Portfolios Plus: A Critical Guide to Alternative Assessment

Coalition teachers require multidimensional exhibitions of skills and understanding to know that students have met our standards.Coalition students need opportunities to demonstrate their learning over the course of months and years. Setting up such assessments demands time, deep connections and professional competence. We know that standardized tests provide only a limited opportunity for students to demonstrate what they know. Linda Mabry’s Portfolios Plus contextualizes these convictions, showing how performance-based assessments work and why.

While making clear her “advocacy for individualized assessment of students and for the professional judgments of the teachers who, interacting with them every day, are taken to be in the best position to recognize and assess their educational progress,” Mabry examines a range of assessment methods. Presenting the benefits and drawbacks of the spectrum of testing approaches, rationales for testing, and scoring methods. Though Mabry makes her bias evident, Portfolios Plus usefully explains the assessments of all sorts. The book includes a brief chapter on the balance of equity in various approaches, five examples of personalized assessment systems, and a concise “Portfolio Planner” meant to aide teachers in designing an assessment system.

Portfolios Plus empowers teachers both to appreciate the strength of complex assessment systems and to apprehend the limitations of standardized tests. Mabry’s analysis invaluably benefits educators and advocates in the effort to create a different vision of what constitutes high quality student work and a powerful system of accountability.

reviewed by Jill Davidson