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The ERIC/OSEP Special Project

OSEP, Ideas that Work

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Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs


Making Alternate Portfolio Assessment A Success

Teachers can improve outcomes for students with disabilities when using portfolio assessments under statewide high-stakes accountability programs. An OSEP-funded collaborative study conducted by Harold Kleinert and colleagues at the University of Kentucky surveyed 206 special education teachers and found that student success was enhanced when teachers

  • embedded portfolio skills into their instruction
  • believed that the assessment would benefit students
  • involved students to a greater extent in the development of their own portfolios.

For these techniques to be successfully implemented, teachers must receive training to understand how to collaboratively develop alternate portfolios with their students and how to embed the skills into their instruction. The researchers suggest that this teacher training should occur "at multiple time points to help remind teachers of the important aspects of portfolio development."

The study focused on the relationship between time spent on preparation of the portfolio and students' scores; teacher effort required for different types of portfolio items; factors that best predicted scores; and aspects of the portfolio that were of most concern for teachers.

Not surprisingly, teachers felt that preparation of the portfolios was extremely time consuming and that training and support were often lacking. But the researchers found "only a minimal relation between number of teacher hours [spent on portfolios] and portfolio scores," meaning that the time a teacher put into developing the portfolio did not significantly affect student scores.

Students with disabilities have been included in statewide assessments in Kentucky for almost 10 years, and performance-based portfolio assessment has been integrated into that state's overall accountability system. Several other states are currently developing alternate assessment programs that rely on portfolios. "As the alternate assessment program develops in many states," the researchers conclude, "feedback on what teachers view as most helpful may be especially useful for coordinating effective, user-friendly alternate assessment programs."

The research in the study was supported in part by the Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education, Grant #H023F970004, Harold L. Kleinert, Project Director. The full report from the research survey can be found in Kampfer, Stephanie N., Horvath, Leah S., Kleinert, Harold L., and Kearns, Jacqueline Farmer, "Teachers' Perceptions of One State's Alternate Portfolio Assessment Program: Implications for Practice and Teacher Preparation," Exceptional Children 67(3), Spring 2001: 361-374.


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Last updated: December 11, 2001

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