Results matter more than great intentions

Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018|2 a.m.

. In his book “Program Me the Proof: Obama’s Fight for Rigor and Lead To Social Policy,” Ron Haskins described a peaceful transformation that occurred throughout the Obama administration in the manner in which social service programs were assessed and funded.

Haskins, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who co-wrote the 2014 book with coworker Greg Margolis, stated the Obama group’s development was to money efforts based on extensive results-based proof. The method can be summarized in the expression, “If you desire the cash, show me the evidence.”

During a presentation tonight at UNLV, Haskins will detail several examples of programs that arose from the new method and explain why the tools and approaches established by the Obama administration stay important for policymakers today.

Although the programs got little attention beyond the social service community and policy wonks, Haskins said they marked an extreme departure for the federal government. Prior to, he said, programs were assessed mostly on anecdotal evidence or research studies that weren’t based on solid research techniques.

“Something most Americans have no idea, which is probably an advantage, is that our social programs do not work. They are enormous failures,” Haskins said throughout an interview Tuesday at UNLV. “And we didn’t truly understand that due to the fact that we spoke with program operators and school superintendents and others who run the programs how good they are. However then we began doing very cautious evaluations, called random project assessments, where you appoint young people at random to an experimental control group.”

The results of those assessments, Haskins stated, revealed that many programs produced neutral results. Some, like the previous Substance abuse Resistance Education, which was so popular and was believed to be so efficient that it was taught in 75 percent of schools nationwide, were even revealed to have unfavorable effects.

In his presentation tonight, Haskins will describe the difficulties President Barack Obama dealt with in establishing the evidence-based programs, and how his team overcame them.

Haskins was a long time team member on the House Ways and Way Committee and served as George W. Bush’s senior consultant for welfare policy.

His one-hour discussion, which is complimentary to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the first-floor auditorium at Greenspun Hall.

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