Evaluating the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Program

The Challenge 

The Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Program is the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) premier investment in K-12 education. SEPA projects create partnerships among biomedical and clinical researchers and K-12 teachers and schools, museums and science centers, media experts, and other educational organizations.

NIH has selected Westat to examine the extent to which 156 SEPA grants awarded between 2004-14 are aligned with the program’s goals related to project structure, partnership formation, and evaluation quality. 

Westat’s evaluation will document the extent to which SEPA

  • Provides a pathway for translating medical and biomedical advancements into practice
  • Advances knowledge about effective strategies for attracting and preparing underrepresented groups for biomedical and related careers

Assessing the program is challenging given the diversity of its investments and the variety of targets and audiences addressed.


Our Solutions 

  • Westat is conducting a 30-month process evaluation of 156 SEPA projects and is focused on the extent to which the portfolio of projects contributed to development of partnerships. 
  • Our approach relies on 5 interrelated data collection strategies:
    • Document review
    • Semi-structured interviews with NIH leadership and staff involved in SEPA
    • Online Principal Investigator and Partner surveys
    • Review of completed evaluations
    • Case studies of a subset of projects to address the questions guiding the evaluation 

The Results 

  • Results from the evaluation will help understand how the SEPA program functions at both the program and awardee levels and how the program is contributing to NIH’s overall goals of diversity in the workforce and public health literacy. 

Our Client 

National Institutes of Health (NIH)