Picture of a Portfolio: Through the Lens of Real Life Teachers

by: Brittany Gulley, Kim Monks, and Amanda Pickens

unknownPortfolios? What exactly is a portfolio? As pre-K and kindergarten teachers we had no answer for this question. Hearing the word portfolio, we immediately thought that we would pull the cutest, most precious templates from Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers and rock this process. It did not take long for us to realize that this was not going to be a Pinterest perfect portfolio, but instead we learned that a portfolio required time, patience, and a lot of collaboration as a district.

In teacher terms, a portfolio means you get to showcase your students’ growth from beginning to end with samples of work, and the success of this growth is in your hands. Although hesitant at first, there are many reasons why we believe this is a positive change for our students and classrooms. With portfolios, early elementary teachers are the masters of their own destiny and now have their own, individual growth score instead of only having school-wide growth factored into their overall evaluation score. The growth of each student is demonstrated based on individual student needs, and the teacher collaboration within our district increased tremendously. The portfolio is a true reflection of our own effectiveness. We have control over the outcome because the results of the portfolios are a true indication of our students’ growth.

unknown-1An effective classroom is one that differentiates based on the academic needs of each student, and with the implementation of the portfolio, our assessments are able to also reflect this type of practice. The portfolio allows us to celebrate a student’s growth by setting, and pushing them to meet, individual goals. This ensures that students on all levels can make the most growth possible.

Though the shift was a big change in mindsets for our district, we were able to refine our practice as educators through collaboration. The move toward portfolios was our chance to create an exciting and insightful Professional Learning Community (PLC) in our district. Coming together as a team monthly for meaningful discussions surrounding standards, assessments, data, and student growth allowed us to grow together as a district.

Over the past year we have learned the answer to the question we asked ourselves in the beginning … What exactly is a portfolio? After weeks of denial, tears, frustration, and finally acceptance, we put away our stickers and scrapbook supplies. We rocked the portfolio process with collections of meaningful evidence that reflected the growth of our students, in our classroom, for that school year.

The teachers who contributed to this story are educators in Lincoln County Schools. Brittany Gulley is a pre-K teacher at Flintville Elementary School and pre-K district lead leacher, Kim Monks is a kindergarten teacher at South Lincoln School and kindergarten District lead teacher, and Amanda Pickens is a first grade teacher at Flintville Elementary School and first grade district lead teacher.