CNCS Evaluation Technical Assistance

Several weeks ago, we announced a new online Evaluation TA Request Portal for AmeriCorps State and National (ASN) grantees and subgrantees.  Since then, we have received questions about the different types of evaluation support available from CNCS.  We hope this message will provide additional clarity about CNCS evaluation policies, procedures and technical assistance opportunities.

CNCS contracts with an evaluation firm, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, to provide two levels of evaluation technical assistance, both of which are provided at no cost to grantees or subgrantees:

Ongoing one-on-one technical assistance is provided to a small group of large grantees and subgrantees each year.  Grantees that are eligible for one-on-one technical assistance are required to participate and are notified of eligibility in separate communication.  This TA is focused on refining the program’s evaluation plan to ensure that recipients are on track to conduct high quality impact evaluations.  If you were eligible for this type of technical assistance for your 2016 grant, you have already been contacted by NORC.  CNCS Program Officers and State Commission staff receive summary reports of TA provided to these grantees and subgrantees.  Selection for 2017 grantees will be made in late summer.

Ad hoc technical assistance is provided to grantees and subgrantees when requested through the TA portal. 

The TA Portal is available at: https://americorpsevaluationta.norc.org.

Examples of the types of requests that may be made through the TA Portal include:

  • Answering questions on evaluation design and approach
  • Providing feedback on evaluation materials and data collection tools
  • Advising on data collection and/or analysis procedures
  • Discussing approaches for identifying an external evaluator

Ad hoc TA eligibility requirements include:

  • Grantees and subgrantees must be currently funded by CNCS
  • Grantees and subgrantees conducting external evaluations may only submit requests after consulting with their external evaluator
  • State subgrantees may only submit requests after consulting with their State Commission
  • State Commissions receiving Commission Investment Funds to support evaluation TA should attempt to resolve TA requests with CIF resources, if applicable, before advising subgrantees to request assistance through the TA Portal

Requests may be submitted at any time during the grant cycle, are not limited by funding amount, and will not affect current or future awards.  Grantees are not limited in the number of requests they can make and are encouraged to seek assistance proactively. CNCS Program Officers and State Commission staff receive summary reports of TA provided to grantees and subgrantees.

CNCS Review and Feedback Processes
There has been some confusion about CNCS and NORC’s roles in reviewing evaluation plans, reports and requests for Alternative Evaluation Approaches.  Here is a summary of how CNCS handles review of these evaluation products:

Evaluation Plans – Evaluation plans submitted as required in the grant application are reviewed by an evaluation contractor after funding decisions have been made.  All competitively funded grantees and subgrantees will receive feedback on required evaluation plans that are submitted in the grant application at the time of recompete.  CNCS does not currently approve evaluation plans.  Feedback is provided to help grantees and subgrantees strengthen their plans in order to conduct high quality evaluations; however, CNCS does not expect grantees to submit revised evaluation plans to CNCS after receiving feedback.  Questions about CNCS feedback on evaluation plans should be directed to your CNCS Program Officer. 

Evaluation Reports—Evaluation reports submitted as required in the grant application are reviewed by external reviewers for compliance with CNCS evaluation requirements.  All applicants will receive feedback on required evaluation reports as part of the application feedback process.  Although compliance with evaluation requirements is not scored during the application review process, review of evaluation requirements is conducted concurrently with the review of evidence conducted during the Grant Application Review Process (GARP). Feedback on both GARP evidence tier and compliance with evaluation requirements is provided after funding decisions have been made and grantees are not expected to submit revised evaluation reports after receiving feedback.

Alternative Evaluation Approaches—Requests for Alternative Evaluation Approaches (AEAs) submitted in the grant application are reviewed by CNCS after funding decisions have been made.  CNCS will approve or deny AEA requests in writing.  Grantee AEA requests that are approved should follow instructions in the justification form if any additional information is needed.  Grantee AEAs that are not approved may be invited to revise the request and resubmit for subsequent review, or may be denied; additional instructions will be given in the justification form if necessary. CNCS may consider off-cycle AEA requests if a grantee has a compelling rationale for requesting an AEA at a different time.  Off-cycle AEA requests should be sent to your Program Officer.

All questions about CNCS evaluation requirements, Alternative Evaluation Approach request procedures, and other CNCS evaluation policies should be directed to your Program Officer. Please consult the Alternative Evaluation Approach guidance document available on the Evaluation page at nationalservice.gov (https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/evaluation/cncs-evaluation-policies)

Other CNCS Support
CNCS periodically offers staff-led evaluation training and technical assistance opportunities including:

  • Bi-monthly evaluation calls for Commission Investment Fund grantees (open to all commissions and CIF evaluation consultants by invitation of the Commission)
  • Occasional ASN Evaluation webinars for national grantees, Commission staff and state subgrantees by invitation of the Commission
  • Online evaluation resources available on the CNCS website and LMS page: https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/evaluation; http://learning.nationalservice.gov/
  • Training at the AmeriCorps Symposium, regional conferences and other special events

State Commission Evaluation Policies and Procedures
State Commissions determine evaluation requirements for formula grantees in their states and may provide additional evaluation training and technical assistance to formula and competitive subgrantees.  State subgrantees with evaluation questions should consult with their state Commission before requesting help through the TA Portal, but Commissions are strongly encouraged to advise subgrantees to take advantage of CNCS technical assistance when appropriate.

Published Date: 
March 21, 2017
Grantee Type: 
State Commission
National Direct
Tribe
Subject/Category: 
Evaluation
TTA
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