Most evaluation projects are developed at the program or office level. The initial quality review is generally conducted by a committee of agency- or office-level policy and planning staff members. Before a project is approved, it is also reviewed for technical quality by a second committee with expertise in evaluation methodology. Technical review committees follow a set of criteria for quality evaluation practice established by each agency. Some HHS agencies also have external evaluation review committees composed of evaluation researchers and policy experts from universities and research centers.
Since HHS began reporting to Congress in 1995 on evaluations completed and in-progress through the Performance Improvement report series, the Department has focused more attention on improving the quality of evaluations performed every year. The HHS Evaluation Review Panel, convened to recommend evaluations for highlighting in Chapter I of this report, has contributed insights to HHS evaluation officers on the strengths and challenges of ensuring quality evaluations. HHS evaluation officers have had opportunities to discuss these strengths and challenges with the Panel and to identify steps to improve agency evaluation capacity.
Based on these discussions, ASPE initiated two evaluation capacity-building projects. The first was to establish an evaluation consultant Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) contract mechanism to assist agency program managers in obtaining short term assistance in developing evaluation designs or monitoring the performance quality of evaluation contractors. The second was to conduct a department- wide evaluation training needs assessment survey, which indicated training needs in various areas.