Program Evaluation: Ask these questions


The NCSC problem-solving court experts include practitioners and researchers with experience in all problem-solving court models.

Services we provide

Performance measurement for PSCs

Q&A: What type of evaluation is right for your court? 

The NCSC offers a wide range of evaluation services catered to the individual needs of the client. The NCSC experts work closely with clients to determine which type(s) of service(s) will best meet their needs. The questions below provide insight into each type of evaluation.

Is my program prepared for an evaluation?
An evaluability assessment is designed to answer this question.  A comprehensive evaluation can be expensive and not all programs/policies are prepared for such a complex undertaking. An evaluability assessment determines a program/policy’s readiness for evaluation and makes suggestions to prepare it for evaluation. Considerations include the age of the program, quality of data, availability of data and viability of the program.

Was my program implemented in the way that I intended?
An implementation or process evaluation is designed to answer this and other key questions about who is being served and how the program is operating in accordance with best practices.  Program processes are studied and a logic model of the program’s operating theory is constructed.  Participants are profiled and compared to intended target population.  Services provided are compared to participants’ assessed needs.

Is my program effective?
An outcome/impact evaluation is designed to answer questions of effectiveness, and other questions such as “Is my program producing the short-term and long-term impacts on participants that I intended?” Outcomes are short-term impacts and include considerations such as drug testing results, in-program recidivism and treatment dosages. Long-term impacts include post-program recidivism and employment.  Outcome/impact analyses determine whether the program (or something else, such as a change in policy or law) is responsible for the outcomes/impacts observed and typically require a valid comparison group.

When program costs are compared to monetized benefits (e.g., reduced recidivism, reduced jail time), do benefits exceed costs?
A cost-benefit analysis answers the above question and other questions such as “Is my program operating efficiently?” Cost-benefit analyses are based, in part, on the results of the outcome/impact evaluation. Calculating costs and benefits comprehensively requires specialized skills.