Friday, May 15, 2015

Eighth Grade Spotlight: High School Portfolios

While in grad school, I wrote a paper about post secondary outcomes for students with disabilities. It was the most depressing paper I ever wrote. The research is disgusting. The majority of adults with disabilities do not have full time employment. Then and there, I vowed to do anything I could in the middle grades to make sure the students on my case load would not be a statistic. The most efficient way to do this was to teach self advocacy skills and make sure my students knew themselves, their strengths, their disability, and how to talk to adults about all of the above.

During my time as a middle school learning specialist, my colleague Cara Shannon and I created a plan surrounding transitions and self advocacy. We did a lot of work around self advocacy in 5th, 6th, and 7th grades but this blog will focus on how we got 8th grade students to make an individualized portfolio, email their high school case manager, and present their portfolio all before graduation. Here's my break down:

Eight Grade:

One month before graduation: Students create their own portfolio. It includes:​

Students should include one example of work that they have completed from each subject. This work should show an ACCURATE representation of what their work looks like with the modifications and accommodations listed. I like printing the accommodations and modification pages on colored paper so that they stick out and look different than their student work. 

Three weeks before graduation: Students would write an email to their case manager (they cc-ed me on it). Here is a template I emailed to students. We worked on changing it and individualizing it together. At the end of the email they asked to meet with the case manager to go over their portfolio. I also sent the case manager my own email.

Here is an example email from a graduated eighth grader. 

Two weeks before graduation: This is the busiest time! I contacted parents and asked permission to take their child to meet the case manager at the high school. I had the student practice presenting their portfolio. Here is a picture of one amazing former student reading his portfolio on the train ride over to his meeting with the high school case manager.

Last Week of School or So:
I would get admin and parent permission to go over to the high school with the student or group of students. Students went over their portfolio with the case manager and would leave it there for them to have and refer to. 

Students will still email me and let me know that they are self advocating and the case managers were always incredibly impressed by the confident teenager in front of them, going through their portfolio and talking about strategies that work. I highly recommend other middle school learning specialists out there to create a portfolio system of their own (and let me know how it goes)!