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California Learning Assessment System: Portfolio Assessment Research and Development Project: Final Report

Thomas, William H.; Storms, Barbara A.; Sheingold, Karen; Heller, Joan I.; Paulukonis, Susan T.; Nunez, Athena M.; Wing, Jean Y.
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Report of the ETS Center for Performance Assessment
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California Learning Assessment System Content Standards Educational Assessment Language Arts Mathematics Performance Assessment Performance Levels Portfolio Assessment State Curriculum Frameworks


In a collaborative project with the California Department of Education, the Center for Performance Assessment at Educational Testing Service conducted a research and development project to create a portfolio component for the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS). Portfolio assessment was both to provide trustworthy information about student achievement in relation to the state curriculum frameworks and to support the improvement of public education. In addition, the system was to value the diversity of instructional programs and portfolio projects in the state and to complement other components of the state assessment system. A state task force recommended that the portfolio assessment system be standards-based and non-prescriptive, built on evidence of achievement from the ongoing classroom work of students. The standards, terms dimensions of learning, were to be broad statements specifying essential knowledge, skills, abilities and habits of mind for a discipline. Through this project, content standards and performance levels for assessment portfolios were defined for language arts and mathematics at the elementary and middle school levels. Between September 1992 and June 1994, Center staff organized and facilitated a process that involved hundreds of teachers and other educators, as well as measurement and portfolio specialists, and support network representatives. Through this process, participants defined a standards-based, non-prescriptive design for portfolio assessment, developed initial content standards and performance levels, tried out the approach in classrooms, and scored a sample of assessment portfolios. In addition, Center staff conducted research on the technical soundness of the system and on the impact on teachers of participation in this development project. In May 1994, a sample of fourth and eighth grade language arts and mathematics assessment portfolios was read. Quantitative analyses of the scoring data included several measures of interrater reliability and consistency, which were comparable to or stronger than results for other portfolio systems in recent years. Additional research investigated the reasoning engaged in by raters of assessment portfolios, distinguishing apparently fair and reasonable judgment processes form potentially invalid processes. This reading provided early indications of the feasibility of the system, both logistically and psychometrically. Results suggest that a standards-based, non-prescriptive approach to portfolio assessment is promising.

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