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Testing and the Arts


Educators are pushing for standardized assessments of knowledge in subjects such as painting and music, according to Teacher Magazine. In today's high-stakes environment, they feel they have little choice.

What's your view? What do school arts programs stand to gain or lose by using standarized assessments?


To assess art you must find the way to assess learning processes or by asking general questions concerning elements and principles of design as foundations of composition. There are, of course, questions to deal with aesthetics, criticism, and history of arts education if thats what one feels one needs. I personally disagree with the statement if you can't assess it why teach it? That's like saying, "if you can't assess life, why live?" Arts education should be a foundation or hub of interdisciplinary curriculum and integrated curriculum delivery. It's function for improving love for learning is what is important in education now. Not how such subjects should get tested or children get assessed. Children are getting turned off by the institutionalization and regimentation in schools and curriculum today. What are you trying to make? Better people or better cheese?

I am a K-5 music teacher of 26 years. In our state the arts were included as a part of the core curriculum when the reform movement came to the fore. Teachers and other citizens went through a three year process to write state standards, curriculum guides, and state-wide assessments for elementary students. I participated in developing and establishing achievement levels for our Gr. 5 state-wide Fine Arts assessment. Then school administrators began getting heat from building principals, and parents in the communities began to demand that aesthetics be eliminated from instruction. The conflict eventually spilled over into the political arena, and the governor set aside our assessments before they could be utilized. Later, funding for them was eliminated altogether, and at the present time Fine Arts assessment has disappeared. In the meantime, with the rush to comply with NCLB, Fine Arts classes offered are the absolute minimum, budgets are being cut, and programs are in jeapordy of disappearing entirely. If our state did not have an accreditation requirement mandating that all students receive fifty minutes/week instruction in fine arts classes, the door would have swung wide and slammed on the backs of music and art instruction long ago. Regardless of the requirement, no-one cares what is being offered in Fine Arts class instruction as long as the classes are offered. I have students being taken out of my class sessions at every whim by classroom teachers who need them for make-up sessions when they are absent, in the fear that the kids will fall behind in math or science. At the same time, I see students all crowded into one classroom watching a Disney movie, while the teachers pow-wow in another room abouthow to do things that will motivate them to increase their performance on the state-mandated tests. The kids are losing valuable instruction time so the teachers can worry over the test. The whole system is completely screwed-up, thanks to reform-minded politicians who bow down to the holy grail of test-results defined educational success. It is not success at all, and we are wasting the educational opportunities of an entire generation of students. When this all finally comes around to be seen for what it really is, there will be irreparable harm that will have been done to fine arts programs and will have robbed thousands of talented students, who cannot afford expensive private lessons and coaches, of the opportunity to develop their gifts and compete for scholarships into colleges and universities.

My own daughter would have lost out on the opportunity to compete for the Art Department scholarship to attend the college of her choice. She won that due to the preparation she received from her senior art instructor, who helped her prepare an excellent portfolio. Since that time three years ago, she won three of the four prizes in last spring's Student Art Competition, including the Department Purchase Prize, and has received several professional commissions. None of this would have occurred if Fine Arts had been eliminated in our schools. That is a short step away from where we are today without some level of accountability, whether it be a minimum standard of instruction required of all schools or assessments to verify that students are receiving appropriate instruction in visual and performing arts classes.

As a sidelight, a local millionaire recently died, leaving my daughter's high school over $980,000 for the school's drama department. The school board, however, is holding the money hostage because they don't want to use it for the purpose intended by the benefactor. The same lady donated $1.5 million during her lifetime to build a theater for the high school drama department. The instructor in English/speech/drama/debate then was forced out of her regular classroom and had to teach all her classes in the theater because the school board had lost control of the decision-making process over the money. A year later they eventually relented and allowed the teacher back into a regular room. Message: you may have your friends, but we are in control, and don't you forget it. Things are ugly and will get worse until we stop the madness of this disfunctional educational system the politicians have forced the students of American to endure.

My wife and I were discussing recently the entire concept of "free public education." We think it should be ended and that those whose kids are in the system should have to pay for it in lieu of regular taxes, shifting the tax burden for other governmental services to all those no longer paying for educational expenses. Then those who are paying for expensive schools for their students to attend will see to it that their kids are doing the school work, because they will have a really big investment in the kids' futures. This should increase parental involvement to the level everyone says they want it to be and maybe they will see to it their kids are doing the school work. Those not paying for schooling won't feel outraged by the high cost of education, and will be relieved of that portion of the tax burden. American students are as smart as other nations' kids are, they're just not dedicated to education because they have nothing invested in it for their future. As a nation we are a spoiled bunch of sports freaks, who have everything out of focus. Our culture is suffering and disappearing right before our eyes, but we are so focused on mindless things like which bunch of millionaires wins the World Series or the Super Bowl to notice. Wake up America!

Fine arts in our state is part of the core curriculum. Back in 1998, our fine arts department went through a training session to include standards in all fine arts classes. Each subject is broken down by grade level within the elementary, middle school, and high school category. I am very thankful for the implementation of standards in the lesson plans. It has brought uniformity to a previous sporadic and chaotic entity. Our lesson plans must be aligned with the district, state, and national curricula standards. All lesson plans must include accommodations for special education students and gifted and talented students (academic GT).

In addition, we are to align our fine arts subjects across the curriculum to meet the reading, writing, mathematical, and science objectives. I believe, because of these standards and objectives we must adhere to, the fine arts program is swelling with success. Our students are very knowledgeable and have more confidence in the work that is displayed and performed. The state of Texas is on the right track. Now, if only we could have a gifted and talented program for the fine arts. Many students who are not academically successful or gifted, may be gifted in the fine arts programs. I have had special education students who are highly gifted in music. It is a shame the state has not created a rubrics to measure those who are gifted and talented in the fine arts.

As a 6th grade Social Studies teacher, I will gladly allow the fine arts teachers into the "club" in which I didn't choose to belong - the club that judges the quality of a child's entire academic year on a few days. However, I find it a total shame that children cannot go to art and/or music for the fun of being creative and expressive and getting out of the grind/pressure of the core subject classroom. Physical education fits in the same category.

In Ohio, prior to the proficiency tests(circa 1994), teaching was a great profession and one in which I was proud to be included. In ten short years, it has become a never-ending cycle of testing, testing, and yet more testing. I am not trying to take away from the importance of music and art education. They are crucial for children to develop a sense of appreciation for how music and art styles across the ages have created and added to cultures around the world and the way we live today. Fine arts is a way for children to express themselves. Any teacher who knows about multiple intelligences will agree that music and art are important. However,should we add yet other tests in these areas to our already over-burdened children? NO! It has to stop somewhere. NCLB, President Bush, and other education-istas who believe that testing is the way to prove student proficiency need to spend more than just five photo-op moments in a school and really sit down and talk with teachers, parents, students, and administrators who will tell them the truth, not what they want to hear.

Please forgive my soapbox speech. I am not opposed to sensible testing and fair standards. I used our yearly testing as a way to check myself from year to year. What worked? What didn't? How could I have relayed the important information to more students? However, when the system relies on testing to try and prove the inefficiency of teachers, they cease to be concerned with the importance of learning.

I read through the existing posts on this subject, thankful to hear the opinion of those who can look beyond testing and push for a better school system for our children. I absolutely agree that want to register my concern that there is an excessive emphasis in our country for these standardized achievement tests. The teachers have to plan their curriculum around them and teach to a test, the school districts are measures by how their students do one these tests … and the whole system needs to be reformed. Creating a standardized test for arts would not help this problem within our county – it would add to the problem. I realize that school districts and teachers are forced under this considerable pressure to "raise test scores" because it is widely believed that students' scores on standardized achievement tests reflect the quality of a school system. But the fact of the matter is that the students' standardized test scores do not provide an appropriate indication of a teaching staff 's competence or the quality of education in a district. Our goal as educators should be to unite in protest against this heavy emphasis on test-preparation and test scores and get back to the curricular content our children deserve. The arts are not about test scores. It’s about exploration, creativity, and the learning process. These are things that cannot be, and SHOULD NOT be tested – but rather experienced. The arts absolutely should be recognized as subjects as important as math and science, but adding them to the problem of standardized testing will not accomplish that goal and also will not help our country move away from this type of testing.

Monica St. Pierre - Smith

Excuse me, but does anyone else see the folly of standardizing creative expression? How can individual interpretation of artistic "understanding" be standardized?

I teach in a highly diverse inner city school system. The emphasis on the types of literature and art various by the culture to whom we teach. Example, in order to motivate school children in predominantly African American schools, more African influenced art is emphasized. Meanwhile, in the more Hispanic sections, Hispanic art...etc. With the push for standards in Art and Music, how does one assess the broad spectrum of creativity? In a way,the powers that be are trying to define what is "classical" American Culture? Which generes, art styles, artists are going to fit the bill?

The arts are a true expression and historical journey of a communities culture. They should be experienced, taught, critiqued, admired, and nurtured by all. The main purpose of public education and the arts is to teach students to be self evaluators of their experiences/process with the arts be it performing, creating or experiencing the art form. This can be done effectively through a community of professional learners that involves educators, students, parents and the stakeholders. As a performer of arts we are always striving to better our art form and that should be the focus of education in the arts. That may mean creating a tool that evaluates the process not necessarily the outcome. Should this process of evaluation become standardized? Will it validate the need for arts creative process in public education? Only your professional learning community can determine the answer to these questions. I do know that ALL children should have the opportunity to be involved in the creative process. If we lose this opportunity, we deteriorate the substance that holds a community together. Our community has chosen to create a state wide process of assessing the arts. However, it is not the only tool nor THE tool that determines a successful arts program in public education. The process for creating these assessments has been a valuable learning opportunity for those involved. It has brought to the surface discussion regarding; where we are at, where we want to be, how do we get there and what will it look like once we are there.

As someone who believes the arts (especially art and music) are as fundamental and important to student/human development as any of the other subject matters, I believe standardized testing of the arts is important. (I have taught both music and biological sciences to students ranging from middle school to graduate school). I think we not only need to make sure all students have a basic knowledge of the arts, but have an understanding in the way the arts shape their lives and bring other subjects to life. Therefore, if we are to test the arts, it should be in a way that will measure general understanding of the arts, rather than minutia. Rather than ask things that only a person going into the fields of music, art, dance or theatre would need to know, ask something that will be relevant to most people. Knowing that F is the subdominant in the key of C is probably less worthy of standardized tests than knowing that F is note represented by the first space in the treble clef. We also have to be sure to include works of more modern artists and art forms and not just the "classics." Music is more than stuff written by dead white guys. When students get tolearn about the contributions and effects artis have had on their own culture, it is easier to learn and more justifiable to those who teach the "academic" courses. We should test on the very fundamental theories and history of the arts and touch upon the societal influences each artist had on his/her society.

The arts are part of the core curriculum according to NCLB, Goals 2000, and most state curriculum frameworks. The fact they are not tested gives school districts the "option" of cutting them back in favor of increased preparation for high stakes tests in math and language arts in order to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for NCLB regulations. Such moves are often counterproductive, as the arts often give students needed skills to do well in math and language arts!

The issue that bothers me, however, is that tests in the arts should not only be knowledge-based, but performance-based. If children can play an instrument well or sing in-tune, the only way of assessing that is in a performance assessment, not a paper-and-pencil exam. Such assessments are time consuming and expensive to administer. Those people wishing to incorporate the arts into such assessments must keep this in consideration and figure out appropriate ways of testing student skills in dance, music, theatre, or visual arts. If we truly want students to be life-long learners in the arts, then they must have the skills to enjoy being active participants in at least one arts domain and not just be a passive consumer of art.

The other issue is that most school districts have very limited instruction in dance and theatre (and often none at all). Which children should be tested in which domain(s) of the arts? Should we expect every child to reach a proficiency level in at least one arts domain, or more than one?

As a 26 yr. veteran art educator (high school) I am extremely dismayed by this whole subject. When someone finally figures out how to "test" what a student has gained from studying and making art-- we are in trouble! Some things in life are intangible. They are felt, understood, expressed and seen. But they usually cannot be tested for. Art is one of these intangibles. How do you test for love? How can you test for empathy? This is how I see art. Sure. You can know the facts about art history, name the Elements and Principles, list the tools and techniques used and even critique using the Feldman method---but does that really explain how a student feels when painting a self portrait? or throwing a cylinder? or drawing with pastels? or seeing an original van Gogh? Heck no! I, for one, NEVER want to be able to show my students' progress through a standardized test or on a chart or graph. The real challenge for art educators is to help the blockheads in government understand the impact on American culture when there are no more artists. If only we were as powerful as the fundamental churches at getting people to believe in something they cannot touch.
I have spent countless hours/years working on standard aligned curriculum, assessments and syllabi in my district. I believe in solid educational practice. I am not a rebel. But I DO NOT think we art educators fit into the NCLB mold or any other tallymark making organization. SOMEONE has to stop this insanity before there are is no more art for art's sake!

God help us if it's actually come to this. Why would anyone seriously consider quantifying aesthetics. We are becoming more focused on measuring than we are on educating.

This statement, if true, is appalling (and I used to live in Richardson, where this joker is from).

“We are in a public education environment of tight budgets coupled with the need to increase student performance. School districts should therefore have sharp focus on core academics,” says Bill Ames, a standards-reform activist in Richardson, Texas. “Using a football analogy, a coach should not teach trick plays until his team is adept in basic blocking and tackling. Those who believe art is as important as the three R’s should seek out special educational opportunities for their children.”

If I'm reading between the lines, this man is saying that the arts are "trick plays." I only hope that this quote was taken out of context, and I'm just jumping to conclusions.

God help us all if this was really stated. If it was, I wonder how this man could be taken as a credible source of information with regard to education reform.

-a reader in Sugar Land, Texas

Human development is self paced. Creative expression is individual. Efforts to assess learning must reflect what we know and are still learning about human development, including the biological/psychological/neurological/sociological need for moral and spiritual meaning.

Whatever evaluation tools are considered for assessing art programs and student performance would not contribute to the advancement of this field of human endeavor unless carefully designed to nurture the spirit of the endeavor and measure its efficacy according to the practices and principles of quality instruction.

Can it be done?

The Arts assessments and rubrics should be written, administered, and scored. But they should be written in a way that they focus accountablity on the school and the system, not the student. In this day of "its only important if it is tested" mentality if the arts are not tested they will be left out. This would be an unacceptable alternative to testing. But the Arts have that rare opportunity to put standards back into the perspective they were meant ... Standards should be a set of criteria that improves instruction, not a measure of each and every individual.

How. . . Can you assess the beauty of a sonata, the color of blue in a Picasso, the feel of metal as you buff and polish it,the rhythm of a bass drum, or the feelings that wash over you when you discover these teasures? That is why we teach the arts. To think that you can quantify these things is absurd. We teach the arts to EXPAND the mind, not to have students repeat standard answers, on a standardized test. No one person will ever have the same experience with the arts and no facts about the artists, methods, or techniques will EVER change that!!! Teachers (yes, us!) need to lead they way in raging against the system that is trying to turn our students into standardized citizens. If we don't, who will be the next Mozart, where will we find a red as vibrant as a sunset on canvas, and how will our young poets ever bloom into earth-shattering visionaries?! Our education system is changing, our societies views of education are changing, but test scores never tell a whole story. Sometimes, we need to accept that there are wonderous things that are unquantifiable. This may be what can change education and society for the better!

Used carefully, assessment in the arts could be the only way to save them from extinction in this test, test, environment. Having an assortment of concepts a child has to master to pass is necessary for testing. However, the methods of testing and doing so without eliminating creativity and art for its own sake is the challenge. All the authorities care about is numbers, so let them know that the children are successfully learning notes, singing in harmony, dancing using particular steps and blending colors. Just don't do it with multiple choice tests and answer sheets.

I can see both sides to this argument. I teach music in a k-6 environment. I try to closely follow the state and national standards. Teaching music has enriched my life. It would have been good to have had some clearer guidelines when I first started teaching music seven years ago. However, it would have probably hampered my own creativity. I chose to teach recorders to my third graders and won the respect of our teaching staff. While the teachers did not like hearing the recorders, they endured them because they knew it helped the students with their keyboarding skills. My students love learning to play this pre-band instrument. Not every teacher has the patience to teach recorders. In fact, I often find it quite challenging. As long as I can keep it fun for them and see progress in their learning, that is enough for me. I don't believe there is any way to test what they really know. Therefore, I'm leaning toward no more standardized tests!
The kids are tested to death as it is! I do test them, but it is not usually paper and pencil. With over 450 students a day, that would be extremely hard. I know when they are getting it and it is time to move on, or when they have that spacey look and need more attention in a certain area. Kids need to be tested less so they can be taught more. That's my two cents!

Rather that acquiesce to NCLB mandates it is time, as Walt Whitman said, to resist much and obey little.

There are many important purposes for assessment, most of which have nothing to do with grading or comparison numbers that appear in the newspaper. Hence, assessment in the arts is as important as it is in other subjects.

Just as there are expressive qualities in writing that are difficult to capture in writing assessments, there are expressive qualities in the arts that are difficult to capture in the arts. However, because those expressive qualities are the most important attribute of the arts, they must be assessed ... and artists do assess them constantly, both when examining and improving their own arts products and when examining the artwork of others.

Some of the comments here suggest that standardized assessment would force all of the students to produce identical, dry artwork. That was not the experience of the 1997 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the Arts. Students produced a wide variety of work, some of it surprisingly good given the short amount of time they were given. Standardized local assessment might appropriately allow students more time for self-evaluation and refinement, which -- as an earlier responder already suggested -- is the single most important application of assessment.

Among the challenges in standardized arts assessment are:
- to provide for authentic student performance, including the making of artwork;
- to assess not only the technical attributes of artwork -- which is relatively easy to do -- but also those expressive qualities in the reliable (i.e., consistent) manner that is necessary for a test to be fair/useful across a large population.

Some examples of quality assessments created for arts classrooms, many of them with benchmarked (scored) student work, may be found at www.ctcurriculum.org.

The evidence is clear, in this time of education reform that "What gets tested/assessed gets taught." Washington State Teachers are embracing our state education agency and teacher developed Classroom Based Performance Assessments (CBPAs) for The Arts as essential, integral, and necessary for Arts Education to thrive! The achievement of the vision of a comprehensive, sequential, standards based K-12 arts program in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts for all students in our 296 school districts is supported by The Arts CBPAs. The Arts - Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts are core academic subject areas and federal law in NCLB/ESEA, 2002, and are Washington State law through our Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs - student standards K-12 - HB 1209, 1993) for all students in Washington State. We have developed 60 arts classroom-based performance assessment items since January 2002; 15 assessment items per arts discipline in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts which includes five items at the benchmark levels of grades 5, 8, and 10 (high school) for each arts discipline. The teachers are not teaching to a test/assessment. The teachers are teaching what the state has determined is essential to all learners (our Arts EALRs), and to those concepts and skills in all four arts disciplines. The Washington State Arts CBPAs (classroom based performance assessments) celebrate the concepts and skills, elements and principles of the arts, and state arts EALRs in real-life, meaningful, and transferable situations; thus making the assessments authentic and memorable. Each student is assessed individually. The teachers select the assessments to be used. The assessments are used for learning, as integral to learning, and to measure that learning has taken place. Research from authentic assessment specialists has been the model for our work, in support of our state EALRs (standards in the Arts). The classroom based assessments (CBAs) are state law, (HB 2195, 2004) and ensure that The Arts will be taught by highly qualified instructors, that all students will have access to instruction in The Arts, and that students will take assessments in 2008-2009 to measure if instruction has occurred in The Arts, and how well our students are doing. Our teachers determined with the field and school leaders that classroom based assessments in The Arts would be the most effective and authentic way to measure student success in The Arts, as well as celebrating the way that arts teachers instruct. Performance assessment is being implemented as an integral part of instruction, based upon state standards (EALRs) and the Elements and Principles of Organization of The Arts. Performance Assessment was invented by the visual and performing arts throughout all time. We are happy to assess what we teach by celebrating the way we teach - through performance assessments that require our students to creating, performing, and responding to learning opportunities and life utilizing the creative process. Results of student achievement and success will be reported to the state according to HB 2195, in 2008-2009. These assessments are state developed by teachers for use by teachers to measure student success. They are not "high stakes" tests, and will not be required for graduation. These assessments are not selected and/or constructed response assessments. These assessments are performance assessments that are utilized by the classroom teachers/specialists for all students in grades 5, 8, and high school. Students submit their samples for the visual arts assessments, and video is used to capture the student samples for the performing arts assessments. The student samples for training purposes are being developed on DVDs for viewing and use as anchor, practice, and qualifying student samples for teachers to view. Our hope is that teachers will be trained and able to score student assessments for their own classrooms and districts. Written responses are included in many items, and may be written and/or video taped in all disciplines. All students, including special education students, and limited English speaking students are doing well on these assessments in our statewide pilots. These assessments are appealing and successful with students of different races and ethnicity, as well. The are designed to close and eliminate the achievement gap, at least in the study of arts education. We are still piloting, taking comments, reviewing, revising, rangefinding, scoring, training, and learning about how to make these assessments the best they can be for our teachers and students. We have released four items, and will release eight more by Dec. 2005. We are developing the process for the implementation, measurement, reporting, and staff development training necessary for the success of these assessments regarding the language of the law with all school districts and stakeholders. State teachers are developing, piloting, rangefinding, revising, using, and training the field on these assessments. We are developing and utilizing a model where those trained in turn train the field. This increases the capacity for leadership and empowerment to use these assessments. The teachers are using them because they are the ones developing them. The goal is to have all 296 school districts trained and informed in this assessment process by 2006-2007. These assessments are in the process of being piloted psychometrically across our state, to see if they measure what we want all students to know and be able to do (demonstrate)through creating, performing and responding. We have also created frameworks in discipline specific and grade level specific formats for the field to use to guide them in lesson design utilizing the concepts and skills that we want all students to know and be able to do (demonstrate) at each grade level in each arts discipline. Additionally, Washington State has a high school graduation requirement for the class of 2008, (freshman class of 2004), that requires all students to take a visual and/or performing arts credit, developed at benchmark three and/or above, which is non substitutable. Our Superintendent of Public Instructin, Dr. Terry Bergeson, is extremely supportive of our efforts and allocates funds for this work. Our Assessment and Research Division has created the strand of Classroom Based Assessments and Classroom Based Performance Assessments for The Arts, Social Studies and Health and Fitness in support of our efforts and vision and in compliance with House Bills 1209 and 2195. We have just completed a statewide pilot of 26 items in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, with the participation of over 60 school districts and 400 teachers across our state. Tens of thousands of student samples in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts were submitted. We now have amazing data that arts education in dance, music, theatre and visual arts is "alive and well," in Washington State. We knew this, and now we have data to celebrate it! We have a long way to go to have all students meet and exceed our expectations for them with regards to arts education. This is our starting point. The Arts CBPAs are helping us in Washington State to define where we are, so that we can create school and district arts education journeys and plans to get to where we want to be and beyond with regards to Arts Education. Comments from our participating teachers have been and continue to be supportive, encouraging, and insightful. We are on a creative and long journey and we are creating it as we go. You may contact me, AnnRene' Joseph at: [email protected] and or view our four released assessment items and other Arts Education information regarding The Arts at: www.k12.wa.us/curriculumInstruct/arts
Happy New Year! The Arts Are: Basic Education, Core Education, A Democratic Right, Federal and State Law, Emotion, Experience, and necessary to all learners. The Arts celebrate learning through creating, performing and responding processes that teach to all learners, all learning styles and all intelligences and peoples. They are the universal language. We must assess arts instruction in our states to know that the arts are being provided and taught to all learners.
Happy New Year! Sincerely yours, AnnRene' Joseph, Program Supervisor, The Arts, OSPI

I am disappointed by the simplistic coverage "assessment and the arts" received in "Testing and the Arts". The article suffers from a lack of substantive interviews with key arts educators and researchers. In addition, the article would have benefited from references to the work of national advocates for arts education, e.g. Alabama's Governor Huckabee and his arts education initiative as Chair of the Education Commission of the States (http://www.ecs.org/).

"Arts and Testing" may make a good headline but the article misrepresents and trivializes the long and hard work done by arts educators at every level to advance student learning in and through the arts-from classroom to state board rooms.

Assessment is more than a high stakes test. The arts have known this for centuries as every artist creates, reflects upon and responds to their creation and the creations of others. The advances we are seeing as a result of the standards-movement in the arts is a refinement of the language and tools available to assist us in this process. The use of video and DVD in Washington State is an excellent example of how we are advancing in our ability to assess learning in and through the arts.

I applaud the work of Washington State in support of a statewide system of classroom-based assessment that informs the student, the teacher, parents, as well as, local and statewide educators and policy-makers.

Michigan has included the arts in its state accountability system, is field-testing grade level documents that help make the connections among the arts and other core academic areas; and will soon begin to explore what a statewide system of local assessment in the arts might look like.

The work in Washington State, Connecticut and Michigan is reflective of work across the nation led by state department of education agency arts directors who have come together with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies through a new national network called "SEADAE- State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education." We work closely with the Arts Education Partnership, the Council of Chief State School Officers and national professional associations in each of the arts disciplines.

SEADAE's mission is to support the professional effectiveness of individual members and provide a collective voice for leadership on issues affecting arts education.

SEADAE's purpose is to achieve quality, comprehensive, sequential, standards-based education in the arts for all students PreK-20.

Each state is at a different point in the development of arts standards, grade level frameworks, and assessments.

Arts educators are misrepresented when we are portrayed as engaged in a knee-jerk promotion of high stakes testing to advocate for the arts. This is inaccurate and would be irresponsible.

SEADE's agenda for 2005 presents a mutli-faceted approach to assessment that includes local, state and national strategies and represents a consensus approach of state department of education arts specialists across the country.

SEADAE’s focus issues for 2005 are:

1. Implementation of state and/or locally developed performance assessments to measure student achievement in the arts at the school and/or district level.

2. Administration of the next National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the arts no later than 2008.

3. Identification of core arts education indicators for all state report cards.

For example:
a. student teacher ratio

b. amount of instructional time K-8

c. percentage of students graduating from high school with two or more years instruction in the arts

d. number of hours of professional development for teachers in their specific content area
e. percentage of students studying the arts in K-8

f. percentage of teachers certified in the arts discipline they are teaching

g. how many and which fine arts content areas are offered/taught in grades K-8

h. is standards-based instruction in the arts, grades k-12, mandated, recommended, or not addressed in policy

Assessment is more than a high-stakes test. There are many reasons for assessment and many authentic and appropriate ways to assess student learning in the arts.

Let's learn from each other rather than fight battles that are not of our own making.

To find out more about SEADAE, visit our website:


Ana Luisa Cardona
Michigan Department of Education
[email protected]
SEADAE President

It appears that standardized testing in the arts would prepare those students who plan to make a career of it.

I, for one, believe that testing in "The Arts" measures the knowledge of the tools that are used in the arts, but cannot measure or quantify the results of the use of these tools. If quantifying someone's artistic abilities through a written test was feasible, then we would be able to find our Picassos, Pavarottis and Martha Grahams immediately, and toss out all the rest of the students and tell them to not bother wasting their time on trying to sing, paint or dance...and to think that when I started in this profession, I naively thought that I would be teaching art to students, instead of becoming accountable to some power-that-be's idea of what constitutes "The Arts". Remember, "A People without Vision Shall Perish..."

Assessment is a necessary tool.
I believe that when I teach the arts, that I should have a clear objective or outcome in mind. I should also be able to confidently say that the students acheived or did not acheive the outcome. I also believe that the arts should be presented in an organized and sequencial plan throughout the school years. In my work with students I see many ways to evaluate and assess the learning. I hate the additional time it will take away from learning and practicing the arts to formally assess them for the purposes of accountability. But if we risk not having any arts, then I will accept the small time loss.

"The less art kids get, the more it shows..."

The Art of Testing

One point that struck me in this article was that of testing tied to budget money. Of course everything is tied to the almighty dollar. I would be incredibly naive to think otherwise. But does it have to be this way? If we continue to let it be, then it will be. To just say “No” is too simplistic. I think we need to grade art, and share our rubrics with children, and let parents know it is worthy of time and attention. But to create a standardized test? I’m against it. There may be a course in the older grades such as art history or elements of art that could be tested in such a way. I think one of the best parts of art is that it is so individualized to the person creating it or viewing/hearing it. How much of that specialness will be lost if we choose to stuff it in the same barrel with nouns, verbs, and multiplication? Will art then be mandatory in the upper grades so it can be tested? Will we then have standardized tests in music and physical education? Will these courses become compulsory so they can be tested? What happens to kids who want to study photography, or foreign languages? Will they have to forgo those choices so they can take and be tested in art?
I would like educators to channel their efforts in electing representatives who see NCLB for what it is and who will work to repeal it. Let’s move away from testing, back into teaching. Let’s elect people who will allow us to do just that.

What kind of Arts educator advocates for standardized testing for their subject?!?! As an visual art teacher, I teach creative thinking, self expression, aesthetics and technique as the primary goals of my program. Assessment, both written and otherwise, are a necessary part of any classroom but these educators are missing the point. Take a look the standardized test scores in your school - especially between those that have had arts education and those that have not, and you will likely see higher scores for those that have had exposure to the arts. There is your proof, justification, advocacy for arts education.

Just because standardized testing is the hot topic right now, doesn't mean that every K-12 subject K-12 should be assessed that way. Allow the arts at the K-12 level to do their job and create self-confident, critical thinking, expressive individuals and leave the hard core testing to those who choose to pursue the Arts at the college level.

I highly believe that if the arts are assessed nationally,
the arts will be valued in a greater manner

School arts programs tend to gain because it will awaken the SERIOUSNESS of the arts to many faculties and districts who do NOT value them as important topics that can create lifelong learners!

I also agree with Larry Mc Cann when he states in a beautiful way. “Arts education should be a foundation or hub of interdisciplinary curriculum and integrated curriculum delivery. It's function for improving love for learning is what is important in education now.”

Larry, “to improve the love of learning” what great words! And this is only one beauty of the arts.

Not every student is academically successful. Many are musically and artistically gifted.

I had a very unusual experience. I was working as a para-educator in resource/special ed.(junior high) when I passed the c-best exam and applied for an emegency teaching credential in my district. I was approached before the ink was dry on my ap by the principal who said she had a job for me. I was to go home, over winter break, and download the standards for language arts/drama and then construct a course of study for 7th and 8th graders. My course covered creative writing, history of the theatre, a study of shakespeare and included one play per class to be written,directed,cast,staged, costumed, set designed,set to music,and tech by the students. I was enrolled in a masters program for Curriculum and Instruction at the time and wondered "How shall I assess these kids?" I chose to use effort and participation as broad goals. Choreography, music and art began to emerge from their hearts and minds. Those who initially wanted no part of drama became avid "set-crew". I eventually realized that the learning curve was different for each child. The value of this class was the opportunity to express themselves. While watching "Romeo and Juliet" they exclaimed,"they were our age!". They also made associations between the fighting families and gangs in our neighborhoods,"They paid for their hatred with the lives of their children!".
My point is, how can you put a quantitative value on the lessons learned in a class like this?
As a credentialed teacher I may never see students have an oportunity to explore, create, and "learn" like I did with that one exploratory, elective class,again.
Standards focused curriculum is pushing electives out of the picture in our district. What a shame.

I understand both sides. It's not really easy to test an art when its there for self expression. I was in a performance arts school from 1st grade until I graduated. My art was dance and although most of my grade came from performance we still had tests. The test we had were basically the terms that we used for dance and sometimes the history of dance. I personally dreaded having to take test for other subjects. I definitely wouldn't have wanted to take a standardized test for a course I enjoyed and helped me get away from all that non-sense.

I also think that standardized tests don't really tell you what a child has learned and these tests are put in place not to help children, but to hold them back from graduating. It seems that they just keep creating more and more tests for children to take. Just like every child doesn't do well in math and science, every child won't do well in the arts. Then all you will have is another set back for the child. When I came into high school we only needed 2 or 3 tests to graduate. By the time class of 2007 gradutes they'll need about 5 tests. When does it end?

I believe that standardized testing will hold arts education programs to a lower standard than we now adhere to. Art is not just a gathering of information for regurgitation to a test question. Art curriculum is designed to exemplify other aspects of brain development which are not readily assessed through test questions, such as processing, creativity, craftsmanship and multiculturalism as well as arts appreciation. I think standardized assessment will create mediocre standards in order to provide a numeric equivalent for the mathmatical/concrete thinkers. If we're not careful this could turn into the view that people are not smart unless they are excellent in math and science. That's a frightening proposition.

In the UK Art evaluation has been in stasis for some time. Educators have lost sight of the fact that they are supposed to be teaching art, not social or political engineering which the state decrees and defines as their "art" function. the result has been a significant decline in arts education in terms of skills, techniques and content. Art used to involve skill, it is actually very difficult, but in a multi-cultural and politically correct environment this is too contentious an issue. So art has been abandoned and the baby got thrown out with the bathwater. the result is a market place full of poorly made social phenomena masquerading as art, and most of which is a waste of time and definitely not art. Art teachers have only themselves to blame. They have never taken the trouble to define their real function in terms of art itself, so school art or art school art has become little more than an expensive pastime. The learning that is evaluated is socially appraised initiation, with very little to do with art.
As Wittgenstein said; "It is not only difficult to describe what appreciation consists in, but impossible. To describe what it consists in we would have to describe the whole environment."

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Recent Comments

  • John Nutt - www.art-student.net: In the UK Art evaluation has been in stasis for read more
  • L. Kelty, art teacher: I believe that standardized testing will hold arts education programs read more
  • Krystal Stanback, student of the arts: I understand both sides. It's not really easy to test read more
  • Marilyn Giardino-Zych/Substitute teacher: I had a very unusual experience. I was working as read more
  • Regina-Champagne Babin NBCT, preschool teacher: I highly believe that if the arts are assessed nationally, read more




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