e-Portfolios to Aid College Admissions Published 2006-04-11

School administrators were stunned yesterday by the revelation from the College Board that an additional 27,000 SAT tests from the October exam had not been rescanned for errors. College Board Acknowledges More SAT Scoring Errors from Washington Post(24-Mar-2006)

Are you surprised that errors were found in the scoring of numerous SAT exams?  We shouldn't be!  Remember the Election of 2000 - "hanging chads"and all?  Everyone with experience using Scantron-like scoring knows that the system is fallible.  Of course, the story is not that the scoring process resulted in mistakes, but that so many mistakes were made.

For me, the story should focus on how colleges and universities (and the educational system in general) evaluate our students.  Currently, admissions criteria are based on high school grades, standardized test scores, recommendations, and admissions questions/essays. With the exception of student responses to admission questions/essays, these items are summary criteria. Wouldn't it be great to offer the admissions committees more specific examples of students' potential?

The idea of student portfolios is not new. But as more and more student work is developed and submitted electronically, it has become easier to maintain an e-portfolio for all of your students. In my vision, each course would require at least one opportunity for students to add to their e-portfolio and the school would require an interdisciplinary capstone project in the Fall of the senior year, the deliverable being some form of electronic publication - anything from an essay to a digital story, blog, podcast or even movie.

This e-portfolio would be made available to colleges and universities to aid in their admissions process. All entries into the e-portfolio would include metadata. Course information and assignment objectives for each entry would offer context for the entry. Entries could be viewed in chronological order to reveal student progress. Entries would be tagged by discipline offering information to support standardized test scores such as SATs and APs.

Of course, such a solution will require work. High Schools will need to lead the way and there will be a period where student e-portfolios will not be used by college admissions committees. Whether or not college admissions committees embrace them, e-portfolios offer many other advantages.

An e-portfolio system provides students with the opportunity to "publish" their work. Making student work a part of their "permanent record" will give students a better sense of ownership and pride in their work. It will also put more pressure on the student to perform at his/her best. E-portfolios also offer parents an opportunity to see their child's work published. Students love to show off their work and love getting the attention and accolades that only a parent can offer. It may not be cool to bring home a paper or test to show off to your parents, but it is another matter if your parents can check out your masterpieces themselves.

In this age of high-stake tests dominating the conversation, let's offer our students the opportunity to really show what they have learned. E-portfolios provide the vehicle.


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