Performance Measurement and Evaluation:

Definitions and Relationships (Supersedes GAO-05-739SP)

GAO-11-646SP: Published: May 2, 2011. Publicly Released: May 2, 2011.

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Nancy R. Kingsbury
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This publication supersedes GAO-05-739SP, Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions and Relationships, June 2005. Both the executive branch and congressional committees need evaluative information to help them make decisions about the programs they oversee--information that tells them whether, and why, a program is working well or not. In enacting the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA), Congress expressed frustration that executive and congressional decisionmaking was often hampered by the lack of good information on the results of federal program efforts. To promote improved federal management and greater efficiency and effectiveness, GPRA instituted a governmentwide requirement that agencies set goals and report annually on performance. Many analytic approaches have been employed over the years by the agencies and others to assess the operations and results of federal programs, policies, activities, and organizations. Most federal agencies now use performance measures to track progress towards goals, but few seem to regularly conduct indepth program evaluations to assess their programs' impact or learn how to improve results. Individual evaluation studies are designed to answer specific questions about how well a program is working, and GPRA explicitly encourages a complementary role for these types of program assessment. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 aims to improve program performance by requiring agencies to identify priority goals, assign officials responsibility for achieving them, and review progress quarterly. Complete and accurate information on how well programs are working and why will be key to its success. This glossary describes and explains the relationship between two common types of systematic program assessment: performance measures and program evaluation. Based on GAO publications and program evaluation literature, it was first prepared in 1998.

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