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Program Evaluation: Why, What, and When to Evaluate

Program evaluations are systematic studies conducted periodically or on an ad hoc basis to assess program performance. As tools to support good management practice, they help managers determine if timely adjustments are needed in program design to improve the rate or quality of achievement relative to the committed resources. Evaluations also help the EERE offices quantify program impacts.

Why Perform Evaluations? | What and When to Evaluate?

Why Perform Evaluations?

Program management is linked to measuring and demonstrating results. Thus there is strong emphasis on good management practice. Good management practice includes the critical action by the program manager to decide, preferably on his/her own initiative, to perform evaluations; followed by use of the findings/results. Ideally programs should gather evaluation information as a matter of routine management practice because evaluation is a tool that can help programs achieve management excellence. Evaluation does this by serving two critical purposes – program improvement and accountability. Many evaluations will be designed to serve both of these purposes.

Programs that perform evaluation activities out of a desire to promote continuous improvement are motivated by the need for timely information to inform decisions and will automatically be able to answer calls for "public accountability" by Congress and stakeholders.

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What and When to Evaluate?

What and when to evaluate program performance depends on several interrelated considerations, such as:

Ideally, an overall program-wide evaluation strategy and plan should be developed to map out planned evaluation activity over a multi-year time frame, so information produced:

What to Evaluate

There is no hard and fast rule on what programs or program areas should be evaluated. Here are some circumstances that may suggest your program is in need an evaluation:

When to Evaluate

Deciding on when to evaluate program performance takes into account the interrelated considerations described above (i.e., stage in program life cycle, timing of program's decisions and evaluation requirements). Generally speaking, selected program activities or the entire program should have some evaluation performed over a time period ranging from annually to every two or three years.

Currently, EERE's internal requirements for when to conduct evaluations include the following:

See Recommended Type of Program Evaluation by Program Life Cycle Stage on Program Life Cycle.

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Content Last Updated: 02/06/2013