A portfolio is an accumulation of student work that can accompany the student from grade to grade or be sent home at the end of the school year. To evaluate student progress effectively, you must have a good understanding of what each piece of student work displays in terms of learning so the portfolio grade is meaningful, useful, and easily explained to parents and students.
Three types of portfolios are:
• The Collection Portfolio: This portfolio contains a wide variety of student work completed over a period of time. It could include a piece of writing taken through the entire writing process, writing samples, showing different parts of the process, writing from content-area assignments, writing rubrics attached to a piece of writing, a daily journal or writing notebook, notes from student interviews or conferences, reading inventories or checklists, book reports or reviews, taped recordings of oral reading, video tapes of skits, photographs of projects or activities, mathematics checklists, math problem-solving Think Alouds, and student explanations of criteria for selection.
• Student Showcase Portfolio: This portfolio includes carefully selected artifacts (chosen by teacher or student) that represent the student's best work or work that shows growth over time and is intended to be publicly displayed (at open houses, parent-teacher conferences, report-card time, or once a month). The Student Showcase could include student reflections on the selections and student self-assessments.
• Assessment Portfolios: This portfolio contains teacher-selected items, including student work documenting tests and test scores, anecdotal notes of observations and conferences, and records of other assessment tools, such as interest inventories, student evaluations, and goal-setting forms. This type of portfolio is typically used by the teacher to inform students and parents rather than for public display.
You may choose to use one, two, or all three of these types of portfolios, depending on your needs and the requirements of your school. Items from the Collection Portfolio can be included in the Selection Portfolio and the Assessment Portfolio. Consider your record-keeping needs and the purpose of each portfolio carefully before you begin collecting documents.
Creating portfolios is easy. The portfolio container can be as simple as folded construction paper or a manila folder. You can also use pocket folders, three-ring notebooks, or even empty cereal boxes. Portfolios may be created for any subject and integrated or kept separately. They should be easily accessible to students, teachers, and parents for quick filing and reference.
Grading of portfolio contents and other student work is a highly personal task; each school and even each teacher approaches it differently. Check with your administrator for site grading guidelines. Also, locate a copy of the report card for your grade level early in the fall. The report card will be very helpful in setting up a grade book and determining which grading scale(s) is required.
Rubrics allow teachers to put a number to the knowledge and skill level for individual children. They break skills and concepts into increments for easy evaluation. You can use rubrics for specific assignment or to evaluate a student's overall performance in a content area.
To be effective in reporting progress, do it often and as positively as possible. A weekly progress report helps parents not be surprised by the actual report cards. As with student conferences, select one area in need of improvement. Occasionally, have students identify the area to be improved, and write it on the weekly progress report for self-assessment purposes.