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Assessing Student Portfolios at the Middle School Level

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 9/24/2015

Working portfolios and final portfolios need to be assessed by the student and the teacher. This article gives tips on how to organize the task and also how to make the portfolio process meaningful to the students.

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    Tips to Assess the Portfolio

    How do you go about the task of assigning a grade to a student's portfolio? Portfolios show growth and can be a showcase for student work. It's difficult to think about taking all that creativity and defining it with a letter somewhere between A and F. However, in the Cataloging Portfolios end, students need a grade.

    For the working portfolio, an easy assessment can be a checklist and a reflective essay and/or a rubric. For the final portfolio, the teacher needs to clear about expectations from the beginning and to make the final assessment with the use of a rubric. It is best if the students receive the rubric on the first day of class, so that they know the expectations. The following is for a writing portfolio.

    Assessing the Working Portfolio

    The working portfolio should be assessed each grading period. Students need to organize the working portfolio, as the folders can become messy and disorganized. Students need to show that they have completed all the required assignments and have made improvements in their writing, such as in the areas of use of writing conventions, organization, including more details, etc. This can be done with a reflective essay and checklist. You can create a checklist or spreadsheet for the student to access on the computer, or you can have them organize it the old-fashioned way.

    Checklist and Reflective Essay

    The checklist should include a student check-off sheet of all required writing assignments. Students should discuss their current strengths and weaknesses and what they want to improve the next nine weeks in the reflective essay. If the teacher wants to use the rubric in addition to these items, that is nice too.

    Assessing the Final Portfolio with Rubric

    The final portfolio should be assessed with a rubric. Criteria for the rubric could be the following:

    • All required items included
    • content/details
    • use of writing conventions
    • creativity
    • neatness
    • organization
    • use of transitions
    • voice

    Before students turn in their final portfolios to the teacher, students should peer-edit the portfolios using the rubric. Students should then have time to re-work any pieces.

    After the teacher has graded the portfolio with the rubric, it is most meaningful if he or she can discuss the portfolio with students individually. Of course, it is best if the teacher is conferencing the whole year with students individually. However, this step is important so that the final portfolio is truly a celebration of the student's work and so that the student knows what he or she needs to work on next year.

Portfolios in the Middle School

Portfolios have been around for years. Many teachers have questions about where to put them, what goes in them and how to assess them. This series of lessons will offer tips and address these questions.
  1. How to Store and to Use Portfolios in the Language Arts Classroom
  2. Tips on Planning & Organizing Student Portfolios
  3. Assessing Student Portfolios at the Middle School Level