Dr. Nancy Jones is a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy. In this interview, conducted by email, she tells us about her work as a school district administrator in Southern California with a focus on working with teachers to make the most of assessment data.
Nancy has been on the TATIL Advisory Board since the beginning. Her experience with schools and assessment has been invaluable.
Question: Please tell us a bit about your work with the Encinitas Union School District.
Nancy: During my 40+ years with the Encinitas Union School District I served in the positions of teacher, principal, and administrator/director of support services. My work at the district office level focused on data & assessment, state and federal special programs and resource development. I assisted teachers in transitioning to the new California digital assessments; trained them on utilizing data to inform their goal setting, instruction, and progress analysis; and provided instruction on assessment development. California adopted the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, which includes computer adaptive summative assessments, practice tests and interim assessments requiring teacher training for successful implementation. My role also involved assisting teachers to understand the power of using assessment data to address group and individual student growth and adapt their instruction to increase student progress. As data-driven decision-making has become a critical component to teacher effectiveness, I focused additional teacher training on assessment development using a high quality item bank selected by the district. Assessment data were also used to establish need in the grant proposals I wrote for the district.
Q: What are you currently working on?
Nancy: As a retired educator, I have found that my education and experiences have been very useful in my new focus on community involvement. I am currently a member of the Community Advisory Board for the Altman Clinical and Transitional Research Institute (ACTRI) at the University of California, San Diego. The ACTRI is part of a national consortium created to accelerate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients. Responsibilities of the Board include advocating on behalf of the general public on issues related to clinical research; recommending changes to clinical trials research strategies; and assisting with access to specific communities that are not adequately represented in outreach, UCSD research, or other CTRI resources. To increase my value to the Board I have volunteered with senior organizations and school enrichment programs. In addition, I am participating in higher education workshops and presentations to remain current on policy, research and national/global issues.
Q: What are your thoughts about the role and effectiveness of schools in preparing students for college?
Nancy: Along with many of my colleagues and contemporaries, I support the recommendations of The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21), a coalition of business, education, and government leaders, who have identified essential 21st Century Learning and Innovation Skills (collaboration and teamwork. creativity and imagination. critical thinking & problem solving) and Digital Literacy Skills (information literacy, media literacy, and information & communication technologies literacy). Schools that address these skills with measurable goals using pre and post-test data to assess student success are in the best position of preparing students for both college and the workforce. I believe teacher training to develop and implement curriculum that focuses on Learning and Innovation Skills and Digital Literacy creates the most effective environment for long-term student achievement. This involves pre-service training for teachers, school supported teacher collaboration and district supported on-going coaching and professional development.
Q: You have worked a lot with assessments and assessment reports. How do assessments benefit schools and students? What drawbacks are there to assessments?
Nancy: Successful utilization of assessments include:
- Identifying individual and group strengths/needs
- Determining the best placement of limited resources to address identified needs
- Developing educational plans/student goals to maximize learning
- Identifying effective learning strategies and measuring results of instructional techniques = Demystifying learning
- Communicating student growth to parents
- Assisting students in taking responsibility for their learning and progress
- Providing data that can be used to develop successful grant proposals and requests from foundations and community/parent donors
- Complexities of understanding & interpreting data
- Teachers, administrators and parents frequently struggle with what assessments can and cannot tell them
- Data are frequently misused in an effort to use them to measure areas that they were not designed to address
- Difficulties of assessment development
- Majority of teachers have not received in-depth training required for writing effective questions or designing appropriate assessments
- Majority of teachers lack an understanding of developing or using rubrics for authentic/performance assessments
- Development is frequently time consuming for teachers
- Assessment norming involves a significant amount of time, implementation and experience
Q: In your experience as a school administrator, was information literacy an important or visible component of students’ educational experience?
Nancy: My school district was an early adopter of the 1-to-1 digital tool program. Implementation focused on teacher training and appropriate district support. One of the major support components was to hire a Director of Literacies, Outreach and Library Services. This investment helped the district to ensure that the California Information Literacy Standards (Students access information, Students evaluate information, Students use information & Students integrate information) were embedded throughout the curriculum.
One goal of today’s educators is to model lifelong learning and produce lifelong learners. Information literacy is a major component of reaching this goal. Students are being instructed on how to access and assess quality resources and produce multi-media reports that will make them competitive in a world where effective communication skills are essential. Teachers are increasingly confronting issues with plagiarism as student access to digital resources makes cut and pasting information a threat to copyright laws, originality and critical thinking. Students are also encountering massive amounts of information that they must be trained to evaluate to ensure we have a population of informed consumers of knowledge.
Q: Why did you join the TATIL Advisory Board?
Nancy: It was an honor to be asked to join the TATIL Advisory Board. I am extremely impressed with the leadership who is focused on providing an assessment tool with excellent data reports developed using essential components of a high quality test. The members of the Board are highly respected educators with varied educational backgrounds and experiences. Working with this team of dedicated, committed professionals has been extremely rewarding. The Board has worked collaboratively on writing and evaluating the assessment questions along with other contributors. It has been a very hands-on experience resulting in an exceptional product that meets a critical need for students, professors and administrators to evaluate information literacy strengths and areas in need of improvement.
Thank you, Nancy!