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Use the best information about what works

- to make strategies more effective
August 31, 2011

You’ll have no trouble finding strategies that call themselves “evidence-based” or “proven” to be effective. That’s what leaders want – but how do you know what approaches really work and are a good fit for your community or state?


Leaders must stay up to date on effective methods for addressing youth issues. They also need to know what’s working not just around the nation, but in their own backyard.

Don’t worry: You don’t have to spend your nights combing academic journals. Help is available to keep you abreast of the best information about effective practices, to help you understand different levels of quality assessment (such as evidence-based vs. research-based), and to guide you in conducting surveys and studies about efforts in your community or state.

Here are resources that address common questions:

How do we get started?

“Better Data: Using the Best Information About What Works” Webinar Recording: This webinar reviews theory, tools and examples about how leaders can bring the best information into their decision-making process. Broadcast on June 26, 2011, the session was led by Larry Pasti of the Forum for Youth Investment and Tom Devaney of the Forum’s David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.

If you are a policymaker, can help you identify policies that will move you toward the results you want for children and youth. The Center for the Study of Social Policy has vetted strategies based on input from issue experts and scientific research.

What constitutes “evidence-based” practices?

Improving Effectiveness of Juvenile Justice Programs: This report clearly defines evidence-based, research-based, theorybased and pilot programs. (Page 49.) It also highlights how key characteristics of effective programming – such as the type of program, duration, quality and level of risk of participant – can be applied to local efforts that are not currently deemed evidence-based. (Page 29, section VI.)

How have leaders adopted evidence-based practices?

Leaders in communities chosen for Quality Counts– an initiative under Ready by 21 – improved the quality and reach of outof- school time programs by promoting practices that work. Read about how in Making Quality Count: Lessons Learned from the Ready by 21 Quality Counts Initiative.

Where do we link research to specific outcomes?

Getting to Outcomes: 10 Steps for Achieving Results-Based Accountability offers a framework to plan, implement and evaluate effective programs that are accountable to decision makers and that achieve intended outcomes. Although developed for substance abuse prevention, these steps can be applied to other strategies. The framework provides a road map for leaders who want to continually assess program performance and collect outcome data for decision making.

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services created a one-stop resource on what works. This website provides links to several nationally recognized sites that have lists of evidence- or research-based programs for a wide range of outcome areas.

What are some ways to use data to drive success in schools?

Although it's written for school superintendents, Driving K-12 Reform through a College Access and Success Agenda is useful for anyone looking to better use their internal data and increase their ability to communicate the results. The toolkit, developed by the American Association of School Administrators in collaboration with College Summit, helps leaders approach data with the mantra, "Own It, Understand It, Act on It." Check out the strategies to communicate with school boards, teachers and parents, the college-going culture self-assessment and the ideas to help increase the college-going and persistence rates of young people in the future. 

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