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Return to the Rossi Award page.


2018 Rossi Award Winner

Mark W. Lipsey


We are delighted to announce that Mark W. Lipsey of Vanderbilt University has been selected to receive the 2018 Peter H. Rossi Award for Contributions to the Theory or Practice of Program Evaluation.

Professor Lipsey recently stepped down as the director of the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University, a unit devoted to research on interventions for at-risk populations. After a more than forty-year career in program evaluation, he has recently transitioned to what he calls "semi-retirement," but maintains an appointment as research professor in the Peabody College Department of Human and Organizational Development.

Professor Lipsey's research has been supported by major federal funding agencies and foundations and recognized by awards from Vanderbilt and major professional organizations. His published works include textbooks on program evaluation, meta-analysis, and statistical power as well as articles on applied methods and the effectiveness of school and community programs for youth.

Among these, he coauthored (with Peter Rossi and Howard Freeman) the 6th, 7th, and 8th editions of the program evaluation textbook, Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, the most enduring and widely used text in the field. His other publications on program evaluation methods and concepts over the years touch on issues of program theory and experimental and quasi-experimental design among others. An especially salient theme has been how to characterize the practical significance of the statistical effect size estimates generated by intervention research and the statistical power demands for detecting such practical effects in field-based evaluation studies. The earliest expression of this interest was the book, Design Sensitivity: Statistical Power for Experimental Research (1990), written for use in graduate seminars on experimental and quasi-experimental design to complement emphasis on internal validity as a key design consideration. The most recent expression is a monograph commissioned by the Institute of Education Sciences on the representation of statistical effect sizes in practical terms, written with the help of a team of doctoral students (Lipsey et al., 2012, Translating the Statistical Representation of the Effects of Education Interventions into More Readily Interpretable Forms).

Professor Lipsey's direct program evaluation research has focused on interventions for at-risk children and youth. The most recent example is the first randomized longitudinal study of a state-funded prekindergarten program, for which he is the principal investigator. (The most recent report is Lipsey, Farran, & Durkin, in press, Effects of the Tennessee Prekindergarten Program on Children's Achievement and Behavior through Third Grade.) The controversial findings of this study have generated considerable commentary and various published responses from the research team. Most of his program evaluation work, however, has involved application of meta-analysis to the results of the body of available controlled studies in selected intervention areas. This work (with colleagues) has examined substance abuse programs for adolescents, school dropout prevention, and school-based interventions for aggressive and disruptive behavior, among others.

The most extensive work of this sort has been done on treatment programs for juvenile offenders. This work began in the late 1980s, with the earliest comprehensive report appearing in 1992 (Lipsey, Juvenile Delinquency Treatment: A Meta-analytic Inquiry into the Variability of Effects), the most recent one in 2009 (Lipsey, The Primary Factors That Characterize Effective Interventions with Juvenile Offenders: A Meta-analytic Overview), with many related papers in between. This work has been recognized as one of the major influences in overturning the "nothing works" myth about rehabilitation of offenders established in the 1970s in criminology (see Cullen, 2005). As such, it follows in the footsteps of his highly cited paper on the extent to which meta-analysis was reversing the conclusions drawn from conventional research reviews about the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions (Lipsey & Wilson, 1993, The Efficacy of Psychological, Educational, and Behavioral Treatment: Confirmation from Meta-analysis).

The distinctive feature of this meta-analysis work is an emphasis on the variation in reoffense outcomes, specifically, an attempt to identify the program characteristics most strongly associated with favorable outcomes. The most recent phase of this work has focused on using those results to develop evidence-based practice guidelines and an instrument for assessing the expected effectiveness of local programs based on how well their profiles match those guidelines. This scheme is intended to better bridge between effectiveness research and effective practice, and has been, or is currently being implemented in more than ten state juvenile justice systems and one in Australia. The several associated publications have been intentionally directed toward outlets that reach juvenile justice practitioners; a recent and illustrative example is Howell, Lipsey, Wilson, & Howell, 2014 (A Practical Approach to Evidence-based Juvenile Justice Systems).

As one nominator wrote, "In sum, Mark Lipsey embodies all the best characteristics that Peter Rossi himself embodied. He is thoughtful, thorough, and creative and uses his gifts to explore issues of great importance, the findings for which then yield highly applicable practice and policy implications."

The Rossi award will be given at the 2018 APPAM Fall Research Conference on Friday, November 9, 1:30-3 p.m. The program for the presentation follows:


The Peter H. Rossi Award Symposium
Friday, November 9, 1:30-3 p.m.
Room: Lincoln 4
Moderator: Douglas J. Besharov, University of Maryland
Awardee and speaker: Mark W. Lipsey, Vanderbilt University
Commentators: Eric A. Hanushek, Stanford University; Rebecca A. Maynard, University of Pennsylvania; and Larry L. Orr, Johns Hopkins University


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