2019 State Standard of Excellence
12. Use of Evidence in Grant Programs
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?
Why is this important?
Requiring a portion of grant funds to be spent on evidence-based programs allows state governments to use and scale proven program models to achieve better results.
Since 2017, the Nevada Department of Education has allocated 100% of the state’s $8.5 million in federal Title I school improvement funds to districts and schools for interventions backed by strong, moderate, or promising evidence (using the top three tiers of evidence as defined by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)). This represented an increase over the approximately 15% of funds that had been allocated based on level of evidence in the 2016-2017 school year. Grant recipients may set aside funds to monitor and evaluate the identified evidence-based approaches to ensure the investments yield a positive impact on student outcomes. Applications for Title I school improvement funds must meet at least one of Nevada’s three statewide priorities: focus on the lowest performing schools, data-driven decision-making, and leadership development.
Beginning in 2017, the Nevada Department of Education began requiring school districts to invest awarded funds from two additional federal grant programs in interventions that meet one of the four tiers of evidence (strong, moderate, promising, and under evaluation) defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): (1) ESSA Title IV-B ($9 million in 2017-2018), for the competitive 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants and (2) Competitive ESSA Title IV-A grants ($3 million in federal funds to Nevada in 2017-2018 to increase students’ access to a well-rounded education), where applications with stronger evidence are considered for funding before other applications. Applications for Title IV-A must meet at least one of Nevada’s three statewide priorities: focus on the lowest performing schools, data-driven decision-making, and leadership development.
Starting in 2013, the Nevada State Legislature passed a series of laws with strong evidence requirements that aligned state education funding with ESSA’s tiered evidence definition. The following six programs require grantees to use interventions that meet one of the four ESSA evidence tiers (though supplemental curriculum and professional development must meet the top three tiers: strong, moderate, or promising) and align with one of Nevada’s three statewide priorities: focus on the lowest performing schools, data-driven decision-making, and leadership development: (1) The Zoom School program, first enacted in 2013 supports competitive grants ($50 million per year in state education funds) to help school districts provide English language instruction to non-native speakers; (2) the Nevada Turnaround grant program, authorized in 2017, is a competitive grant program ($2 million in state education funds per year) that helps underperforming schools implement their school improvement plans; (3) SB 178, authorized in 2017, gives weighted formula grants to support extended learning opportunities in schools (approximately $1,200 for every eligible student; 2019 total funding of $70 million in state funds per year); (4) the competitive College and Career Readiness program ($4.9 million in state education funds per year), created in 2017 helps school districts establish advanced programs for middle school and high school students; (5) the Victory Schools initiative ($25 million in state education funds per year), created in 2017 (and reauthorized in 2019) aims to improve results in the state’s lowest performing schools; and (6) Nevada’s 2015 Read by Grade Three Act ($22.3 million in state funds in 2016-17), amended in 2019, allocates funds to school districts through a formula grant process.
In 2018, the Colorado Department of Education grant program for school improvement, Empowering Action for School Improvement, required schools to use evidence-based practices as defined by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The application gives points for the use of evidence-based strategies as well as past performance to applicants that are seeking to expand existing initiatives.
Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice requires all residential commitment prevention contractors to implement at least one evidence-based model from the agency’s Sourcebook of Delinquency Interventions. The sourcebook defines three levels of evidence (evidence-based practices, promising practices, and practices with demonstrated effectiveness) and lists all juvenile justice programs according to their level of evidence. The Department also introduced a Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol, a monitoring tool to ensure providers implement programs with fidelity.
Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services’ Promoting Safe and Stable Families program requires that all “service plans must include evidence-based programs, practices and/or strategies proven effective in meeting the needs of children and their families.” The program includes a list of permitted models that may be used in areas such as Prevention and Early Intervention.
The Maryland Governor’s Office for Children gives grants to Local Management Boards to coordinate county child welfare efforts. The grant application allocates 10 points (out of 100) for evidence of effectiveness, including a requirement that current grantees submit at least three years of data on their approved performance measures. The grant also provides a bonus point to any applicant that proposes an evidence-based home visiting program utilizing a model approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education distributes formula funds to its lowest performing districts and schools through the Turnaround Assistance Grant program. The grant application requires applicants to incorporate at least one strategy that has strong, moderate, or promising evidence as defined by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Department provides support to potential applicants on using evidence-based practices through its How Do We Know Initiative.
In 2017 Minnesota Management and Budget released a cost-benefit analysis on adult and youth substance which found that LifeSkills Training, an evidence-based social emotional learning curriculum to develop students’ social and self-management skills, produced an estimated $10.60 in benefits for each dollar invested. As a result of these findings, the State of Minnesota partnered with philanthropic donors to deliver the program to 15,000 middle school students across the state.
Beginning in 2011, the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has required programs that receive its grant funding (p. 13) to “allocate a percentage of their OASAS funded prevention efforts to the delivery of evidence-based programs and strategies.” The percentage started at 35% in 2011 (p. 14), escalated to 50% in 2014, and to 70% in 2018. To assist in the implementation of evidence-based programs, OASAS created a Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Strategies (p. 12). Promising programs can be proposed to a state panel for approval and inclusion in the OASAS registry.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services increased its funding of evidence-based interventions, by targeting 75% of its alternative to incarceration funds (pp. 5–6) toward evidence-based interventions beginning in FY 2015–2016. This funding target was based on the department’s technical report and cost-benefit analysis to outline the impact, costs, and benefits of specific criminal justice interventions. The state’s 2018-2019 Alternative to Incarceration competitive grant ($7.6 million) was designed to “provide evidence-based services to adults involved in the criminal justice system.”
The Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Aspire program uses a performance-based funding formula for workforce readiness education providers. Grants are awarded in a three-year cycle and require applicants to “provide statistical evidence of program effectiveness for the prior three years related to successful student outcomes.” Performance is measured annually and funding is adjusted based on performance against established benchmarks.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services oversees the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, which provides grants to support local child welfare activities across the state for “programs that are based on evidence and research.” The 2019 statewide grant instructions (Statewide Application Packet, Attachment A) require a logic model, theory of change, and evaluation plan. It also recommends utilizing best-practices included in the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. In addition, the Caregiving and Parenting Skills grant program requires grantees to implement specific evidence-based programs listed in the application.
A 2003 Oregon law (Senate Bill 267) provides a definition of evidence and 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;” (2) perform cost-benefit analyses; and (3) compile a biennial program inventory with results from funded programs. As of 2018, the Youth Authority spent “90 percent of General Funds and almost 92 percent of total funds subject to Oregon’s Senate Bill 267 (SB267) on evidence-based programming.”
A 2007 Tennessee law defines evidence and requires that 100% of the state’s juvenile justice funding be evidence-based beginning in 2012, with the exception of pilot programs that are building the evidence basis for research or theory-based interventions. As a result, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services’ 2017 Request for Proposal for juvenile justice services, which provides funding through 2020, noted that “the Department of Children’s Services is prohibited from expending state funds on any juvenile justice program…unless the program is evidence-based” (p. 23). The law also established (in 37-5-121(a)) four levels of evidence for the juvenile justice programs.
The 2010 Complete College Tennessee Act included provisions for using evidence of effectiveness in the funding system for public colleges and universities in the state. The competitive outcomes-based funding system allocates state funds based on student progress and completion metrics, rather than traditional enrollment-based criteria. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission annually updates the funding formula based on outcome data.