Invest in What Works
State Standard of Excellence

The 2018 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence sets a national standard – a “north star” – for how state governments can consistently and effectively use data and evidence in budget, policy, and management decisions to achieve better outcomes for their residents.

  • Results for America identified 88 leading and promising data-driven and evidence-based practices, policies, programs, and systems in effect in April 2018 in 30 states across the country.

  • Five states are recognized as leading the way with their data-driven and evidence-based examples: Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, and Tennessee.

  • We identified these examples across 15 criteria: Strategic Goals, Performance Management/Continuous Improvement, Data Leadership, Data Policies/Agreements, Data Use, Evaluation Leadership, Evaluation Policies, Evaluation Resources, Outcome Data, Evidence Definition and Program Inventory, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Use of Evidence in Grant Programs, Innovation, Contracting for Outcomes, and Repurpose for Results.

The purpose of the 2018 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence is to inform policymakers and the public about state governments’ use of data, evidence, and evaluation to invest taxpayer dollars in what works. By identifying specific efforts currently underway in state governments, Results for America hopes to facilitate the broader adoption of evidence-based policymaking in state governments across the country.

Results for America’s analysis is based on data provided under license by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative (which was used to inform its 2017 report on states’ engagement in evidence-based policymaking) and input from more than 90 current and former state government officials and other experts.1

CriteriaLeading ExampleslaunchPromising Examples
S = Statewide M = Multiple Agencies A = Single Agency
1. Strategic Goalslaunch Did the Governor have public statewide strategic goals?
The Colorado Governor’s Office publishes statewide strategic goals and statewide and agency-specific outcomes on its performance dashboard.
Oregon S OR S Tennessee S TN S Washington S WA S
2. Performance Management / Continuous Improvementlaunch Did the state or any of its agencies implement a performance management system aligned with their statewide strategic goals; with clear and prioritized outcome-focused goals, program objectives, and measures; and did it consistently collect, analyze, and use data and evidence to improve outcomes, return on investment, and other dimensions of performance?
Tennessee’s data and performance website, Transparent TN, has statewide performance dashboards with specific sub-goals, targets, and performance data.
California A CA A Colorado S CO S Florida A FL A Maryland S MD S Minnesota S MN S New Mexico S NM S Oklahoma S OK S Oregon S OR S Virginia S VA S Washington S WA S Wisconsin S WI S
3. Data Leadershiplaunch Did the governor’s office or any state agency have a senior staff member(s) with the authority, staff, and budget to collect, analyze, share, and use high-quality administrative and survey data—consistent with strong privacy protections—to improve (or help other entities including but not limited to local governments and nonprofit organizations improve) federal, state, and local programs? (Example: chief data officer)
A 2017 Indiana law established the position of chief data officer (p. 8) with the budget, staff, and authority to (1) coordinate data analytics and data transparency for state agencies; (2) advise state agencies regarding best practices for data maintenance, security, and privacy; and (3) oversee the Indiana Management Performance Hub, which uses state data, such as the Education and Workforce Development database, to provide “analytics solutions tailored to address complex management and policy questions enabling improved outcomes.”
Arkansas S AR S Connecticut S CT S Michigan S MI S North Carolina S NC S
4. Data Policies / Agreementslaunch Did the state or any of its agencies have data-sharing policies and data-sharing agreements—consistent with strong privacy protections—with any nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, local government agencies, and/or federal government agencies which were designed to improve outcomes for publicly funded programs, and did it make those policies and agreements publicly available? (Example: data-sharing policy, open data policy)
The Washington Education Research and Data Center has a memorandum of understanding which identifies how data will be collected and shared among partners with a strong focus on protecting individual privacy.
Connecticut S CT S Delaware S DE S Georgia A GA A Maryland S MD S Michigan S MI S Texas A TX A
5. Data Uselaunch Did the state or any of its agencies have data systems consistent with strong privacy protections that linked multiple administrative datasets across state agencies, and did it use those systems to improve federal, state, or local programs?
A 2013 Kentucky law established the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics which collects and links high-quality, actionable data from five state agencies in order to improve education and workforce programs in the state.
California A CA A Illinois M IL M Indiana M IN M Maryland M MD M Massachusetts M MA M Minnesota M MN M South Carolina M SC M Washington M WA M Wisconsin M WI M
6. Evaluation Leadershiplaunch Did the governor’s office or any state agency have a senior staff member(s) with the authority, staff, and budget to evaluate its major programs and inform policy decisions affecting them? (Example: chief evaluation officer)
Colorado’s lieutenant governor serves as the state’s chief operating officer and is responsible for working with agencies on the state’s performance management, process improvement, accountability and transparency.
California A CA A
7. Evaluation Policieslaunch Did the state or any of its agencies have an evaluation policy, evaluation plan, and research/learning agenda(s) and did it publicly release the findings of all completed evaluations?
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has developed a research agenda and posts the results of all completed evaluations, as well as other research reports.
Kentucky M KY M Tennessee A TN A Virginia M VA M
8. Evaluation Resourceslaunch Did the state or any of its agencies invest at least 1% of program funds in evaluations?
Results for America was not able to identify any states with leading or promising examples for this criteria.
None None
9. Outcome Datalaunch Did the state or any of its agencies report or require outcome data for its state-funded programs during their budget process?
A 1999 New Mexico law (p. 5) requires all New Mexico state agencies to submit annual performance-based budget requests which include (1) the outputs and outcomes from each program, (2) performance measures and performance targets for each program, and (3) an evaluation of the program’s performance.
Colorado S CO S Minnesota S MN S Mississippi M MS M Oregon S OR S Utah S UT S
10. Evidence Definition and Program Inventorylaunch Did the state or any of its agencies release a common evidence framework, guidelines, or standards to inform its research and funding decisions and make publicly available an inventory of state-funded programs categorized based on at least two tiers of evidence?
Under a 2015 Minnesota law (section 13), the Minnesota Management and Budget Office developed numerous inventories and cost-benefit analyses of evidenced-based programs.
California A CA A Colorado M CO M Connecticut M CT M Florida A FL A Mississippi M MS M New Mexico M NM M Oregon M OR M Utah A UT A Washington M WA M
11. Cost-Benefit Analysislaunch Did the state or any of its agencies assess and make publicly available the costs and benefits of public programs?
A 2013 Washington State law (pp. 105–106) directed the Department of Corrections, in consultation with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), to (1) compile an inventory of existing programs; (2) determine whether its programs were evidence-based; (3) assess the effectiveness, including a cost-benefit analysis, of its programs; and (4) phase out ineffective programs and implement evidence-based programs. As a result of this and similar laws, WSIPP has published hundreds of cost-benefit analysis reports over the past 10 years.
Colorado M CO M Connecticut M CT M Minnesota M MN M Mississippi M MS M New Mexico M NM M New York M NY M Oregon M OR M Rhode Island M RI M Utah S UT S
12. Use of Evidence in Grant Programslaunch Did the state or any of its agencies: (1) invest at least 50% of program funds in evidence-based solutions or (2) use evidence of effectiveness when allocating funds to eligible grantees (including local governments) from its five largest competitive and noncompetitive grant programs?
A 2003 Oregon law states that the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Oregon Youth Authority, the Oregon Youth Development Division, and “the part of the Oregon Health Authority that deals with mental health and addiction issues” shall (1) “spend at least 75 percent of state moneys that the agency receives for programs on evidence-based programs” by 2011, (2) perform cost-benefit analyses, and (3) compile a biennial program inventory with results from funded programs.
Florida M FL M Georgia A GA A New York M NY M Ohio A OH A Tennessee M TN M
13. Innovationlaunch Did the state or any of its agencies have staff, policies, and processes in place that encouraged innovation to improve outcomes?
The California Health and Human Services Agency’s Let’s Get Healthy California Innovation Challenge 2.0 awarded grants to 12 community-based initiatives to advance California’s goal of becoming the healthiest state in the nation by 2022.
Colorado M CO M Michigan S MI S Ohio S OH S Oregon A OR A Rhode Island S RI S Washington S WA S
14. Contracting for Outcomeslaunch Did the state or any of its agencies enter into performance-based contracts and/or use active contract management (frequent use of data and regular communication with providers to monitor implementation and progress) to improve outcomes for publicly funded programs?
Since 2015, Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families has worked to reform and restructure the department’s procurement processes in four areas: improving service delivery through strategic planning, embedding results-driven procurement in new contracts, improving performance through active contract management practices, and supporting results-driven contracting practices through technical resources, tools, and processes for staff.
Massachusetts A MA A Tennessee A TN A Various States Various States
15. Repurpose for Resultslaunch Did the state or any of its agencies shift funds away from any practice, policy, or program which consistently failed to achieve desired outcomes?
A 2014 Minnesota law (subdivision 7) requires the Minnesota Department of Human Services to use the Self-Support Index to monitor each county’s performance in assisting clients to become self-sufficient.
Pennsylvania A PA A

1. The views expressed herein are those of Results for America and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Pew Charitable Trusts or the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.