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PE Standards Week: Relevance and Applicability of the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE) Standards on Program Evaluation by Art Hernandez

Hi, I’m Art Hernandez, a professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, a practicing evaluator, and a member of AEA since 2006. I’m currently thinking about ideas related to Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE), the applications of Community Based and Participatory Research/Evaluation (CBPR) methodologies to advance social justice, and how the principles identified in the JCSEE Program Evaluation Standards apply to evaluation practice today.

Lessons Learned

The JCSEE (Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation) standards represent a cornerstone in ethical and effective evaluation practice. Crafted through a collaborative effort of a joint committee from leading professional associations, these standards serve as a guiding framework for evaluators, evaluation users, and evaluation sponsors. The formulation of these standards was a comprehensive process involving a meticulous review of literature and a series of formal and informal “town hall” meetings to gather diverse insights.

At the heart of these standards lies five foundational principles. First, the Utility Standards ensure that evaluations provide valuable information. Next, the Feasibility Standards emphasize realistic, prudent, and efficient approaches to evaluation. The Propriety Standards underscore the importance of conducting evaluations legally, ethically, and with a deep respect for the well-being of stakeholders. Accuracy Standards are pivotal, demanding the provision of reliable and technically sound information to support valid conclusions. Finally, Accountability Standards insist on thoroughly documenting evaluations and their outcomes.  Within these five categories are 30 detailed individual standards covering practices such as stakeholder identification, contextual awareness, complete and fair assessment, transparent reporting, and more.  

The standards are founded on principle and philosophy rather than directions for practice. This approach ensures that evaluations are not only systematic, competent, and ethical but also transparent, realistic, diplomatic, and meaningful. They are designed to facilitate informed decision-making and foster improvements. Despite their original publication date, these standards remain highly relevant in contemporary contexts, as evidenced by a recent special issue of the Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation.

Adherence to the JCSEE standards enables evaluators to conduct authentic, equitable, and useful evaluations that honor values, build capacity, account for cultural context, and provide balanced insights to guide data-informed decision-making. The standards demand transparency, inclusion, and fairness at all stages. This careful attention to ethical evaluation processes allows for more meaningful and actionable findings that can be responsibly used towards positive, constructive ends. As the American Evaluation Association statements on cultural competence and evaluator competencies make clear, while the JCSEE standards provide necessary scaffolding, evaluation skills and cultural responsiveness must still be developed intentionally. As the standards establish expectations for ethical and technically sound activities, evaluators must integrate the essence of these standards while continuously working to enhance their profession. Furthermore, although statements of principle are enduring, their application involves constantly incorporating advances in evaluation theory and inquiry technology (e.g., Artificial Intelligence). Finally, following and advocating for the adoption of JCSEE standards promotes the development of the evaluator’s professional identity, consistency in evaluation, and the creation of evaluations that serve social justice and benefit all.

Rad Resources

This week, we’re diving the Program Evaluation Standards. Articles will (re)introduce you to the Standards and the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE), the organization responsible for developing, reviewing, and approving evaluation standards in North America. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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