Without a TV in my home, I haven’t been privy to the awesomeness that is Rachel Maddow until last night, in my hotel room in Little Rock. She was speaking with Richard Holbrooke, US special rep for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Maddow had recently visited Afghanistan to report on the front there, so of course, the topic of the interview was the ongoing war. Why am I blogging about war in the context of evaluation?

Maddow tells Holbrooke about the police forces she saw in Afghanistan, where, in January of THIS YEAR, they were exiting marksmen classes with a 30-35 percent accuracy rate. Then the US worked out some magical intervention that, after only a few months, rose the exit accuracy rates to 95 percent. Our allied forces are now much better at killing people. Whew.

But the clincher was when Maddow, only half-rhetorically, asks her guest: What the hell have we been doing there for the last eight years???

How did was the situation allowed to go so long with such poor performance, at the expense of thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer dollars? Well?

A lack of evaluation got us there, of course. It was the simple fact that no one took the care to collect and/or use data on the accuracy of marksmen skills.

But much like any social service intervention that promises a lot and shows early signs of success, we still have work to do. A single posttest is necessary but insufficient. Continued evaluation will be needed to demonstrate that the skill levels have been maintained two months, six months, one year down the road. The story is not yet complete, Ms. Maddow. Keep asking the hard questions.

To view part of the interview: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/

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