Creative Assessment for the Arts
All across America, students and teachers are hard at work on the business of learning. Students attend classes, set goals and complete work that demonstrates what they are learning, while teachers check and double check that standards, benchmark and mastery are being met. That is, until about the 100th day of school…that’s when we all enter the shadow of…THE TEST. Everything changes in the shadow of the test, from the way teachers teach to the format of student practice, and it’s not changing for the better. Is there a better way to assess student growth than to bubble in recalled facts for a computer to score?
In Tennessee, educators and administrators in the Arts have been working together, developing and refining a valid growth measure for students that preserves the high quality of teaching and learning throughout the school year. The Tennessee Fine Arts Student Growth Measure was developed by Arts teachers for Arts teachers, under the guidance of Dr. Dru Davison, and allows teachers to plan, implement and teach units while collecting data on each student’s progress and making adjustments to instruction to guide student growth. The process is used to show student growth as a means to evaluate the teacher. It is not tied back to the individual student.
The first focus of this growth measure is on planning. The data collection format, which is a digital repository called GLADiS, allows Arts teachers the opportunity to build learning experiences and differentiate learning for a wide range of ability levels. Training is provided by state and district peers (other arts teachers) to help teachers explore ways to plan and collect growth indicators in a noninvasive way, so no taking the same test twice or the like. These collection points don’t interrupt the flow of the learning experience for students but allow teachers two points in time to compare growth.
At the completion of this process, the teacher presents a sampling of the students work to show growth between two points in time for a variety of skills and domains. Each set of collections must include samples from three of the four domains, which are Create, Perform, Connect and Respond. These collections are aligned to the state standards, are scored first by the teacher before it is set to the state to go through a rigorous peer review process. State peer reviewers are Arts teachers that currently teach the same content and tier level as the submitting teacher and are well trained by the state.
So, how is the TN-Fine Arts Student Growth Measure approach more effective than the traditional standardized testing approach? One benefit for students is that there is no loss of instructional time. Fine Arts teachers continue to build and reinforce higher level thinking skills by delivering high quality instruction, asking students to create, perform, connect, and respond to what is being learned, not simply recall facts or structures like on the test. Another exciting benefit is that the process of planning, collecting data and presenting the growth samples has proven to be a valuable form of professional development for teachers participating in the TN-Fine Arts Growth Measure. These teachers become better teachers, who can then provide better instruction that in turn, helps students learn more, achieve more, and show more growth. This growth spiral continues as teachers demonstrate lifelong learning, inspiring their students to do the same!