While I am out of my classroom for a few weeks I've been tapped to help with the collection of evidence for our state alternative assessment. We have the option to create portfolios for students with IEPs or who are LEP (limited English proficient).
In theory I love this. I would much prefer to create portfolios to show my students' progress than to have them take multiple choice, standardized tests. The work they are doing on a daily basis throughout the year is more meaningful, in my eyes, than the snapshot a test provides.
That said, what we are doing isn't working that way, unfortunately. One of the problems is with the way the portfolios have been designed by the state. We have to document every piece of every standard in the portfolio. That's not true of a standardized test. Fifty questions can not encompass every bit of every standard for a given grade level. For example, one standard is about students finding information and includes using encyclopedias, thesauri, dictionaries, glossaries, and online resources. A standardized test might address two of those five but a portfolio must show evidence of all five.
The second issue, while frustrating to me, is one I do understand. We end up collecting most of this evidence in inauthentic ways. I'm pulling students out of class to complete a worksheet with me, a teacher they don't know. I am attempting to complete as much of this work using books they are reading at the moment and writing they are doing. But their writing may not currently include examples of contractions or abbreviations. In which case I'm giving them a worksheet.
We can use interviews as evidence. In an ideal world we'd document these conversations during guided reading groups, reading conferences, and writing conferences. That would require every teacher working with these students to know these standards better than they know themselves. That is a lot to ask, especially for teachers in their first couple of years teaching. (We do have a lot of this type of evidence in our portfolios.)