Arizona Judicial Branch

AZ Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP)

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), Juvenile Justice Services Division (JJSD), funds family counseling programs and treatment services for court-involved youth through General State Funds appropriated by the Arizona Legislature. To help determine whether these programs reduce recidivism, JJSD piloted the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) in 2006.

The SPEP is an evaluation tool designed to assess how closely juvenile justice treatment programs match features found to be associated with reducing recidivism. Using a research technique known as a meta-analysis, Dr. Lipsey examined nearly 600 controlled studies on interventions with juvenile delinquents. The analysis identified primary service type, supplemental services, amount of service, quality of implementation, and percentage of youth in the program who are a high risk to recidivate as factors that influence program effectiveness in creating positive youth outcomes. These features were then translated into the SPEP evaluation matrix. Evaluation scores received through the SPEP matrix also serve as a road map for program improvement. After each evaluation, treatment providers are given a Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The PIP outlines items providers can address to improve their program and increase their future SPEP score.

Implementation of the SPEP was accomplished through a partnership with a team of experts lead by Dr. Mark Lipsey, Professor and Former Director of the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University. Community treatment providers were evaluated with the tool in 2006 and 2008. Utilization of the SPEP continues to be an ongoing endeavor for Arizona. More information on the SPEP and Arizona's involvement can be found on Vanderbilt University's website (

Current SPEP Advisors:

Dr. Mark W. Lipsey
Professor, Peabody Research Institute

Dr. Gabrielle Lynn Chapman
Research Associate, Peabody Research Institute
Phone: (615) 322-6024

Peabody Research Institute
Vanderbilt University
230 Appleton Place, PMB 181
Nashville, TN 37203-5721

For further information regarding SPEP, please contact the following AOC staff:
  SPEP Research & Data   Deborah D. Kurth, PhD    (602) 452-3537   
  SPEP Treatment & Contracts   Holli Sanger-Alarco   (602) 452-3246  

Prior research related to SPEP can be found on our Research and Information page.