As educators, we are all aware that no two students learn the same way. As a result, state tests do not always allow ALL students to demonstrate the knowledge that they do possess. State tests present a special challenge for ESL students, who are often hampered more by the language on the tests, than the content.
How can we help our ESL students to show us what they have learned?
One of the best ways is through portfolio assessment. Portfolio assessment is a form of continual assessment which allows you to see where they started, where they ended up, and how far they went in between. Furthermore, the materials used for portfolio assessment are at the student's language level, so they are able to fully demonstrate their knowledge even if they are not English proficient.
How can you start portfolio assessment?
I won't lie to you; starting a portfolio assessment system can be time consuming at first. The good news? Once your system is set up, it is easy to keep up. Begin your student portfolio with background information. Find out your student's basic demographics, home country, home language, and how long they've been in the US. You also might want to find out other pertinent information, like who else lives in the home and who else in the home speaks English. Another good idea is to have your students identify the things they're good at, the things they need help with, and to set some specific goals in reading, writing, and speaking English.
What else goes into the portfolio?
Throughout the year, add items to the portfolio that demonstrate both the student's strengths and weaknesses. Create general rubrics for reading, writing, speaking and listening that can be used with a variety of activities. At the beginning of the year, give students a baseline activity in each area, and score those according to the rubric. Throughout the year, make a point to chose activities and products to put in the portfolio and score those according to the rubrics you've created; try to have at least one activity from each area every quarter. You may also wish to allow students to add activities every once in awhile.
How does portfolio documentation help me and my students?
As I mentioned before, a portfolio can show not only where your student ended the year, but where he or she started out. Often state tests do not take into account where the student started, only the fact that he or she did not master the material for their grade level. A portfolio can help you to demonstrate the amount of growth that your student made in specific areas throughout the year. It can be useful in making scheduling decisions, parent/administrator meetings, choosing accommodations for testing, and if necessary, referring the student for IEP services.
If you have more questions about the mechanics or reasons for portfolio assessment, do not hesitate to comment or e-mail!
With all of that said, you can be one step closer to your own portfolio assessment system by visiting my TpT Store. I have a variety of products that can assist you with portfolio assessment for your ESL students:
ESOL Portfolio Starter
Basic Writing Rubric
Reading Comprehension Rubric