If I could change one thing about the American educational system it would be to replace standardized testing with a portfolio based system. Standardized testing has caused a myriad of problems such as “teaching to the test.” The high-stakes testing model shows a very one dimensional picture of our students. How did they perform on this specific test at one particular moment in time? It is time to get rid of standardized testing in favor of a more well-rounded approach. I would suggest creating a portfolio system with a heavy emphasis on project based learning.
First we would need a solid set of national standards for all subjects, not just math and reading. I believe these standards should be internationally benchmarked like the Common Core, and include knowledge based and skill based standards. These standards would set a foundation for evaluating students and holding schools accountable. How can we hold schools accountable if there is no testing, you may ask.

That is where the student portfolio comes in. Throughout the year students will create a portfolio of work which will have to meed certain standards. The portfolio will include assessments and projects assigned by the teacher, but it will also be focused on individual projects. Students will explore different topics within the curriculum and create projects demonstrating the skills and content they learned throughout the year. At the end of the year, a panel comprised of teachers and administrators will assess the students’ portfolios to determine whether they will advance to the next grade based on how well the student displays the benchmarks for their grade. Ideally this panel discussion would include the student and parents. Students should be able to help determine their strengths, weaknesses and achievement over the course of the year.

The portfolio method creates a holistic view of the student’s work throughout the year, not just on one specific date. It also shows student achievement in more than reading and math. This holds students accountable for their own work, they can actually see what they have accomplished rather than just a score on a paper. I also believe that this method would not take much more time than the previous method. The panels could meet when tests were previously held and time spent on test prep could now be spend on individualized projects.

Having a portfolio for every student also offers a better view of the student when applying to college. Rather than solely relying on GPA or SAT scores, the college can see works that the student has created and how they have chosen to express what they have learned. Colleges will also be able to see very clearly how the student has grown and changes throughout high school. This gives the college a good idea if that student is a fit for the college or not.

We need to stop looking at our students like they are one-dimensional beings. Not all students are good at the same things, especially not taking tests. Every student should be able to express what they have learned in a way that makes sense to them. It is also important to include art, music, science and history in our assessments of education. While math and reading are the foundations to other subjects, they are not the whole picture, other subjects are needed to create a dynamic education.