Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why portfolios matter

"A writing assignment orders your thinking."

Representative and Former Speaker Jody Richards, ninety seconds ago, and so right!


  1. Rep. Jody Richards is right on target. I appreciate his voice of reason in this debate on the future of assessment & accountability in KY. Our expectations for students as reflected in our system for assessemnt and accountability will largely determine what happens when the door of the classroom is closed each day.

  2. Susan,

    I don’t think anyone disputes the value of writing. You and I both use it constantly.

    The issue is whether our teachers will continue to teach writing, or might even teach it better, if we pull Writing Portfolios out of CATS.

    So far, I would argue that the combined evidence from extensive teacher complaints about awkward CATS Writing Portfolio scoring rules coupled with Kentucky’s marginal performance on the 2007 NAEP 8th grade writing assessment indicate it is worthwhile to try something else (Don’t forget, Kentucky only statistically significantly outscored just 5 of the 45 states that participated in NAEP 8th grade writing in 2007. Even more disconcerting, we only got a statistical tie for writing proficiency with California where a far smaller proportion of kids were excluded and one-in-five tested students were still learning English as a Second Language).

    But, here is a suggestion. The NAEP will again test writing in 2011. That gives us two years to try teaching writing without portfolios in CATS. We can put portfolios back in if the NAEP results decay, and I would then support that. On the other hand, if our NAEP results notably improve, then you can be comfortable it is the right choice to keep writing portfolios out of the state assessment.

    After all, Kentucky is apparently the only state still using portfolios for accountability, according to discussions during the Assessment and Accountability Task Force. Yet, after 15 years of the writing portfolio program, the NAEP showed nearly every other state taught writing at least as well as, if not notably better than, we did. Doesn’t that tell you it is worth trying something different?

    What do you think? What do readers think?

  3. Writing to me is a daily tool. Writing is how I learned our SBDM law, got a handle on Kentucky school finance, sorted through the the NCLB statute, and figured out what I understand so far of the stimulus bill. Doing five posts on the Balanced Assessment manifesto is how I got the main concepts clear for my own future work.

    I can only get so far into a new topic by reading. To see how the pieces fit together and make them a firm part of my own knowledge, I have to reorganize the main issue on paper for myself.

    I won't be happy with anything short of students who routinely use writing as a learning tool, as a way of building and strengthening their understanding of history, biology, data analysis, and other substantive core content.

  4. Susan,

    You didn't answer my questions from the previous post. Don't you have an up or down opinion?


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