Five-Tiered Approach to Evaluation

See also: Five-Tiered Approach to Parent Education Chart


Originally described in:

Jacobs, F. (1988). The five-tiered approach to evaluation: Context and implementation. In H. Weiss & F. Jacobs (Eds.). Evaluating family programs (pp. 37-68). Hawthorne, NY: Aldine deGruyter.

More recently described in:

Jacobs, F., & Kapuscik, J. (2000). Making it count: Evaluating family preservation services. Medford, MA: Family Preservation Evaluation Project, Department of Child Development, Tufts University.

Jacobs, F. (2003). Child and family program evaluation: Learning to enjoy complexity. Applied Developmental Science, 7(2), 62-75.

Description of the five-tiered approach to evaluation from Francine Jacobs in the 2003 publication listed above:

“The Five-Tiered Approach (FTA) organizes evaluation activities at five levels, moving from generating descriptive and process-oriented information at the earlier stages (Tier1: needs assessment; Tier 2: monitoring and accountability; and Tier 3: quality review and program clarification) to determining the effects of programs later on (Tier 4: achieving outcomes and Tier 5: establishing impact). The tiers are structured for consecutive use, at least on the first “go through”; a program would need the information gathered at an earlier tier to do a good job of evaluation at the next.” (Jacobs, 2003, p. 67)

Characteristics of the FTA:

  1. It uses a broad and inclusive definition of evaluation, considering needs assessment, implementation study, monitoring activities, and outcome-based accountability all as legitimately within its purview.
  2. It is incremental, developmental, and systemic in nature, assuming that both the programs themselves and their investments in evaluation will change over time
  3. It recognizes a range of purposes for engaging in evaluations, acknowledging different needs at different times in a program’s evolution.
  4. It supports a “many chefs, few diners” orientation to evaluation design, placing program participants at the core of the planning process.

    (Adapted from Jacobs, 2003, p. 67)

The basic premises of this graduated model are simple:

  1. Programs vary widely by age, size, stage of development, and access to a range of resources.
  2. Evaluation capacities and interests are not static.
  3. All programs should be engaged in evaluation activities.
  4. Ultimately programs must be prepared to measure effects.” (Jacobs, 2003, p. 67)