The Sussex Academy is committed to the principles of Expeditionary Learning (EL). The EL model focuses on literacy, reflection, and interdisciplinary project-based learning. As a result, EL schools use portfolios to assess student progress and growth. At Sussex Academy the student portfolio is an important tool to assess this growth. The portfolio is a collection of work that shows what the student has been working on, learning to do, and thinking about each of the three years at Sussex Academy.
Each student portfolio is both a showcase of the student’s best work and an illustration of his/her academic growth over time. Each portfolio is unique to the individual student through his/her choices about artifacts and reflections. Yet each portfolio shows some commonalities across grade, team, and department, as teachers require certain artifacts and reflections. Ultimately, the intent of the portfolio is to document the mastery of the Delaware Content Standards, to highlight the EL principles, to chronicle student progress throughout the year, and to assess continuous student performance.
Throughout the year, each team creates and updates their portfolio checklist. The checklist includes the following: cover letter, resume, goals, goals update, grade reports, and sections to represent each content area with reflections.
Since portfolios chronicle growth over time, the expectations for students’ portfolio presentations change throughout their three years at Sussex Academy. During the sixth grade students collect their work in a binder and present their portfolios to their parents in the spring. The teachers determine the format of these presentations. In the seventh grade, the students present their portfolios to outside reviewers. These reviewers are parent volunteers who have gone through our training process. These reviewers use a rubric to evaluate each student during a more formal, 25 to 30 minute presentation. In the eighth grade the students again present their portfolios to their parents and/or outside reviewers.
Because the primary purpose of the portfolio is to assess student growth, two elements are important components of the portfolio review process at Sussex Academy. In upholding one of the core EL practices- to model a culture of reflection, critique, revision, and collaboration- students are required to write “Reflections” about their artifacts. Another important element to portfolio assessment is in the use of rubrics by reviewers. Appropriate rubrics provide a clear definition of what is being assessed and identify the degree to which students have met those expectations.
Most weeks, the students meet twice with their portfolio facilitator (usually a teacher on their team) to develop their portfolios. The facilitator monitors each student’s progress and evaluates the portfolios at the end of the first semester and the end of the school year. As outlined in the Sussex Academy Promotion and Retention Policy, students in grades seven and eight must satisfactorily complete their portfolio requirements in order to be promoted.