Portfolios Playing Increasing Role in Teacher Hiring, Study Finds

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Portfolios are becoming an important ingredient in the teacher-hiring process, according to a study by researchers at the University of Iowa.

Most of the more than 1,000 personnel administrators and superintendents who responded to the researchers' national survey said they don't require portfolios from applicants. But, the respondents said, more school officials are requesting them, finding that they provide important insight into a teacher's individual talents and beliefs about education.

"One of the main messages to job seekers in education is that portfolio items are extremely valuable," said Rebecca Anthony, a coordinator of teacher placement at the University of Iowa and one of the two authors of the new study, "Selecting Teachers for Tomorrow's Classrooms."

The study was conducted for the Educational Placement Consortium, which includes the placement offices at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Indiana University in Bloomington.

A team of six researchers surveyed 1,480 members of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators last spring. The 46 percent who responded represent school districts in 49 states, with student enrollments ranging from fewer than 100 to 650,000. Researchers also polled 737 superintendents in two Midwestern states, receiving responses from 65 percent.

Portfolios have become more popular in recent years as a means of assessing students in the classroom. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards also requires portfolios for experienced teachers who are seeking national certification.

Adding Self-Confidence

Because graduates of teacher education programs pursue jobs in a variety of school settings, it's important for those involved in training and selection to be aware of the differences and similarities in hiring practices across the country, the report says.

And even if a district doesn't request a portfolio, putting one together is a good exercise because it requires applicants to be organized and think about their best work, Ms. Anthony said.

"Regardless of your experience, it gives you an added sense of self-confidence," she said, adding that portfolios also are useful during performance evaluations and salary reviews. "It's a perfect way to say, 'I can talk about it, but I can also show you evidence.'"

More than half of those who responded to the survey said they were more likely to request or accept a portfolio once the applicant had become a finalist for a teaching position.

But only 6 percent of the personnel administrators and 4 percent of the superintendents said they required portfolios.

At the initial phase of the application process, administrators rely on more traditional documents, such as a r‚sum‚ and cover letter, a credential file, college transcripts, and proof of licensure.

The study also showed that school principals are more likely than other administrators to review portfolios.

Portfolios can also be used by administrators to screen out applicants who might not be suited for a particular position.

No 'Cookie Cutters'

Items included in portfolios that the respondents said were most useful include student work, classroom photographs, and statements about the applicant's teaching style, philosophy, and personal goals.

What administrators don't want is a "cookie cutter" approach to building a portfolio, Ms. Anthony said, adding that job seekers should select items that showcase their individual strengths.

They should also be careful not to overload their portfolios, she said. "They should be minimal and meaningful."

For More Information:

Copies of "Selecting Teachers for Tomorrow's Classrooms'' are available for $10 each from the Educational Placement Consortium, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1000 Bascom Mall, Madison, Wis. 53706.

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