Publications & Resources

The Evolution of a Portfolio Program: The Impact and Quality of the Vermont Program in Its Second Year (1992-93)

Aug 1994

Daniel Koretz, Brian Stecher, Stephen Klein and Daniel McCaffrey

Part of an ongoing evaluation of the Vermont portfolio assessment program by RAND/CRESST researchers, this reports presents recent analyses of the reliability of Vermont portfolio scores, and the results of school principal interviews and teacher questionnaires. The message, especially from Vermont teachers, say the researchers, remains mixed. Math teachers, for example, have modified their curricula and teaching practices to emphasize problem solving and mathematical communication skills, but many feel they are doing so at the expense of other areas of the curriculum. About one-half of the teachers report that student learning has improved, but an equal number feel that there has been no change. Additionally, teachers reported great variation in the implementation of portfolios into their classroom, including the amount of assistance provided to students. “One in four teachers,” found the authors, “does not assist his or her own students in revisions, and a similar proportion does not permit students to help each other. Seventy percent of fourth-grade teachers and thirty-nine percent of eighth-grade teachers forbid parental or other outside assistance.” Consequently, students who receive more support from teachers, parents and other students, may have a significant advantage over students who receive little or no outside help. Reliability problems continue. “The degree of agreement,” wrote the authors, “among Vermont’s portfolio raters was much lower than among raters in studies with other types of constructed response measures.” The authors suggest that one cause of the low reliability was the diversity of tasks within each portfolio. Because teachers and students are free to select their own pieces, performance on the tasks is much more difficult to assess than if the work were standardized. Despite these problem areas, support for the portfolio program remains high. Teachers, for example, expressed strong support for expanding portfolios to all grade levels. Seventy percent of principals said that their schools had extended portfolio usage beyond the original Vermont state mandate.

Koretz, D., Stecher, B., Klein, S., & McCaffrey, D. (1994). The evolution of a portfolio program: The impact and quality of the Vermont program in its second year (1992-93) (CSE Report 385). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).