Principle C.7 addresses expectations concerning financial disclosures:

Principle C.7 addresses expectations concerning financial disclosures:

C.7 Evaluators should disclose all sources of financial support for an evaluation, and the source of the request for the evaluation (American Evaluation Association, 2004, Section C, Integrity/Honesty).

Several standards also reveal critical expectations for the evaluation itself in regard to the nature of reporting information, the credibility of the evaluator, and the identification of the values involved in interpreting the findings of the eval- uation and making final judgments. One such standard is the Propriety Standard P.6, on Conflicts of Interest described above. The Joint Committee defines conflict of interest in this way: “Conflict of interest exists in an evaluation when the per- sonal or financial interests of an evaluator might either influence an evaluation or be affected by the evaluation” (Joint Committee, 1994, p. 115). They note that such conflicts can be caused by “close friendships and personal working relationships” that are more common in internal evaluations and by external evaluators’ desire to gain future contracts (Joint Committee, 1994, p. 116). We will discuss interper- sonal and financial conflicts of interest later, but, first, we will focus on the stan- dards that provide direction to evaluators.

In describing elements necessary for an evaluation to attain the Accuracy Standard, the 1994 edition of the Standards specified Impartial Reporting as an important standard:

• A.11 Impartial Reporting. Reporting procedures should guard against distortion caused by personal feelings and biases of any party to the evaluation, so that evaluation reports fairly reflect the evaluation findings (Joint Committee, 1994, p. 181).

Chapter 3 • Political, Interpersonal, and Ethical Issues in Evaluation 97

The 2010 revision of the Standards continues this emphasis:

• A.8 Communication and Reporting. Evaluation communications should have adequate scope and guard against misconceptions, biases, distortions, and errors (Joint Committee, 2010).

Interestingly, the other two standards that address bias fall under the Utility Standard, reflecting how important transparency and credibility are to the ulti- mate use of the evaluation study and its results:

• U.1 Evaluator Credibility. Evaluations should be conducted by qualified people who establish and maintain credibility in the evaluation context.

• U.4 Explicit Values. Evaluations should clarify and specify the individual and cultural values underpinning purposes, processes, and judgments (Joint Committee, 2010).

Bias Introduced by Values, Views, and Culture. These principles and standards are helpful in reminding the evaluator and the client and other stakeholders of profes- sional expectations. Although the standards and principles are worded in terms of what is expected, they indirectly attest to the harm that unacknowledged values and relationships—between people or organizations—can do to the credibility and integrity of an evaluation study. Therefore, evaluators should seek to consider not only the values of stakeholders and clients, but also their personal values that in- fluence both the conduct and the outcomes of the evaluation. What are the evalu- ator’s views, values, and experiences concerning the program or others like it, its clients, the organization in which it resides, and its mission? Suppose you are called upon to evaluate the success of a school serving low-income immigrant students at achieving state academic standards. The school has failed to meet the acknowl- edged high standards for the past 3 years and is now under review. It could be closed in the following year and students could be moved to other schools. What are your views on educational standards? On high stakes testing? On the efforts of this school, its teachers, and its administrators? On the children it serves? How will your values and views affect how you conduct the evaluation? The stakeholders you include in the evaluation? The way in which you interpret the results? Your ultimate conclusions? Will you be able to report results impartially? Standards- based education and its policies to raise achievement are controversial issues in the United States. Almost everyone concerned with education has a point of view and experience with standards. It would be almost impossible to avoid having these views and experiences affect at least some of the ways in which you conduct the study and reach your conclusions. What steps would you take to attempt to reduce the impact of your views and experiences so that the evaluation is not biased and is seen as credible? Or, do you view it as fortuitous that you have been asked to conduct this evaluation, perhaps because past state or local studies on this issue have been conducted primarily by people from “the other side” (whatever that side may be), people unaware of ethical codes in evaluation who have allowed their

98 Part I • Introduction to Evaluation

views or experience to influence the work? Revealing your views might jeopardize your opportunity to conduct the study and, thus, present different points of view. What should you do?

Another example of the difficult issues one can confront when considering the bias one’s own values introduce might be helpful. You have been asked to conduct an evaluation of support groups for children who have had a parent die. You think you might be able to do an especially good job at evaluating such programs because you have personal experience with this issue. Your spouse died unex- pectedly when your children were relatively young, and they participated in grief groups for children and teenagers. You have also read quite a bit on the issue and know what helped your children. Will your views and personal experience with grief groups for children enhance your ability to conduct the evaluation or detract from it? Are you obligated to tell the client about your personal experience and views? How much of your personal experience or your children’s personal expe- rience are you obligated to reveal?

Cultural competence, or cultural incompetence, is another personal factor that influences the validity and ethicality of an evaluation. Kirkhart has discussed our own difficulty in seeing our “cultural boundedness”; yet, a good evaluation should describe “multiple cultural perspectives accurately, soundly, and appropriately” (1995, p. 3). As noted, the 2004 revision of the Guiding Principles spoke to the importance of cultural competence. We will discuss cultural competence more fully in Chapter 9, but it is essential to address the issue here as well. Cultural competence has emerged as a concern in evaluation because of the recognition of the role of one’s own values and experiences on the conduct of an evaluation. Hood notes that “[t]he evaluation community is replete with those who have limited understanding of the values that are grounded in the racial and cultural backgrounds of groups other than their own” (2000, p. 78). Many of the people served by public or nonprofit programs are people in need. They are likely to differ in many ways from the evaluator: obviously in income; possibly in race or ethnicity; perhaps in their goals and the values, beliefs, and expectations they have in regard to the program; and quite probably in how others treat and view them.

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