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Evidence-Based Budgeting

The State of Tennessee is placing a greater focus on ensuring it invests in what works to better serve citizens across the state. This effort, known as evidence-based budgeting, began in the spring of 2019 within the Budget Division of the Department of Finance and Administration.

Evidence-based budgeting is a targeted focus to facilitate the use of research and evidence to inform programmatic funding decisions in a way that improves outcomes for Tennessee citizens. Tennessee, influenced by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, operates an evidence framework through which agencies can demonstrate the evidence of both proposed and existing programs during the program inventory process or the budget process.

More information on evidence-based budgeting, qualifying evaluations, and the evidence framework is available here: Evidence-Based Budgeting in Tennessee.

Evidence is a rigorous body of research that speaks to the efficacy of existing programs or proposed pilots in Tennessee. Tennessee’s evidence framework provides decision makers with a consistent language across all departments to know what programs work according to research.

Evidence allows us to answer the following questions:

  • Are Tennessee programs based on strong models in other states, promising theories of change, or something else?
  • Based on research, are the desired outcomes positive, negative, or neutral? 
  • How do our existing programs compare to alternatives?       

Qualifying evaluations are impact evaluations that use either a systematic review, randomized controlled trial (RCT) design or quasi-experimental design (QED) to rigorously assess effectiveness of a program or service on desired outcomes. Both RCTs and QEDs use an evaluation design that includes a treatment and a treatment as usual group.

Systematic Reviews: Researchers draw on multiple experimental studies to form conclusions and take into account the quality of included studies.

Randomized controlled trial (RCT): Researchers use random assignment to place individuals into treatment and control groups and compare group outcomes of interest. The difference in outcomes at the end of the study is attributed to the treatment offering.

Quasi-experimental design (QED): Researchers do not always control placement into treatment and control groups using random assignment. QEDs use statistical controls to try to create equivalent comparison groups.

National Results First Clearinghouse Database

The National Results First Clearinghouse compiles research from nine national clearinghouses in one, central location. These clearinghouses conduct systematic reviews to evaluate programs and capture what works. Each of these clearinghouses is different, but each delivers quality evidence. Some of the program areas include:

  • Child welfare
  • Criminal justice
  • Education
  • Juvenile justice
  • Mental health
  • Substance abuse
  • Other social policies and programs

Washington State Institute for Public Policy

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) conducts non-partisan research to evaluate and study relevant policy questions. This research includes traditional evaluations as well as benefit-cost ratios to suggest the benefits and costs of a policy or program.Some of the program areas include:

  • Adult criminal justice
  • Adult mental health
  • Children's mental health
  • Child welfare
  • Health care
  • Higher education
  • Juvenile justice
  • Pre-K to 12 education
  • Public health & prevention
  • Workforce development

Tennessee Evidence Steps

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