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Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) 

Dr. Mark Lipsey of the Peabody Institute at Vanderbilt University conducted a groundbreaking meta-analysis of the characteristics of effective delinquency interventions, with the goal of providing a solid foundation for improving delinquency programs and services.  Based on his analysis of approximately 700 controlled studies of interventions with juvenile offenders, Lipsey developed the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP).  The SPEP is a validated, data-driven rating system for determining how well a program matches what research tells us is effective for that particular type of program in reducing the recidivism of juvenile offenders.

More specifically, the SPEP creates a metric by assigning points to programs according to how closely their characteristics match those associated with similar programs shown, in research studies, to have the best recidivism outcomes.

The body of research on programs for juvenile offenders indicates that several general characteristics are most strongly related to their effects on juvenile delinquency: 
  • The type of program
  • The service quantity or dosage
  • The risk levels of the youth served by the program
  • The quality with which the program is implemented. 

Lipsey’s work provides specific research-based profiles of program characteristics that can be used both as best practice standards against which to evaluate juvenile justice programs and as roadmaps for improving the programs. The more closely programs resemble those that research has shown to be effective, the more points they receive.  To understand the scoring mechanism of the SPEP we have provided a document that provides greater detail and will enable users to clearly interpret the significance of the SPEP scores rather than see any individual score as the assignment of a pass/fail designation to a program.  At the end of the document is a link to access individual community-based and residential program SPEP scores.  To learn more about the SPEP scoring mechanism and see the actual scores, please click on the link provided on the right titled "SPEP Score Interpretation and SPEP Scores".