A Comparsion between Portfolio and Standardized Testing

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The No Child Left behind Act, promoted by President George W. Bush, was a response to the 1993 National Commission on Excellence in Education, report "A Nation at Risk". According to the survey conducted by the commission nearly, 70 percent of the inner city fourth graders were unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests. High school seniors test scores in mathematics report lower than some third world countries. Additionally, one third of the college freshman required remedial English and math before they could enroll in regular college courses. The NCLB address the basics skills such as reading and mathematics and requires that standardized tests be used to determine students' achievement. The NCLB directed that for districts and schools, to qualify for federal aid, they must establish yearly assessments in reading and mathematics. The NCLB bill holds districts and schools accountable for the overall performance of students a result, of NCLB districts schools, and teachers are facing more pressure to improve students test results. Most states in the United States hold schools and teachers responsible for the students failing to achieve standards.

Accountability of the districts and schools will be assessed by the standardized testing method. This method is generally considered less time-consuming for collecting data that compares large student's population of one student to another or one school to another. Portfolios and standardized testing have different ways of assessing individual student's learning. There are advantages and disadvantages to both assessment methods. Individual students could be assessed and use either method. The amount of time and money, compared to data and information will determine which method is the most cost effective. The advantage of portfolio assessments is that results will be based on individual teacher's assessment on each student on a daily, weekly, and month basis. Disadvantage is its very time-consuming and expensive to do. The advantage to Standardized testing is that it can quickly identify problem trends in subjects, schools, districts, and states by comparing individuals, schools, districts, and states results against each other. Disadvantages of it is that it cannot identify what subject or subset the student is having problems with but cannot determine the root causes.

Standardized Testing

Standardized assessment decides the students' score by comparing them to others students scores or certain predefined standards (Boyanton, 2009), by using the" one size fits all" concepts and to hold teachers directly responsible for results of individual students. Is it fair to hold teachers responsible without having the background and factors affecting each student? Dewey has recognized that all learning is meticulous and related to a given time, place and circumstance (Gutek, 2009, p.93). Are we forcing teachers to teach one way and test another way? According to (Elmore, 1991) teachers are focusing their instruction on preparing their students for these tests. Teachers are preparing students to memorize information has little to do with helping students acquiring knowledge. Students must understand the fundamental principle to advance in learning. Standardized tests often do not reflect a student's reading ability, but rather a limited set of sub skills (Farr, 1992). Often these tests mainly assess "rote memorization and dead facts" (Eisner, 1999, p. 568). Eisner believes that it can be difficult for standardized tests to assess a student's ability to think critically or problem solved. This typed of testing only tells how well the students can store and retrieve information, but not apply the information to different settings (Eisner, 1999). The question is who is setting the standard? Who is mandating the testing? Who is making up the test? Who is interpreting the results? How will the results be used? Many people, including students and parents, feel that these standardized tests are biased and end up testing one's sociaability.ing rather than achievement and ability

Other critics of "one size fit all" testing, such as Dr. Douglas Reeves, believe that such testing can have negative effects on the students. During the research for this paper, part of the assignment was to listen in on the speech that was part of the assessment and evaluation symposium Dr. Reeves delivered a presentation titled, "Toxic Grading Practices." In the presentation, he described how students were willing to accept failing grades for not turning in assignments but would do the assignment after they found out they were going to do it in study hall anyway after school. Dr. Douglas Reeves believes that using an average for a final grade is harmful to students. Dr. Reeves (2008) strongly advocated teachers to make students accountable by making them complete the assignment rather than giving a zero for the missed work. Jay McClain, principal at Bailey's Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia has similar opinions. In a pod cast on PBS, also part of an assignment he explained, "Data is dangerous if it's not data that is built on what you feel is important to look at" (2008). When students take a test once a year and you get the results back months later, it does not help the teacher to go back and retest. The focus should be on the overall child rather than on what has been taught. McClain believes that NCLB is too restrictive and does not allow the individual to express themselves (Renaud, 2006).

Portfolio Assessment

External assessment of data received outside of the classroom should be provided to the teacher to plan for the students, not to determine the plan of the students. Additionally, relying on test results that you administered once a year and discount the day-to-day assessment between teachers and students does not put too much trust on one test to determine the fate of teachers and students. Surely, teachers daily assessment and classroom work is an indicator of students overall achievement. The NCLB have mandated for every student in grades three through eight. The standardized test "one size fit all" does not take into account the emotion and stress this is having on the students and teachers and how they will react to it. The use of portfolio-based assessments allows students to reflect, evaluate, and set future learning goals by thoughtfully selecting samples from different areas to be included (Tierney, 1992). Accomplishment with valid human assessments allows parents, teacher, administrators, students, and other stakeholders to be provided with directly observable products and understandable evidence concerning student performance (Wiggins, 1989).

The teacher only usually accomplishes portfolio protocol of assessing student progress in the classroom. However, when the final portfolio assessment is to be evaluated more than one teacher should assess because it time-consuming and you have more than one opinion to keep the integrity in the process. In my opinion, the main objection to portfolios assessment method will center on cost. The cost could be very high to assess portfolios unless teachers are adequately trained and willing to help each other in their spare time to serve as assessors. Portfolios must not only replicate teacher and school based standards, but also student interests and individual learning styles. (Yancey 1992) supports the notion the portfolios should be designed by teachers and students, but believes that a periodic portfolio review by which one can learn more about teaching and learning is necessary. Parents and parental feedback is another critical part for this assessment approach to work effectively. In addition, goals for a particular session must reflect philosophy as well as the individual needs of children.


Throughout history, there have been many different ways to educate students. Progressive Education philosophers include John Dewey and William Heard Kilpatrick (Gutek, 2009). Both Dewey and Kilpatrick believed that education should be more than textbooks. Students should be engaged in learning, and teachers should consider different aspects of the individual child. Kilpatrick was a strong advocate for a project-based learning environment. Students had hands-on opportunities and developed important skills such as teamwork and problem solving skills (Gutek, 2009). The teaching method developed by John Dewey incorporated some similar concepts. Dewey believed the students learned best through the scientific method and experiences within their environment (Gutek, 2009, p.93). Both philosophers seemed to embrace a portfolio type of assessment that would more accurately reflect individual learning. Because progressive education ideas center on being engaged, portfolio assessment would closely fit with these ideals. Portfolio assessment across the disciplines can be enhanced by the addition of vital reflective pieces.

While many instructors include reflection as a part of their practice, fewer use critical steps necessary to further students' responsibilities for their own learning. This article reviews several guidelines to aid in this process. They are as followed: creating a safe and supportive environment for candid reflection, the development and design of strategic prompts to enhance learning and move students toward meta cognitive independence, use of a shared discourse so students and teachers are able to develop reflections from common understandings and vocabulary, and the construction of concise rubrics to ensure knowledge of required tasks.


Standardized tests are the norm referenced and designed to measure a limited range of skills and talents across large populations. When doing this research paper, I have noticed that there was not a lot of information on standardized testing in a positive way of assessing students. During the five weeks of class discussions, this seemed to get the same interpretation from peers. It does not seem to be the best affective way for teachers to assess their students any more. With a growing information technology age, there are many ways for teachers to assess their students, instead of taking the traditional route of administering standardized tests. With these portfolios, teachers will be able to identify students who may not be good test takers, but may excel at all of their other subjects. This would be an assessment that can be documented so that when a student does not do well on a standardized test, and has excelled year round, this could raise an issue for school districts to come up with better assessment tools.