sufficiently reliable for use will depend on the extent
                            to which the data will be used to support findings and conclusions and the
                            level of risk or sensitivity associated with the study. (See GAO 2009 for
                            more detailed guidance on testing the reliability of computer-processed

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                     Measures are the concrete, observable events or conditions (or units of
                     evidence) that represent the aspects of program performance of interest.
                     Some evaluation questions may specify objective, quantifiable measures,
                     such as the number of families receiving program benefits, or qualitative
                     measures, such as the reasons for noncompliance. But often the
                     evaluator will need to select measures to represent a broader
                     characteristic, such as “service quality.” It is important to select measures
                     that clearly represent or are related to the performance they are trying to
                     assess. For example, a measure of the average processing time for tax
                     returns does not represent, and is not clearly related to, the goal of
                     increasing the accuracy of tax return processing. Measures are most
                     usefully selected in concert with the criteria that program performance will
                     be assessed against, so that agreement can be reached on the
                     sufficiency and appropriateness of the evidence for drawing conclusions
                     on those criteria.

                     Additional considerations for assessing the appropriateness of existing
                     databases include: whether certain subgroups of the population are well-
                     represented; whether converting data from its original format will require
                     excessive time or effort; and when examining multiple sites, whether
                     variation in data across sites precludes making reliable comparisons. No
                     data source is perfectly accurate and reliable; thus, evaluators often
                     consider using multiple measures or sources of data to triangulate toward
                     the truth. Concerns about biases in one data source—for example,
                     possible exaggerations in self reports of employment history— might be
                     countered by complementing that information with similar measures from
                     another source—for example, length of employment recorded in
                     administrative records.

Plan Original Data   No matter how data are collected, care should be taken to ensure that
Collection           data are sufficient and appropriate to support findings on the evaluation
                     question. Trained observers may inspect physical conditions, actions or
                     records to ascertain whether these met requirements or other kinds of
                     criteria, When collecting testimonial evidence through interviews or
                     surveys, the evaluator should consider whether the people serving as
                     data sources are sufficiently knowledgeable and whether their reports of
                     events or their opinions are likely to be candid and accurate. In addition,
                     careful attention to developing and pretesting questionnaire surveys and
                     other data collection instruments will help ensure that the data obtained
                     are sufficiently accurate for the purposes of the study. Where the
                     evaluator aims to aggregate and generalize from the results of a sample
                     survey, great importance is attached to collecting uniform data from every

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unit in the sample. Consequently, sample survey information is usually
acquired through structured interviews or self-administered
questionnaires. Most of the information is collected in close-ended form,
which means that the respondent chooses from responses offered in the
questionnaire or by the interviewer. Designing a consistent set of
responses into the data collection process helps establish the uniformity
of data across units in the sample. (For more on designing and
conducting surveys, see GAO 1991, Dillman 2007, Fowler 2009, or Willis

A qualified survey specialist should be involved in designing and
executing questionnaire surveys that will be relied on for evidence on the
evaluation questions, whether the surveys are administered in person, by
telephone or mail, or over the Internet. Survey specialists can help ensure
that surveys are clearly understood, are quick and easy to complete, and
obtain the desired information. Subject matter experts should review the
survey to assess whether technical terms are used properly, respondents
are likely to have the desired information and will be motivated to
respond, and the questionnaire will provide a comprehensive, unbiased
assessment of the issues.

Federal executive agencies must adhere to guidance that OMB’s Office of
Information and Regulatory Affairs issues on policies and practices for
planning, implementing, and maintaining statistical activities, including
surveys used in program evaluations (OMB 2006). In addition, executive
branch agencies must submit certain proposals to collect information from
the public for OMB’s review and approval to ensure that they meet the
requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act. GAO, as a legislative
branch agency, is not subject to these policies.

A potentially less costly alternative to conducting an original survey
(especially one with a large national sample) is to pay for additional
questions to be added to an ongoing national survey. This “piggy-back”
strategy is only useful, of course, if that survey samples the same
population needed for the evaluation. Another useful alternative data
collection approach is to link data from sample surveys to administrative
data systems, enabling the evaluator to obtain new information on, for
example, individuals, their neighborhoods, or their program participation.
(For more on record linkage and privacy protection procedures, see GAO

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Select Evaluative Criteria   Evaluative criteria are the standards, measures, or expectations about
                             what should exist against which measures of actual performance are
                             compared and evaluated. Evaluators should select evaluative criteria that
                             are relevant, appropriate and sufficient to address the evaluation’s
                             objectives. Unlike financial or performance audits, the objectives of
                             program evaluations generally are not to assess a program’s or agency’s
                             compliance with legal requirements but to assess whether program
                             expectations have been met. The sources of those expectations can be
                             quite diverse. However, if the intended audience for the report—both the
                             study requesters and program managers—believes that the chosen
                             criteria and measures are appropriate, then the study’s findings are more
                             likely to be credible.

                             Depending on the circumstances of the program and the evaluation
                             questions, examples of possible criteria include

                             •   purpose or goals prescribed by law or regulation,

                             •   policies or procedures established by agency officials,

                             •   professional standards or norms,

                             •   expert opinions,

                             •   prior period’s performance,

                             •   performance of other entities or sectors used to benchmark

                             Some criteria designate a particular level as distinguishing acceptable
                             from unacceptable performance, such as in determinations of legal
                             compliance. Related evaluation questions ask whether a program’s
                             performance is “acceptable” or “meets expectations.” Other criteria have
                             no preestablished level designated as representing acceptable
                             performance but permit assessment of the extent to which expectations
                             are met. Thus, while the evaluation cannot typically ascertain whether a
                             program was “effective” per se, it can compare the performance of a
                             program across time and to the performance of other programs or
                             organizations to ascertain whether it is more or less effective than other
                             efforts to achieve a given objective.

                             To support objective assessment, criteria must be observable and
                             measurable events, actions, or characteristics that provide evidence that

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                     performance objectives have been met. Some legislation, evaluation
                     requests, or program designs provide broad concepts for performance
                     objectives, such as “a thorough process” or “family well-being,” that lack
                     clear assessment criteria. In such cases, the evaluator may need to gain
                     the agreement of study requesters and program managers to base
                     assessment criteria on measures and standards in the subject matter

Select a Sample of   In some cases, it makes sense to include all members of a population in a
Observations         study, especially where the population is small enough that it is feasible
                     within available resources and time periods to collect and analyze data on
                     the entire population (such as the 50 states)—called a certainty sample or
                     census. Many federal programs, however, cannot be studied by means of
                     a census and the evaluator must decide whether to collect data on a
                     probability or nonprobability sample.

                     In a probability sample (sometimes referred to as a statistical or random
                     sample), each unit in the population has a known, nonzero chance of
                     being selected. The results of a probability sample can usually be
                     generalized to the population from which the sample was taken. If the
                     objective is to report characteristics about a population, such as the
                     percentage of an agency’s officials who received certain training, or the
                     total dollar value of transactions in error in an agency’s system, then a
                     probability sample may be appropriate. A sampling specialist can help
                     identify how large a sample is needed to obtain precise estimates or
                     detect expected effects of a given size.

                     In a nonprobability sample, some units in the population have no chance,
                     or an unknown chance, of being selected. In nonprobability sampling, a
                     sample is selected from knowledge of the population’s characteristics or
                     from a subset of a population. Selecting locations to visit and identifying
                     officials to interview are part of many GAO studies, and these choices are
                     usually made using a nonprobability sampling approach. However, if it is
                     important to avoid the appearance of selection bias, locations or
                     interviewees can be selected using random sampling.

                     Deciding whether to use probability sampling is a key element of the
                     study design that flows from the scope of the researchable question. If the
                     question is, What progress has been made in implementing new program
                     provisions? then the implied study scope is program-wide and a
                     probability sample would be required to generalize conclusions drawn
                     from the locations observed to the program as a whole. In contrast, a

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                             question about why a program is no longer obtaining the desired level of
                             outcomes might be addressed by following up program locations that
                             have already been identified as not meeting the expected level of
                             outcomes—a purposive, nonprobability sample. A sampling specialist
                             should help select and design a sampling approach. (For more on
                             sampling, see GAO 1992a, Henry 1990, Lohr 2010, or Scheaffer et al.

Pilot Test Data Collection   When engaging in primary (or original) data collection, it is important to
and Analysis Procedures      conduct a pretest or pilot study before beginning full-scale data collection.
                             The pilot study gives the evaluator an opportunity to refine the design and
                             test the availability, reliability, and appropriateness of proposed data.
                             Evaluators new to the program or proposing new data collection may find
                             that a limited exploration of the proposed design in a few sites can
                             provide a useful “reality check” on whether one’s assumptions hold true.
                             The pilot phase allows for a check on whether program operations, such
                             as client recruitment, and delivery of services occur as expected. Finding
                             that they do not may suggest a need to refocus the evaluation question to
                             ask why the program has been implemented so differently from what was
                             proposed. Testing the work at one or more sites allows the evaluator to
                             confirm that data are available, the form they take, and the means for
                             gathering them, including interview procedures. It also provides an
                             opportunity to assess whether the analysis methodology will be

                             Existing data sources should be closely examined for their suitability for
                             the planned analyses. For example, to support sophisticated statistical
                             analyses, data may be needed as actual dollars, days, or hours rather
                             than aggregated into a few wide ranges. To ensure the ability to reliably
                             assess change over time, the evaluator should check whether there have
                             been changes in data recording, coding, or storage procedures over the
                             period of interest.

Assess Study Limitations     Evaluators need to work with the stakeholders and acknowledge what the
                             study can and cannot address when making the project’s scope and
                             design final. The end of the design phase is an important milestone. It is
                             here that the evaluator must have a clear understanding of what has been
                             chosen, what has been omitted, what strengths and weaknesses have
                             been embedded in the design, what the customer’s needs are, how
                             usefully the design is likely to meet those needs, and whether the
                             constraints of time, cost, staff, location, and facilities have been

                             Page 27                                                           GAO-12-208G
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                      adequately addressed. Evaluators must be explicit about the limitations of
                      the study. They should ask, How conclusive is the study likely to be, given
                      the design? How detailed are the data collection and data analysis plans?
                      What trade-offs were made in developing these plans?

                      GAO and other organizations have developed guidelines or standards to
Criteria for a Good   help ensure the quality, credibility, and usefulness of evaluations. (See
Design                appendix I and the guidance in GAO’s design matrix, figure 2, as an
                      example.) Some standards pertain specifically to the evaluator’s
                      organization (for example, whether a government auditor is independent),
                      the planning process (for example, whether stakeholders were
                      consulted), or reporting (for example, documenting assumptions and
                      procedures). While the underlying principles substantially overlap, the
                      evaluator will need to determine the relevance of each guideline to the
                      evaluator’s organizational affiliation and their specific evaluation’s scope
                      and purpose.

                      Strong evaluations employ methods of analysis that are appropriate to the
                      question; support the answer with sufficient and appropriate evidence;
                      document the assumptions, procedures, and modes of analysis; and rule
                      out competing explanations. Strong studies present questions clearly,
                      address them appropriately, and draw inferences commensurate with the
                      power of the design and the availability, validity, and reliability of the data.
                      Thus, a good evaluation design should

                      •   be appropriate for the evaluation questions and context. The design
                          should address all key questions, clearly state any limitations in
                          scope, and be appropriate to the nature and significance of the
                          program or issue. For example, evaluations should not attempt to
                          measure outcomes before a program has been in place long enough
                          to be able to produce them.

                      •   adequately address the evaluation question. The strength of the
                          design should match the precision, completeness, and
                          conclusiveness of the information needed to answer the questions
                          and meet the client’s needs. Criteria and measures should be
                          narrowly tailored, and comparisons should be selected to support
                          valid conclusions and rule out alternative explanations.

                      •   fit available time and resources. Time and cost are constraints that
                          shape the scope of the evaluation questions and the range of

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                                activities that can help answer them. Producing information with an
                                understanding of the user’s timetable enhances its usefulness.

                            •   rely on sufficient, credible data. No data collection and maintenance
                                process is free of error, but the data should be sufficiently free of bias
                                or other significant errors that could lead to inaccurate conclusions.
                                Measures should reflect the persons, activities, or conditions that the
                                program is expected to affect and should not be unduly influenced by
                                factors outside the program’s control.

For More Information
On sampling approaches      GAO. 1992a. Using Statistical Sampling, revised, GAO/PEMD-10.1.6.
                            Washington, D.C. May.

                            Henry, Gary T. 1990. Practical Sampling. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

                            Lohr, Sharon L. 2010. Sampling: Design and Analysis, 2nd ed.
                            Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

                            Scheaffer, Richard L., William Mendenhall III, and R. Lyman Ott. 2006.
                            Elementary Survey Sampling, 6th ed. Cengage Learning.

On developing surveys and   Dillman, Don A. 2007. Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design
questionnaires              Method, 2nd ed. New York: Wiley.

                            Fowler, Floyd J., Jr. 2009. Survey Research Methods, 4th ed. Thousand
                            Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

                            GAO. 1991. Using Structured Interviewing Techniques.
                            GAO/PEMD-10.1.5. Washington, D.C. June.

                            Willis, Gordon B. 2005. Cognitive Interviewing: A Tool for Improving
                            Questionnaire Design. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

On standards                American Evaluation Association. 2004. Guiding Principles for Evaluators.
                            July. www.eval.org/Publications/GuidingPrinciples.asp.

                            Page 29                                                            GAO-12-208G
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                  GAO. 2011. Government Auditing Standards: 2011 Internet Version.
                  Washington, D.C. August. http://www.gao.gov/govaud/iv2011gagas.pdf

                  GAO. 1992b. The Evaluation Synthesis, revised, GAO/PEMD-10.1.2.
                  Washington, D.C. March.

                  Yarbrough, Donald B., Lynn M. Shulha, Rodney K. Hopson, and Flora A.
                  Caruthers. 2011. The Program Evaluation Standards: A Guide for
                  Evaluators and Evaluation Users, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Other resources   GAO. 2009. Assessing the Reliability of Computer-Processed Data,
                  external version 1. GAO-09-680G. Washington, D.C. July.

                  GAO. 2004. GAO’s Agency Protocols, GAO-05-35G. Washington, D.C.

                  GAO. 2001. Record Linkage and Privacy: Issues in Creating New Federal
                  Research and Statistical Information. GAO-01-126SP. Washington, D.C.

                  GAO. 1998. The Results Act: An Evaluator’s Guide to Assessing Agency
                  Annual Performance Plans, version 1. GAO/GGD-10.1.20. Washington,
                  D.C. April.

                  Lipsey, Mark W., and David R. Wilson. 2000. Practical Meta-Analysis.
                  Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

                  OMB (U.S. Office of Management and Budget), Office of Information and
                  Regulatory Affairs. 2006. Standards and Guidelines for Statistical
                  Surveys. Washington, D.C. September.

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                      Chapter 4: Designs for Assessing Program
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Implementation and Effectiveness

                      Program evaluation designs are tailored to the nature of the program and
                      the questions being asked. Thus, they can have an infinite variety of
                      forms as evaluators choose performance goals and measures and select
                      procedures for data collection and analysis. Nevertheless, individual
                      designs tend to be adaptations of a set of familiar evaluation
                      approaches—that is, evaluation questions and research methods for
                      answering them (Rossi et al. 2004). This chapter provides examples of
                      some typical evaluation approaches for implementation and effectiveness
                      questions and examples of designs specifically matched to program
                      structure. Chapter 5 provides examples of approaches to evaluating
                      programs where either the intervention or desired outcomes are not
                      clearly defined.

                      Implementation (or process) evaluations address questions about how
Typical Designs for   and to what extent activities have been implemented as intended and
Implementation        whether they are targeted to appropriate populations or problems.
                      Implementation evaluations are very similar to performance monitoring in
Evaluations           assessing the quality and efficiency of program operations, service
                      delivery, and service use, except that they are conducted as separate
                      projects, not integrated into the program’s daily routine. Implementation
                      evaluations may be conducted to provide feedback to program managers,
                      accountability to program sponsors and the public, or insight into variation
                      in program outcomes. These evaluations may answer questions such as

                      •   Are mandated or authorized activities being carried out?

                      •   To what extent is the program reaching the intended population?

                      •   Have feasibility or management problems emerged?

                      •   Why is the program no longer achieving its expected outcomes?

                      Assessing how well a program is operating requires first identifying a
                      criterion against which a program’s performance is compared.
                      Alternatively, an assessment may compare performance across locations,
                      points in time, or subgroups of the population, to identify important
                      variations in performance. In contrast, an exploratory case study of
                      program processes and context may focus on exploring reasons why the
                      program is operating as it is. Table 2 provides examples of
                      implementation questions and designs used to address them.

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Table 2: Common Designs for Implementation (or Process) Evaluations

Evaluation question                                              Design
Is the program being implemented as intended?                    Compare program activities to statute and regulations, program
                                                                 logic model, professional standards, or stakeholder expectations
Have any feasibility or management problems emerged?             •    Compare program performance to quality, cost or efficiency
                                                                 •    Assess variation in quality or performance across settings,
                                                                      providers, or subgroups of recipients
Why is the program not (or no longer) achieving expected         •    Analyze program and external factors correlated with
outcomes?                                                             variation in program outcomes
                                                                 •    Interview key informants about possible explanations
                                                                 •    Conduct indepth analysis of critical cases
                                           Source GAO.

Assessing Quality or the                   Assessments of program implementation often compare program
Progress of Program                        performance—or what is—to a criterion established in advance—or what
Implementation                             should be. The evaluative criteria may be derived from the law,
                                           regulations, a program logic model, administrative or professional
                                           standards, research identifying the best practices of leading
                                           organizations, or stakeholder expectations. Some criteria identify an
                                           acceptable level of performance or performance standard by, for
                                           example, defining authorized activities. In some areas, a program may
                                           not be considered credible unless it meets well-established professional
                                           standards. When criteria have no predetermined standard of acceptable
                                           performance, the evaluator’s task is to measure the extent to which a
                                           program meets its objectives. Measures of program performance may be
                                           obtained from program records or may be specially collected for the
                                           evaluation through interviews, observations, or systems testing. For

                                           •    To assess the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of an agency’s
                                                statistical program, an evaluator can compare its policies and
                                                procedures for designing, collecting, processing, analyzing and
                                                disseminating data with government guidelines for conducting
                                                statistical surveys (OMB 2006).

                                           •    To evaluate the operational quality and efficiency of a program
                                                providing financial assistance to individuals, an evaluator might
                                                analyze administrative records that document the applications
                                                received for program benefits and the actions taken on them.
                                                Efficiency might be assessed by how promptly applications for
                                                benefits were processed for a given level of staffing; quality might be

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                             assessed by how accurately eligibility and benefits were determined
                             (GAO 2010). Standards of acceptable or desired performance might
                             be drawn from previous experience or the levels of quality assurance
                             achieved in other financial assistance programs.

                         •   To evaluate a program’s success in serving a target population such
                             as low-income children, one might analyze program records to
                             compare the family incomes of current participants to the national
                             poverty level or to family income levels of recipients in previous years.
                             However, to address how well the program is reaching the population
                             eligible for the program, a better choice might be to compare
                             information from local program records with surveys of the income of
                             local residents to estimate the proportion of the local low-income
                             population that the program reached. To assess improvement in
                             program targeting, the evaluator could compare that program
                             coverage statistic over time. However, additional analysis would be
                             required to ascertain whether observed improvements in coverage
                             resulted from program improvements or changes in the neighborhood.

Assessing Variation in   To identify program management or feasibility issues in federal programs,
Implementation           it is often important to examine the nature and sources of variation in
                         program quality or performance across settings, providers, or population
                         subgroups. For example,

                         •   To evaluate how well a new technical assistance program is
                             operating, an evaluator might review program records as well as
                             survey local program managers to learn whether any feasibility
                             problems had developed. Program records might address whether
                             guidance materials were issued and delivered in a timely manner or
                             whether workshops were held promptly and drew the attendance
                             expected. But an evaluator might also want to survey local managers
                             for their judgments on whether the guidance and training materials
                             were technically competent and relevant to their needs. Performance
                             standards might be drawn from program design and planning
                             materials, program technical standards, or previous experience with
                             needs for technical assistance.
                         Because of the cost of collecting and analyzing data on all program
                         participants or transactions, evaluators of federal programs frequently
                         collect data by surveying a nationally representative probability sample.
                         Sample surveys can also address questions about variation in service
                         delivery across geographic locations or types of providers.

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Case Studies          In some circumstances, an evaluator may want to use case studies to
                      explore certain issues in more depth than can be done in more than a few
                      locations. In single case study evaluations, especially, much attention is
                      given to acquiring qualitative information that describes events and
                      conditions from several points of view. The structure imposed on the data
                      collection may range from the flexibility of ethnography or investigative
                      reporting to the highly structured interviews of sample surveys. (For more
                      on the evaluation insights to be gained from ethnography, see GAO
                      2003.) Case studies are often used to provide in-depth descriptive
                      information about how the program operates in the field. If the objective of
                      the case study is to describe aspects of an issue, provide context, or
                      illustrate findings developed from a more broadly applied survey, then
                      selecting a nongeneralizable sample of cases may be appropriate.

                      Case studies can also supplement survey or administrative data to
                      explore specific questions about program performance, such as
                      understanding variation in program performance across locations (for
                      example, rural versus urban settings), or to identify factors key to program
                      success or failure. The criteria used for selecting cases are critical to
                      one’s ability to apply their findings to the larger program. To heighten the
                      value of the information they provide, cases should be selected carefully
                      to represent particular conditions of interest (for example, sites with low
                      versus high levels of performance) and with certain hypotheses in mind.
                      However, most often, case studies will generate hypotheses rather than
                      answers to questions such as what factors influence program success.
                      (For more on case study methodology, see GAO 1990, Stake 1995, or
                      Yin 2009.) For example,

                      •   To identify the causes of a sudden decline in control of an agricultural
                          pest, evaluators might conduct field observations in the localities most
                          affected to assess how well key components of the pest eradication
                          and control program were executed or whether some other factor
                          appeared to be responsible.

                      Outcome evaluations address questions about the extent to which the
Typical Designs for   program achieved its results-oriented objectives. This form of evaluation
Outcome Evaluations   focuses on examining outputs (goods and services delivered by a
                      program) and outcomes (the results of those products and services) but
                      may also assess program processes to understand how those outcomes
                      are produced. Outcome evaluations may address questions such as

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•   Is the program achieving its intended purposes or objectives?

•   Has it had other important (unintended) side effects on issues of
    stakeholder concern?

•   Do outcomes differ across program approaches, components,
    providers, or client subgroups?

•   How does the program compare with other strategies for achieving
    the same ends?

To appropriately assess program effectiveness, it is important, first, to
select outcome measures that clearly represent the nature of the
expected program benefit, cover key aspects of desired performance, and
are not unduly influenced by factors outside the program’s control. Next,
to allow causal inferences about program effects, the data collection and
analysis plan must establish a correlation between exposure to the
program and the desired benefit and must set a time-order relationship
such that program exposure precedes outcomes.

However, if the evaluators suspect that factors outside the program
appreciably influenced the observed outcomes, then they should not
present the findings of an outcome evaluation as representing the results
caused by the program. Instead, they should choose one of the net
impact designs discussed in the next section to attempt to isolate effects
attributable to the program. Ongoing monitoring of social conditions such
as a community’s health or employment status can provide valuable
feedback to program managers and the public about progress toward
program goals but may not directly reflect program performance. Table 3
provides examples of outcome-oriented evaluation questions and designs
used to address them.

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Table 3: Common Designs for Outcome Evaluations

Evaluation question                                              Design
Is the program achieving its desired outcomes or having other    •    Compare program performance to law and regulations,
important side effects?                                               program logic model, professional standards, or
                                                                      stakeholder expectations
                                                                 •    Assess change in outcomes for participants before and
                                                                      after exposure to the program
                                                                 •    Assess differences in outcomes between program
                                                                      participants and nonparticipants
Do program outcomes differ across program components,            Assess variation in outcomes (or change in outcomes) across
providers or recipients?                                         approaches, settings, providers, or subgroups of recipients
                                           Source GAO.

Assessing the Achievement                  Like outcome monitoring, outcome evaluations often assess the benefits
of Intended Outcomes                       of the program for participants or the broader public by comparing data on
                                           program outcomes to a preestablished target value. The criterion could
                                           be derived from law, regulation, or program design, while the target value
                                           might be drawn from professional standards, stakeholder expectations, or
                                           the levels observed previously in this or similar programs. This can help
                                           ensure that target levels for accomplishments, compliance, or absence of
                                           error are realistic. For example,

                                           •    To assess the immediate outcomes of instructional programs, an
                                                evaluator could measure whether participants’ experienced short-term
                                                changes in knowledge, attitudes, or skills at the end of their training
                                                session. The evaluator might employ post-workshop surveys or
                                                conduct observations during the workshops to document how well
                                                participants understood and can use what was taught. Depending on
                                                the topic, industry standards might provide a criterion of 80 percent or
                                                90 percent accuracy, or demonstration of a set of critical skills, to
                                                define program success. Although observational data may be
                                                considered more accurate indicators of knowledge and skill gains than
                                                self-report surveys, they can often be more resource-intensive to
                                                collect and analyze.

Assessing Change in                        In programs where there are quantitative measures of performance but
Outcomes                                   no established standard or target value, outcome evaluations at least may
                                           rely on assessing change or differences in desired outputs and outcomes.
                                           The level of the outcome of interest, such as client behavior or
                                           environmental conditions, is compared with the level observed in the
                                           absence of the program or intervention. This can be done by comparing

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•   the behavior of individuals before and after their exposure to a

•   environmental conditions before and after an intervention, or

•   the outcomes for individuals who did and did not participate in the

Of course, to conclude that any changes observed reflect program
effects, the evaluator must feel confident that those changes would not
have occurred on their own without the program, in response to some
nonprogram influences. For example,

•   The accuracy and timeliness of severe weather forecasts—arguably
    considered program outputs—can be compared to target levels of
    performance through analysis of program records over time. However,
    it is more problematic to attempt to assess the effectiveness of the
    forecasting program through the amount of harm resulting from those
    storms—what might be considered program outcomes. This is
    because building construction and evacuation policies—external
    factors to a weather forecasting program—are also expected to
    greatly influence the amount of harm produced by a storm.

•   To assess an industry’s compliance with specific workplace safety
    regulations, an evaluator could conduct work-site observations or
    review agency inspections records and employer injury and illness
    reports. The evaluator might analyze changes in compliance and
    safety levels at work sites after a regulation was enacted or compare
    compliance and safety levels between employers who were or were
    not provided assistance in complying with the regulations. Again,
    however, to draw conclusions about the effectiveness or impact of the
    regulation (or compliance assistance) in improving worker safety, the
    evaluator needs to be able to rule out the influence of other possible
    workplace changes, such as in technology, worker experience, or
    other aspects of working conditions.

As in process evaluations, sample surveys can be used to collect
outcome data on probability samples in order to provide information about
the program as a whole. A cross-sectional survey, the simplest form of
sample survey, takes measurements at a point in time to describe events
or conditions. By providing information on the incidence of events or
distribution of conditions in relationship to a preselected standard or
target value, it can be used to assess program performance in either a

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                         process or an outcome evaluation. Through repeated application, a cross-
                         sectional survey can measure change over time for the population as a
                         whole. A panel survey acquires information from the same sample units
                         at two or more points in time. Thus, a panel survey can provide less
                         variable measures of change in facts, attitudes, or opinions over time and
                         thus can support more directly comparative assessments of outcomes
                         than can a cross-sectional survey, although often at greater cost. Adding
                         the important element of time helps in drawing inferences with regard to
                         cause and effect.

Assessing Variation in   Variation in outcomes across settings, providers or populations can be
Outcomes                 the result of variation in program operations (such as level of
                         enforcement) or context (such as characteristics of client populations or
                         settings). Variation in outcomes associated with features under program
                         control, such as the characteristics of service providers or their activities,
                         may identify opportunities for managers to take action to improve
                         performance. However, additional information is usually needed to
                         understand why some providers are obtaining worse results than others—
                         for example, whether the staff lack needed skills or are ineffectively
                         managed. Variation associated with factors outside the control of the
                         program, such as neighborhood characteristics, can help explain program
                         results, but may not identify actions to improve program performance.
                         Thus, although analysis of surveys or performance reports can identify
                         factors correlated with variation in outcomes, follow-up studies or more
                         complex designs (see the next section) are needed to draw firm
                         conclusions about their likely causes.

                         Case studies are not usually used to assess program effectiveness
                         because their results cannot be generalized to the program as a whole
                         and because of the difficulty of distinguishing many possible causes of a
                         unique instance. However, in special circumstances, an outcome
                         evaluation may use a case study to examine a critical instance closely to
                         understand its cause or consequences. Often such a study is an
                         investigation of a specific problem event, such as a fatal accident or forest
                         fire. The potential causal factors can be numerous and complex, requiring
                         an in-depth examination to assess whether and which safety program
                         components were ineffective in preventing or responding to that event.
                         Critical incident studies are also discussed in chapter 5.

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                      Many desired outcomes of federal programs are influenced by external
Typical Designs for   factors, including other federal, state, and local programs and policies, as
Drawing Causal        well as economic or environmental conditions. Thus, the outcomes
                      observed typically reflect a combination of influences. To isolate the
Inferences about      program’s unique impacts, or contribution to those outcomes, an impact
Program Impacts       study must be carefully designed to rule out plausible alternative
                      explanations for the results. Typical approaches to this problem include

                      •   selection of targeted outcome measures,

                      •   comparison group research designs,

                      •   statistical analysis, and

                      •   logical argument.

                      A well-articulated program logic model is quite valuable in planning an
                      impact evaluation. Clearly articulating the program’s strategy and
                      performance expectations aids the selection of appropriate performance
                      measures and data sources. Identifying the most important external
                      influences on desired program outcomes helps in developing research
                      designs that convincingly rule out the most plausible alternative
                      explanations for the observed results.

                      Impact evaluation research designs construct comparisons of what
                      happened after exposure to the program with an estimate of what would
                      have happened in the absence of the program in order to estimate the net
                      impact of the program. A number of methodologies are available to
                      estimate program impact, including experimental, quasi-experimental,
                      and nonexperimental designs. Conducting an impact evaluation of a
                      social intervention often requires the expenditure of significant resources
                      to collect and analyze data on program results and estimate what would
                      have happened in the absence of the program. Thus, impact evaluations
                      need not be conducted for all interventions but should be reserved for
                      when the effort and cost appear warranted: for an intervention that is
                      important, clearly defined, well-implemented, and being considered for
                      adoption elsewhere (GAO 2009). Table 4 provides examples of designs
                      commonly used to address net impact questions.

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Table 4: Common Designs for Drawing Causal Inferences about Program Impacts

Evaluation question                                                            Design
Is the program responsible for (effective in) achieving                        •     Compare (change in) outcomes for a randomly assigned
improvements in desired outcomes?                                                    treatment group and a nonparticipating control group
                                                                                     (randomized controlled experiment)
                                                                               •     Compare (change in) outcomes for program participants and
                                                                                     a comparison group closely matched to them on key
                                                                                     characteristics (comparison group quasi-experiment)
                                                                               •     Compare (change in) outcomes for participants before and
                                                                                     after the intervention, over multiple points in time with
                                                                                     statistical controls (single group quasi-experiment)
How does the effectiveness of the program approach compare                     •     Compare (change in) outcomes for groups randomly
with other strategies for achieving the same outcomes?                               assigned to different treatments (randomized controlled
                                                                               •     Compare (change in) outcomes for comparison groups
                                                                                     closely matched on key characteristics (comparison group
                                              Source Adapted from Bernholz et al 2006.

Randomized Experiments                        The defining characteristic of an experimental design is that units of study
                                              are randomly assigned either to a treatment (or intervention) group or to
                                              one or more nonparticipating control (or comparison) groups. Random
                                              assignment means that the assignment is made by chance, as in the flip
                                              of a coin, in order to control for any systematic difference between the
                                              groups that could account for a difference in their outcomes. A difference
                                              in these groups’ subsequent outcomes is believed to represent the
                                              program’s impact because, under random assignment, the factors that
                                              influence outcomes other than the program itself should be evenly
                                              distributed between the two groups; their effects tend to cancel one
                                              another out in a comparison of the two groups’ outcomes. A true
                                              experiment is seldom, if ever, feasible for GAO because evaluators must
                                              have control over the process by which participants in a program are
                                              assigned to it, and this control generally rests with the agency. However,
                                              GAO does review experiments carried out by others.

                                              Depending on how the program is administered, the unit of study might
                                              be such entities as a person, classroom, neighborhood, or industrial plant.
                                              More complex designs may involve two or more comparison groups that
                                              receive different combinations of services or experience the program at
                                              different levels of intensity. For example, patients might be randomly
                                              assigned to drug therapy, dietary, or exercise interventions to treat high
                                              blood pressure. For example,

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                                   •   To evaluate the effect of the provision of housing assistance and
                                       employment support services on the capacity of low-income families
                                       to obtain or retain employment, the Department of Housing and Urban
                                       Development conducted a randomized experiment. In the sites
                                       chosen for the evaluation, eligible families on the waiting list for
                                       housing subsidies were randomly assigned either to an experimental
                                       group, who received a voucher and the employment support services
                                       bound to it, or to a control group, who did not receive a voucher or
                                       services. Both groups have been tracked for several years to
                                       determine the impact of the provision of rental assistance and
                                       accompanying services on families’ employment, earnings, and
                                       geographic mobility (Abt Associates and QED Group 2004).

Limited Applicability of           Randomized experiments are best suited for assessing intervention or
Randomized Experiments             program effectiveness when it is possible, ethical, and practical to
                                   conduct and maintain random assignment to minimize the influence of
                                   external factors on program outcomes. Some kinds of interventions are
                                   not suitable for randomized assignment because the evaluator needs to
                                   have control over who will be exposed to it, and that may not be possible.
                                   Examples include interventions that use such techniques as public
                                   service announcements broadcast on the radio, television, or Internet.
                                   Random assignment is well suited for programs that are not universally
                                   available to the entire eligible population, so that some people will be
                                   denied access to services in any case, and a lottery is perceived as a fair
                                   way to form a comparison group.

                                   Thus, no comparison group design is possible to assess full program
                                   impact where agencies are prohibited from withholding benefits from
                                   individuals entitled to them (such as veterans’ benefits) or from selectively
                                   applying a law to some people but not others. Random assignment is
                                   often not accepted for testing interventions that prevent or mitigate harm
                                   because it is considered unethical to impose negative events or elevated
                                   risks of harm to test a remedy’s effectiveness. Instead, the evaluator must
                                   wait for a hurricane or flood, for example, to learn if efforts to strengthen
                                   buildings prevented serious damage. (For further discussion, see GAO
                                   2009, Rossi et al. 2004, or Shadish et al. 2002.)

Difficulties in Conducting Field   Field experiments are distinguished from laboratory experiments and
Experiments                        experimental simulations in that field experiments take place in much less
                                   contrived, more naturalistic settings such as classrooms, hospitals, or
                                   workplaces. Conducting an inquiry in the field gives reality to the
                                   evaluation but often at the expense of some accuracy in the results. This
                                   is because experiments conducted in field settings allow limited control

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                          over both program implementation and external factors that may influence
                          program results. In fact, enforcing strict adherence to program protocols
                          in order to strengthen conclusions about program effects may actually
                          limit the ability to generalize those conclusions to less perfect, but more
                          typical program operations.

                          Ideally, randomized experiments in medicine are conducted as double-
                          blind studies, in which neither the subjects nor the researchers know who
                          is receiving the experimental treatment. However, double-blind studies in
                          social science are uncommon, making it hard sometimes to distinguish
                          the effects of a new program from the effects of introducing any novelty
                          into the classroom or workplace. Moreover, program staff may jeopardize
                          the random assignment process by exercising their own judgment in
                          recruiting and enrolling participants. Because of the critical importance of
                          the comparison groups’ equivalence for drawing conclusions about
                          program effects, it is important to check the effectiveness of random
                          assignment by comparing the groups’ equivalence on key characteristics
                          before program exposure.

Comparison Group Quasi-   Because of the difficulties in establishing a random process for assigning
experiments               units of study to a program, as well as the opportunity provided when only
                          a portion of the targeted population is exposed to the program, many
                          impact evaluations employ a quasi-experimental comparison group
                          design instead. This design also uses a treatment group and one or more
                          comparison groups; however, unlike the groups in the true experiment,
                          membership in these groups is not randomly assigned. Because the
                          groups were not formed through a random process, they may differ with
                          regard to other factors that affect their outcomes. Thus, it is usually not
                          possible to infer that the “raw” difference in outcomes between the groups
                          has been caused by the treatment. Instead, statistical adjustments such
                          as analysis of covariance should be applied to the raw difference to
                          compensate for any initial lack of equivalence between the groups.

                          Comparison groups may be formed from the pool of applicants who
                          exceed the number of program slots in a given locale or from similar
                          populations in other places, such as neighborhoods or cities, not served
                          by the program. Drawing on the research literature to identify the key
                          factors known to influence the desired outcomes will aid in forming
                          treatment and comparison groups that are as similar as possible, thus
                          strengthening the analyses’ conclusions. When the treatment group is
                          made up of volunteers, it is particularly important to address the potential
                          for “selection bias”—that is, that volunteers or those chosen to participate

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                             will have greater motivation to succeed (for example, in attaining health,
                             education, or employment outcomes) than those who were not accepted
                             into the program. Statistical procedures, such as propensity score
                             analysis, are used to statistically model the variables that influence
                             participants’ assignment to the program and are then applied to analysis
                             of outcome data to reduce the influence of those variables on the
                             program’s estimated net impact. (For more information on propensity
                             scores, see Rosenbaum 2002.) However, in the absence of random
                             assignment, it is difficult to be sure that unmeasured factors did not
                             influence differences in outcomes between the treatment and comparison

                             A special type of comparison group design, regression discontinuity
                             analysis, compares outcomes for a treatment and control group that are
                             formed by having scores above or below a cut-point on a quantitative
                             selection variable rather than through random assignment. When
                             experimental groups are formed strictly on a cut-point and group
                             outcomes are analyzed for individuals close to the cut-point, the groups
                             can be left otherwise comparable except for the intervention. This
                             technique is often used where the persons considered most “deserving”
                             are assigned to the treatment, in order to address ethical concerns about
                             denying services to persons in need—for example, when additional
                             tutoring is provided only to children with the lowest reading scores. The
                             technique requires a quantitative assignment variable that users believe
                             is a credible selection criterion, careful control over assignment to ensure
                             that a strict cut-point is achieved, large sample sizes, and sophisticated
                             statistical analysis.

Difficulties in Conducting   Both experiments and quasi-experiments can be difficult to implement
Comparison Group             well in a variety of public settings. Confidence in conclusions about the
Experiments                  program’s impacts depends on ensuring that the treatment and
                             comparison groups’ experiences remain separate, intact, and distinct
                             throughout the life of the study so that any differences in outcomes can
                             be confidently attributed to the intervention. It is important to learn
                             whether control group participants access comparable treatment in the
                             community on their own. Their doing so could blur the distinction between
                             the two groups’ experiences. It is also preferred that treatment and control
                             group members not communicate, because knowing that they are being
                             treated differently might influence their perceptions of their experience
                             and, thus, their behavior.

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                          To resolve concerns about the ethics of withholding treatment widely
                          considered beneficial, members of the comparison group are usually
                          offered an alternative treatment or whatever constitutes common practice.
                          Thus, experiments are usually conducted to test the efficacy of new
                          programs or of new provisions or practices in an existing program. In this
                          case, however, the evaluation will no longer be testing whether a new
                          approach is effective at all; it will test whether it is more effective than
                          standard practice.

                          In addition, comparison group designs may not be practical for some
                          programs if the desired outcomes do not occur often enough to be
                          observed within a reasonable sample size or study length. Studies of
                          infrequent outcomes may require quite large samples to permit detection
                          of a difference between the experimental and control groups. Because of
                          the practical difficulties of maintaining intact experimental groups over
                          time, experiments are also best suited for assessing outcomes within 1 to
                          2 years after the intervention, depending on the circumstances.

Statistical Analysis of   Some federal programs and policies are not amenable to comparison
Observational Data        group designs because they are implemented all at once, all across the
                          country, with no one left untreated to serve in a comparison group. In
                          such instances, quasi-experimental single group designs compare the
                          outcomes for program participants before and after program exposure or
                          the outcomes associated with natural variation in program activities,
                          intensity or duration. In most instances, the simple version of a before-
                          and-after design does not allow causal attribution of observed changes to
                          exposure to the program because it is possible that other factors may
                          have influenced those outcomes during the same time.

                          Before-and-after designs can be strengthened by adding more
                          observations on outcomes. By taking many repeated observations of an
                          outcome before and after an intervention or policy is introduced, an
                          interrupted time-series analysis can be applied to the before-and-after
                          design to help draw causal inferences. Long data series are used to
                          smooth out the effects of random fluctuations over time. Statistical
                          modeling of simultaneous changes in important external factors helps
                          control for their influence on the outcome and, thus, helps isolate the
                          impact of the intervention. This approach is used for full-coverage
                          programs in which it may not be possible to find or form an untreated
                          comparison group. The need for lengthy data series means the technique
                          is used where the evaluator has access to long-term, detailed
                          government statistical series or institutional records. For example,

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                           •   To assess the effectiveness of a product safety regulation in reducing
                               injuries from a class of toys, the evaluator could analyze hospital
                               records of injuries associated with these toys for a few years both
                               before and after introduction of the regulation. To help rule out the
                               influence of alternative plausible explanations, the evaluator might
                               correlate these injury data with data on the size of the relevant age
                               group and sales of these toys over the same time period.

                           An alternative observational approach is a cross-sectional study that
                           measures the target population’s exposure to the intervention (rather than
                           controls its exposure) and compares the outcomes of individuals
                           receiving different levels of the intervention. Statistical analysis is used to
                           control for other plausible influences on the outcomes. Exposure to the
                           intervention can be measured by whether a person was enrolled or how
                           often a person participated in or was exposed to the program. This
                           approach is used with full-coverage programs for which it is impossible to
                           directly form treatment and control groups; nonuniform programs, in
                           which different individuals are exposed differently; and interventions in
                           which outcomes are observed too infrequently to make a prospective
                           study practical. For example,

                           •   An individual’s annual risk of being in a car crash is so low that it
                               would be impractical to randomly assign (and monitor) thousands of
                               individuals to use (or not use) their seat belts in order to assess seat
                               belts’ effectiveness in preventing injuries during car crashes. Instead,
                               the evaluator can analyze data on seat belt use and injuries in car
                               crashes with other surveys on driver and passenger use of seat belts
                               to estimate the effectiveness of seat belts in reducing injury.

Comprehensive              Although this paper describes process and outcome evaluations as if they
Evaluations Explore Both   were mutually exclusive, in practice an evaluation may include multiple
Process and Results        design components to address separate questions addressing both
                           process and outcomes. In addition, comprehensive evaluations are often
                           designed to collect both process and outcome information in order to
                           understand the reasons for program performance and learn how to
                           improve results. For example,

                           •   Evaluators analyze program implementation data to ensure that key
                               program activities are in place before collecting data on whether the
                               desired benefits of the activities have been achieved.

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                        •   Evaluations of program effectiveness also measure key program
                            components to help learn why a program is not working as well as
                            was expected.

                        An evaluation may find that a program failed to achieve its intended
                        outcomes for a variety of reasons, including: incomplete or poor quality
                        implementation of the program; problems in obtaining valid and reliable
                        data from the evaluation; environmental influences that blunt the
                        program’s effect; or the ineffectiveness of the program or intervention for
                        the population and setting in which it was tested. Thus, examination of
                        program implementation is very important to interpreting the results on
                        outcomes. Moreover, because an impact evaluation may be conducted in
                        a restricted range of settings in order to control for other influences on
                        outcomes, its findings may not apply to other settings or subgroups of
                        recipients. Thus, it is important to test the program or intervention’s
                        effects in several settings or under various circumstances before drawing
                        firm conclusions about its effectiveness. A formal synthesis of the findings
                        of multiple evaluations can provide important information about the
                        limitations on—or factors influencing—program impacts, and be
                        especially helpful in learning what works for whom and under what

                        As evaluation designs are tailored to the nature of the program and the
Designs for Different   questions asked, it becomes apparent that certain designs are
Types of Programs       necessarily excluded for certain types of programs. This is particularly
                        true of impact evaluations because of the stringent conditions placed on
                        the evidence needed to draw causal conclusions with confidence.
                        Experimental research designs are best adapted to assess discrete
                        interventions under carefully controlled conditions in the experimental
                        physical and social sciences. The federal government has only relatively
                        recently expanded its efforts to assess the effectiveness of all federal
                        programs and policies, many of which fail to meet the requirements for
                        successful use of experimental research designs.

                        To assist OMB officials in their efforts to assess agency evaluation efforts,
                        an informal network of federal agency evaluators provided guidance on
                        the relevance of various evaluation designs for different types of federal
                        programs. Table 5 summarizes the features of the designs discussed in
                        this chapter as well as the types of programs employing them.

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Table 5: Designs for Assessing Effectiveness of Different Types of Programs

                            Comparison controlling for
Typical design              alternative explanations                                  Best suited for
Process and outcome         Performance and preexisting goals or standards, such Research, enforcement, information and
monitoring or evaluation    as                                                      statistical programs, business-like enterprises,
                            •   R&D criteria of relevance, quality, and performance and mature, ongoing programs where
                            •   productivity, cost effectiveness, and efficiency    •    coverage is national and complete
                                standards                                           •    few, if any, alternatives explain observed
                            •   customer expectations or industry benchmarks             outcomes
Quasi-experiments: single   Outcomes for program participants before and after the    Regulatory and other programs where
group                       intervention:                                             •  clearly defined interventions have distinct
                            •    collects outcome data at multiple points in time        starting times
                            •    statistical adjustments or modeling control for      •  coverage is national and complete
                                 alternative causal explanations                      •  randomly assigning participants is NOT
                                                                                         feasible, practical, or ethical
Quasi-experiments:          Outcomes for program participants and a comparison        Service and other programs where
comparison groups           group closely matched to them on key characteristics:     •   clearly defined interventions can be
                            •   key characteristics are plausible alternative             standardized and controlled
                                explanations for a difference in outcomes             •   coverage is limited
                            •   measures outcomes before and after the                •   randomly assigning participants is NOT
                                intervention (pretest, posttest)                          feasible, practical, or ethical
Randomized experiments:     Outcomes for a randomly assigned treatment group and Service and other programs where
control groups              a nonparticipating control group:                     •  clearly defined interventions can be
                            •   measures outcomes preferably before and after the    standardized and controlled
                                intervention (pretest, posttest)                  •  coverage is limited
                                                                                  •  randomly assigning participants is
                                                                                     feasible and ethical
                                          Source Adapted from Bernholz et al. 2006.

                                          Some types of federal programs, such as those funding basic research
                                          projects or the development of statistical information, are not expected to
                                          have readily measurable effects on their environment. Therefore,
                                          research programs have been evaluated on the quality of their processes
                                          and products and relevance to their customers’ needs, typically through
                                          expert peer review of portfolios of completed research projects. For
                                          example, the Department of Energy adopted criteria used or
                                          recommended by OMB and the National Academy of Sciences to assess
                                          research and development programs’ relevance, quality, and
                                          performance (U.S. Department of Energy 2004.)

                                          Regulatory and law enforcement programs can be evaluated according to
                                          the level of compliance with the pertinent rule or achievement of desired
                                          health or safety conditions, obtained through ongoing outcome

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                       monitoring. The effectiveness of a new law or regulation might be
                       evaluated with a time-series design comparing health or safety conditions
                       before and after its enactment, while controlling for other possible
                       influences. Comparison group designs are not usually applied in this area
                       because of unwillingness to selectively enforce the law.

                       Experimental and quasi-experimental impact studies are better suited for
                       programs conducted on a small scale at selected locations, where
                       program conditions can be carefully controlled, rather than at the national
                       level. Such designs are particularly appropriate for demonstration
                       programs testing new approaches or initiatives, and are not well suited for
                       mature, universally available programs.

                       The next chapter outlines a number of approaches taken to evaluating
                       federal programs that are not well suited to these most common designs,
                       either because of the structure of the program or the context in which it

For More Information
GAO documents          GAO. 1990. Case Study Evaluations, GAO/PEMD-10.1.9. Washington,
                       D.C. November.

                       GAO. 2003. Federal Programs: Ethnographic Studies Can Inform
                       Agencies’ Actions, GAO-03-455. Washington, D.C. March.

                       GAO. 2009. Program Evaluation: A Variety of Rigorous Methods Can
                       Help Identify Effective Interventions, GAO-10-30. Washington, D.C.
                       Nov. 23.

                       GAO. 2010. Streamlining Government: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen
                       OMB’s Approach to Improving Efficiency, GAO-10-394. Washington, D.C.
                       May 7.

Other resources        Abt Associates and QED Group. 2004. Evaluation of the Welfare to Work
                       Voucher Program: Report to Congress. U.S. Department of Housing and
                       Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. March.

                       Page 48                                                         GAO-12-208G
Chapter 4: Designs for Assessing Program
Implementation and Effectiveness

Bernholz, Eric and others. 2006. Evaluation Dialogue Between OMB Staff
and Federal Evaluators: Digging a Bit Deeper into Evaluation Science.
Washington, D.C. July. http://www.fedeval.net/docs/omb2006briefing.pdf

Enders, Walter. 2009. Applied Econometric Time Series, 3rd ed.
Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

Langbein, Laura and Claire L. Felbinger. 2006. Public Program
Evaluation: A Statistical Guide. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.

Lipsey, Mark W. “Theory as Method: Small Theories of Treatments.”
1993. New Directions for Program Evaluation 57:5-38. Reprinted in 2007,
New Directions for Evaluation 114:30-62.

OMB (U.S. Office of Management and Budget), Office of Information and
Regulatory Affairs. 2006. Standards and Guidelines for Statistical
Surveys. Washington, D.C. September.

Rosenbaum, Paul R. 2002. Observational Studies, 2nd ed. New York:

Rossi, Peter H., Mark W. Lipsey, and Howard E. Freeman. 2004.
Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, 7th ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Shadish, William R., Thomas D. Cook, and Donald T. Campbell. 2002.
Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal
Inference. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Stake, Robert E. 1995. The Art of Case Study Research. Thousand Oaks,
Calif.: Sage.

U.S. Department of Energy. 2004. Peer Review Guide: Based on a
Survey of Best Practices for In-Progress Peer Review. Prepared by the
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Peer Review Task
Force. Washington, D.C. August.

Yin, Robert K. 2009. Case Study Research: Design and Methods, 4th ed.
Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

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                               Chapter 5: Approaches to Selected
                               Methodological Challenges

Methodological Challenges

                               Most of the impact designs discussed in chapter 4 were developed to test
                               hypotheses about the causal effects of individual factors or discrete
                               interventions on clearly defined outcomes. These designs may have
                               limited relevance and credibility on their own for assessing the effects of
                               federal programs where neither the intervention nor the desired outcome
                               is clearly defined or measured. In addition, many, if not most, federal
                               programs aim to improve some aspect of complex systems, such as the
                               economy or the environment, over which they have limited control, or
                               share responsibilities with other agencies for achieving their objectives.
                               Thus, it can be difficult to confidently attribute a causal connection
                               between the program and the observed outcomes. This chapter describes
                               some of the evaluation strategies that federal agencies have used to
                               develop performance information for these types of programs that can
                               inform management, oversight, and policy.

                               In many federal programs, it can be difficult to assess the program’s
Outcomes That Are              effectiveness in achieving its ultimate objectives because it is difficult to
Difficult to Measure           obtain data on those goals. This can occur because there is no common
                               measure of the desired outcome or because the desired benefits for the
                               public are not frequently observed.

Challenge: Lack of             A federal program might lack common national data on a desired
Common Outcome                 outcome because the program is relatively new, new to measuring
Measures                       outcomes, or has limited control over how service providers collect and
                               store information. Where state programs operate without much federal
                               direction, outcome data are often not comparable across the states.
                               Federal agencies have taken different approaches to obtaining common
                               national outcome data, depending in part on whether such information is
                               needed on a recurring basis (GAO 2003):

                               •   collaborating with others on a common reporting format;

                               •   recoding state data into a common format;

                               •   conducting a special survey to obtain nation-wide data.

Collaborate with Others on a   Where federal programs operate through multiple local public or private
Common Reporting Format        agencies, careful collaboration may be required to ensure that the data
                               they collect are sufficiently consistent to permit aggregation nationwide.
                               To improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention and

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                              treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
                              Administration (SAMHSA) awards block grants to states to help fund local
                              drug and alcohol abuse programs. In order to measure progress towards
                              national goals and the performance of programs administered by states’
                              substance abuse and mental health agencies, SAMHSA funded pilot
                              studies and collaborated with state agencies and service providers in
                              developing national outcome measures for an ongoing performance
                              monitoring system. The process of developing and agreeing upon data
                              definitions has taken several years, but allows them to assess
                              improvements in substance abuse treatment outcomes and monitor the
                              performance of SAMHSA block grants. SAMHSA has also invested in
                              states’ data infrastructure improvement activities such as software,
                              hardware, and training in how to use standardized data definitions (U.S.
                              Department of Health and Human Services n.d.).

Recode State Data into a      Alternatively, if states already have their own distinct, mature data
Common Format                 systems, it may not be practical to expect those systems to adopt new,
                              common data definitions. Instead, to meet federal needs to assess
                              national progress, a federal agency may choose to support a special data
                              collection that abstracts data from state systems and recodes them into a
                              common format, permitting cross-state and national analyses. For
                              example, in order to analyze highway safety policies, the National
                              Highway Traffic Safety Administration has invested in a nationwide
                              system to extract data from state records to develop a well-accepted
                              national database on fatal automobile crashes. A standard codebook
                              provides detailed instructions on how to record data from state and local
                              emergency room and police records into a common format that can
                              support sophisticated analyses into the factors contributing to crashes
                              and associated fatalities (GAO 2003). Although such a data collection and
                              analysis system can be initially expensive to develop, it is likely to be less
                              expensive to maintain such a system, and much more practical than
                              attempting to gain agreements for data collection changes from hospitals
                              and police departments across the country.

Conduct a Special Survey to   Some federal agencies also, of course, conduct periodic sample surveys
Obtain Nation-Wide Data       or one-time studies to collect new data that supplements data from
                              existing performance reporting systems. For example, SAMHSA conducts
                              a voluntary periodic survey of specialty mental health organizations that
                              are not subject to the agency’s routine grantee reporting requirements
                              (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services n.d.). In addition, to
                              obtain information on drug abusers who are not in treatment, they
                              conduct an annual national household survey of drug use. Such surveys

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                                can provide valuable information about how well existing programs are
                                serving the population’s needs.

Challenge: Desired              Some federal programs are created to respond to national concerns, such
Outcomes Are Infrequently       as increased cancer rates or environmental degradation, which operate in
Observed                        a lengthy time frame and are not expected to resolve quickly. Thus,
                                changes in intended long-term outcomes are unlikely to be observed
                                within an annual performance reporting cycle or even, perhaps, within a
                                five-year evaluation study. Other programs aim to prevent or provide
                                protection from events that are very infrequent and, most importantly, not
                                predictable, such as storms or terrorist attacks, for which it is impractical
                                to set annual or other relatively short-term goals. Evaluation approaches
                                to these types of programs may rely heavily on well-articulated program
                                logic models to depict the program’s activities as multi-step strategies for
                                achieving its goals. Depending on how infrequent or unexpected
                                opportunities may be to observe the desired outcome, an evaluator might
                                choose to:

                                •   measure program effects on short-term or intermediate goals;

                                •   assess the quality of an agency’s prevention or risk management
                                    plan; or

                                •   conduct a thorough after-action or critical-incident review of any
                                    incidents that do occur.

Measure Effects on Short-Term   To demonstrate progress towards the program’s ultimate goals, the
or Intermediate Goals           evaluator can measure the program’s effect on short-term and
                                intermediate outcomes that are considered important interim steps
                                towards achieving the program’s long-term goals. This approach is
                                particularly compelling when combined with findings from the research
                                literature that confirms the relationship of short-term goals (such as
                                increased vaccination rates) to the program’s long-term goals (such as
                                reduced incidence of communicable disease). (See GAO 2002 for
                                examples.) Moreover, tracking performance trends and progress towards
                                goals may provide timely feedback that can inform discussion of options
                                for responding to emerging performance problems.

Assess the Quality of a         Several federal programs are charged with managing risks that are
Prevention or Risk              infrequent but potentially quite dangerous, in a wide array of settings:
Management Plan

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                             banking, intelligence, counter-terrorism, natural disasters, and community
                             health and safety. Generally, risk management involves:

                             •   assessing potential threats, vulnerabilities of assets and networks,
                                 and the potential economic or health and safety consequences;

                             •   assessing and implementing countermeasures to prevent incidents
                                 and reduce vulnerabilities to minimize negative consequences; and

                             •   monitoring and evaluating their effectiveness (GAO 2005).

                             Depending on the nature of the threat, one federal program may focus
                             more on prevention (for example, of communicable disease) while
                             another focuses on response (for example, to hurricanes). Some threats
                             occur frequently enough that program effectiveness can be readily
                             measured as the reduction in threat incidents (such as car crashes) or
                             consequences (such as deaths and injuries). Where threat incidents do
                             not occur frequently enough to permit direct observation of the program’s
                             success in mitigating their consequences, evaluators have a couple

                             The evaluator could assess the effectiveness of a risk-management
                             program through assessing (1) how well the program followed the
                             recommended “best practices” of design, including conducting a
                             thorough, realistic assessment of threats and vulnerabilities, and cost-
                             benefit analysis of alternative risk reduction strategies; and (2) how
                             thoroughly the agency implemented its chosen strategy, such as installing
                             physical protections or ensuring staff are properly trained.

                             Alternatively, an evaluator may choose to conduct simulations or
                             exercises to assess how well an agency’s plans anticipate the nature of
                             its threats and vulnerabilities, as well as how well agency staff and
                             partners are prepared to carry out their responsibilities under their plans.
                             Exercises may be “table-top,” where officials located in an office respond
                             to virtual reports of an incident, or “live,” where volunteers act out the
                             roles of victims in public places to test the responses of emergency
                             services personnel. Exercises may be especially useful for obtaining a
                             realistic assessment of complex risk management programs that require
                             coordination among multiple agencies or public and private sector

Conduct an After-Action or   When a threat incident is observed, an evaluator can conduct an ‘after-
Critical-Incident Review     action’ or ‘critical incident’ review to assess the design and execution–or

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                         effectiveness—of the prevention or risk mitigation program. The Army
                         developed after-action reviews as a training methodology for soldiers to
                         evaluate their performance against standards and develop insights into
                         their strengths, weaknesses, and training needs (U.S. Department of the
                         Army 1993). State and federal public safety agencies have adopted them
                         to identify ways to improve emergency response. These reviews consist
                         of a structured, open discussion of participants’ observations of what
                         occurred during an incident to develop ‘lessons learned’ about the
                         effectiveness of plans and procedures and actionable recommendations.
                         Reviews involve (1) detailed description of the nature and context of the
                         incident and the actions taken and resources used step-by-step; followed
                         by (2) a critique to assess whether plans and procedures were useful in
                         addressing the incident and provide suggestions for improvement. These
                         reviews may be formal—with an external facilitator or observer and a
                         written report to management—or informal—conducted as an internal
                         review to promote learning. Although identifying the factors contributing to
                         success or failure in handling an incident could provide useful insight into
                         the effectiveness of a risk mitigation program, the focus of these reviews
                         is primarily on learning rather than judging program effectiveness.

Challenge: Benefits of   With increased interest in assuring accountability for the value of
Research Programs Are    government expenditures, have come increased efforts to demonstrate
Difficult to Predict     and quantify the value of public investments in scientific research. An
                         evaluator might readily measure the effectiveness of an applied research
                         program by whether it met its goal to improve the quality, precision, or
                         efficiency of tools or processes. However, basic research programs do
                         not usually have such immediate, concrete goals. Instead, goals for
                         federal research programs can include advancing knowledge in a field,
                         and building capacity for future advances through developing useful tools
                         or supporting the scientific community. In addition, multiyear investments
                         in basic research might be expected to lead to innovations in technology
                         that will (eventually) yield social or financial value, such as energy
                         savings or security. (For more information about methods for assessing
                         these effects, see Ruegg and Jordan 2007.) Common agency
                         approaches to evaluating research programs include:

                         •   external expert review of a research portfolio;

                         •   bibliometric analyses of research citations and patents.

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External Expert Portfolio    To assess the quality of their research programs and obtain program
Review                       planning advice, the National Science Foundation (NSF) adopted an
                             external expert review process called a Committee of Visitors (COV)
                             review. Periodically, panels of independent experts review the technical
                             and managerial stewardship of a specific program (a portfolio of research
                             projects), compare plans with progress made, and evaluate the outcomes
                             to assess their contributions to NSF’s mission and goals. COV reviews
                             provide external expert judgments on 1) assessments of the quality and
                             integrity of program operations and program-level technical and
                             managerial matters pertaining to project decisions; and 2) comments on
                             how the outputs and outcomes generated by awardees have contributed
                             to NSF’s mission and strategic outcome goals. Other federal science
                             agencies have adopted similar expert panel reviews as independent
                             evaluations of their basic research programs (U.S. Department of Energy

Bibliometric Analysis        Since publications and patents constitute major outputs of research
                             programs and large databases capture these outputs, bibliometric
                             analysis of research citations or patents is a popular way of assessing the
                             productivity of research. In addition to simply tracking the quantity of
                             publications, analysis of where, how often and by whom the papers are
                             cited can provide information about the perceived relevance, impact and
                             quality of the papers and can identify pathways of information flow.

                             Many federal programs are not discrete interventions aiming to achieve a
Complex Federal              specific outcome but, instead, efforts to improve complex systems over
Programs and                 which they have limited control. Moreover, in the United States, federal
                             and state governments often share responsibility for the direction of
Initiatives                  federal programs, so a federal program may not represent a uniform
                             package of activities or services across the country.

Challenge: Benefits of       Federal grant programs vary greatly as to whether they have performance
Flexible Grant Programs      objectives or a common set of activities across grantees such as state
Are Difficult to Summarize   and local agencies or nonprofit service providers. Where a grant program
                             represents a discrete program with a narrow set of activities and
                             performance-related objectives, such as a food delivery program for
                             seniors, it can often be evaluated with the methods described in chapter
                             4. However, a formula or ‘block’ grant, with loosely defined objectives that
                             simply adds to a stream of funds supporting ongoing state or local
                             programs, presents a significant challenge to efforts to portray the results

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                                 of the federal or ‘national’ program (GAO 1998a). Agencies have
                                 deployed a few distinct approaches, often in combination:

                                 •   describe national variation in local approaches;

                                 •   measure national improvement in common outputs or outcomes;

                                 •   conduct effectiveness evaluations in a sample of sites.

Describe National Variation in   An important first step in evaluating the performance of flexible grant
Local Approaches                 programs is to describe the variation in approaches deployed locally,
                                 characteristics of the population served, and any information available on
                                 service outputs or outcomes. Depending on the nature of grantee
                                 reporting requirements, this information might be obtained from a review
                                 of federal program records or require a survey of grantees or local
                                 providers. Such descriptive information can be valuable in assessing how
                                 well the program met Congress’ intent for the use and beneficiaries of
                                 those funds. In addition, where there is prior research evidence on the
                                 effectiveness of particular practices, this descriptive data can provide
                                 information, at least, on the extent to which grantees are deploying
                                 effective or ‘research-based’ practices.

Measure National Improvement     Where the federal grant program has performance-related objectives but
in Common Outputs or             serves as a funding stream to support and improve the capacity of a state
Outcomes                         function or service delivery system, state (but not uniquely federal)
                                 program outcomes can be evaluated by measuring aggregate
                                 improvements in the quality of or access to services, outreach to the
                                 targeted population, or participant outcomes over time. Depending on the
                                 program, this information may be collected as part of state program
                                 administration, or require special data collection to obtain comparable
                                 data across states. For example, the Department of Education’s National
                                 Assessment of Educational Progress tests a cross-sectional sample of
                                 children on a variety of key subjects, including reading and math, and
                                 regularly publishes state-by-state data on a set of common outcome
                                 measures. These national data also provide a comparative benchmark for
                                 the results of states’ own assessments (Ginsburg and Rhett 2003).
                                 However, because cross-sectional surveys lack information linking
                                 specific use of federal funds to expected outcomes, they cannot assess
                                 the effectiveness of federal assistance in contributing to those service
                                 improvements; identifying those links is often very difficult in grant
                                 programs of this type.

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Conduct Effectiveness        Some federal grant programs support distinct local projects to stimulate or
Evaluations in a Sample of   test different approaches for achieving a performance objective. To
Sites                        assess such programs, the evaluator might study a sample of projects to
                             assess their implementation and effectiveness in meeting their objectives.
                             Individual impact evaluations might be arranged for as part of the original
                             project grants, or conducted as part of a nationally-directed evaluation.
                             Sites for evaluation might be selected purposively, to test the
                             effectiveness of a variety of promising program approaches or represent
                             the range in quality of services nationally (Herrell and Straw 2002).

                             For example, cluster evaluations, as used by the W. K. Kellogg
                             Foundation, examine a loosely connected set of studies of community-
                             based initiatives to identify common themes or components associated
                             with positive impacts, and the reasons for such associations (W. K.
                             Kellogg Foundation 2004). Cluster evaluations examine evidence of
                             individual project effectiveness but do not aggregate that data across
                             studies. Multisite evaluations, as frequently seen in federally-funded
                             programs, may involve variation across sites in interventions and
                             measures of project effectiveness, but typically use a set of common
                             measures to estimate the effectiveness of the interventions and examine
                             variation across sites in outcomes. (See discussion of comprehensive
                             evaluations in chapter 4.) Both of these evaluation approaches are quite
                             different from a multicenter clinical trial (or impact study) that conducts
                             virtually the same intervention and evaluation in several sites to test the
                             robustness of the approach’s effects across sites and populations (Herrell
                             and Straw 2002).

                             Case study evaluations, through providing more in-depth information
                             about how a federal program operates in different circumstances, can
                             serve as valuable supplements to broad surveys when specifically
                             designed to do so. Case studies can be designed to follow-up on low or
                             high performers, in order to explain–or generate hypotheses about—what
                             is going on and why.

Challenge: Assess the        In contrast to programs that support a particular set of activities aimed at
Progress and Results of      achieving a specified objective, some comprehensive reform initiatives
Comprehensive Reforms        may call for collective, coordinated actions in communities in multiple
                             areas such as altering public policy, improving service practice, or
                             engaging the public to create system reform. This poses challenges to the
                             evaluator in identifying the nature of the intervention (or program), the
                             desired outcomes, as well as an estimate of what would have occurred in
                             the absence of these reforms. Depending on the extent to which the

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                            Methodological Challenges

                            dimensions of reform are well understood, the progress of reforms might
                            be measured quantitatively in a survey or through a more exploratory
                            form of case study.

Follow-up Survey Findings   For example, in the Department of Education’s Comprehensive School
with Case Studies           Reform demonstration program, federal grantees were encouraged to
                            strengthen several aspects of school operations–-such as curriculum,
                            instruction, teacher development, parental involvement—and to select
                            and adopt models that had been found effective in other schools, in an
                            effort to improve student achievement. The comprehensive evaluation of
                            this program used three distinct methodological approaches to answer
                            distinct questions about implementation and effects (U.S. Department of
                            Education 2010)

                            1. Multivariate statistical analyses comparing grantees with matched
                               comparison schools to determine whether receiving a grant was
                               associated with student achievement level increases three to five
                               years later;

                            2. Quantitative descriptive analyses of reform implementation from a
                               survey of principals and teachers in a random sample of grantees and
                               matched comparison schools to determine the comprehensiveness of
                               reform implementation; and

                            3. Qualitative case study analyses to study reform component
                               implementation and understand the process by which chronically low-
                               performing schools turned themselves around and sustained student
                               achievement gains.

                            Note that because a school reform effort by design applies to everyone in
                            the school, the evaluators formed a comparison group by matching each
                            grantee school with a school in another community with similar socio-
                            economic characteristics. Moreover, this study’s analyses of the schools’
                            reforms were greatly assisted by being able to draw on the set of potential
                            reforms listed in the legislation.

Conduct Exploratory Case    A different approach is required for a much more open-ended program,
Studies                     such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s
                            Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Program. This
                            program provided grants and tax incentives to economically
                            disadvantaged communities which were encouraged to develop their own
                            individual economic development strategies around four key principles:
                            economic opportunity, sustainable community development, community-

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                              Methodological Challenges

                              based partnerships, and a strategic vision for change. Local evaluators
                              assisted in collecting data in each of 18 case study sites to track how
                              each community organized itself, set goals, and developed and
                              implemented plans to achieve those goals–its theory of change
                              (Fulbright-Anderson et al. 1998).

                              Case studies are recommended for assessing the effectiveness of
                              comprehensive reforms that are so deeply integrated with the context
                              (i.e., community) that no truly adequate comparison case can be found.
                              In-depth interviews and observations are used to capture the changes in
                              and relationships between processes, while outcomes may be measured
                              quantitatively. The case study method is used to integrate this data into a
                              coherent picture or story of what was achieved and how. In programs that
                              are more direct about what local reform efforts are expected to achieve,
                              the evaluator might provide more credible support for conclusions about
                              program effects by: (1) making specific, refutable predictions of program
                              effects, and (2) introducing controls for, or providing strong arguments
                              against, other plausible explanations for observed outcomes. This theory
                              of change approach cannot provide statistical estimates of effect sizes,
                              but can provide detailed descriptions of the unfolding of the intervention
                              and potential explanations for how and why the process worked to
                              produce outcomes (Fulbright-Anderson et al. 1998, Yin and Davis 2007).

Challenge: Isolating Impact   Attributing observed changes in desired outcomes to the effect of a
When Several Programs         program requires ruling out other plausible explanations for those
Are Aimed at the Same         changes. Environmental factors such as historical trends in community
                              attitudes towards smoking could explain changes in youths’ smoking
Outcome                       rates over time. Other programs funded with private, state, or other
                              federal funds may also strive for similar goals to the program being
                              evaluated. Although random assignment of individuals to treatment and
                              comparison groups is intended to cancel out the influence of those
                              factors, in practice, the presence of these other factors may still blur the
                              effect of the program of interest or randomization may simply not be
                              feasible. Collecting additional data and targeting comparisons to help rule
                              out alternative explanations can help strengthen conclusions about an
                              intervention’s impact from both randomized and nonrandomized designs
                              (GAO 2009, Mark and Reichardt 2004).

                              In general, to help isolate the impact of programs aimed at the same goal
                              it can be useful to construct a logic model for each program—carefully
                              specifying the programs’ distinct target audiences and expected short-
                              term outcomes—and to assess the extent to which the programs actually

                              Page 59                                                          GAO-12-208G
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                              Methodological Challenges

                              operate in the same localities and reach the same populations. Then the
                              evaluator can devise a data collection approach or set of comparisons
                              that could isolate the effects of the distinct programs, such as

                              •   narrow the scope of the outcome measure;

                              •   measure additional outcomes not expected to change;

                              •   test hypothesized relationships between the programs.

Narrow the Scope of the       Some programs have strategic goals that imply that they have a more
Outcome Measure               extensive or broader range than they in fact do. By clarifying very
                              specifically the program’s target audience and expected behavior
                              changes, the evaluator can select an outcome measure that is closely
                              tailored to the most likely expected effects of the program and distinguish
                              those effects from those of other related programs.

                              For example, to distinguish one antidrug media campaign from other
                              antidrug messages in the environment, the campaign used a distinctive
                              message to create a brand that would provide a recognizable element
                              and improve recall. Then, the evaluation’s survey asked questions about
                              recognition of the brand, attitudes, and drug use so that analysis could
                              correlate attitudes and behavior changes with exposure to this particular
                              campaign (GAO 2002, Westat 2003).

                              In another example, the large number of workplaces in the country makes
                              it impractical for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to
                              routinely perform health and safety inspections in all workplaces. Instead,
                              program officials indicated that they target their activities to where they
                              see the greatest problems—industries and occupations with the highest
                              rates of fatality, injury, or illness. Thus, the agency set a series of
                              performance goals that reflect differences in their expected influence,
                              setting goals for reductions in three of the most prevalent injuries and
                              illnesses and for injuries and illness in five “high-hazard” industries (GAO

Measure Additional Outcomes   Another way to attempt to rule out plausible alternative explanations for
Not Expected to Change        observed results is to measure additional outcomes that a treatment or
                              intervention is not expected to influence but arguably would be influenced
                              under alternative explanations for the observed outcomes. If one can
                              predict a relatively unique pattern of outcomes for the intervention, in
                              contrast to the alternative, and if the study confirms that pattern, then the

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                        Chapter 5: Approaches to Selected
                        Methodological Challenges

                        alternative explanation becomes less plausible. In a simple example, one
                        can extend data collection either before or after the intervention to help
                        rule out the influence of unrelated historical trends on the outcome of
                        interest. If the outcome measure began to change before the intervention
                        could have plausibly have affected it, then that change was probably
                        influenced by some other factor.

Test Hypothesized       Some programs aimed at similar broad outcomes may be expected also
Relationships between   to affect other programs. For example, the effectiveness of one program
Programs                that aims to increase the number of medical personnel in locations
                        considered medically underserved might be critical to ensuring that a
                        second program to increase the number of patients with health insurance
                        will result in their patients obtaining greater access to care. To assess the
                        effectiveness of the health insurance program, the evaluator could survey
                        potential recipients in a variety of locations where some are considered
                        medically underserved and some are not. Interviews could follow-up on
                        these hypotheses by probing reasons why potential recipients may have
                        had difficulty obtaining needed health care.

For More Information
GAO documents           GAO. 1998a. Grant Programs: Design Features Shape Flexibility,
                        Accountability, and Performance Information, GAO/GGD-98-137.
                        Washington, D.C. June 22.

                        GAO. 1998b. Managing for Results: Measuring Program Results That Are
                        Under Limited Federal Control, GAO/GGD-99-16. Washington, D.C.
                        Dec. 11.

                        GAO. 2003. Program Evaluation: An Evaluation Culture and Collaborative
                        Partnerships Help Build Agency Capacity, GAO-03-454. Washington,
                        D.C. May 2.

                        GAO. 2009. Program Evaluation: A Variety of Rigorous Methods Can
                        Help Identify Effective Interventions, GAO-10-30. Washington, D.C.
                        Nov. 23.

                        GAO. 2002. Program Evaluation: Strategies for Assessing How
                        Information Dissemination Contributes to Agency Goals, GAO-02-923.
                        Washington, D.C. Sept. 30.

                        Page 61                                                           GAO-12-208G
                  Chapter 5: Approaches to Selected
                  Methodological Challenges

                  GAO. 2005. Risk Management: Further Refinements Needed to Assess
                  Risks and Prioritize Protective Measures at Ports and Other Critical
                  Infrastructure. GAO-06-91. Washington, D.C. Dec. 15.

Other resources   Domestic Working Group, Grant Accountability Project. 2005. Guide to
                  Opportunities for Improving Grant Accountability. Washington, D.C.: U.S.
                  Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General, October.

                  Fulbright-Anderson, Karen, Anne C. Kubisch, and James P. Connell, eds.
                  1998. New Approaches to Evaluating Community Initiatives. vol. 2.
                  Theory, Measurement, and Analysis. Washington, D.C.: The Aspen

                  Ginsburg, Alan, and Nancy Rhett. 2003. “Building a Better Body of
                  Evidence: New Opportunities to Strengthen Evaluation Utilization.”
                  American Journal of Evaluation 24: 489–98.

                  Herrell, James M., and Roger B. Straw, eds. 2002. Conducting Multiple
                  Site Evaluations in Real-World Settings. New Directions for Evaluation
                  94. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Summer.

                  Mark, Melvin M. and Charles S. Reichardt. 2004. “Quasi-Experimental
                  and Correlational Designs: Methods for the Real World When Random
                  Assignment Isn’t Feasible.” In Carol Sansone, Carolyn C. Morf, and A. T.
                  Panter, eds. The Sage Handbook of Methods in Social Psychology.
                  Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

                  Ruegg, Rosalie, and Gretchen Jordan. 2007. Overview of Evaluation
                  Methods for R&D Programs: A Directory of Evaluation Methods Relevant
                  to Technology Development Programs. Prepared under contract DE-
                  AC0494AL8500. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of
                  Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. March.

                  U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy
                  Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. 2010. Evaluation of
                  the Comprehensive School Reform Program Implementation and
                  Outcomes: Fifth Year Report. Washington, D.C.

                  U.S. Department of Energy. 2004. Peer Review Guide: Based on a
                  Survey of Best Practices for In-Progress Peer Review. Prepared by the
                  Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Peer Review Task

                  Page 62                                                       GAO-12-208G
Chapter 5: Approaches to Selected
Methodological Challenges

Force. Washington, D.C.: August.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration. n.d. SAMHSA Data Strategy: FY
2007- FY2011. Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management
Agency, U.S. Fire Administration. 2008. Special Report: The After-Action
Critique: Training Through Lessons Learned. Technical Report Series.
USFA-TR-159. Emmitsburg, Md.: April.

U.S. Department of the Army, Headquarters. 1993. A Leader’s Guide to
After-Action Reviews, Training Circular 25-20. Washington, D.C.:
September 30. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate

W. K. Kellogg Foundation. 2004. W. K. Kellogg Foundation Evaluation
Handbook. Battle Creek, Mich.: Jan. 1, 1998, updated.

Westat. 2003. Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media
Campaign: 2003 Report of Findings. Prepared under contract N01DA-8-
5063. Rockville, Md.: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on
Drug Abuse, Dec. 22.

Yin, Robert K. and Darnella Davis 2007. “Adding New Dimensions to
Case Study Evaluations: The Case of Evaluating Comprehensive
Reforms.” New Directions for Evaluation 113:75-93.

Page 63                                                          GAO-12-208G
Appendix I: Evaluation Standards
                      Appendix I: Evaluation Standards

                      Different auditing and evaluation organizations have developed guidelines
                      or standards to help ensure the quality, credibility, and usefulness of
                      evaluations. Some standards pertain specifically to the evaluator’s
                      organization (for example, auditor independence), the planning process
                      (for example, stakeholder consultations), or reporting (for example,
                      documenting assumptions and procedures). While the underlying
                      principles substantially overlap, the evaluator will need to determine the
                      relevance of each guideline to the evaluator’s organizational affiliation
                      and the specific evaluation’s scope and purpose.

                      GAO publishes generally accepted government auditing standards
“Yellow Book” of      (GAGAS) for the use of individuals in government audit organizations
Government Auditing   conducting a broad array of work, including financial and performance
                      audits. The standards are broad statements of auditors’ (or evaluators’)
Standards             responsibilities in an overall framework for ensuring that they have the
                      competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence needed to plan,
                      conduct, and report on their work. The standards use “performance audit”
                      to refer to “an independent assessment of the performance and
                      management of government programs against objective criteria or an
                      assessment of best practices and other information”; thus, it is intended to
                      include program process and outcome evaluations.

                      The general standards applying to all financial and performance audits
                      include the independence of the audit organization and its individual
                      auditors; the exercise of professional judgment; competence of staff; and
                      the presence of quality control systems and external peer reviews. The
                      field work standards for performance audits relate to planning the audit;
                      supervising staff; obtaining sufficient, competent, and relevant evidence;
                      and preparing audit documentation.

                      GAO. 2011. Government Auditing Standards: 2011 Internet Version.
                      Washington, D.C.: August. http://www.gao.gov/govaud/iv2011gagas.pdf

                      GAO’s transfer paper The Evaluation Synthesis lists illustrative questions
GAO’s Evaluation      for assessing the soundness of each study’s basic research design,
Synthesis             conduct, analysis, and reporting—regardless of the design employed. The
                      questions address the clarity and appropriateness of study design,
                      measures, and analyses and the quality of the study’s execution and

                      Page 64                                                          GAO-12-208G
                      Appendix I: Evaluation Standards

                      GAO.1992. The Evaluation Synthesis, revised, GAO/PEMD-10.1.2.
                      Washington, D.C.: March.

                      The American Evaluation Association (AEA) is a professional association
American Evaluation   with U.S. headquarters for evaluators of programs, products, personnel,
Association Guiding   and policies. AEA developed guiding principles for the work of
                      professionals in everyday practice and to inform evaluation clients and
Principles for        the general public of expectations for ethical behavior. The principles are
Evaluators            broad statements of evaluators’ responsibilities in five areas: systematic
                      inquiry; competence; honesty and integrity; respect for people; and
                      responsibilities for general and public welfare.

                      AEA. 2004. Guiding Principles for Evaluators. July.

                      A consortium of professional organizations (including the American
Program Evaluation    Evaluation Association), the Joint Committee on Standards for
Standards, Joint      Educational Evaluation, developed a set of standards for evaluations of
                      educational programs, which have been approved as an American
Committee on          National Standard. The standards are organized into five major areas of
Standards for         concern: to ensure program stakeholders find evaluations valuable
Educational           (utility); to increase evaluation effectiveness and efficiency (feasibility); to
                      support what is proper, fair, legal, right, and just in evaluations (propriety);
Evaluation            to increase the dependability and truthfulness of evaluation
                      representations and findings (accuracy); and to encourage accurate
                      documentation and a focus on improvement and accountability of
                      evaluation processes and products (evaluation accountability).

                      Yarbrough, D. B., L. M. Shulha, R. K. Hopson, and F. A. Caruthers. 2011.
                      The Program Evaluation Standards: A Guide for Evaluators and
                      Evaluation Users, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

                      Page 65                                                             GAO-12-208G
Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff


                  Nancy Kingsbury (202) 512-2700 or kingsburyn@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the person named above, Stephanie Shipman, Assistant
Staff             Director, made significant contributions to this report. Additional
Acknowledgments   contributors include Thomas Clarke, Timothy Guinane, Penny Pickett,
                  and Elaine Vaurio.

                  Page 66                                                     GAO-12-208G
Other Papers in This Series
               Other Papers in This Series

               Assessing the Reliability of Computer-Processed Data, external
               version 1, GAO-09-680G. Washington, D.C.: July 2009.

               Case Study Evaluations, GAO/PEMD-10.1.9, November 1990.

               How to Get Action on Audit Recommendations, OP-9.2.1, July 1991.

               Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions and
               Relationships, GAO-11-646SP, May 2011.

               Prospective Evaluation Methods: The Prospective Evaluation Synthesis,
               GAO/PEMD-10.1.10, November 1990.

               Quantitative Data Analysis: An Introduction, GAO/PEMD-10.1.11,
               May 1992.

               Record Linkage and Privacy: Issues in Creating New Federal Research
               and Statistical Information, GAO-01-126SP, April 2001.

               The Evaluation Synthesis, revised, GAO/PEMD-10.1.2, March 1992.

               The Results Act: An Evaluator’s Guide to Assessing Agency Annual
               Performance Plans, version 1, GAO/GGD-10.1.20, April 1998.

               Using Statistical Sampling, revised, GAO/PEMD-10.1.6, May 1992.

               Using Structured Interviewing Techniques, GAO/PEMD-10.1.5,
               June 1991.

               Page 67                                                      GAO-12-208G
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