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Rigorous Evaluation

Policymakers seek best practices for programs and policies in order to maximize the positive impacts of their work. Use this website to find best practices and evidence-based programs in your areas of work.

Introduction to Evidence Based Policymaking

Policymakers are constantly seeking best practices for programs and policies in order to maximize the positive impacts of their work. Use this website to find best practices and evidence-based programs in your areas of work.

Why does evaluation matter to my program/policy?

Evaluations can help measure the impact of your program or policy. If implemented well, evaluations can identify the most successful parts of the program, and see if it works for different groups. This process can ensure that funds are spent in the most effective way possible. Evidence from an evaluation can also help with fundraising, as people prefer to invest in something they know will work.

What is a rigorous evaluation?

A rigorous evaluation can help answer the question: Does this program work? Is it a best practice? While there are many kinds of evaluations, randomized control trials (RCTs) are often considered to be the “gold standard” of evaluations.

A rigorous evaluation measures the impact of a program by comparing outcomes for program participants with the outcomes of individuals who did not participate in the program.  For example, an evaluation of a tutoring program may measure the reading levels of children who participate in the program, and compare the scores to reading levels of children who did not receive the tutoring. Experimental designs, such as randomized control trials (RCT’s), are considered the best method for this kind of evaluation. By randomly assigning participation in a program (i.e. to receive the tutoring or not), RCT’s generate statistically identical groups for comparison. Over time, any differences in these groups can be attributed to the program; this allows researchers to directly measure the effect of a program. 

I think my program/policy is very effective but it has never been evaluated. What should I do?

On this website, you can search evaluations of existing programs and policies. First, look for evaluations of programs similar to your own—you may find evidence that supports your program’s model, or find best practices that could enhance your program. Then, develop a logic model (see links below) and collect administrative data. Finally, you may want to consider whether an evaluation may be right for you. 

How can I successfully implement an evidence-based program?

Start by researching successful, evidence-based programs when thinking about ways to improve your own program, or when creating a new intervention. There are several key factors to keep in mind throughout this process. First, the program of interest should have strong evidence of success and should be located in a setting similar to the one you wish to serve. Secondly, the essential parts of the intervention should be followed throughout implementation in order to ensure success in your own program (also know as “fidelity to the model”). 

Can I conduct my own evaluation?

Yes, but it requires knowledge about research methodology and experimental design. Before conducting your own evaluation, consider participating in an evaluation training program. The Coalition for Evidence Based policy offers a helpdesk with free advice for policymakers considering an evaluation. 

Will a trained researcher evaluate my program or policy?

Yes, external researchers may be interested in evaluating your program or policy, especially if it helps answer important public policy questions. To learn more, please contact

The City of Philadelphia does not endorse any of the links or reports included on this website