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Utah Responds to Federal Legislation

FAQ       Portfolio Assessment      Lines of Evidence      Standards     


You Might Be More “Highly Qualified” Than You Think:
Portfolio Assessment

Marilyn Likins and Deanna Avis



The No Child left Behind (NCLB) law was approved in January 2002. It carried with it sweeping reforms for our educational systems and placed greater emphasis than ever before on success for students who are left behind in their learning. To ensure and strengthen instruction by well-prepared educators-teacher, principals, and paraprofessionals-a ‘highly qualified’ educator requirement was written into the law.


What Does the Law Say about Paraprofessionals?

Section 1119(g) states that all paraprofessionals who are performing instructional duties and are funded with Title 1 funds including all paraprofessionals performing instructional duties in a school-wide Title 1 program must meet specific requirements. These requirements are:

  1. paraprofessionals must currently have a secondary school (high school) diploma or its recognized equivalent, and
  2. paraprofessionals must fulfill one of the three following requirements;
  • Complete at least two years of study at an institution of higher education; or
  • Obtain an associate degree (or higher); or
  • Meet a rigorous standard of quality and can demonstrate through a formal state or local academic assessment,
    i) Knowledge of, and the ability to assist in instructing, reading, and mathematics; or
    ii) Knowledge of, and the ability to assist in instructing, reading readiness, writing readiness, and mathematics readiness as appropriate.

Paraprofessionals hired prior to or on January 8, 2002 have until January 8, 2006 to meet one of the three requirements listed above. Paraprofessionals hired after January 8, 2002 must meet one of the three requirements prior to being hired.

At this time, NCLB requirements do not apply to paraprofessionals funded through special education unless they work in a Title I school-wide program. Also, paraprofessionals hired solely as translators must have a high school diploma or equivalent but do not need to meet the additional Title 1 requirements.


What Is Utah’s Response?

When it became apparent that the No Child Left Behind law and its criteria for paraprofessionals would soon be passed, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) and the Utah Paraprofessional Consortium worked together to identify standards for paraprofessionals who would be impacted by the NCLB law. Such standards could then serve as a foundation for assessment and training. Four key standards and related knowledge and skill competencies were identified and approved (see Table 1).

To address Option C of the NCLB requirements: “…meet a rigorous standard of quality and can demonstrate through a formal state or local academic assessment…”, the USOE curriculum specialists considered several testing instruments. Those selected were then piloted by state and local administrators, paraprofessionals, and university personnel. Two tests were ultimately approved:

  1. ETS PARApro Assessment developed by the Educational Testing Services, and the
  2. Western Governor’s University Assessment

At district request, a third assessment option was reviewed and approved by the Utah State Board of Education- the Paraeducator Portfolio. The USOE invited districts to participate in a discussion about the Paraeducator Portfolio and to collaborate on the design and implementation of a portfolio process. As a result, a state Ad Hoc Task committee was formed to integrate the requirements of NCLB into a global portfolio. The portfolio would incorporate the four state standards and address knowledge and skill competencies required of an effective instructional paraprofessional. It was determined that Standard 1 would satisfy the purpose of defining a “highly qualified” paraprofessional under federal law but that districts, universities and community colleges should consider all four standards when designing training programs for paraprofessionals.


What is a Portfolio?

Portfolios are information or data collected from various sources, through multiple methods, and over multiple points in time (Shaklee, Barbour, Ambrose, & Hansford, 1997). Portfolios are used throughout the educational system, e.g., teacher and student portfolios, to demonstrate skills and knowledge to others in a meaningful way. They are viewed as good professional practice and offer organized documentation of your professional experiences. Contents of portfolios vary but can include observations, writing or work samples, copies of specific tests or video demonstrations. When done properly, portfolio assessment honors your work experience and provides a valid, practical strategy for systematically collecting and organizing such data.

Not every district will permit portfolios as a means of meeting federal regulations.
Check to see what your district requirements are.


How do I Assemble a Portfolio?

Each Portfolio must be:

  1. Understandable and meaningful to you and your audience.
  2. Organized around a set of Standards and Core Competencies you are trying to achieve, and
  3. Demonstrated by specific Lines of Evidence.

The portfolio measure that was developed and approved by the State Board of Education on September 2003 appears in Table 2.

Lines of Evidence.   Ten methods of documenting knowledge and/or skill competence for a paraeducator portfolio have been approved by the Utah State Board of Education. Each method outlines specific conditions essential to meet the criteria, and demonstrate mastery for each competency. (See Table 3)

Getting Started.   The following are some tips for getting started:

  • Consider Lines of Evidence you will be collecting for each competency area.
  • Decide how you want to house your Lines of Evidence. Many people use a three ring binder because it is accessible, expandable, and easily organized.
  • Divide your portfolio by competency into easily identified sections.
  • Use colored tab sections.
  • Be sure to clearly label each section.
  • Include a master copy of the Portfolio Table along with appropriate signatures.
  • Start collecting!
Frequently Asked Questions:
  • Who is responsible for my portfolio? You are responsible for building your own portfolio although other individuals such as your supervising teacher or building administrator may assist you in the process.
  • Does my portfolio need to be approved? Yes
  • By whom? It depends on the district. Typically, your building administrator will be the one who reviews and approves the documentation for each line of evidence. However, some districts may require your portfolio to be approved at the district level by a committee. Once your portfolio has been approved, your district will submit your “highly qualified” status to the Utah State Office of Education through the CACTUS system
How Can You and Your District Get More Information?

Additional information can be obtained from the Utah Paraeducator Website. Documentation examples of each Line of Evidence are available on the website and can be downloaded for you or your administrator’s use. A Powerpoint training lesson is also posted on the www.utahpara.org website and can be used to train others in your district. You can also contact the authors if you have additional questions:

Marilyn Likins           Deanna Avis