At professional conferences, educational experts recommend portfolios as alternatives to grading. Professional journals recognize portfolios as new systems for evaluating teacher and student performance. Several states are using portfolio assessments for entire school populations. Tsis book offers unique "portraits" of portfolio keepers—from first graders to university sophomores and graduate students, from teachers in graduate classes to administrators in public schools, as they learn how to use portfolios, and the reader views that learning process. The book is divided into three sections:
  • The first offers portraits of classrooms working with portfolios.
  • The second makes some broader observations of portfolio keeping itself as an established collecting practice in other fields, as a large-scale assessment technique for entire school systems, and as a teacher's means of instruction and evaluation
  • The third portrays four very different portfolio keepers: a superintendent, a college senior, and two second grade boys.

Portfolio Portraits invites readers to join the twelve contributors and the writers they portray, to experiment with them as they work with portfolios. Keeping a portfolio is a long and disciplined process, but for those teachers and students who are willing to make decisions for themselves, portfolios can be intimate records of personal literacy histories. The reward is worth the struggle as portfolios not only catalogue successes and instructive failures but become inextricably tied to the very definition of literacy.