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Jack Mills on Setting Up Evaluation Contracts

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My name is Jack Mills, I’m a full-time independent evaluator. My projects are mostly in higher education, evaluating training programs in science and engineering designed to broaden participation in those fields. I also evaluate K-12 education programs designed to improve student achievement.

Hot Tip: One thing I’ve learned when setting up the contract for an evaluation project is to pay careful attention to what the project will require from the client in order to be successful. For example, program staff needs to be accessible, the program is responsible to distributing and collecting surveys, etc. I then make it very clear from the start what these dependencies are. I write the list of program staff responsibilities right into the contract. If I’m concerned about how well the evaluation project is running, I might put out a project status report every month highlighting from the project standpoint what is on track, what is in danger of falling behind and what is already behind. The status report might also remind staff of next steps in the project and upcoming milestones. Keeping the program well informed about the timeline and each person’s responsibilities should help to prevent bad surprises later on. I wish I were organized enough to put out such a status report on every project, but it does not always work out that way.

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