Report: Portfolios Support Department’s Efforts to Provide Personalized Professional Learning for Tennessee Educators

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 | 11:25am

NASHVILLE—The Tennessee Department of Education released a new report today that explores the use and expansion of student growth portfolio models, which are an alternative form of educator evaluation that measures student growth. The report summarizes findings from analyses of the scores, the impact of portfolios on teacher practice, and its influence on teachers’ perceptions of evaluation. Generally, the report finds that portfolio scores are well-aligned to other evaluation scores and suggests that portfolios strengthen the department’s work to create a more accurate, personalized evaluation system for all teachers.

Portfolios support teachers in non-tested grades and subjects by providing them with an individualized measure to capture their students’ learning. Additionally, the reflective nature of the portfolio process—in which teachers collect, review, and submit student work samples throughout the year, including video, audio, and photos—is considered a valuable professional learning experience.

There are currently five types of portfolio models developed by the Department of Education: fine arts, physical education, first grade, pre-K/kindergarten, and world languages. In the 2015–16 school year, 22 districts used at least one of these models, which included a total of 2,151 educators. The report notes the number of districts and teachers who use portfolios has increased steadily since they were first introduced during the 2011–12 school year, and it is expected to continue to grow. Portfolios have been optional since their introduction, but a new state law requires districts that receive voluntary pre-kindergarten funding to use the pre-K/kindergarten portfolio model with all early childhood teachers in 2017-18.

“We believe that providing meaningful educator support is crucial to increasing teacher quality as teachers are the most significant in-school factor impacting student achievement,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “Portfolio models have the potential to serve as both a measure of teacher effectiveness and a professional learning tool, improving the accuracy and quality of the feedback educators receive to refine their planning and instructional practices.”

The report released today identifies four key findings:

  1. Teachers’ portfolio scores are aligned with their observation scores.
  2. Around 50 percent of teachers who used a portfolio received a higher growth score than they would have if they had used a schoolwide growth measure instead.
  3. Compared to similar teachers, those who used a portfolio had slightly higher observation scores.
  4. Teachers who used a portfolio did not have markedly different perceptions of the teacher evaluation process than teachers who were eligible, but did not use the portfolio.

Student growth portfolio models are one way the state is committed to increasing educator support, a priority area of Tennessee’s strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds. This priority area includes strategies focused on improving the accuracy and the quality of the feedback educators receive and supporting development of more effective, personalized professional learning. Thus, the department is committed to continuous refinement of the portfolio process to ensure a level of rigor that fosters both student growth and quality professional learning opportunities for educators.

The full report is available on the department’s website. For more information about the student growth portfolio model, please contact Zachary Stone, research analyst at the department, at For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast at (615) 532-6260 or