This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-11-646SP 
entitled 'Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions and 
Relationships' which was released on May 20, 2011. 

This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part 
of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to 

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately. 

United States Government Accountability Office: 


May 2011: 

Performance Evaluation and Measurement: 

Definitions and Relationships: 


Program Performance Assessment: 

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 decision making 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 in-depth 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. Major 
contributors were Stephanie Shipman and Joseph Wholey. Please address 
any questions to Stephanie Shipman at (202) 512-4041 or 

Signed by: 

Nancy R. Kingsbury, Managing Director: 
Applied Research and Methods: 

Types of Program Performance Assessment: 

Performance Measurement: 

Performance measurement is the	ongoing monitoring and reporting of 
program accomplishments, particularly progress toward preestablished 
goals. It is typically conducted by program or agency management. 

Performance measures may address the type or level of program 
activities conducted (process), the direct products and services 
delivered by a program (outputs), or the results of those products and 
services (outcomes). 

A "program" may be any activity, project, function, or policy that has 
an identifiable purpose or set of objectives. 

Program Evaluation: 

Program evaluations are individual systematic studies conducted 
periodically or on an ad hoc basis to assess how well a program is 
working. They are often conducted by experts external to the program, 
either inside or outside the agency, as well as by program managers. 

A program evaluation typically examines achievement of program 
objectives in the context of other aspects of program performance or 
in the context in which it occurs. Four main types can be identified, 
all of which use measures of program performance, along with other 
information, to learn the benefits of a program or how to improve it. 

Relationship between Performance Measurement and Program Evaluation:	 

Different Focus: 

Performance measurement focuses on whether a program has achieved its 
objectives, expressed as measurable performance standards. Program 
evaluations typically examine a broader range of information on 
program performance and its context than is feasible to monitor on an 
ongoing basis. 

Depending on their focus, evaluations may examine aspects of program 
operations (such as in a process evaluation) or factors in the program 
environment that may impede or contribute to its success, to help 
explain the linkages between program inputs, activities, outputs, and 
outcomes. Alternatively, evaluations may assess the program's effects 
beyond its intended objectives, or estimate what would have occurred 
in the absence of the program, in order to assess the program's net 
impact. Additionally, program evaluations may systematically compare 
the effectiveness of alternative programs aimed at the same objective. 

Different Use: 

Both forms of assessment aim to support resource allocation and other 
policy decisions to improve service delivery and program effectiveness. 
But performance measurement, because of its ongoing nature, can serve 
as an early warning system to management and as a vehicle for improving 
accountability to the public. 

A program evaluation's typically more in-depth examination of program 
performance and context allows for an overall assessment of whether 
the program works and identification of adjustments that may improve 
its results. 

Types of Program Evaluation: 

Process (or Implementation) Evaluation: 

This form of evaluation assesses the extent to which a program is 
operating as it was intended. It typically assesses program 
activities' conformance to statutory and regulatory requirements, 
program design, and professional standards or customer expectations.	 

Outcome Evaluation:	 

This form of evaluation assesses the extent to which a program 
achieves its outcome-oriented objectives. It focuses on outputs and 
outcomes (including unintended effects) to judge program effectiveness 
but may also assess program process to understand how outcomes are 

Impact Evaluation: 

Impact evaluation is a form of outcome evaluation that assesses the 
net effect of a program by comparing program outcomes with an estimate 
of what would have happened in the absence of the program. This form 
of evaluation is employed when external factors are known to influence 
the program's outcomes, in order to isolate the program's contribution 
to achievement of its objectives. 

Cost-Benefit and Cost-Effectiveness Analyses: 

These analyses compare a program's outputs or outcomes with the costs 
(resources expended) to produce them. When applied to existing 
programs, they are also considered a form of program evaluation. Cost-
effectiveness analysis assesses the cost of meeting a single goal or 
objective and can be used to identify the least costly alternative for 
meeting that goal. Cost-benefit analysis aims to identify all relevant 
costs and benefits, usually expressed in dollar terms. 

[End of document]