The Transylvania Times -

Portfolios Reveal Work


Last updated 10/28/2019 at 1:55pm

The decision by the Transylvania County Board of Education to require a student portfolio as a graduation requirement should be beneficial to students, colleges and employers.

Under the current college admission systems, most schools review applicants’ standardized test scores, grade transcripts and letters of recommendation. While that traditional streamlined process allows colleges to cull many applicants, it has a number of flaws.

Standardized tests tend to benefit the children of wealthier parents. The companies that create and administer the standardized tests also provide classes to prepare students for those tests. Since these “test prep” classes are costly, they are often unavailable to students whose parents are of modest means.

The same disparity applies to retaking standardized tests. Many middle class and lower income students cannot afford to take standardized tests multiple times. Since the testing companies now accept the highest scores from multiple tests, those who take the tests more often have a chance to increase their scores.

Grade transcripts can be flawed in that some schools or teachers may be more strict or lax in assigning grades. No two teachers or schools are identical; some teachers may give more emphasis to homework and class participation while others may based their grades solely on test scores.

As for letters of recommendation, nearly any student can find a few people to write something positive about them.

Portfolios have several advantages over the current system. They actually show a student’s work. They also reveal the progress a student has made from his or her freshman to senior year.

The types of portfolios described to the Board of Education last Monday evening are comprehensive. In addition to academic work, they will include students’ achievements, awards, offices and volunteer work. When people peruse a portfolio, they will receive a more comprehensive view of the student.

Advantages of a portfolio are not limited to its content. All students, regardless of their career aspirations, will have a portfolio. Since the portfolio is portable, they will be able to show it to college admissions personnel or potential employers, and they can keep modifying it throughout their careers.

The fact that students also will be trained in interview skills and then have to go through an interview could be invaluable. It is paperwork that gets one an interview, but the interview is what gets one the job.

The “reality check” segment of the portfolios being implemented should not be underestimated. Far too often high school students do not understand the economic realities of life. By having students to select a place they want to live and a lifestyle they wish to lead and then showing them the amount of money they will need to live that lifestyle, the jobs that provide the income to lead the lifestyle and the specific requirements to get a job that pays that salary should be incredibly beneficial. No longer should students believe the improbability that they can live in an affluent neighborhood with only a high school diploma.

When all of these things are combined, a portfolio should do a much better job of preparing students to enter the real world, as well as more accurately reflect their abilities and work ethic.

Since the portfolios should more accurately reflect a students’ ability and work ethic, colleges and businesses should receive a much more accurate presentation of the person they are admitting or hiring. For years, colleges of art and photography have based admission on portfolios and interviews. Many businesses – particularly those that require writing, photography, design work, etc. – rely heavily on an applicants’ portfolio. Seeing a portfolio of one’s work is a far better indication of what one could do in the workplace than a grade transcript. Computer icons Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did not finish college, but they certainly knew how to design computer technologies. If people can do the work, the formal education should not matter.

That is the benefit of portfolios. Employers and college admissions personnel can see the work of candidates. And students, regardless of their career path, will be able to show what they have accomplished and they will be more prepared to enter the “real world.”


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