Literature Essay

 

Introduction

The deployment of policies is not new; in fact, it dates back to the time of ancient Greece, when Aristotle pioneered the concept that various types of knowledge need to inform rulemaking. According to Cizek (1999) this would ideally integrate the combination of scientific, pragmatic and value-led knowledge. However, the most fascinating thing about the use of evidence is the increasing emphasis placed on the concept over the previous decade. The present debates originating from the medical sector seem to be promoting the deployment of evidence-based medicine. Evidence-based policymaking has been gaining currency at a remarkable rate. According to Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009), this signifies the entry of a government with modernizing and reforming mandate. Such governments are committed towards ending the ideologically driven politics, and substituting them with logical decision-making. This resulted in the use of evidence in policymaking. In his literary work, Funkhouser, (2000) noted that governments should produce policies dealing with the problem. In this regard, this paper provides a review of the present and past literature concerning evidence-based policies in Texas.

The Importance of EBP

Various studies have affirmed that evidence-based policymaking approaches have the possibility to have a greater effect on developing nations. Cizek (1999), in his literary work titled Handbook of educational policy, points out that this is because EBP seems to be less established in developing nations than in developed nations, and policies are frequently not based on evidence. However, according to Golsan (2013), this should not imply that EBP has no effect on the developed parts of the world. Golsan’s (2013) work highlights two cases that reveal the effect of EBP on developing nations. In one of the case study, evidence-based policymaking transformed lives. In the other case study, the lack of EBP caused widespread misery and death. In the first case study, the government had adopted a process of health service reforms that was informed by the outcomes of household disease studies. In this case study, the implementation of EBP process led to over 40 per cent decrease in infant mortality. In the other case study, HIV/Aids crisis increased because the government ignored the evidence highlighting the cause of the disease. However, increasing the deployment of evidence-based policymaking in both developed and developing nations introduces new challenges. According to Hoy & DiPaola (2007), social, economic, and political issues seem to be more difficult, and capacity is more limited in order to generate meticulous evidence and to make policy. In addition, resources might also be too scarce to facilitate EBP process. Though Texas is constantly seeking to enhance its deployment of evidence-based policymaking, this literature review tries to highlight some of evidence-based policies, ideas, issues and tools being utilized in EBP approach. In order to achieve this, the paper first discusses the issues surrounding the idea of evidence-based policymaking.

Key Issues Surrounding Evidence-based Policymaking in Texas

Johnson, Musial, Hall, & Gollnick (2008), in their work titled Foundations of American Education: Perspectives on Education in a Changing World highlight the debate concerning EBP clusters around three significant issues. The first key issue is the kinds of evidence that are used and their credibility. The second key issue is the issue surrounding the manner in which evidence is integrated into the process of policymaking. The third issue includes various factors affecting policymaking process, other than the evidence. Concerning the third factor, Johnson, Musial, Hall, & Gollnick (2008) pointed out that policymaking is intrinsically a political process.

Evidence for Policymaking Process

Key to the process of making evidence more available to policymakers is the requirement to go to the basis of what is meant by the term evidence and assess how this can affect policymaking process. According to Miguel (2003) and Rizvi & Lingard (2009), evidence seems to be viewed as a neutral, objective and apolitical tool. This portrayal of evidence is encouraged by the claim that policy is shaped by evidence. As such, Texas Education Agency (2013) affirmed that this implies that the epoch of ideologically facilitated politics has ended. Nevertheless, evidence is neither uncontested nor neutral; instead, evidence is essentially an ambiguous term.

Different researchers, such as Miguel (2003) and Cizek (1999), have highlighted various types of evidences. However, the perception of evidence varies from one researcher to another. Funkhouser (2000), in his work titled Education in Texas: Policies, practices, and perspective, defined evidence as expert knowledge, existing research, published research, previous policy assessments, outcomes from consultations, statistical modeling and internet. Cooper, Levin, & Campbell’s (2009) work outlines the procedures, standards, and laws regulating one of the highly valued state educations in the US. According to ROOO, the breadth of what counts as evidence is dynamic and wide. Johnson, Musial, Hall, & Gollnick (2008), in their work titled Foundations of American Education: Perspectives on Education in a Changing World support this construal by listing a diverse and rich variety of what is considered evidence. Potential sources of evidences highlighted by Johnson, Musial, Hall, & Gollnick (2008) include literary texts, photographs, autobiographical material like letters and diaries, official files, newspapers and certain accounts of an observer. As such, Johnson, Musial, Hall, & Gollnick (2008) concluded that EBP process should be based on systematic evidence. Therefore, in concurrence, Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009) concluded that EBP should be based on research. It is, therefore, central that Texas adopts a very general definition of research evidence. Texas accepts all forms of evidence as long as they have been gathered via a systematic process. According to Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009), this might comprise of any systematic process of crucial assessment and investigation, data collection, theory building, codification and analysis associated to policymaking and practice.

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Regardless of the broad and diverse definition of evidence, according to Funkhouser (2000), it is a mistake to presume that all kinds of evidence share the same significance, weighting or relevance in reality. Units and Departments in Texas administration seem to have a hierarchical judgment when choosing the form of evidence to deploy in policymaking. For instance, public sector policy depends on a limited range of top-end evidence that centers on empirical study, expert knowledge, and policy evaluation. This policy thereby creates an inherent hierarchy. According to the Texas Education Agency (2012), government departments in Texas are not alone in their preferences towards experimental studies, perceiving it as the most dependable kind of evidence.

Hoy & DiPaola (2007), in their work titled Essential ideas for the reform of American schools, classified evidence via the perspective of social sciences as either soft or hard evidence. This classification of evidence implies subjective and objective forms. According Hoy & DiPaola (2007), hard evidence comprises of clinical trials; secondary quantitative epidemiological and social data gathered by government agencies; and primary quantitative data gathered by researchers from experiments, interviews, or questionnaire-based social investigations. This is quite contrary to the soft evidence that is perceived as comprising of qualitative data like autobiographical materials and ethnographic accounts. Hoy & DiPaola (2007) argued that such a classification of evidence, as prescribed Hoy & DiPaola (2007), results in failures and risks with the EBP approach. According to Golsan (2013), this occurs because a hierarchy weighted in favor of hard evidence results in a limitation and a risk that evidence-based policymaking will, indeed, be deployed, ignoring the evidence coming from low in the hierarchy.

Attempts to Establish Evidence Useful to Policymakers in Texas

Since not all types of evidence have similar weighting or validity, when the government tries to develop a wide acknowledgement of useful evidence, there are certain inevitable issues or questions. As such, in order to have some agreement over what makes up useful evidence, this literature review identifies some of the core characteristics of evidence that were highlighted by Miguel (2003) in his work.

The first characteristic highlighted by Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009) is quality. According to Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009), quality refers to the accuracy of the evidence used in policymaking. In this case, the evidence should correctly describe what it purports to achieve. Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009) pointed out that there are statistical, arithmetic, and representative issues that need to be considered in order to deal with the relevance of the evidence. With regard to arithmetical, statistical and representative issues, the numbers should correctly add up and the cause and effect should be correctly specified. Rizvi & Lingard (2009), also pointed out some issues surrounding objectivity of the evidence and its sources. Credibility is the second characteristic of evidence. According to Texas Education Agency (2013), credibility depends on a clear and robust line or argument. It relates to the dependability of the evidence. It is extremely difficult for policymakers to check evidence in reality. As such, policymakers frequently depend on the reputation of the source as alternative. For instance, research findings from academic sources, including Rizvi & Lingard’s (2009) Globalizing education policy, seem to be viewed as more credible than opinion of civil society. The third characteristic is relevance. In this regard, Texas policymakers ensure that the evidence is topical, timely and has policy implications.

Evidence-Based Policies in Texas Health Sector

The Abstinence Education Policy is one of the evidence-based policies in Texas. Various resources are available for different school districts to assess sexual and health education curricula (Cooper, Levin, & Campbell, 2009). The Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) can assist schools and others to perform a clear, absolute and consistent evaluation of health education curricula based on the National Health Education Standards and the characteristics of CDC Effective Health Education Curricula. In Texas, the School Health Initiative Screening Tool can be utilized to assess curriculum.

Under the agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Mathematica Policy Research performed a sovereign systematic assessment of the evidence base in order to avert teen pregnancy. According to Miguel (2003), this assessment defined the decisive factor for the quality of an assessment study and the evidence strength for certain intervention. Based on these decisive factors, the Health and Human Services of Texas has defined a rigorous set of standards, which an assessment must adhere to in order for the program to be viewed efficient. According to these standards, health policy is evidenced-based if it assessed the impacts of an intervention by deploying statistical analysis and quantitative analysis; approximated the policy effects on sexual activities, contraceptive use, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases; focused Texas youth aged below 19 years; deployed the quasi experimental designs coupled with well-matched comparison groups; and deployed a sample size comprising of not less than 100 participants (Hoy & DiPaola, 2007).

Various studies have also assessed the effect of the policy on the protective and risk factors that affect sexual behavior instead of measuring the effect of the policy on the behavior itself. Despite these studies having the ability to inform the development of policies, they are not integrated in any review considered evidence-based policy. According to Funkhouser (2000), the studies need to assess the actual outcomes of sexual behavior or rates of pregnancy, instead of measuring only the protective and risk factors that directly affect those behaviors, like the intent to have sex. This is certainly significant, since the sexual beliefs, intentions and attitudes of adolescents are only moderately, and not highly, associated with their real behavior that makes them poor surrogates of real behavior. The funding Opportunity Announcement of Title V abstinence promotes the use of evidence-based policies, which have showed the effects on sexual change of behavior. The abstinence education policy of Texas accepts five behavioral outcomes as evidence: reduction of the frequency of sexual activity; delay in the initiation of sexual activity; reduction in the number of sexual partners; reduction in the rate of STI/STD or pregnancy; and increase in the use of contraceptives.

Evidence-based Practices in the Criminal Justice System of Texas

For the past several decades, the Community Justice Assistance Division of Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ-CJAD) focused on adopting efficient programming that is based on national and local study (Miguel, 2003). This evidence-based program outlines the components that are proven to produce long-term transformation in the behavior of offender, and reduce recidivism. It is this body of the study of study, which Hoy & DiPaola (2007) referred to as Evidence Based Practices.

According to Rizvi & Lingard (2009), the Texas Department of Criminal Justice promotes evidence-based policies in community-based programs in several ways. The department trains teams from the 36 Community Correction Facilities (CCFs) in order to ensure that research-based treatment strategies are deployed. The department also provides technical assistance in order to help the implementation and development of action plans. Rizvi & Lingard (2009), also pointed out that the department began assessing the Community Corrections Facilities by deploying the Correctional Program Assessment Inventory (CPAI) that is a research-based tool measuring the quality of the policy. Golsan’s (2013) study also revealed that the Department of Criminal Justice prepares over three hundred Community Supervision Officers and about 30 trainers in performing a cognitive-behavioral policy for criminals referred to as “Thinking for Change.” Various studies have also quoted that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also sponsors a yearly Sentencing Conferencing that brings together the decision-making teams of counties within the state. These teams are made up of district attorneys, judges, defense attorneys, and CSCD directors. The speakers of these sentencing conferences encourage the principles of evidence-based policies to assist the state leadership in exploring the manner in which Texas can efficiently use all the available sanctions to ensure public safety.

Funkhouser (2000) outlined some of the necessary components proven to decrease recidivism. The first component is the assessment of the risk. With regard to this component, the appropriate individuals should be in the right policy programs. Criminals are provided with a validated risk assessment tool, and rigorous programs are reserved for individuals highly vulnerable to recidivism. The second component is the analysis of crime producing needs. The policy programs target the behaviors resulting in increased crime rates, such as anti-social peers, substance abuse, relapse and poor problem solving. The third component is the research-based strategies. In relation to this component, policy programs are designed to deploy the cognitive-behavioral curricula that focuses on anti-social thinking and other factors associated with criminality. The fourth component is motivation. According to Johnson, Musial, Hall, & Gollnick (2008), the policy programs have a motivational element, and train staff on strategies that strengthen criminal justice policies.

Evidence-Based Policy in Texas Education

Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009), in their work titles The growing (but still limited) importance of evidence in education policy and practice, emphasize on the deployment of evidence-based practices in the education sector. They present the observations of other scholars, practitioners, and studies that have collated the present research in different areas. According to Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009), the previous decade experienced an evolution in the sector of education that was typified by the increase of evidence-based policy and practice agendas. Specifically, in Texas, there was a struggle to supplement and integrate research evidence in education practices and policies. Cooper, Levin, & Campbell (2009) examined the attempts in Texas education sector in order to deal with the gap in empirical studies through the emerging field that is termed as knowledge mobilization.

Conclusions

This literature essay example has reviewed some of the previous and existing literature on evidence-based policy in Texas. Various studies have affirmed that evidence-based policymaking approaches may have a greater effect on developing nation. However, this should not imply that EBP has no effect on developed parts of world. Key to the process of making evidence more available to policymakers is the requirement to go to the basis of what is meant by the term evidence and assess how this can affect policymaking process. Evidence seems to be viewed as a neutral, objective and apolitical tool. This portrayal of evidence is encouraged by the claim that policy is shaped by evidence. The Abstinence Education Policy is one of policies in Texas that is evidence-based. Various resources are available for different school districts to assess sexual and health education curricula. Under the agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Mathematica Policy Research performed a sovereign systematic assessment of the evidence base in order to avert teen pregnancy. The Community Justice Assistance Division of Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ-CJAD) focused on adopting efficient programming that is based upon national and local study.

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