By Tracy P. Glova
The New Jersey State Policy Lab today issued a report on evidence-based policymaking and program evaluation in New Jersey. “Evaluating Evaluations: Analyzing Evidence‐Based Policymaking in New Jersey and Insights from other Leading States” compares evidence-based practices related to workforce development, addiction services, and recidivism in New Jersey to practices in other states regarded as “leading” by the 2017 Pew-MacArthur Research’s Results First report. We conclude with recommendations to improve existing program evaluation efforts in the Garden State, as well as opportunities to create and enforce new evidence-based mechanisms.
Research into the three program areas showed that New Jersey has made important steps but still has considerable room for improvement in evidence-based policy-making. The State has done meaningful work to evaluate programs to reduce recidivism, for example, but relies on outdated guidelines for its addiction services. Similarly, regarding workforce development, New Jersey engages in program evaluation, but only at an ad hoc basis. These characteristics undeniably mark New Jersey as a state with strong potential to improve its evidence-based portfolio.
The findings of “Evaluating Evaluations” emphasized the need for legislative mandates, funding for agencies to do evaluation, agency culture shift, and transparent data sharing. Steps in all of these directions across all program areas, will better allow the State to target funding for its most outcome-driven programs and policies and effectively improve public welfare.