Blog Posts for Arts Education Network

The Transferable Effect of Common Core State Standards, Student Assessment, and Educator Evaluation

Posted by Scot Hockman, Sep 13, 2013 0 comments

Scot Hockman Scot Hockman

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) may be the best whole school initiative to happen to arts education. The English Language Arts Standards (ELA) call for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Page 43 of an appendix to the ELA standards defines a technical subject as:

A course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music.

The Common Core State Standards website clarifies this relationship between ELA literacy and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects:

Just as students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, so too must the Standards specify the literacy skills and understandings required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines. It is important to note that literacy standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects are not meant to replace content standards in those areas but rather to supplement them.

Finally, it seems that the arts are receiving the attention to which we are entitled as a result of being classified as a technical subject. The CCSS writers were savvy to include anchor standards for technical subjects so that other content areas would have to take note and be drivers of the English language arts (ELA) standards within the various other content areas. Mathematics provides that we address grade-level standards. And all the while, arts teachers must also take note of the significance of their state and national visual and performing arts standards while determining shifts from CCSS to arts standards.

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Three Recommendations for Art Educators Who Are Committed to Inquiry and Imagination in the Age of Accountability

Posted by Mary Meier, Sep 13, 2013 0 comments

Mary Elizabeth Mier Mary Elizabeth Meier

In many of her lectures, Maxine Greene spoke about the processes of inquiry and imagination we experience when we are learning in and through the arts.

We are concerned with possibility, with opening windows on alternative realities, with moving through doorways into spaces some of us have never seen before. We are interested in releasing diverse persons from confinement to the actual, particularly confinement to the world of techniques and skill training, to fixed categories and measurable competencies. We are interested in breakthroughs and new beginnings, in the kind of wide-awakeness that allows for wonder and unease and questioning and the pursuit of what is not yet (Greene, 2001, p. 44).

How can we, art educators, find ways to support students in the possibilities inherent in artistic learning processes that are active, responsive to imagination, and open to collaboration in what Greene calls, “the pursuit of what is not yet”? Teachers are planning learning experiences in the age of accountability when standards, assessment, and teacher evaluation are central points of focus in the 2013 educational climate. Many arts educators are left wondering how to be accountable to these issues without relinquishing what is artful, imaginative, creative, and emergent about arts education.

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Arts Teacher Evaluation and Support in an Urban Reform Context

Posted by Brian Schneckenburger, Sep 12, 2013 0 comments

Brian Schneckenburger Brian Schneckenburger

I serve as the Educational Specialist in Visual and Performing Arts for the Baltimore City Public Schools, where I oversee implementation of curriculum, assessment, and some aspects of teacher evaluation. The district is concluding a six-year period that has been marked by several large-scale reforms that included the implementation of a funding model that placed unprecedented decision-making power in the hands of principals, as well as expanded school choice options for students.

The system is now turning its attention to several transformations that have a direct effect on teaching and learning in the arts. As in other districts, City Schools is overhauling its curriculum to align with the Common Core State Standards. Additionally, City Schools is undertaking a ten-year overhaul of the district’s buildings including modernized spaces for the arts, and developing processes to ensure instructional and leadership effectiveness that allow for professional growth around not only arts-related content, but in the unique ways that arts learning supports Common Core principles. The district has also instituted new support systems that govern the ways that leaders and teachers are supported, developed, and evaluated.

Effective leadership is an important component of any successful school system. To support administrators and teachers, City Schools has piloted and implemented an Instructional Framework that has taken into account effective teaching practices in all disciplines. The framework parses the act of teaching into three areas: plan, teach, and reflect and adjust. These three areas follow a cyclical pattern, where reflection and adjustment inform planning.  Current work in progress includes the formulation of a set of key teaching actions that outline instructional procedures and techniques germane to arts education. The key actions documents will act as discipline-specific complements to the techniques listed in the framework, and will provide administrators with a valuable reference with which to guide support and evaluation conversations.

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Arts Teachers Respond to New Evaluation Systems

Posted by Scott Shuler, Sep 12, 2013 1 comment

Scott Shuler Scott Shuler

Arts teachers across the country are currently scrambling to cope with new teacher evaluation systems. Teacher support and evaluation systems have long been recognized as important means for improving teaching and learning, but states are increasingly requiring local districts to link evaluation to student growth, assign numeric ratings, and ratchet up consequences, such as using ratings to determine salary increases or job security. The U.S. Department of Education has encouraged these developments by making the implementation of new educator evaluation systems a precondition for waiving onerous NCLB requirements and sanctions.

Although quality teacher supervision and support systems are essential to ensure teacher growth, many emerging teacher evaluation systems pose serious challenges for arts educators, as well as issues of fairness.

Among those challenges is the expectation that arts teachers measure student growth, often without the support of arts-expert supervisors or district-wide teams to develop appropriate measurement tools. Another is the expectation that a majority of students or even all students be assessed and monitored, in spite of the fact that some arts teachers are responsible for more than 1,000 students and see those students for very limited time.

One fairness issue arises when states or individual schools use school-wide scores on tests in non-arts areas to determine arts teachers’ evaluations. Another issue is the lack of arts-specific professional development to support teachers as they adapt to new, often complex systems. Yet another issue is the fact that most arts teachers are observed and evaluated by administrators who lack training or expertise in an art form.

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Kindergartners, Stage Fright, and Educator Effectiveness

Posted by Jamie Kasper, Sep 12, 2013 0 comments

Kasper headshot_small Jamie Kasper

Here in Pennsylvania, we are currently mired in educator effectiveness. Before I left the elementary music classroom in 2007, my effectiveness as a teacher was measured by variations on these steps:

1. Around May 1, I would meet my principal accidentally in the hall. That person would inform me that he/she had forgotten to observe my class that year and said our spring performance would serve as my evaluation.

2. In mid-May, I would herd approximately 100 kindergarten students into our gymatorium. In between tears, loud exclamations of “Hi, Mommy!” accompanied by violent waving, dresses pulled over faces to hide from the audience, and other manifestations of 5-year-olds’ stage fright, we managed to sing, play instruments, and move. I may or may not have noticed my principal standing in the back of the room.

3. A few days later, I was called into the office, told everything was great, and asked to sign a paper saying just that. Then I went back to my classroom.

Two significant events in the accountability landscape have occurred in Pennsylvania since then. In 2010, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Pennsylvania an $800,000 Momentum Grant. The purpose of the grant was to develop an evaluation system that included student achievement as one significant part. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), working with other stakeholders, closely examined Charlotte Danielson’s revised 2011 Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument and piloted it in 2010-2011 with three school districts and one intermediate unit. This measurement tool included four domains on which teachers would assess themselves and also be assessed by their supervisor:

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The Trifecta of Standards, Accountability, and Assessment

Posted by Ms. Talia Gibas, Sep 11, 2013 0 comments

Talia Gibas Talia Gibas

Last February, when my fellow Arts Education Council members and I agreed on “the trifecta of standards, accountability and assessment” as the topic of AFTA’s September arts education blog salon, I noticed how ominous those words sound. Sitting in the council meeting, I pictured a pitchfork stuck in the ground, with the three prongs of standards, accountability and assessment serving a dark warning to any arts educators who dare get close to it.

I happen to think that standards and assessment systems can be good things, so the fact these thoughts crossed my mind is testament to how much baggage the words carry, particularly in the arts. They are also, for better or worse, here to stay. Recognizing they are tools that can be applied well or applied poorly, how does an arts education community begin incorporating those tools into practice in a meaningful way?

Last year, in Los Angeles County, we decided to try and start a broad conversation about arts assessment. We invited the research firm WestEd, which a few years earlier had conducted a comprehensive study of the state of arts assessment across the United States, to deliver a full-day seminar on assessment strategies, open to as many people as we could comfortably cram in a large meeting room.

We also asked WestEd to deliver smaller, more hands-on workshop sessions focused on rubrics. Why rubrics? We conducted an informal poll of school districts applying to us for matching funds for artist residencies, asking in which areas of assessment they felt they needed the most support. Rubrics were by far and away the most popular answer.

This was the first time that Arts for All had ever offered broad-scale professional development on arts assessment, and the first time in a long while that we had offered professional development to arts organizations and school districts simultaneously. How did we do in helping our constituents sort through all that baggage?

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