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Senior Associate

Dr. Cara Jackson is an evaluation expert with decades of experience designing and managing evaluations of education programs. She has extensive experience with a broad range of evaluation approaches, including quasi-experimental designs, qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods, and systematic evidence reviews. Jackson is a former pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher, and her work builds on that experience. It has included evaluations of teacher preparation programs, charter school program replication and expansion grants, and a variety of district-level educational programs. She also has developed a framework for democratizing the development of evidence to incorporate a greater variety of perspectives in evaluation. Jackson is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles on a range of topics, including a historical writing intervention and performance pay for educators. She has co-edited two books, one on teacher preparation program design and outcomes and another on assessment education. She has delivered over 50 conference presentations and invited talks in both academic and practice settings and has appeared on numerous podcasts. She currently serves as the president of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, on the board of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, and on the Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research Policymakers Council.

Jackson is the study lead for the National Evaluation of the Comprehensive Centers, overseeing a team that has conducted 30 interviews, surveyed nearly 200 educational agency staff, and coded over 200 project plans for a report to Congress. She also serves as the co-lead of dissemination for the Prevention Services Clearinghouse, providing quality assurance for over 50 program descriptions, facilitating numerous advisory group sessions, and co-authoring multiple fact sheets. As principal investigator of the New Orleans Supporting Effective Educators Development grant, Jackson leads the development of data collection instruments and has led the development of deliverables summarizing site visits and survey findings. She is also the co-facilitator of a practitioner working group under the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), leading the development of materials, facilitating, and summarizing takeaways from each meeting.

Before coming to Abt, Jackson was an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, where she co-authored policy briefs synthesizing evidence for educator workforce issues for the National Comprehensive Center and conducted analyses of student achievement and survey data for evaluations of charter school networks. As an evaluation specialist for the Montgomery County (MD) public schools, she collected and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data for evaluations of educational programs and wrote evaluation plans to obtain grants. She also made presentations on methods and findings and provided technical assistance to support continuous improvement efforts. Before that, as a Strategic Data Project fellow and assistant director for research and evaluation at Urban Teachers, where she oversaw the refinement and implementation of a multiple-measure teacher evaluation model and assessed the reliability and validity of teacher observation rubric and selection metrics. At the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Jackson conducted research related to the No Child Left Behind Act and designed and implemented surveys for school principals regarding school improvement efforts.


  • Impact and implementation evaluation design and analysis
  • Evidence use
  • What Works Clearinghouse standards
  • Evidence reviews
  • Evaluation capacity building

Key Projects:

  • Study Design and Evaluation of Federal Technical Assistance: Regional Educational Laboratories and Comprehensive Centers, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education
  • Prevention Services Clearinghouse, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families
  • NOLA Supporting Effective Educators Development grant, New Schools for New Orleans
  • What Works Clearinghouse—Tools, Online Assistance, Standards, and Training (WWC-TOAST), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education


  • Jackson, C. (2022). Democratizing the Development of Evidence. Educational Researcher, 51(3), 209-215. Retrieved from
  • Jackson, C., Wilson, S. J., & Glenn, M. (2022). The Review Process: Navigating Timeline Challenges, OPRE Report 2022-103, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Wissinger, D. R., De La Paz, S., & Jackson, C. (2021). The Effects of Historical Reading and Writing Strategy Instruction With Fourth- Through Sixth-Grade Students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 113(1), 49–67. Retrieved from
  • Carinci, J., Meyer, S. & Jackson, C., eds. (2020). Linking Teacher Preparation Program Design and Implementation to Outcomes for Teachers and Students. IAP Book Series.
  • Tarasawa, B., Gotwals, A.W., & Jackson, C., eds. (2020). Assessment Education: Bridging Research, Theory, and Practice to Promote Equity and Student Learning. Rowman & Littlefield.
Cara Jackson