Friday, May 24, 2013

Breaking Down Portfolio Construction

contents page
Last week I wrote a quick post about preparing our end of year homeschool portfolios. I didn't go into much detail since writing about the portfolios wasn't really helping me meet my deadline to complete them. I wrapped up work at 1 am on Sunday morning and had a nice visit with our evaluator on Monday. I'm going to attempt to show the steps I follow to build our yearly portfolios per a request by a commenter, Jessica from Teachable Moments.

work basket
I'm going to start from the very beginning of the process. Every day when the boys complete their work, they place it in the basket pictured to the right. I review their work daily, then return it to the basket where, during a good week, it stays until Friday night when it gets moved to phase two.

big binders

Each of the boys has a two inch binder where I store their work. At the end of the week, I file each of those papers according to subjects required by the state. If you look at the picture on the left closely, you can see the front page in each binder has a list of the required subjects. JT has the secondary list, EM is still using the elementary. I use construction paper subject dividers to keep these more organized.

attendance chart
Pennsylvania requires homeschoolers to either put in 180 days or 900 hours for elementary/990 hours for secondary per year. We go by the 180 standard. I find it much easier to track. I include our attendance chart in the portfolio. I downloaded this from askPauline, an excellent resource for PA homeschoolers. In general, I like to include three samples for each subject in the portfolio, from the beginning, middle, and end of the year. I just keep an eye on our attendance total and when we reach 60, 120, and 180, I move to the next phase.

JT vocab test
 I sit down with the big binders and pull out one or two of the best samples for each subject and move them to the keeper binder. The rest of the pages get boxed up in case I change my mind about my decisions. That allows the big binders to be cleared out for the next 60 days. This process also lets me see which subjects need more tangible proof of accomplishments. Sometimes we spend so much time reading aloud, especially in subjects like American history, that I neglect to get something down on paper that proves what we are doing.

All of those unused samples get moved to file folders that I label as beginning, middle, end, with each boy having his own set. I also place completed workbooks into that pile. I have a large shoe box that holds all of my folders. When the year is completed, I also place their spelling lists, weekly plans I made, and copies of fliers from activities. I will keep this box until I receive our approved portfolios back from the school district. At that point, I sit down and go through the box one more time, pulling out all of my favorite examples of their work, and usually all writing assignments, to keep. Everything else goes in the recycle bin. I learned early on in this process that keeping everything is a sure way to get overwhelmed by clutter.

Now it's time to look at the components of the portfolio itself. Again, askPauline is a wonderful place to get information on how to construct a portfolio. Here's an excerpt from 24 PS 13-1327.1 that outlines what needs to be in there according to PA state regulations:

  The portfolio shall consist of a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used, samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student and in grades three, five and eight results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests in reading/language arts and mathematics or the results of Statewide tests administered in these grade levels. An annual written evaluation of the student's educational progress as determined by a licensed clinical or school psychologist or a teacher certified by the Commonwealth or by a nonpublic school teacher or administrator. ... The evaluation shall also be based on an interview of the child and a review of the portfolio required in clause (1) and shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring. 

evaluator's approval
The first page in our binder after the cover page shown in the first picture is the letter of approval from our evaluator. She interviews each of the boys while reviewing the portfolio and from that determines whether an appropriate education is occurring. She is always has good questions for both the boys and me.

I already shared the attendance chart above. I would place that next in the binder. 

book log
Next we have our log. I typically keep a spreadsheet running for each of the boys throughout the year to track their reading. I divide the log into two sections. At the beginning, I list all the textbooks that are being used. I include title, author or publisher, subject, and date completed, if applicable. Then I list all the books they read throughout the year, both individually and aloud. I break those down by subject, as well, and also have a category called Free Reading. Typically their book logs are between four and five pages long.

subject dividers
After that, we move on to samples of their work. I print out divider pages with the subject and sub-categories, plus the school year dates on each. I like to keep the binder organized to be sure the district representative has an easy time following what we have done. There are ten different subjects represented in the binder. Some are straight-forward, like mathematics. Others are split into sub-categories like the English shown on the left. Those specific subdivisions are listed for secondary level requirements.

art summary
For the less tangible subjects including art, physical education, and music, I include short summaries of what we did for the year. This is the summary I wrote for JT's portfolio. Usually I can change a few things in the summaries to fit each of the boys without having to write completely separate accounts. Because I try to make the material we cover accessible to both of them, this method works well, especially for the subjects where summaries are necessary.

page of art work
One of my more time consuming activities when I'm creating the portfolios is converting physical art work and other projects into digital format. Last week in my post, I shared a picture showing how I photograph the boys' art work. Once I have a full set of those images, I print them in tiles, nine to a page, and include them in the art section of the portfolio. I do the same with posters, timelines, and objects like dioramas.

field trips
The final section I include in both portfolios is one that is not required by the regulations. I label it 'supplemental'. That is where I include a list of our field trips, fliers from activities, pictures of the boys enjoying places we have visited, and for JT this year, the certificates of completion from his Coursera classes. Some homeschoolers argue that extra things shouldn't be given to the district because it raises the bar for all the other parents. I personally like to include this section because it allows the school to see that my boys don't spend all of their days doing worksheets and sitting at home reading books.

big binders and finished portfolios
So there you have it! The black binders in the picture on the left are the completed portfolios for our school year 2012-2013. Each has approximately 90 pages. I will take them to the district office to drop them off as soon as I get next year's affidavits and objectives put together. I don't like to make the trip more than once if I can help it.

Portfolio construction can be tedious for me. I sometimes wish I lived in a state that didn't require this kind of work. But I wonder if I would feel as good about where the boys are in their education if I didn't have those pages to reassure me that they are making progress.

For now I am happy to say that they have made progress in this school year. Let the summer begin!


Jessica said...

Connecticut has no mandatory reporting through testing or through portfolio submission. In some ways it is a blessing but I agree with you that keeping a portfolio provides the parents with not only a sense of accountability but also tangible evidence of learning.

When my girls first came out of school I kept detailed portfolios, then because I did not "have" to, I got lazy and stopped. Now that I have a middle school child, it is time to begin again - not from a perspective of reporting, but so if she has opportunities for internships she can present something to be evaluated on or when she is applying to community college for math and science classes, she has a clear record of her prerequisites.

Thank you for taking the time to do this. I greatly appreciate it and it will help me as I spend this summer setting up a system for our portfolios.


Cyber Momma said...

Thank you Jessica, for reading!