Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol

SPEP ™ Information


What is the SPEP™?

The Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (“SPEP™”) is a validated, data driven rating scheme for determining how well an existing program or service 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 30 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™ Process 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 directly 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™.

Working with Dr. Lipsey and the SPEP™ for almost a decade, Dr. Gabrielle Lynn Chapman has developed training and technical assistance materials & protocols to guide SPEP™ implementation in juvenile justice systems (state and county level) across the U.S. and most recently in Australia. Experience in the field has resulted in Dr. Chapman’s identification of three operational principles that support the SPEPTM process as a driver of effective services for juvenile offenders:

1) a strong partnership between juvenile justice personnel and private service providers;
2) active education and communication about the SPEPTM, its evidence base, and utility; and
3) transparency about the obstacles, challenges, and objectives for youth services among all the participating agencies and stakeholders.

These principles serve to reinforce efforts to improve youth services and outcomes via the SPEPTM process by facilitating constructive engagement of all stakeholders in that process and cooperative efforts to move it forward.

Simply put, Drs. Lipsey and Chapman have constructed a practical way for juvenile justice system and program providers to assess and optimize their existing programs for juvenile offenders in a standardized, evidence-based, and sustainable manner. The SPEPTM is designed as a continuous assessment and improvement process for generic and brand name programs, not as a one-and-done rating scheme. 

A Word from the Developer:

Dr. Mark W. Lipsey is the Senior Fellow and former 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™.