The philosophy of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School (PACHS) has always been largely influenced by the writings of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, his notions of praxis, or reflection and action, and his contention that teachers are not meant to fill students’ passive heads with information but rather that students should be active participants in constructing their understanding of the world and acting upon the world to change it.
Recently, educational policymakers have placed increasing emphasis on the value of test scores as a measure of student success, teacher success, and ultimately school and school district success. Federal legislators, state education boards and local school councils are all involved in this expansion of the role of standardized tests in the lives of our students. In fact, such tests have become the sole measure for the success or failure of students and schools.
At PACHS we wish to offer a deeper exploration of our students’ performance. Rather than relying only on a single paper and pencil test, the teachers and staff have designed a graduation benchmark, in the form of a senior portfolio project, which would offer a fuller sense of student achievements and abilities at this very critical moment in their lives.
Test score history
Examples of work from classes
Evidence of having completed the Senior Year Checklist
Resume with cover letter
Student Financial Aid Applications (FAFSA)
Interview with Director
Portfolio and project presentation before review panel
1. Learner’s Autobiography
Five pages, double-spaced, typed, 12 pt font, Times, Helvetica, Palatino, etc (no fancy wedding invitation script!).
It has been said that human beings are the only animals that have the power to experience life, reflect upon their experiences and use that understanding to act upon and change the world. This process of reflection and action is known to readers of the works of Paulo Freire as praxis. We hope that in your experience at PACHS and the FLC, you have been encouraged to examine your own history and to reflect upon it. Now is your chance to bring this past into the present and the future.
The Learner’s Autobiography will be a paper that focuses on your educational journey thus far in life and sets a course for the years following graduation. We are all life-long learners, even if we have different notions of how we will live after graduating from high school. Bound for college? Trade school? Straight to work? Your learning experiences can help guide you after you graduate.
This autobiography is not like a traditional autobiography where you might say, “I was born in North Carolina and rode a horse every day to school…” You should look at your experiences growing up as they relate to your educational life, but this is first and foremost the story of you as a learner–past, present and future. Below we have offered some guiding ideas to think about while writing this paper. They’re only meant as suggestions to help get you started.
What events in and out of school have shaped me as learner?
Where have my most important learning experiences taken place?
How can I use my education in the future?
Who has influenced me as a student or learner? Parents? Teachers? Friends? Brothers or sisters?
How will I use my learning experiences in the future?
2. Five Year Plan
The Five Year Plan is a tool for students preparing to graduate from high school to begin shaping their plans for post-secondary education, training, or work, but it may also include other personal plans and the means for achieving them including becoming independent, family planning, community involvement or activism and other such life goals.
3. Test Score History
While it is the philosophy of the High School that standardized test scores are a poor measure of the complete student, we recognize their role in providing a limited history of a student’s academic growth and preparedness for college entrance. As part of your portfolio, please include copies of your TABE or Scantron test scores from your years at PACHS, a copy of your PSAE scores (when appropriate), and your ACT, SAT or other college entrance test scores.
4. Examples of work from classes
Please include examples of your class work from each of the classes in which you were enrolled during your years at PACHS. You should choose examples from each class throughout the year that show your abilities as a student in each particular class. Small, daily assignments such as worksheets or homework assignments will not be enough. Remember the panelists want to see your progress throughout your high school career. Work with your teachers and mentor to help you select the best type of assignments to show your growth as a student.
For assignments where revised drafts are required, such as in an English class where a teacher may ask you to revise a paper two or three times, include several drafts so that panelists reviewing your work can see the progress you made while completing the assignment. Remember to include work from not only your core classes but also from your elective courses as well as proof of your participation in community building activities.
5. Evidence of having completed the senior year checklist
Please see attached checklist. Your senior mentor will work closely with you in completing all the items on the checklist. Documents such as the resume, FAFSA (financial aid) forms, program applications and responses, network of support etc., included on the checklist must be included in the portfolio when it is submitted to the panelists.
6. Interview with Director
Each student must have an exit interview with the school director. The goals of this interview are to assess your preparedness at the brink of graduation from high school and to assess the performance of the school teaching and support staff and the school curriculum in preparing you for graduation, and life beyond graduation.
7. Portfolio and project presentation before review panel
The senior project provides an opportunity for all students to really shine in the area they feel most confident. The project can be completed in any form or medium, according to the preference of the student. Below are some of the ways that students might present:
Power point presentation
Story board with oral presentation
Collection of creative painting, drawings, etc.
Extended piece of writing, essay or creative
Musical or dance performance with oral presentation
There are no limits to the type of presentation that you might make. These are only meant to be suggestions. Some materials (art supplies, video and audio tapes, fabric and storyboards, etc.) may be provided by the high school if you have a clear idea of your goals with the project in advance. You should develop ideas through conversations with your teachers and your mentor.
The senior project should be a unique reflection of your growth as a student at PACHS and may take into consideration our mission and vision of self-determination, self-actualization, and self-realization. This is an opportunity for you to reflect upon your heritage and your identity. Your project should reflect your self-awareness and self-determination.
Every project should showcase your personal abilities and strengths using a wide range of skills and methods. You will work closely with an advisor, but ultimately it will be your ideas you will be exploring.
Below we have outlined three themes for your project. Please work within them. They are very broad ideas that will let you work from many different points of view and within many different subject areas.
Yourself and the community. Create a project that reflects how you see yourself in your community. This project may represent your definition of community, an ideal or imagined community or even the lack of community. You may draw from personal experiences. Your definition of a community does not have to be confined to Humboldt Park, the high school or any geographic area. You might consider your religious community, your family, or other groups that serve as community for you. You may also reflect upon your exposure to different communities of which you are not a member.
Evolution and transformation. This is a broad category for which you may create a project that explores different ideas that relate to evolution and transformation. You may touch upon your evolution as a student or individual, the school, the community. You might think emotionally, politically, educationally, biologically, or in any other arena you have an interest.
Justice and solidarity. A project in this category would showcase your views of justice and solidarity. You may draw upon historical, political, legal, personal or other sources to emphasize and strengthen your point. Your may also analyze what role do justice and solidarity play in your community and your life.
Before you begin to work on your project you must submit a project proposal to your senior advisor by the end of the second module. The proposal should be no less than one page and must contain the following information: A description of your project, an explanation of the theme you will be covering and how your project ties to the theme, the medium of presentation, and a bibliography.
Once you have completed your portfolio and presented all contents of the portfolio, including the project an interview is conducted by a panel composed of community members, educators and school board officials. Panelists will ask questions about your presentation or any other materials they have been given to read from your portfolio. The purpose of the interview is to gain a sense of you as a student, your experience at PACHS and your future plans following graduation. The interview will follow your project presentation immediately.
This is a second interview in addition to the exit interview with the director.
The role of the senior mentor
The senior portfolio project is a huge endeavor and we at PACHS believe no one should feel alone during this process. Therefore, you as a senior at PACHS will be assigned a mentor to provide you with assistance throughout the progression of your portfolio. The role of the mentor is not only to follow up with you to make sure you are completing the contents of the portfolio, but also to be a part of your support network. The mentor should be seen as a resource person, someone you can discuss your project ideas with, as well as assist you to overcome obstacles you may face while completing your benchmark for graduation. It is important that you meet regularly with your mentor to make sure you do not fall behind. If you are having difficulties with any portion of the portfolio process your mentor is available to answer any questions, assist you with any applications, and even proofread your papers if that is what you need. Do not be afraid to ask for help, that is why you have been assigned a mentor.