National Coalition for Core Arts Standards updates

National Core Arts Standards live update – Wednesday October 3rd – 3:00 PM

Livestream link will be active on October 3rd at the link above.

National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) Issues Media Arts Materials
The Media Arts Team has posted two documents on the site. One is “Media Arts Position Paper” and the other is “Media Arts Frequently Asked Questions.”

Lynn Tuttle, director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education and the president of SEADAE – State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education, gave an update on the National Core Arts Standards work at AEP’s (Arts Education Partnership National Forum September 13-14 in Chattanooga, TN. She emphasized that the writing teams are trying to make the process transparent and drafts of the standards will be out in the spring. The standards will have embedded some curricular design and they are working with Jay McTighe and his wife Daisy who is a visual art teacher to embed some common core assessment examples. There will be a show case of student art available on the web for assessment.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman also spoke at the Arts Education Partnership fall forum.

In his opening address he said the following: “Arts must start behaving like other subjects. Before you break the rules you need to know what they are. There are knowledge and skills you need to know. Standards and assessment don’t stifle creativity if done correctly, they enhance it.”

He also said we set our expectations low and often fail, “We have a saying on Broadway – aim low and miss.”

In a recent article in Education Week I was reminded of a way the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts affect the arts. This is a link to the article, “Common Core Reaches Into Science Classes, Survey Finds”

You can find the section of the common-core on Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects at the link below, by scrolling down to page 59. It includes standards for both reading and writing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post the arts are specifically mentioned as a “technical subject.”
Technical subjects – 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  (p. 43 of Appendix A of Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects)

Other good resources:
Americans for the Arts’ Artsblog has a good post from Lynn Tuttle, “Common Core is Here—Don’t Panic!”<

In the Teaching Theatre Journal Jim Palmarini interviews Jay McTighe regarding Cornerstone Tasks, Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions.

ArtsEdSearch Launched!
AEP launched its new research and policy clearinghouse on April 12, 2012. ArtsEdSearch provides user-friendly summaries and overviews of arts education research focused entirely on student and teacher outcomes of arts learning in and out of school.

Improving Arts Learning through Standards & Assessment

Improving Arts Learning through Standards & Assessment: A National Endowment for the Arts Research Roundtable
On February 14, 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) hosted a day-long series of panels and presentations to examine the latest trends, current practices, and future directions for arts learning standards and assessment methods. The press release on NEA’s website states that an archive video of the complete webcast will be available beginning February 21, 2012.

I watched the webcast on February 14th. There was good information shared and lots of food for thought from the conversation among the participants. I recommend finding some time to watch at least the sections that interest you most when the archive becomes available.

Beginning is a short welcome by Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the NEA and James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

The first panel (1 hour) begins with an overview of the history of the Common Core Standards.
Followed by information on research (“implementation makes a big difference”, “Be careful to claim 21st century skills in the arts will transfer to other 21st century skills.”), an update on NAEP “nation’s report card” on the arts, and comments from Samuel Hoi, Otis College of Art and Design. Hoi said many things that caught my attention and I will go back and listen to this section again when the archive is posted.

Second panel (1 hour) begins with an overview of the Partnership for the 21st Century Skills.
Followed by an update from the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) (see the end of this post for some links to their wiki site), a report on the research the College Board has done for the NCCAS to help them with their work, and a report on the revision of the arts standards done by Colorado (well worth watching).

There is a 30 minute break which I assume will be edited out of the archive followed by a presentation of the NEA’s latest research report, Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts: State of the Field and Recommendations. Daniel Beattie, Acting Director of Arts Education at the NEA also outlined the next steps for NEA arts education grants in this section. The NEA is especially interested in professional development with “how to design and implement high quality assessment of student learning in the arts” specifically mentioned. (45 minutes) There is a 45 minute lunch break after this  – also assume will be edited out.

Third panel (1 hour) is a conversation about some model assessment practices and potential problems in arts assessment.

The last hour is a conversation between the participants and a few people invited to be in the audience on ideas for moving the field forward.

Links to the archive and the NEA study Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts: State of the Field and Recommendations:
 February 14th webcast archive
Participant bios
National study of arts educational assessment tools and strategies (pdf)

National Coalition for CORE ARTS Standards
A draft preliminary version of the framework is available as a PDF.

There is also a video archive of the revision update on  January 24, 2012. (The image quality is fuzzy but the sound is better.)  Below the video window is an archive of comments made by people watching the live feed (and comments on tech issues). There is a short advertisement at the beginning of both – trade off for free service.

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines

Here is part of an article Alayne Dolson, Executive Director of VSA Montana, wrote for our next issue of State of the Arts:

Universal Design for Learning What is it? How will it help students and teachers in the classroom?

In April, VSA Montana had the opportunity to take a team of artist/arts educators to Boston to participate in a Universal Design in Learning (UDL) conference, joining international teams of educators, teaching artists, and administrators in a three day learning experience. I was joined by Bobby Tilton – UM Art Education professor, Marlene Schumann – Bozeman art educator, and Cheryl Bannes – Montana teaching artist, to participate in workshops, to visit Boston area schools that use arts- integrated learning and teaching strategies in inclusive classrooms, and to design a work plan that will be implemented in Montana in the fall.

In October members of the Montana team will present an introductory workshop on UDL design for teachers and paraprofessionals at the MEA-MFT conference. Included in the workshop will be hands-on arts activities that model the UDL teaching/learning strategies, along with the UDL checklist to guide lesson development, and an opportunity to engage in discussion of ways to include children with disabilities in meaningful learning activities.

VSA Montana endeavors to achieve the same success in education for all learners, making “special education” an oxymoron. Professional development in UDL can advance our mission.

Here is a link to the UDL Guidelines WordPress blog.

You can download a copy of the guidelines there. I suggest starting with the one-page graphic organizer. It is what got me hooked in the first place. It provides a valuable checklist for teaching artists and arts teachers when you are developing a lesson plan.

Formative Assessment Redux

Marsha Ratzel has a post on Education Week’s Teacher blog “Best Practice: Formative Assessment Done Right” that has many insightful comments on the current school-reform debate that standardized formative assessments should be part of the process.

For the last six years the Montana Arts Council has offered professional development workshops for teaching artists on using formative assessment. I think the consensus is that this approach to assessment of student learning makes a positive difference in the knowledge and skills students achieve in the arts.

Ms. Ratzel points out this approach needs to be classroom centered not something dictated from above.

“For me, formative assessment has become the most effective way to know which students are learning, which are stuck and where, and which students just aren’t getting it at all. It’s information I collect in any number of deliberate ways: listening to class discussions, glancing over a student’s shoulder as he or she complete an in-class assignment, asking three exit questions, posing three opening questions, collecting papers for review, and so on.

“The whole nature of formative assessment is small measurements—a pinpoint evaluation of a specific skill or process you are teaching right now, where you need feedback rather immediately so you can make the next decision. Wholesale data collection is much more suited to evaluating programs—not how far along specific kids are in mastering a specific learning target.

“Formative assessment done well can help amplify the effectiveness of a teacher. It creates a synergetic loop of information flowing from teacher to student and back to teacher—then back to the student again. Teachers who master the use of formative assessment and feedback will know they are making a difference, and students will understand what they must do to be successful.”

The whole post is well worth a read. It’s available here

double the speed of student learning

“Five reviews of the research in this area synthesized a total of more than 4,000 research studies undertaken during the last 40 years. The conclusion was clear: When implemented well, formative assessment can effectively double the speed of student learning.” (Wiliam, Educational Leadership, 2007-2008)

Emphasis is mine. Formative assessment and classroom assessment are the same thing just different names.

I continue to ask myself why it is that when I and my friend Eric Johnson first learned about classroom assessment we said to ourselves, “Wow! This will make a huge difference in the way I teach. If only I had known how to do this a long time ago.” We were totally excited about the possibilities. Most teaching artists I talk with feel there just isn’t time for assessment during their lesson – they have to get the project done. Or they feel it doesn’t have anything to do with their teaching – “not applicable.”

I understand that the expectation of most teachers artists work with is that there will be a finished product at the end of the lesson. I think visual artists deal with this more that performing artists. And I think we can advocate for teaching the fundamental skills and knowledge of our art form however that is best accomplished.

As I said in an earlier post, “for learning,” I took a two day workshop from W. James Popham in June. I fine tuned my understanding of classroom assessment in his workshop.

Popham commented that, “If this was called ‘instruction’ instead of ‘assessment’ we wouldn’t have lost so many.”

He said you are assessing the critical elements students need to know/be able to do to go forward. “Focus on the requisite not the desirable”

We spent most of the workshop on learning progressions which help you decide what must be assessed. If anyone would like to learn more about these leave a comment and I’ll contact you.

Here’s a paraphrase of what Popham left us with at the end of the workshop.
If there was a vaccine that would save thousands of children’s lives and doctors knew this but just didn’t get around to using it. How would you feel as a parent?
If there was a process that would help thousands of students learn better and teachers knew this but just didn’t get around to using it. How would you feel as a parent?

For those who are asking, “Who is this Popham guy?” I have included the beginning of his abbreviated vita.

Professor Emeritus, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

W. James Popham has spent the bulk of his educational career as a teacher. His first teaching assignment, for example, was in a small eastern Oregon high school where he taught English and social studies while serving as yearbook advisor, class sponsor, and unpaid tennis coach. That recompense meshed ideally with the quality of his coaching.

Most of Dr. Popham’s teaching career took place at UCLA where, for nearly 30 years, he taught courses in instructional methods for prospective teachers as well as courses in evaluation and measurement for graduate students. At UCLA he won several distinguished teaching awards. In January 2000, he was recognized by UCLA Today as one of UCLA’s top 20 professors of the 20th century. (He notes that the 20th century was a full-length century, unlike the current abbreviated one.) In 1992, he took early retirement from UCLA upon learning that emeritus professors received free parking.

He goes on to list his numerous publications, professional affiliations and other awards in the same vein.

measureable outcomes & student intentions

I think good assessment tools:

  • give students a window in
  • tell us as teachers why things are going well or not
  • build legitimacy for our work in the eyes of other teachers and administrators

These thoughts are a continuation of my reading in the Theory Into Practice journal’s issue on classroom assessment – “Promoting Learning and Achievement Through Self-Assessment” by Heidi Andrade and Anna Valtcheva.

Some quotes from the article:

[In self-assessment students are engaged] in thinking about the quality of their own work, rather than relying on their teacher as the sole source of evaluative judgments.

A good rubric describes the kinds of mistakes students tend to make, as well as the ways in which good work shines.

Students are savvy, and will not self-assess thoughtfully unless they know that their efforts can lead to opportunities to actually make improvements . . .

Simply handing out a rubric does not guarantee much of anything. Actively involving students in using a rubric to self-assess their work, however, has been associated with noticeable improvements in students’ work.

There was sometimes a tension between teachers’ expectations and student’ own standards of quality.

The researchers suggest a conversation on what defines quality for the assignment. The teacher and the students co-define what will be the criteria for excellence.

I realize this is another facet of what I find vexing in so many rubrics – vague language. It gets us in trouble and doesn’t teach the student anything about the generally agreed upon values of the art form.

Descriptions like “highly creative,” “interesting” and “beautiful” are highly subjective.

Consider the difference between:

A. Student skillfully applied watercolor paint.


B. I painted my box keeping the paint exactly where I wanted it.

A. Student continued to work enthusiastically until the project was completed and went beyond requirements.


B. I continued to work carefully until the box was completed. I took the time to include all my important ideas in my design.

In addition to being more specific, I also sense both of the “B” examples take into consideration the student’s intention. To my mind a rubric that can make expectations of quality more transparent and make it possible for students to validate their own expectations is a gold standard.

When we describe desired outcomes to students are they something that can be measured? Are they something we value but when asked “exactly what would that look or sound like” we can’t really give an example. I realize that everything in the arts can’t be assessed by “I see” and “I hear” but those two might get us a long way down the road to giving students a window into what we intuitively understand as artists.

Link to Theory Into Practice on the internet: