Date of Award

Spring 2001

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Judith A Robb


The comprehensive assessment system in Vermont includes student mathematics portfolios that are submitted to the state Department of Education for scoring. A student portfolio should include 5--7 pieces of best work selected by the student that can be scored. This alternative assessment process has been in place for ten years, but limited information has been available from classroom teachers about the instructional practices they use when teaching mathematics, or whether or not those practices have been influenced by the portfolio process.

The study was developed to answer questions about the instructional practices used by teachers. Teachers' responses were compared to their level of involvement with the mathematics portfolio assessment process. A twenty-question survey regarding instructional practices was distributed to all grade 4 teachers in Rutland County, Vermont. Demographic information was collected about the number of years teaching, including the teaching of mathematics. Teachers were asked about the frequency of their participation in the portfolio training and calibration sessions.

37 teachers from 19 schools responded. Study data indicate the following: there were seven different curricula in use, each school using a school wide adopted program. There was a high level of participation in the portfolio training sessions, and 50% of the teachers chose to participate in the formal portfolio scoring process. The teachers were asked to respond to seven Likert scale items about the degree of frequency with which they included specific instructional practices in their classrooms.

Over the three years teachers in the study did show an increase in the types of instructional practices that supported the portfolio process. Each such teaching strategy was used more for each year surveyed and portfolio problems were incorporated more frequently. Teachers also reported supplementing the mathematics curriculums with computational practice.

During the same period of time Vermont added a high-stakes performance assessment for Grade 4 students. Student performance on the state assessment in mathematics improved each year included in the study. Portfolio scores also improved. Teachers indicated growing support for using the portfolio process. They felt that the process potentially provided more opportunities to construct mathematical understanding and communicate solutions. Despite growing support for the portfolio process and curriculum changes to support it, teachers who were interviewed reported that they did not specifically review state scored portfolios of their own students, although such review and potential instructional revision was part of the original state mandate.