A portfolio is defined as “a set of pieces of creative work collected together to show someone’s ability.” (1) For our purpose a portfolio is the collection of student work that shows they’ve met Colorado state academic standards. Basically, teacher and student at each grade level collaborate to choose the student’s best work that demonstrates that he/she has achieved the standard with the exception of local and state approved tests like the ACT or SAT’s that are automatically placed in the portfolio. Students are still assessed or evaluated based on an authentic spectrum of work and ability.
Portfolios follow the student from grade to grade. An electronic version would be a rubric that compiles student data such as attendance, teacher commentary, grades for each subject, local and corporate made test scores that measure basic skills and subject matter skills, extra-curricular activities, interests/hobbies outside of school, social-emotional score, 21st Century Skill/Workplace Readiness score, problem-solving/critical thinking, and samples of student work that show the best the student was able to accomplish. The rubric would then crunch the numbers that combine to prove a student’s abilities given a certain point system for each category. The total score would determine if a student was ready for the next grade level.
Teachers use portfolios to hold parent conferences that speak to each skill, domain, and student demonstration of critical thinking and problem-solving. Conversations surround the student’s total cognitive, affective, and kinesthetic abilities than just around a test score. The whole child is assessed using the portfolio system and in evaluating that child’s readiness for the next grade level. It is a system that is efficacious and authentic because it captures the student’s abilities in real-time and not just one time like on a standardized test.
An example of a portfolio is a student collects his/her work for each semester and consults with each teacher about the work evaluated in each class. The student then works with an academic advisor to mark and analyze his/her work in a rubric that calculates the demonstration of skill or the successful completion of student work in a given category. Let’s say that a student participated in Student Council, Basketball, and completed outside service hours. These interactions or extra-curricular activities would be weighted in to the score of the rubric along with the academic components such as subject matter tests, weekly quizzes, and student created work such as term papers, projects, and group work. A school district may use standards from the 21st Century Workforce Readiness standards and the Common Core Curriculum to measure student academic achievement along with the social-emotional and critical thinking aspects of human relations involved in public school.
Schools that already use the portfolio system of assessment to analyze student skills and abilities are Sheridan School District, Falcon School District and Vantage Point High School in Adams 12 Five Star Schools. The portfolio assessment is cost effective, time-saving, and involves the student throughout the entire process. Whereas standardized testing is costly, time-consuming, and only involves the student at one point in time: the test date.
Millions of dollars of taxpayer money are thrown away each year on standardized testing that is only used to measure the growth in math, reading and writing for comparison between school districts. These measurements fail to evaluate the entire school program and total student experience within an academic year. Now, using Senate Bill 191, standardized tests will be used to measure teacher effectiveness based on a student’s performance on a single testing system known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) test. According to the PARCC creators they have successfully piloted the test and are ready to roll it out in our state next year. The Colorado State Senate wanted a metric to grade teachers to get that Race to the Top money. We must ask if any thought was given about the ramifications of using a one-time standardized test to measure a teacher’s performance? What are the costs on instruction time? What is the impact on children’s learning? The test and the curriculum may cause more problems and cost the districts more money to carry out the curriculum than getting limited amounts of Race to the Top funds. Teachers may have helped create the test and the Common Core Curriculum but they did not create Colorado’s Senate Bill 191.
The cost of implementing PARCC and the Common Core Standards includes outside consultants, training and development of teachers, working with teacher professional organizations and unions to affect a fair and balanced teacher evaluation system, training administrators and all other relevant staff, parent education and awareness or public relations needed to tell parents about PARCC, purchasing the test and computer software, upgrading hardware to contain the software, and purchasing the paper-and-pencil version. School districts and taxpayers are burdened with the heavy cost of standardized test costs and in the long run these tests aren’t used for any real purpose other than for a testing company and its “partners” to make a profit. The student loses and the corporation that created the test wins.
Tests should measure student ability only and that score should be used to move the student to the next level of their education or for entrance into the college or career of their choice. Instead this test is used to punish schools and misrepresent the hard work of good teachers.
Portfolios are used by students to present their work to a future employer and college/university upon successful completion of the secondary academic level. This system benefits students. They are an authentic evaluation of the interactions between student and teacher. Finally, they are cost efficient to the school district that uses them and to the tax payer that relies on them to promote their children’s academic success.
1.) Oxford American Desk Dictionary & Thesaurus (Third Edition)