to Children's Success: Portfolios
Taken from Training Guides for
the Head Start Learning Community
In this module, participants learn about the purpose of and
strategies for ongoing assessment. They also learn to use portfolios to
maintain current information about a child's development and progress.
Implement an ongoing assessment system that documents each child's
progress and changing characteristics in a portfolio that includes
screening and ongoing assessment results, samples of the child's
work, completed checklists, ongoing observation notes,
family-provided information, photographs, and other data
demonstrating the child's progress;
and develop continuously. To implement an individualized
curriculum, staff and families need up-to-date information about a
child's skills, needs, interests, and abilities.
record and document children's progress and changing
characteristics; describe how they learn and develop social,
emotional, physical, and cognitive skills;
contribute to portfolios by providing samples of their child's work
and their ongoing observation recordings of the child's changing
characteristics and use of new skills in all domains.
conferences are opportunities to thoroughly examine a child's
progress as documented in the portfolio, assess program
effectiveness, set new goals, and plan strategies to encourage
further development at home and in Head Start settings.
Through ongoing assessment staff and
families collect information about the child's changing interests, needs, and
progress toward meeting developmental goals. Head Start staff and families
use strategies for ongoing assessment that range from ongoing observations to
checklists to anecdotal reports to collections of children's work. Ongoing
assessment documents each child's progress and identifies changing interests and
needs. It provides up-to-date information about each child's unique
characteristics, which is used to plan and implement an individualized
curriculum. Ongoing assessment is built into the daily, weekly, and
long-term planning process of an individualized child development program.
For many years, early childhood educators
used standardized achievement and readiness test to assess children's progress
and determine their readiness for kindergarten. However, more recently,
many early childhood professionals have determined that these testing methods do
not provide sufficient, adequate information for measuring children's progress,
in part because they do not reflect the ways in which young children learn.
Standardized test can be one part of the ongoing assessment process; however,
they should be supplemented with other sources of information.
Many early childhood professionals now
advocate the use of portfolios as a developmental appropriate alternative to
standardized test for measuring young children's progress. Portfolios
include information about a child that was collected from a number of sources
such as ongoing observations recordings, screening and/or in-depth developmental
assessments, and anecdotal records. They can include checklists,
photographs, and summaries of conversations with families. Work samples -
examples of children's work that were saved as records of the children's
progress - are a major components of each child's portfolio. These items
record and document a child's progress through the curriculum and serve as a
dynamic history of how children learn and develop social, emotional, physical,
cognitive, and language skills.
Portfolios also document interests,
pinpoint potential areas of need, and describe how life experience may be
affecting the child's growth and development. Portfolios can demonstrate
results of the individualized plans for children with disabilities. They
are also the mainstay of ongoing assessment. Portfolios serve three major
Are Used to Share Information
Portfolios are a natural vehicle for
sharing information. Agendas for staff-family conferences are home
visits can originate in the profile of the child's ongoing development found in
the portfolio. In addition, the portfolio may contain answers to questions
raised at the conference. For example, Mr. and Mrs. F. want to know if
Renee, who attends the infant-toddler center at a Head Start migrant program,
will benefit from the materials and activities in the preschool classroom when
the crops are in and the family moves upstream. Her portfolio includes a
checklist assessment of skills, examples of scribbles that she wrote
spontaneously, and a log of books Renee enjoyed at home and at the center.
In addition, anecdotal observations and running records document Renee's growing
motor skills, mastery of self-help skills, and her creative approach to problem
solving. In fact, there are probably dozens of items in the portfolio
about Renee's skills and interests.
Are Use for Planning
Education staff and families can also use
portfolios for planning. Because the portfolio is a dynamic record
of a child's progress, it is an ongoing source of information that can be used
for individualizing. Staff and families use screening and ongoing
assessment information as the basis of their original plans for individualizing.
They use information from portfolios to regularly update goals and plans for
each child. In some instances, reviewing portfolios lead staff and
families to identify signs that a child has a healthy and/or developmental
problem that was not identified during the screening process. The child
can then be referred for an evaluation so the problem can be diagnosed and
Portfolios can be used for supporting a
child's transition from Early Head Start to Head Start to another program or
elementary school. With parental permission, the portfolio often
accompanies the child to the new setting. This allows the child's new
teachers and administrators to offer an appropriate curriculum. Portfolios
that accurately represent a child's background, skills, interests, and needs
will continue to inform staff and families long after the child has left Head
When a program begins portfolios, it is
important to establish safeguard for ensuring confidentiality. As a rule,
only persons with a need to know should have access to a child's portfolio.