Jobs for the Future’s Adult Completion Policy Project Internal Evaluation Strategy

By Patricia Steele
HigherEd Insight

Jobs for the Future (JFF), with funds from Lumina Foundation’s Adult Degree Completion Initiative, is implementing the four-year Adult Completion Policy Project (ACPP), an initiative that brings together networks of stakeholders to develop and implement state policies to increase completion for adult students in community college occupational or technical programs.

ACPP is currently operating in Michigan, Kansas, and Kentucky. Each state has chosen a somewhat different approach to the project, with Kansas focusing on credit for prior learning, Michigan on supporting individual institutions that are developing comprehensive career pathways for adult learners, and Kentucky on transitioning students in workforce training programs into for-credit college courses.

ACPP includes multiple states, each with their own foci, policies, and players, making for a complex evaluation. To capture project participants’ unique contexts and lessons, JFF developed a framework, evaluation strategy, and tools that are broad enough to let each site tell its own story yet provide insight into the overall questions JFF wants to answer through evaluation. 

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Choosing an internal evaluation.  JFF decided to conduct an internal evaluation instead of hiring an external evaluator for two key reasons:

  • JFF has internal evaluation capacity because it has an on-staff evaluator. 
  • Because the project includes multiple states, ACPP did not have resources to support a full-scale external evaluation. 

Building a road map for evaluation.  JFF formulated two key questions to guide its internal ACPP evaluation:

  • Did enrollment, as well as degree and credential attainment rates, among adults with prior college credit increase during the period of the initiative?
  • To what extent did participating states succeed in implementing policies that support and improve degree and credential attainment rates for adults with prior college credit?

To keep their evaluation focused, ACPP also developed an evaluation framework that addresses participating states’ recruitment efforts, intake procedures, course delivery, and student outcomes.

Designing evaluation tools. Based on the evaluation framework, ACPP staff designed three tools to monitor participating states’ progress:

  • States complete a twice-yearly report on student enrollment and attainment as well as on their policy-related activities, successes, and challenges;
  • States do a twice-yearly state self‐assessment report on their progress toward fully implementing the ACPP-related policies they have chosen to pursue;
  • JFF conducts annual interviews, including site visits, to each state, focusing on each state’s major areas of policy change and their impact on degree attainment, local factors affecting each state’s policy work, and outcomes of ACPP participation.

ACPP staff also participates in monthly calls with grantees to find out how and what they are doing and to provide technical assistance.  In addition, staff reviews relevant reports and documents generated by state teams during the evaluation period.

Advantages of internal evaluation.  ACPP staff found internal evaluation works well for the project.

  • Having an internal JFF evaluator on the team helps ensure that evaluation is an ongoing, integral part of the project, which helps the team to know about and respond quickly to ongoing successes and issues within the project. 
  • The JFF evaluator works on many JFF projects and brings lessons learned from those efforts to ACPP (and from ACPP to the other projects).

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Is your organization conducting an internal evaluation?  What is working well? What lessons have you learned?


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