Portfolio assessment as an alternative means of performance evaluation is a practice that has gained acceptance and dramatically increased in use within educational programs during recent years. Use of portfolios in the assessment of student learning in elementary and secondary schools has been well documented. Many teacher education institutions have adopted portfolio assessment procedures for their prospective teaching candidates. Increasingly, school officials have incorporated portfolios as a component of their teachers' performance appraisal. Including the portfolio assessment process in the evaluation of educational administrators' leadership skills and accomplishments has become more popular within the educational community. Based on the results of these practices, it would seem that the use of portfolio assessment in the preparation and development of educational leaders could more effectively provide for accurate and authentic assessment of prospective school administrators' knowledge, abilities, competencies, and practical experiences which ultimately determine their potential for success in the field of educational leadership. This article is intended to provide a helpful description of one university's implementation of portfolio assessment in the preparation of educational leaders and to report the results of a study conducted to determine the prospective administrators' views and what they believe about the appropriateness and effectiveness of the process.
Upon completing the coursework and fieldwork components of a preparation program, each novice administrator possesses a diverse array of skills, beliefs, and experiences. Portfolio assessment is intended to provide a more effective method by which to evaluate the leadership performance of prospective administrators. Opportunities are afforded for the skills, beliefs, and experiences to be more thoroughly analyzed and understood by the aspiring administrator, university faculty, and potential employers. This is facilitated as students take a much more personal and active role in the assessment process, as opposed to more traditional one-size-fits-all evaluation measures reflecting actions being done to students rather than actions done by students for themselves (Green & Smyser, 1996).
Accepting the belief that portfolio assessment more accurately measures what matters most, the process has been successfully implemented at Auburn University Montgomery for use with prospective school leaders. Leadership portfolios allow aspiring administrators to demonstrate through genuine and practical evidence the skills, practices, and strategies essential to becoming successful, competent school leaders. The experience at Auburn University Montgomery has supported the adoption of portfolio assessment as a more authentic and meaningful process for the evaluation of students in the educational leadership program.
Individuals currently enrolled and those entering graduate programs for the preparation of educational administrators will likely move into leadership roles as a new century arrives. Challenges faced by educational leaders in the 21st Century will be imposing as expectations are raised for improved performance and increased effectiveness in the operation of schools. In addition to a knowledge base related to theory and concepts, educational leaders need to possess a clear understanding of their leadership style, educational platform, professional strengths, skills, abilities, and the impact of these aspects on their performance. Preparation programs for educational leaders have a responsibility to insure that students gain such an understanding. Developing and using leadership portfolios certainly appear to be among the best practices for accomplishing this. However, before a conclusive judgment can be made regarding the efficacy of this process, the value and utility of the practice must be appraised by those most directly affected. …