Assessment Education Perspectives

Cara Jackson – Task Force Member Spotlight

Our ongoing Task Force Member Spotlight blog series has shined the light on member backgrounds and why they are participating in the National Task Force on Assessment Education. The Task Force was launched in October of 2015 and has over twenty members committed to being a collective voice and transforming force that elevates the national dialogue on assessment education, develops innovative approaches and advances existing best practices in assessment.

In this post we’ll highlight Cara Jackson. Cara is the chair of the Task Force Research Work Group, leading efforts to contribute to the research base on assessment literacy. Cara recently joined the Program Evaluation Unit in the Office of Shared Accountability at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland. In this role, Cara plans and conducts evaluations on a variety of initiatives, such as summer learning programs, community schools, and Common Core-aligned instructional materials, to support continuous improvement in MCPS schools.

Prior to her current role, Cara conducted research and evaluation at Urban Teachers as a Strategic Data Fellow through the Center for Education Policy Research. As part of a team evaluating a Teacher Incentive Fund, Cara led the design and analysis of teacher and administrator surveys, oversaw collection of qualitative data at one of three case study sites, and analyzed fiscal data. Prior to her doctoral work, Cara worked on education-related research including studies of the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act at the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Why did you agree to join the Task Force?  The Task Force sounded like a great opportunity to collaborate with others who are interested in the use of assessment data for learning. I was also interested in opportunities to develop and implement a national agenda on assessment education and to contribute to publications and policy formation.

How might you use your learning and time with the Task Force to impact your current work over the next 12 months?  I’d love to learn more about ongoing research being conducted on how to best prepare teachers to understand and make use of assessment data, how teachers are using data in the classroom, and what supports would enable educators to use data more effectively.  I am interested in developing webinars and sessions for pre-service and in-service teachers that build on lessons from research on how to best make use of MAP and other data sources. My colleagues conducted a study linking MAP and PARCC scores in MCPS, and noted that these results may provide school administrators and teachers with guidance for instructional planning. I’m hopeful that the Task Force will identify resources to support educators in using such assessments to enhance students’ learning opportunities.

Have you had success in improving assessment education for teachers, either Pre- or In- Service, in your work? If yes, please tell us a bit about the work and the results.  Over the past year, I’ve developed sessions to help educators use NWEA data to inform instruction. But just looking at the data, and understanding it, isn’t the same as using it, so in this coming year, I’m hoping we can develop mechanisms to support actual use of data to inform instruction.

Watch for our next Member Spotlight!