Ensuring Quality

Each year, people and organizations spend trillions of dollars on programs designed to improve knowledge and performance, transform systems, and more. How can we be sure that those programs are efficient and effective? How can we improve them and hold them accountable for results?

To provide guidance, the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE) developed 30 program evaluation standards that support the core attributes of evaluation quality: utility, feasibility, propriety, accuracy and accountability. They address the possible dimensions of quality in program evaluations, and provide guidance to evaluators and evaluation users.

The Program Evaluation Standards

The utility standards are intended to increase the extent to which program stakeholders find evaluation processes and products valuable in meeting their needs.

U1 Evaluator Credibility: Evaluations should be conducted by qualified people who establish and maintain credibility in the evaluation context.

U2 Attention to Stakeholders: Evaluations should devote attention to the full range of individuals and groups invested in the program and affected by its evaluation.

U3 Negotiated Purposes: Evaluation purposes should be identified and continually negotiated based on the needs of stakeholders.

U4 Explicit Values: Evaluations should clarify and specify the individual and cultural values underpinning purposes, processes and judgments.

U5 Relevant Information: Evaluation information should serve the identified and emergent needs of stakeholders.

U6 Meaningful Processes and Products: Evaluations should construct activities, descriptions and judgments in ways that encourage participants to rediscover, reinterpret, or revise their understandings and behaviors.

U7 Timely and Appropriate Communicating and Reporting: Evaluations should attend to the continuing information needs of their multiple audiences.

U8 Concern for Consequences and Influence: Evaluations should promote responsible and adaptive use while guarding against unintended negative consequences and misuse.

The feasibility standards are intended to increase evaluation effectiveness and efficiency.

F1 Project Management: Evaluations should use effective project management strategies.

F2 Practical Procedures: Evaluation procedures should be practical and responsive to the way the program operates.

F3 Contextual Viability: Evaluations should recognize, monitor and balance the cultural and political interests and needs of individuals and groups.

F4 Resource Use: Evaluations should use resources effectively and efficiently.

The propriety standards support what is proper, fair, legal, right and just in evaluations.

P1 Responsive and Inclusive Orientation: Evaluations should be responsive to stakeholders and their communities.

P2 Formal Agreements: Evaluation agreements should be negotiated to make obligations explicit and take into account the needs, expectations and cultural contexts of clients and other stakeholders.

P3 Human Rights and Respect: Evaluations should be designed and conducted to protect human and legal rights and maintain the dignity of participants and other stakeholders.

P4 Clarity and Fairness: Evaluations should be understandable and fair in addressing stakeholder needs and purposes.

P5 Transparency and Disclosure: Evaluations should provide complete descriptions of findings, limitations and conclusions to all stakeholders, unless doing so would violate legal and propriety obligations.

P6 Conflicts of Interests: Evaluations should openly and honestly identify and address real or perceived conflicts of interests that may compromise the evaluation.

P7 Fiscal Responsibility: Evaluations should account for all expended resources and comply with sound fiscal procedures and processes.

The accuracy standards are intended to increase the dependability and truthfulness of evaluation representations, propositions and findings, especially those that support interpretations and judgments about quality.

A1 Justified Conclusions and Decisions: Evaluation conclusions and decisions should be explicitly justified in the cultures and contexts where they have consequences.

A2 Valid Information: Evaluation information should serve the intended purposes and support valid interpretations.

A3 Reliable Information: Evaluation procedures should yield sufficiently dependable and consistent information for the intended uses.

A4 Explicit Program and Context Descriptions: Evaluations should document programs and their contexts with appropriate detail and scope for the evaluation purposes.

A5 Information Management: Evaluations should employ systematic information collection, review, verification and storage methods.

A6 Sound Designs and Analyses: Evaluations should employ technically adequate designs and analyses that are appropriate for the evaluation purposes.

A7 Explicit Evaluation Reasoning: Evaluation reasoning leading from information and analyses to findings, interpretations, conclusions and judgments should be clearly and completely documented.

A8 Communication and Reporting: Evaluation communications should have adequate scope and guard against misconceptions, biases, distortions and errors.

The evaluation accountability standards encourage adequate documentation of evaluations and a metaevaluative perspective focused on improvement and accountability for evaluation processes and products.

E1 Evaluation Documentation: Evaluations should fully document their negotiated purposes and implemented designs, procedures, data and outcomes.

E2 Internal Metaevaluation: Evaluators should use these and other applicable standards to examine the accountability of the evaluation design, procedures employed, information collected and outcomes.

E3 External Metaevaluation: Program evaluation sponsors, clients, evaluators and other stakeholders should encourage the conduct of external metaevaluations using these and other applicable standards.

A Guide for Evaluators and Evaluation Users 

For a more in-depth look at the conceptual and practical foundations of these standards and their applications, the JCSEE strongly encourages all evaluators and evaluation users to read the followingavailable for purchase online

Yarbrough, D. B., Shulha, L. M., Hopson, R. K., and Caruthers, F. A. (2011). The Program Evaluation Standards: A Guide for Evaluators and Evaluation Users (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Note: The standard names and statements as reproduced above are under copyright to the JCSEE and are approved as an American National Standard. Permission is freely given for stakeholders to use them for educational and scholarly purposes with attribution to the JCSEE. Authors wishing to reproduce the standard names and standard statements with attribution to the JCSEE must contact JCSEE for permission.