Why Evaluate Programs?
Early childhood programs that serve the needs of the public face continual changes brought on by social, political, and economic forces as well as a global health crisis. To navigate these changes, and to improve services and outcomes for children, state organizations may seek to evaluate their programs. Listed below are four common reasons state leaders seek to evaluate state programs:
- Assessment of merit and worth to review a program’s merit and value to society so that funders, policymakers, and communities know what it does and how it benefits participants
- Program and organizational improvement to enhance the organization and its services through continuous quality improvement by identifying weaknesses as well as strengths
- Oversight and compliance to ensure a program follows mandates and is faithful to the intervention model
- Field knowledge and development to build knowledge and expertise about what does and does not work for the benefit of the field and future programs
Despite these important purposes and benefits, program leaders and staff may be hesitant to evaluate their programs. Their reluctance can be related to costs of evaluation, their past experiences with evaluation, or insufficient understanding of the evaluation process. In addition, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) health emergency highlighted the important role that early childhood programs play in supporting children, families, businesses, and the economy. Moreover, the unprecedented increase of COVID-19 funding for state and territory early childhood programs illustrates the need for robust data systems, monitoring and evaluation, and accountability for investments. This can help ensure increased access to high-quality child care for all children and families.
 Mark, M. M., Henry, G. T., & Julnes, G. (2000). Evaluation: An integrated framework for understanding, guiding, and improving policies and programs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.