The Evolution of Evaluation Standards

This timeline offers a perspective on the evolution of how evaluation standards were created and how they help inform high quality evaluation models and processes in today's organizational, training, and instructional design settings.


Professional evaluation organizations established


Two separate professional evaluations organizations exist:
The Evaluation Network - university professors and school-based evaluators
Evaluation Research Society - government-based evaluators

AEA is established


The Evaluation Network and Evaluation Research Society are merged to form the American Evaluation Association

GPRA is enacted


Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) is enacted under the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) essentially requiring agencies to consider project management tasks (goals, results, tracking progress, etc.)and conduct gap analyses of projects.



Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is reauthorized leading to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, the federal program that is the first to face higher levels of scrutiny using new evaluation standards. Opens further debate regarding how evaluation of a program's qualitative methods will be designed.

What Works Clearinghouse


What Works Clearinghouse - Developed by the US Department of Education, the WWC had two purposes:
1) Provide educators, policy makers researchers and the public with a central and trusted source of proven methods in education
2) Promote informed education decision making easier through the development of a database that provide reviews of established interventions

Program Assessment Rating Tool


Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) mandates system for assessing performance of all government programs be conducted every 5 years, with a goal of keeping policy makers (and the public) informed of relationships between funding and effectiveness.
Considers a program's:
Purpose and design
Performance measurements
Strategic planning

OL-ECB TIG estabished


AEA establishes Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building Topic Interest Group to provide a forum for evaluators and researchers who study the culture and evaluation capacity of organizational learning (AEA, 2012).

Historical Context

The "Quiet Decade"

1980 - 1990

Federal funding for social programs is steadily decreased resulting in "The Quiet Decade" in evaluation as a field. This, in turn, results in an increase in the number of internal evaluation units.

Increasing scrutiny on federal programs

1990 - 2000

Increased scrutiny on federal government programs resulting in more accountability combined with the desire to increase efficiencies and competitiveness in a growing global market leads to an expansion of internal evaluation units to encompass more sectors including business and education.

Debates and new terminology

2000 - 2010

Debate develops regarding the correct approach evaluation should take:
1) scientifically-based research and accountability
2) Innovative and creative quantitative methods

New terms begin to emerge:
-Gold Standard
-Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT's)
-Database of What Works
-Evaluation Capacity Building

Summary of progress

Major Developments


4 major developments and improvements in evaluation over the past 40 years:
1) Evaluation has expanded and evolved beyond the initial government-based mandate to include consideration of larger organizational learning, appropriate resource allocation and decision making.
2) The number of evaluation professionals and associated organizations has expanded tremendously.
3) Many more academic and trade journals are now being published which provide greater exchange of ideas and break throughs in the field
4) Evaluation has become a matter of global importance and is being increasingly recognized in different nations.