Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Canterbury Portfolio Program

As I stated in my update to parents, we will be implementing a Portfolio Program in the 8th grade which will take the place of exams. Students will create a portfolio of work demonstrating their attainment of ten skills indicative of a 21st Century Canterbury graduate and, at the end of the school year, defend that portfolio in front of a panel.

We believe this program will place Canterbury at the forefront of 21st Century education. This holistic approach to assessment incorporates the skills needed to be successful in the 21st Century and is in line with our mission of educating the whole child. More directly, it provides a context for students to see that education is a continual, integrated, and relevant process.

What follows is an outline of the components of that program.

The Skills: Using Canterbury's Desired Results of Student Learning or DRSLs, NAIS research, and other readings as a context, faculty and staff created this list of ten skills a 21st Century Canterbury graduate should be able to demonstrate by the end of their 8th grade year.
  1. Solve a real-world problem using concepts from math and/or science.
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.
  3. Clearly and concisely outline a position on a topic and be able to explain and compellingly persuade others of its implications through writing.
  4. Demonstrate a commitment to care for self and others the world over.
  5. Participate in and demonstrate your role as a member of a team.
  6. Demonstrate knowledge of your faith as it has developed in your life.
  7. Develop a fundamental understanding of emerging ethical issues and dilemmas regarding new media and technologies.
  8. Explore an understanding of either justice, integrity, mercy, or compassion through the arts or literature.
  9. Exercise leadership.
  10. Respond to an experience of failure in a way that acknowledges innovation involves small successes and frequent mistakes.
The Portfolio: The portfolio itself will be an electronic document. All materials must be able to be stored on the server and/or a flash drive.
  • The Portfolio will consist of chapters which correspond to a particular skill.
  • A product demonstrating the skill will comprise the bulk of each chapter. Those products come from students' classes and could include, but are not limited to:
    • a piece of writing
    • video
    • journal
    • pictures
    • song
    • piece of artwork
    • blog
    • podcast
    • interview
    • audio recording
    • PowerPoint
    • multimedia presentation
  • The beginning of each chapter will include at least a three paragraph introduction to the product which addresses the following:
    • Provides for the panel a sense that the student understands what the skills are
    • Describes how/why the student chose this product to demonstrate the skill in question
    • Explains the process that went into the product - what went well, what did not go well, what will they continue to work on

The Presentation: A presentation of the Portfolio will occur before and during the exam period at the end of the student's 8th grade year. This is the culmination of the Portfolio Program and is an opportunity to present the collection of the student's work to a panel.
  • Students will wear Chapel Dress on their presentation day.
  • The Portfolio will be delivered to the panel prior to the scheduled presentation. Independently, the panelists will grade the Portfolio based on the Skills Rubric. The panel will then determine a grade for the presentation based on the Presentation Rubric in conference immediately following the student's presentation.
  • The panel will consist of the Head of School, Assistant Head of School, Middle School Director, Lower School Director, Chaplain, and Director of Student Life and Unity in Diversity
  • Each presentation will be 20 minutes and will include an introduction by the Portfolio mentor, the student presentation of the portfolio, and panel Q&A

Student-Focused Support: We have built in a number of support systems to help guide students towards the final portfolio and presentation.
  • A Portfolio Class has been created in the 8th grade schedule. This class meets once every ten days and will be taught by Mr. Skeen in the computer lab. It is meant to provide a dedicated time and space to work on the Portfolio.
  • Teachers will identify on their syllabus those projects/papers/products/etc. which fulfill one or more of the skills indicated above. They will include the list of products, the skills they fulfill, and the approximate due dates on the class syllabus which is handed out at the beginning of the year.
  • Each student will have a Portfolio mentor who will meet with the student once a month, provide feedback to the family through interim and report card comments, write a forward to the student's Portfolio, and help prepare the student for the presentation of the Portfolio.

Grading: Students will receive a grade in Portfolio class directly related to the quality of their Portfolio and quality of their presentation. They will receive comments from their mentors for both interim reports and report cards.
  • Any product used in the Portfolio will come from an assignment in the student's class. This assignment will be managed by the content-area teacher until a final grade has been assigned to it. This grades resides in their class and is final. However, students may revise those products further for their Portfolio.
  • Students will receive a final grade for the year in their Portfolio class based on the following;
    • The panel will grade the Portfolio based on the Skills Rubric independently. The grades of the panel members will be averaged for the Portfolio portion of the final grade.
    • The panel will grade the presentation based on the Presentation Rubric. This will be done in conference immediately following the Q&A portion of the presentation.
    • The score on the Portfolio portion and presentation portion will then be averaged together for the final Portfolio grade. This grade will appear on the final report card.
    • Canterbury students will now have the opportunity to graduate with High Honors or Honors distinctions. The Portfolio grade is a key factor, along with the student's final average for their 6th, 7th and 8th grade years at Canterbury, in determining whether a student graduates with these distinctions:
      • High Honors: An 'A' average and an 'A' on Portfolio
      • Honors: An 'A' average and a 'B' on Portfolio

Rubrics: Two rubrics have been developed, which will guide students in creating and presenting their Portfolio and the panel in grading it.
  • Skills Rubric: This rubric provides a grading scale for the panel as they look through the portfolio. It contains descriptions of Distinguished, Proficient, and Developing work.
  • Presentation Rubric: This rubric provides a grading scale for the panel during the presentation of the Portfolio and the Q&A which follows. It contains descriptions of Distinguished, Proficient, and Developing work.

Timeline: The link below contains a timeline we will use with the 8th grade. The timeline is meant to provide benchmarks for students as they prepare their Portfolios and themselves for their final presentation. The Portfolio Mentor, teachers, and parents will work in partnership to keep the student on track.

Schedule of Presentations: A schedule of presentations has been determined through a random student selection and is available upon request. Students will receive their presentation date and time in their first Portfolio class.

2011-2012 Preview: Leadership Electives
As I have posted earlier, we will have a new Elective program for 7th and 8th graders beginning this fall. In earlier posts I previewed the course tracks of The Arts and A 21st Century World. In this post I will preview the Leadership classes we will offer in the Elective program.

Ethics in Leadership: Students focus on the ways current and emerging leaders can assess the values that influence their actions and encourages them to think through the consequences of those actions. Combining classical ethical theories from western thought and modern case studies, students will be able to locate leadership styles in an ethical context, and begin to develop and practice reasoning processes of their own.

Profiles in Leadership: In this elective, students will explore various leadership models, leaders in action, and leadership writings. They will explore through case study and group work the many ways leadership can be executed. By the end of the course students will identify their own strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis leadership and begin to put their particular brand of leadership into practice.

Leadership in Action: In this elective, students will actively explore leadership opportunities both within the school setting and in the community. By placing students in leadership roles, students will be able to develop their own sense of responsibility and leadership style. These opportunities will be carefully explored and selected by student and faculty. We will foster communication skills by leading younger students, teaching peers, and learning to facilitate and manage a group in the outdoor setting and in service opportunities.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One Final Legacy
Summer cleaning is in full swing here in Armfield. Lockers take the longest to clean. Each summer, they are individually washed and sanitized, so they are ready for their new occupant in August. As I'm sure you can imagine, when they are cleaned out in the spring, you can find some very interesting items. For example, this year we found all varieties of food and drink, stuffed tests and quizzes, handouts needing signatures, winter coats and boots, old lunch boxes, family pictures - the works.

I remember one year when I was teaching 4th grade, I had a student who left eight coats in his locker over the year, and didn't realize it until the end of the year. He wasn't sure how he would carry all of them home, as they were too puffy for a trash bag. So together, we came up with the solution. He put one coat on, then another, then another....until he walked out to carpool looking like the Goodyear Man.

This morning, I walked into the building and heard that despite our best efforts this spring, something had made it through to the summer cleaning. Apparently, an inventive 8th grader chose to leave a final marker of their time here at Canterbury. This student found a way to affix a magnet to a donut and then place it underneath the top shelf of the locker. I'm not sure if they hoped it would fossilize over time so they could come back during their ten year reunion and claim it (an odd time capsule, I'd say) or if they merely placed it there during the year in order to keep it safe from notorious middle school moochers and forgot about it.

Regardless, it is one of the most creative and interesting remnants of a locker I've ever encountered. Intentional or not, I tip my hat to this student for laying claim to that title. What's the most interesting/disgusting/funny thing you've ever seen/heard of being left in a locker?