Education Opinion

Picking Nits

By Emmet Rosenfeld — March 18, 2007 2 min read
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I took another day off from actual teaching last week to work on the portfolio, and it is nearly in finished form. By “almost” I mean all the entries are in individual manila folders with a litter of yellow sticky notes attached to parts that need attention. I am now in the process of un-stickying. When it’s all sticky-free I can box, send, and drink.

An unexpected favorite part was drawing diagrams of the classrooms to go with the video tapes. A part I still haven’t done yet is to attach typed descriptions to the evidence (assignment sheets, student papers) for the videotaped entries.

In neatening up these last minute details, it became apparent that the bible itself is inconsistent. In more than one instance, two sets of directions from different parts of the bible offer incompatible suggestions about how to properly submit the work.

“Final Inventory” cover sheets are provided for each entry. They are schematic drawings of big stacks of paper, showing what order things go in and where to put the paper clips. Unfortunately, these final inventory cover sheets DO NOT MATCH the exhaustive directions given in earlier sections of the bible. I get the distinct feeling that the bible has been revised and these diagrams represent earlier versions of the portfolio with, in some cases, significantly different requirements from those that exist now.

For example, the Entry 1 Final Inventory suggests that there are three paper-clipped bundles after the written commentary: Assignment #1 with response from Student A and then Student B; Assignment #2 with the same; and Assignment #3, ditto.

In fact, this entry as currently devised calls for four assignments per student, not three, and these don’t even have to be the same assignments. In the bible (EA/ELA 2006 pp108-9), the order suggested under “For Your Entry 1 Envelope” is first a packet with four assignments for Student A, and then a packet for Student B with four assignments.

This is not an isolated incident. Every one of the Final Inventory cover sheets attached in a helpful appendix of forms at your fingertips contains significant inaccuracies, as compared to the version of the entry given in the bible proper. For Entry 2, for example, the Final Inventory suggests that the written commentary can be 12 pages and allows for 6 pages of attached instructional material. The Bible (pp 117-19) clearly states that there can only be 11 and 3 pages, respectively. In fact, the directions include stern language: “If you submit a longer Written Commentary, only the first 11 pages will be read and scored” (boldface theirs).

If, therefore, a candidate were hapless enough to only use the cover sheets from the appendix as a guide, that candidate would fail. However, in a masterful Catch-22, even candidates like me who recognize the discrepancies are required to sign and submit the (incorrect) Final Inventory cover sheets in a “Forms” envelope, representing cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die sincerity that we have not only assembled our portfolio completely according to directions but checked it twice.

Something else about portfolio assembly that bugged me was the dehumanizing aspect of putting a number and a bar code on everything, instead of my name. I appreciate the purpose of anonymity, but the act of actually whiting out one’s own name on emails that show how your dialogue with a parent has changed a kid’s life for the better underscores the irony that these entries are at the same time drenched in blood, sweat and tears, yet devoid of voice and personal identifying characteristics.

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