Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Metrics for Arts Assessment? No thanks.

joyful student work- Kindergarten
My thoughts on arts assessment: (Without even getting into the reasons why it's RIDICULOUS, WRONG and CREEPY to measure creativity). I don't support the development of new metrics to measure the arts in school, or data driven instruction, or standardized tests as a way to legitimize an arts education. Sad to see that even the NAEA (National Art Education Association) supports data collecting and making pie graphs, in order to assess learning in art class. See this 2010 NAEA Convention on data driven instruction. Data-driven instruction is the latest education reform/accountability fad, but it's not very practical or realistic. A student's art work IS the data. As if art teachers who travel from building to building teaching from carts or out of boxes, with inadequate resources, have the time or energy to analyze data. Teachers should have the freedom to focus on meeting needs of students, displaying student art work, or just giving kids opportunities to MAKE something. Art time at school is very limited. And teachers have lives and families outside of school.

NAEA already has common standards and assessments for teaching visual art, as they always have. I agree, that older students should be included in creating rubrics for art lessons, since rubrics are mandated. But teachers have been writing and implementing these assessment rubrics for years, I don't understand why there needs to be all NEW rubrics for measuring creativity. Is this just a reformist scheme to re-name and re-package what teachers have been doing all along, just so the reformists can take credit and their cronies can profit? And I worry that all this data crunching will take away from instruction time. Will we now be hearing art teachers say, "now let's make a pretty pie graph using complementary colors so we can measure what we have learned!" Art time should mainly be spent on art production, exploration, and experiential learning. Talking and writing about art is a good way to assess learning.

 Art teachers are trained to assess their students, and must be able adapt to needs of students in a given community, depending on poverty level, culture, etc. We assess while we teach. Expertise comes with experience, and new teachers should be mentored by more experienced teachers. Sharing ideas with other teachers should be the primary professional development. Also, the arts have been cut from many districts that serve poor children. If there are going to be common core standards and common assessments for both students and teachers, then the arts should be MANDATORY. Obviously the "accountability" movement is not about helping children. And, with all due respect to the ed experts, I think there is too much over-thinking about arts assessment. I am open to trying new ideas, and improving my teaching, but not if it interferes with what's in the best interest of the students I teach. We need to get back to a more humanistic way of teaching children. Paul Goodman got it right back in 1966. (see my previous post) And teaching disadvantaged children, is completely different than teaching middle class or wealthy children. When are we going to seriously consider the impact of poverty on learning when developing these assessments and learning metrics? 

FinallyI know when students are learning. They smile, they talk, they share, they create, they think, they hug, they thank, and they engage in the learning process. Time and money would be better spent on working to restore arts programs, and finding ways to provide an equitable, fully funded, arts education to all children. Stop taking the joy out of teaching and learning!


Horace Mann said...

Mrs. Dottie,

This post has led me to rethink why a critical component of education reform is evaluation schemes, (i.e. new metrics in art) I always thought it was because as most things I have read suggest: judgment is key to evaluation and evaluation products can be sold. Now I am not sure that it isn't something deeper.

Yes, judgment (discrimination, evaluation, analysis) are ingrained right into our DNA. Survival depends on it. However, these traits also bring out the worst in humanity as well.

Life is more than survival. We do exist merely to survive. In light of that, it is then also true we overcome judgment and discrimination.

Art assessment? Why? Can we not have art simply so our existence on this planet is more than survival?

If you have five minutes more to ponder this, I suggest:

Thank you, Mrs. Dottie, for another post that has stretched my thoughts.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Right on, HM. I've been thinking a lot about the purpose of evaluating everything at school. It's just not right to measure artistic experiences. Some experiences should not be judged- they should just be what they are. There is a personal freedom to experiencing the arts, and that should not be tamed by someone else's judgement. If we do this to young kids at school, then they may be turned off to the arts when they get older, and that is harmful. They won't understand that there is more than one right way to do something. I see this already in young students who cry because their picture looks different than my example, or someone else's. It's sad. I'll watch that video later and get back, thanks.

Mrs. Dottie said...

HM, I watched the clip from Dead Poets Society. It's perfect for this discussion. I must rent that movie and see it again! Measuring poetry? No way. Why can't we just have our art? The reformers want to micro-manage everything. I DESPISE the business model for education. The NAEA should be laughing at the absurdity of all this data driven nonsense. Instead, they try to make it work, somehow with pie charts and all sorts of bullshit graphs. Art is not so neat and tidy.

ongoingly said...

Mrs. Dottie! SO glad I found this. You just so eloquently spoke the truth about the our current toxic, creativity-numbing, data-driven education system. I thank you for these words...I will use them to keep my art studio a safe place for my students to explore, dabble, experiment, practice, master & learn, while expressing themselves creatively. If we use graph paper... it's only to DRAW ON! Thanks again.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Thanks for reading ongoingly, I appreciate the kind words. I am so worried that my child (and others) are not learning at school, and that my son may not be given opportunities to discover his talents, and that his teachers may not notice his strengths. He's creative and talented in ways that can't be measured by some dumb standardized test. And the data driven business model curriculum is developmentally inappropriate for young children. At his elementary school, the arts, phys ed, even library have been nearly eliminated. I am trying to be positive, in hopes that he'll get more than just reading and math test prep in middle school. But now that 50% of teacher's evaluation will be based on student test scores, and "value added" interim testing, I am not hopeful. Our district puts a lot of emphasis on VAM (value added measures) which is interim testing to measure student growth, but this assessment model has a high margin of error, and is based on unproven junk science. But yet all stake holders, even teachers and the union, say it's a fair process. I am so fed up. I've tried to inform the school board, but they don't get it. It's all a big experiment on our children. It's about PROFIT for testing and text book companies, and political agendas. It's not about kids.

ongoingly said...

More good points to store in my noggin and use when advocating for the arts with my student's parents! I've been teaching 23 years and nowadays I feel like I need to couple my teaching and personal learning with activism and advocacy all the time! I'm like a mother lioness protecting her young when I am in my art studio with the kids. They are always SO incredibly grateful and happy to be doing art and they tell me every day. I am worried that teachers in my district will roll over and show their bellies if and when some sort of lame mandate comes down on us to create some sort of meaningless art assessment rubric. I have over 300 students to teach every week & I pride myself on knowing each of them individually as creative beings, not as scores or data. Argh! We all need to stick together. Reading your words helps me feel supported and empowered! So thanks again...

Mrs. Dottie said...

Thanks for reading and commenting. I posted a link to your blog at my side bar. All this data driven nonsense will be a failure, just like NCLB. The business model does not work, it's a sham. And it's hurting our children.