Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol

What is the SPEP?

The Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (“SPEP”) is a validated, data driven rating scheme for determining how well an existing program matches the research evidence for the effectiveness of that particular type of intervention for reducing the recidivism of juvenile offenders. The SPEP scheme is based on a meta-analysis of over 500 studies conducted by Dr. Mark Lipsey and his colleagues over the last 20 years. These analyses have investigated the general program characteristics that are most strongly associated with reductions in the reoffense rates of the juveniles served.

The SPEP is the operationalization of this information. It allows both brand name programs (e.g., Functional Family Therapy, Aggression Replacement Training) and non-brand name generic programs or services (e.g., group therapy, social skills training) to be linked to a large body of experimental and quasi-experimental research on program effectiveness. Once linked, the SPEP can be used to compare the characteristics of specific programs as implemented to the main characteristics research shows to be associated with the effectiveness of such programs for reducing recidivism. Dr. Lipsey has found that the effects of juvenile delinquency intervention programs are mainly related to four key features: the primary service provided, the quantity of service, the quality of service delivery, and the risk level of the juveniles served. These four predictors of recidivism effects serve as the foundation of the SPEP.

Simply put, SPEP serves as a practical way for juvenile justice system and program providers to evaluate their programs for juvenile offenders in a standardized, evidence-based, and sustainable manner. The diagnostic information provided by that evaluation, in turn, can guide program improvement.

A Word from the Developer:

Dr. Mark W. Lipsey is the Director of the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University located in Nashville, TN and the developer of the SPEP. Below is a non-technical explanation of how Dr. Lipsey developed the SPEP and its key features.  This is a “must see” for all interested persons.

Below is an interview with Mr. Benjamin Chambers from the Reclaiming Futures Organization in which Dr. Lipsey gives an overview of the SPEP.

Current News

Pictured: Nicole Mattern, Tracey Davies, Jeff Gregro, Gabrielle Chapman, Heather Perry, Shawn Peck, Lisa Freese Not Pictured: Maureen Raquet

PRI recently certified its first ever group of SPEP Trainers. This group with members from the EPIS Center at Penn State and multiple Juvenile Probation Offices have implemented the SPEP in several counties across the state. Throughout the process to implement the SPEP, they successfully completed both in-service trainings as well as in-field assignments.  This certification allows them to provide training and oversight to SPEP Specialists as well as conduct all aspects of the SPEP scoring process independently. Well Done!


About PRI and SPEP:

The SPEP was developed by Dr. Mark Lipsey of the Peabody Research Institute (PRI). PRI's mission is to conduct research aimed at improving the effectiveness of programs for children, youth, and families. Using field research, program evaluation, and research synthesis (meta-analysis), our faculty and staff help determine which programs are actually making a difference in the lives of the people they serve. PRI research addresses many aspects of child and family programs, such as their implementation, costs, dissemination, and social or political support. But the main focus for all of our work is the effects of programs on children and families.


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