should students and their teachers know and be able to do?
For the last 20 years that question has anchored the debate
about public education in the United States, and it continues
to frame educational policy at both the state and federal
level. Since the appearance of A Nation at Risk, the 1983
report proclaiming that “the educational foundations
of our society are…being eroded by a rising tide of
mediocrity,” American schooling has been subject to
any number of efforts to redesign its curriculum, its methods
of assessment, and its teaching force.
center of those efforts has been a federal government willing
to take an unprecedented and increasingly visible role in
orchestrating, funding, and measuring educational change.
Though the federal interest in K-12 schooling extends back
at least to the National Education Defense legislation born
of Sputnik in 1957, and though national policy and financing
have had some impact in such areas as school desegregation,
special education, and the support of under-funded schools,
seldom in our history has the U.S. government played such
a powerful role in shaping life in classrooms as it does at
force behind almost all recent school reform efforts has been
a two-stage initiative: in the first stage, stakeholders develop
standards that specify what students and teachers “should
know and be able to do” and, in the second, assessments
are designed that measure whether those standards are being
met. Both tasks have proven to be logistically complicated
and politically challenging. After several controversial efforts
to design standards for students at the national level, the
project has been largely transferred to the individual states.
high-stakes tests that measure student progress in meeting
standards have brought with them a host of unintended consequences.
In Texas, for instance—one of the first states to adopt
state standards and high stakes testing—studies have
shown an increased drop-out rate for minority students and
a decline in many measures of student learning—even
when scores on the state test have gone up.
reform for teachers and teacher education, however, has had
a more successful history, and this is where The University
of Iowa’s College of Education is playing a significant
role. Like most other states, Iowa has adopted a common set
of standards for students preparing to become teachers. The
standards specify that future teachers must show competence
in planning instruction, for example, in understanding the
principles of student learning, in orchestrating diversity,
and in collaborating with colleagues, among other skills.
But Iowa, again like many other states, has further mandated
that future teachers demonstrate their strengths in these
areas not only through the completion of course work, but
also through a portfolio of performances and artifacts that
show directly that they have mastered the standards.
such an enormous project, the College of Education’s
Office of Teacher Education has teamed with John Achrazoglou,
director of educational technology and Rebecca Anthony, director
of educational placement, to develop the electronic portfolio,
or ePortfolio?—a web-based program where students store
their professional work for reflection, revision, and evaluation.
In every teacher education course that our students take,
they are asked to upload specific examples of their work to
their web site. This work is organized by standard and by
course, so that reviewers can evaluate student performances
within a course.
students may save work on the Methods of Teaching Reading
course page and also on the Planning for Instruction standard
page, where artifacts would come from several courses.
invested thousands of staff hours in this project, and in
the fall of 2003 it will be ready for full implementation.
It is widely cited across the state and across much of the
country as one of the freshest and most intelligent efforts
to manage the new performance mandate.
College of Education is going further still. We have recently
teamed with Cedar Rapids Schools to develop an ePortfolio??for
first- and second-year teachers who, like teacher education
students, must demonstrate their mastery of standards through
a collection of performances and artifacts. The Cedar Rapids
project represents an important extension of ideas developed
over several years in the College of Education, and its resources
will soon be available to every school district in Iowa. This
is one of the many ways that our college serves the state
while, at the same time, creating the tools that our students
will need to teach in the 21st century.