The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is accepting Round 4 grant applications for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT). While the due date of July 7, 2014, fast approaches, eCivis is ready to peer review for applicants with a prepared proposal.
While many individuals within higher education may be familiar with the aims of the TAACCCT grant, fewer individuals may be familiar with the evaluative expectations of the grant. Evaluative guidelines have varied across each round of the grant; however, across all rounds the evaluation expectations remain quite rigorous. The following four (4) insights will help project teams develop an evaluation session that meets the high standards of the program.
- Plan on conducting an experimental evaluation. While you may be able to create an argument to refrain from conducting an experiment, you need to at least implement a quasi-experimental evaluation. For many projects, this design will call for the inclusion of a comparison group. Depending on the nature of the proposed project, identifying an appropriate comparison group may be tricky. Keep in mind that the Department of Labor is interested in learning whether the optimal available comparison group is identified.
- Put enough in the budget for evaluation. Because of the desire to meet programmatic needs, very often the line item for evaluation is the first place that is targeted to make the budget balance. For this grant, don’t give in to that temptation. DOL allows up to 10% of the budget for evaluation. Because of the rigorous expectations, the evaluation will require additional resources and that sized budget is justified.
- Do not confuse the implementation analysis and the outcomes analysis. DOL requires that both an implementation analysis and outcomes analysis be a part of the evaluation. The implementation analysis is an assessment of how a project is put into place. There are requisite questions (see p. 79 of the solicitation) that should be included in the evaluation plan, including the strategies for answering these questions. The outcomes analysis is what many may historically associate as the evaluation. It is an assessment of what difference the project made. Make sure the evaluation plan addresses both of these components.
- Include the nine outcomes measures in the evaluation. Across all rounds of TAACCCT, projections on nine outcome measures have been consistent. The projections for these measures should be discussed in the project narrative. Also, ensure that these outcome measures and related methodologies are discussed in the evaluation plan.
Of course, there are many other elements of the evaluation plan that will need to be addressed as the proposed project is developed, but keeping these in mind should improve the quality of that plan.
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About the Author
Dr. Lana J. Rucks is Principal Consultant with The Rucks Group, LLC, and serves as the evaluator for TAACCCT grants. The Rucks Group is a research and consulting firm that offers consultative, data collection, research, and evaluation services.