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Landmark Students at City Council Hearing

Written by Karla Ovalle on 10-21-2003

Below is the testimony presented last Tuesday at a hearing at City Hall.

"The foundation of every state, is the education of its youth.�

-Diogenes Laertius
Our names are, Karla Ovalle, Pavel Paulino, and Pascual Mejia. We attend Landmark High School, a school in which the vast majority of students are students of color. We are a Title 1 school. At Landmark, we are taught to present our ideas and understanding in eight different areas through the completion of portfolios. These eight portfolios consist of four major subjects: Literature, Mathematics, Science and Social Science and, four minors which include: Autobiography, Arts and Media, Language Other Than English, and Health and Fitness.
A student's skills and understanding are better measured with portfolios rather than with tests. We as students feel that tests do not teach us anything because in preparation for a test, you must memorize facts and just answer questions. On the other hand, with portfolios, a student must have a deeper understanding of the subject at hand. This is demonstrated at Landmark High School during a presentation for which the student must prepare. The questions asked during this presentation are designed to challenge a student and cause him/her to think critically, therefore applying what they�|ve learned in a more resourceful manner. For instance, one of the requirements for the Social Science portfolio is to choose a topic that involves real life issues. For example, one student researched Genetic engineering and had to discuss and analyze the ethical issues concerning this topic. And, for the literature portfolio, a student wrote about the differences and similarities between the villains of Hamlet and Othello by William Shakespeare. Through performance based assessment, students are given the opportunity to embrace their strengths and work on their weaknesses, ultimately learning from them as well.
As a result of Landmark High School's portfolio system, many private colleges such as Vassar, Barnard, Wheaton, Bard and Brown accept Landmark students and students often use their portfolios as examples of work they did in high school which help them to gain college admission. Many Landmark students are the first in their families to attend college. The portfolios allow colleges to know that a Landmark student is able to store, recall and defend information. The overall structures of portfolios are similar to the work expected to be done in college, therefore preparing the student for future academic tasks. Because of this, a student who has attended a portfolio-based school has a better preparation for success in college.
Too much weight is being placed on high stakes standardized test results, which only show a student's performance within a short period of time. Tests don't show how much the student has grown academically and learned throughout his/her four years in high school, whereas a portfolio does just that. A student who may have been academically successful in high school, will not be given a diploma for his/her hard work because he/she failed one test. We must make sure that portfolios remain an opportunity for students, especially students like us who have often gone unnoticed politically and been educationally neglected prior to attending Landmark High School. A student's arduous path through the rigors of high school should not go unnoticed. High stakes testing is unfair.

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