Theses Doctoral

Not Driven By High-Stakes Tests: Exploring Science Assessment and College Readiness of Students From An Urban Portfolio Community High School.

Fleshman, Robin Earle

This case study seeks to explore three research questions: (1) What science teaching and learning processes, perspectives, and cultures exist within the science classroom of an urban portfolio community high school? (2) In what ways does the portfolio-based approach prepare high school students of color for college level science coursework, laboratory work, and assessment? (3) Are portfolio community high school students of color college ready? Is there a relationship between students’ science and mathematics performance and college readiness? The overarching objectives of the study are to learn, understand, and describe an urban portfolio community high school as it relates to science assessment and college readiness; to understand how the administration, teachers, and alumni perceive the use of portfolios in science learning and assessment; and to understand how alumni view their preparation and readiness for college and college science coursework, laboratory work, and assessments.
The theoretical framework of this study encompasses four theories: critical theory, contextual assessment, self-regulated learning, and ethic of care. Because the urban high school studied partnered with a community-based organization (CBO), it identifies as a community school. Therefore, I provide context regarding the concept, culture, and services of community schools. Case study is the research design I used to explore in-depth this urban portfolio community high school, which involved mixed methods for data collection and analysis. In total, six alumni/current college students, five school members (administrators and teachers), and three CBO members (administrators, including myself) participated in the study. In addition to school artefacts and student portfolios collected, classroom and portfolio panel presentation observations and 13 semi-structured interviews were conducted to understand the portfolio-based approach as it pertains to science learning and assessment and college science readiness. Data from the transcripts of two graduating classes were analyzed and the interview transcripts were coded and analyzed as well.
Analysis of qualitative data revealed key findings: (1) the school’s Habits of Mind, authentic scientific inquiry, self-regulated learning triggers and strategies, and teacher feedback practices driven by an ethic of care supported students’ science learning and portfolio assessment; and (2) the cyclical and extensive portfolio processes of writing, revision, and submission well prepared alumni for college science laboratory work and coursework, to a certain extent, but not for the traditional assessments administered in college science courses. Analysis of quantitative data revealed that, if based solely on the City University of New York’s Regents score criteria for college readiness, the majority of students from these two graduating classes studied would not have been considered college ready even though all participants, including interviewed alumni, believed the school prepared them for college. The majority of these students, however, were transitioning to college readiness based on their Regents-level science and mathematics coursework. Findings of this study have implications for science assessment, professional development in science, education policy reform, and high school partnerships with CBOs and postsecondary institutions as they pertain to college and college science readiness for students of color in urban portfolio community high schools.


  • thumnail for Fleshman_columbia_0054D_13940.pdf Fleshman_columbia_0054D_13940.pdf application/pdf 2.52 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Mensah, Felicia
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 18, 2017