multiple studies and evaluations could be expected to address all of these questions. Comprehensive evaluation requires asking and answering many of these questions through various methods. Opinions differ opinions among program stakeholders (e.g., service practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and funders) about the most appropriate and useful methods for the evaluation of community programs for youth. No specific evaluation method is well suited to address every important question. And while there is tension between different approaches, the committee agrees that there are circumstances that are appropriate for the use of each of these methods. The method used depends primarily on the program’s maturity and the question being asked. It is rare to find programs that involve comprehensive evaluations, and they are probably most warranted with really mature programs that many people are interested in.

The committee concluded that studying program effectiveness should be a regular part of all programs. Also, not all programs require the most extensive comprehensive experimental evaluation outlined in this chapter. In order to generate the kind of information about community programs for youth needed to justify large-scale expenditures on programs and to further fundamental understanding of role of community programs in youth development, comprehensive experimental program evaluations should be used when:

  • the object of study is a program component that repeatedly occurs across many of the organizations currently providing community services to youth;

  • an established national organization provides the program being evaluated through many local affiliates; and

  • theoretically sound ideas for a new demonstration program or project emerge, and pilot work indicates that these ideas can be implemented in other contexts.

Such evaluations need to pay special attention to the individual- and community-level factors that influence the effectiveness of various practices and programs with particular individuals and particular communities.

The committee also discussed the need for more ongoing collaborative teams of practitioners, policy makers, and researchers/theoreticians in program design and evaluation. We conclude from case study materials on high-quality comprehensive evaluation efforts that the odds of

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