Multicultural Art Education in an Era of Standardized Testing: Changes in Knowledge and Skill for Art Teacher Certification in Texas

Article excerpt

This article explores changes in multicultural knowledge and skill to which beginning art teachers are held accountable through standardized teacher testing in Texas. Standardized testing of preservice art teachers' knowledge and skill has been the basis of the state's certification of beginning art teachers and accreditation of art teacher preparation programs for over 20 years. Using qualitative and quantitative content analysis, the 1986 and 2007 art content standards were compared and contrasted for their inclusion of and approaches to multicultural art education. Theories of multicultural art education and postcolonial theory informed the analysis of the standards. Implications of the standards for teaching for diversity, equity, and social justice in the art classroom are considered.

One of the challenging aspects of being a successful art teacher is comprehending and integrating the many variables that constitute a full education in the visual arts. The art curriculum is a composite of cultural expressions, the values and experiences students and teachers bring with them into the classroom, and the social context ofthe learning environment (Ballengee-Morris, Stuhr, & PetrovichMwaniki, 2001; Knight, 2006; McFee & Degge, 1 977). Effective art education requires knowledge and skills about education, art, and sociocultural influences on and within these fields. Using whatever knowledge and skill they possess, art teachers make pedagogical decisions that affect the quality of students' engagement with art forms, traditions, and meanings. This is as much the case for art teachers in the first year of teaching as it is at any time in their careers.

This article argues that the knowledge and skills required of newly certified art teachers should reflect the changing cultural realities of schooling. As education specialists explicitly charged with cultivating cultural knowledge in young people, school art teachers have traditionally presented a Western art canon that traces its origins through Western Europe back to classical Greece and have applied formalism as a universal aesthetic standard for interpreting and judging visual art (Collins & Sandell, 1992; Hamblen, 1997). Often the art classroom is a space in which discriminatory values from the dominant culture are reinforced by privileging the artworks and traditions of the economic and political elite (Bersson, 1987; Wasson, Stuhr, & Petrovich-Mwaniki, 1990). Recognizing the growing diversity of students across the United States, it is imperative that today's beginning art teachers possess the critical knowledge and skills to successfully address the educational needs of all their students.

Texas, one of the most linguistically and ethnically diverse states (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003, 2006), recently revised its art teacher competency standards. The previous standards and corresponding certification examination for state teacher licensure had been in use since 1986. After two decades of the same standards for assessing art teacher knowledge and skills, the newly revised competencies represent the latest consensus among art education leaders regarding art content and pedagogical content knowledge that will guide the preparation of art teachers in Texas in the future. In the current context of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), teacher certification is accorded greater national significance as a measure of "highly qualified teachers" (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). The NCLB mandate for teacher certification is an intervention meant to address the persistent inequalities in educational outcomes linked to factors of race, social class, language, and disability. Therefore, the knowledge base underlying state-level teacher certification exams should be scrutinized for its consistency with research on education for diversity (Banks, 2009). Moreover, the national influence of this bellwether state suggests the changes made in Texas' art teacher standards may affect the adoption of similar educational reforms elsewhere (Daun-Barnett & Perorazio, 2006). …