Profiles are developmental scales depicting progress in learning. They are designed to assist teachers, schools, and systems with the complex process of assessment, recording, and reporting on students' developing competencies and achievements. They are criterion-referenced interpretive frameworks and are sometimes called standards-referenced frameworks.

"Profiles in English as a Second Language" is designed to help teachers who want to implement an approach to assessment and reporting that supports the wholeness of the teaching/learning/assessment enterprise. It focuses on assessment as a way of improving the education of students who are learning English as a second or additional language. The teacher is the prime assessment instrument. Moreover, the research data indicate that reliability of teacher judgment using these approaches often exceeds that of standardized texts. The book includes examples of assessment contexts, teaching strategies, and record-keeping and reporting procedures.

The profiles provide a useful framework for interpreting observations of students' language development and for organizing descriptions of their achievement. They not only help teachers to become better observers, they lead to clearer approach to planning instruction, assisting student learning, mapping the progress of individuals, and developing a common language with other teachers for describing progress.