My admins and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to portfolios. To them a portfolio is a file where you store all the tests the kids have taken, including the formative assessments we give on a regular basis. We have to do running records every 2 weeks to assess reading fluency, test hfw lists weekly to see where they stand. This year they even recommended math facts tests because kids are coming to the upper grades without knowing their facts. I am all for assessment-I think it's really important not only to know where your kids are compared to the yearly goals, but also for the kids to know where they are and most importantly to me--how far they've come. But that's not a portfolio. A portfolio is pieces of work that are stored away throughout the year that shows what their skills were like in the beginning and the end. It also stands as a back-up for the "grades" I'm giving on the report card. For example, one of their objectives now is uses punctuation and capitalization-I can pull out the portfolio and show evidence of how I came to that score.
Now in the past we used file folders that we would send home the last day of school bursting with examples of work throughout the year. Who knows if anyone ever looked at it and I'd rather be able to send the actual work home throughout the year so the parents can see what we are doing in class. I now use digital portfolios to show growth (in addition to the charts and graphs). I think this is a very powerful tool. I can pull it up during parent conferences, I can pull it up to confer with a student on their next goals-particularly in writing. I am going to hold student-led conferences in a few weeks and that is going to be a big part of what I expect the kiddos to share with their parents. At least once a week I take photos of the kids' work on a piece of writing or a project. Now I use my class website on Weebly.com so I do not ever include names, I have to crop those out. I put their photos up in the beginning of a gallery and throughout the year I add pics of work.
Not only is this a valuable tool for me in my classroom, I always send it to the teacher the following year so they can see the growth as well. So when the 1st Grade teacher starts complaining about handwriting, etc. I can say, well, this is what we started with so he's actually made a great deal of progress already. Or I can say, I know on paper Sally may not look like a gifted student-but look at some of the ideas she has come up with over the year. This is an example of one-forgive the pics, my computer would not let me save the screenshots this morning.
I actually wish every teacher at our school would do portfolios like this. Can you imagine being a student and graduating to middle school with a digital overview of your whole academic career so far? What might this mean to those who struggle with their skills, to see how far they have actually come?