The Year of Portfolio Assessment: Take Two
If you think the earth is littered, wait until you open this!
The picture to your left is pretty ugly. It is a once clean and sandy beach now smothered with litter. However, the green leaves pushing their way through give us some evidence of growth. Perhaps if we clean up the litter, this beach will once again thrive with life.This is how I feel about the portfolios that landed on the proverbial doorstep of my classroom this year.
I joined GMWP’s Teacher and Inquiry Writing Institute last year with its focus on assessment. I decided to look at portfolio assessment since this became a “thing” in our English department at the beginning of last year. I wanted to consider how effectively we used them as an assessment tool for students’ growth in writing. At the beginning of this school year, several paraprofessionals took ALL those portfolios and sorted them out so they went to their new English teachers this year. I received six crates of portfolios. I also soon discovered that I wouldn’t get a portfolio for every student because some students took more than one English course, meaning the other teacher was the recipient of that portfolio.
I started to sift through the work that students collected in these mysterious places. They were very thick! I was impressed with how much writing they accomplished last year! I couldn’t wait to experience the growth in my new students’ writing! WAIT! WHAT? WHAT THE? LOOK WHAT I FOUND!
Like litter on a once-beautiful beach, I found a once beautiful and brand new manila folder bursting with rubbish. There were packets of questions for books they read, notes they had taken, and maybe, accidentally, a page of math problems that I am fairly certain was not part of their writing assignment. So I took a couple of these folders and cleaned up the rubbish, and I found a few sprouts of green. There was some on-demand writing. There were some essays about literature they read. But where was the process? There were no second or third drafts to anything…there were no words of wisdom or flattery for the on-demand pieces, there was little indication of feedback on the essays…when there was feedback, there was no improved essay to backup the feedback! There was that brightly colored reflection sheet that students filled out at the end of the year, and these were completed as half-heartedly as the writing tasks.
If this is portfolio assessment, I am madly mistaken about what is a portfolio and what is assessment. I am crazily confused about how this helps students track their own growth as writers — how WE track their growth as writers. What I found isn’t what I wanted to find.
It is now year two, and I am back to square one.