Capacity for Applying Project Evaluation (CAPE)
The CAPE suite of resources, tools, and professional development are provided by the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The development of the CAPE framework has been an evolving process that began in the mid 1990’s as part of the professional development, technical assistance, and resources provided by the Southeast Initiatives Regional Technology in Education Consortium (SEIR*TEC). Like other research and development organizations, SERVE has conducted numerous external evaluations for educational projects and programs conducted by state education agencies, school districts, and universities. CAPE is unique in that it focuses on helping educators learn how to plan and conduct their own evaluations so they can make judgments and interpretations about their projects and use data to make informed decisions. CAPE works to develop constituents’ abilities to plan, implement, and evaluate their own projects based on the belief that “the more we can involve program practitioners as the judges of their own programs, the more potent will be the evaluation in bringing about program improvement” (Cousins, 2005, p. 205). CAPE incorporates principles of empowerment evaluation, an “evaluation approach that aims to increase the probability of achieving program success by…providing program stakeholders with tools for assessing the planning, implementation, and self-evaluation of their program” (Wandersman, Imm, Chinman, & Kaftarian, 2000).
One of SEIR*TEC’s major priorities was to assist state education agencies in planning and evaluating federal technology grant programs, such as the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF) and the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) component of No Child Left Behind. As SEIR*TEC was helping grantees use the framework to evaluate their TLCF or EETT grants, they studied their own work with schools, trying to figure out the most effective and efficient strategies for supporting grantees as they planned and implemented their evaluations. A key finding from studying SEIR*TEC’s work is that schools and districts are better off in the long run if they not only go through the process of evaluating a specific grant project, but also develop the capacity for evaluating any project or program. Another key finding is that developing capacity requires much more thought and effort than traditional professional development, technical assistance, and resources can provide. Thus, a study of SEIR*TEC’s work with grantees has informed both the content and the processes of CAPE. Studying Practices for Increasing Capacity in Evaluation (SPICE), a two-year project designed to study the challenges and solutions of scaling up the established evaluation capacity-building effort of CAPE is supported by the Microsoft Corporation U.S. Partners in Learning (PiL) Mid-Tier program.