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Reference preliminary post Topic………Social Programs and Program Theory Evaluation of social programs is dependent on the program theory, especially when evaluating programs that are not randomized, such as Head Start. In this way, evaluators do not have to engage in a detailed program analysis to determine their impact, but can instead draw on the theory of evaluation developed in formal program evaluation methods, which provide evaluators with clear criteria that can be used to determine the impact of a program on the desired outcome. This often results in using program theory to evaluate a social program instead of evaluating the program itself (Bickman, 1996). This can be problematic, as it may lead program officers to think that the evaluation is assessing the program theory and not the program. Social programs are evaluated through direct observation, data collection and randomization, and then the program’s observed outcomes are compared to the outcomes that would have occurred if the same individuals had gone through the same treatment but without the program to see if it actually made a difference (Butterfoss, 2006). If the program did make a difference, then the social program can be said to have achieved its goals, and the evaluation was successful. If the observed outcomes were no different than the outcomes that would have occurred without the program, then it can be said that the program did not achieve its goals and has wasted time and resources, and the evaluation was unsuccessful.
For many years, theories-based approaches have in discussion on evaluation literature for a long time. For effective policymaking, strong evidence on which social programs work is paramount. Many social policies and programs were assumed to be effective but were ultimately proven not to be (Rossi et al., 2018). Impact evaluations are essential as they show the programs that are worth investing in and those that are not.
References all textbooks
Bickman, L. (1996). The application of program theory to the evaluation of a managed mental health care system. Evaluation and program planning, 19(2), 111-119.
Butterfoss, F. D. (2006). Process evaluation for community participation. Annual review of public health, 27(1), 323-340.
Rossi, P. H., Lipsey, M. W., & Henry, G. T. (2018). Evaluation: A systematic approach. Sage publications.
#1 Reply to the second post with two paragraphs No, not all evaluations are based on program theory. The purpose of an evaluation drives the type of evaluation performed (Rossi, 2018). The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues driver’s licenses for the state as a routine part of their duties. When the DMV inefficiently implemented the new legal identification requirements for boarding flights, the legislature required an evaluation of the department. At that time, the evaluation outcome was that DMV needed additional staff to process the increased workload. A follow-up evaluation revealed that the DMV did not use the additional funds to increase staff but used it to give salary increases to management. In this instance, the evaluator’s role was to increase processing of new licenses needed to be issued so citizens could provide adequate identification when boarding a flight.
Next, an evaluator used a formative evaluation to understand the steps needed to improve the efficiency of the DMV process. Working closely with management, the evaluator was able to provide the legislator with the next steps needed to assist the DMV. This was followed-up with a summative evaluation where the evaluator determined if the DMV met the expectations of the legislature with the increased funding. A department may be reluctant to suggest amendments to legislation of a program due to the commitments made to get the legislation enacted and such a close scrutiny may endanger an agreement (van Voorst, Zwaan, 2019).
#2 Reply to the second post with two paragraphs I don’t have data to back up a claim that evaluations of ALL social programs are based on program theory. ALL is a big word. Rossi makes a good case explaining the importance of program theory to understand a program’s success and/or failure. Program theory not only describes the program and the intended outcome, but it also helps to establish the target audience. “On one side of the program-target population transaction, we have the program as an organizational entity with various facilities, personnel, resources, activities, and so forth. On the other side, we have the target participants in their life space with their various circumstances and experiences in ration to the service delivery system of the program” (Rossi, 2018, pg. 65).
At the City of Santa Monica, we always try to connect our work with the City’s Strategic Goals. All of our program’s theories revolve around Strategic Goals. An example that I believe is worth discussing regarding this topic is the Wellbeing Project. “The Wellbeing Project partnered with the RAND Corporation, the New Economics Foundation, and a panel of international experts to develop the Wellbeing Index. Project leaders studied the factors that make a city thrive and the best ways to measure those factors” (Wellbeing Economy Alliance, 2022). This program was precisely established to measure overall wellbeing in the City. In order to measure wellbeing, wellbeing needed to be defined. The definition of wellbeing and the City’s expectations and values were defined in the program theory. The expected outcomes were also defined in order to keep the program in line with what some outcomes may be but understand that things need to change and progress, and the final outcome might m=not be what was initially expected. I will love to share the last results of the program, but unfortunately, Covid-19 pandemic took all the funding away.