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Results for America: A Welcome Addition to Evidence-Based Reform

05/12/2014 12:36 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2014

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Advocating for evidence-based reform in education is often a lonely activity, but over the past couple of years, it's gotten a lot less lonely due to the arrival of Results for America (RfA), an initiative dedicated to encouraging government at all levels to make more and better use of evidence to make important decisions. RfA is not limited to education, but covers all areas of human services for children and families. RfA is led by Michele Jolin and is part of a broader organization called America Achieves, led by Jon Schnur. Both Jon and Michele have had extensive experience working in government.

One constant meme adopted by RfA is "Moneyball for Government," based on the movie "Moneyball" about legendary Oakland A's manager Billy Beane. Constrained by limited resources to improve the team, unlike the deep pockets of the Yankees who were able to offer high-salaried contracts to the best players, Beane engaged a statistician to help him find less desirable or lower-cost players who did not fit all his scouts' requirements but somehow managed to get on base a lot.

As applied to government, Moneyball means using data to identify programs and practices that have been proven to produce valued outcomes. In education, for example, a leader who played Moneyball would actively seek reading, math, science, and other programs that had been rigorously evaluated and found to be effective. A Moneyball approach would also include using data to identify programs or approaches already in place within the district and expand the ones that are working. RfA has even identified "Geek Cities," where the local government does a particularly good job of using data to make effective and efficient use of resources to serve children and families.

RfA is strictly and wisely nonpartisan, arguing that everyone, liberal or conservative, has an interest in seeing that resources are used sensibly and well. As time goes on, Results for America is making significant inroads in the policy world, helping political leaders of all stripes get comfortable with the idea of heightening the role of evidence in policymaking.