This study reports on the Models for Assessing Art Performance (MAAP) project, an NEA funded study to assess K-12 student learning through art teacher assessments of student portfolios. The study participants included 70 K-12 art teachers and 1,000 students in 11 school districts in Florida, Indiana, and Illinois. The study investigators include art education faculty from Florida State University, Northern Illinois University, and Purdue University. Included is a rationale for the study, the development of the test instruments, the training of teachers in portfolio assessment and curriculum development. The results of the study confirm that teachers can, with appropriate training, conduct the assessment of K-12 student artwork and create their own standards for adjudicating artworks subject to the abilities of the teachers, the students, and the schools.
There is an increased pressure by school administrators and state Departments of Education to regulate how art teachers assess K-12 student art performances. Due to the lack of art assessment tests, opportunities for training in art assessment and information on authentic means of assessment, it was proposed that a cooperative effort by three university art education faculties at Florida State, Purdue, and Northern Illinois Universities and four U.S. school districts in Florida, Indiana, and Illinois undertake the research and development of pre-K-12 art assessment models that could be replicated in the nation's schools. This effort was implemented through three major activities: 1) teacher training and assessment development institutes, 2) applied assessment and technological research in school art classrooms, and 3) dissemination of the results of research to the art teaching profession. Charles Dorn from Florida State University, Bob Sabol from Purdue University, and Stan Madeja from Northern Illinois University conducted the training and supervised the research in the 11 school districts in Florida, Indiana, and Illinois. The Models for Assessing Art Performance (MAAP) project, which emphasized teaching, research and service, relates directly to the mission of all three teacher education institutions and to the needs of the school districts in meeting the demands set by national and state Goals 2000 achievement standards.
The Need for Reform
While school reformers see testing as a significant part of the reform effort, more effort needs to be expended on answering the question of how such testing efforts relate to what teachers teach. Cusic (1994) observed that teachers in school reform should accept personal interpretation and choice as central to their professionalism. As quasi-autonomous individuals, they teach in their classrooms in an independent and self-reliant manner and most often behave as individuals and not as a collective force. Usually, teachers do not feel free to join or not join the reform effort unless as they are directed to do so by state mandated compliance. If, as Cusic noted, teachers are the deciding element in school reform he felt they should feel free to join or not join in the reform effort and further to be able to regulate themselves and set their own policies and standards. The fear of regulators and reformers is, however, that granting such freedom will cause teachers to question the reforms and even argue for increased individual rights and privileges rather than reform their teaching and, therefore, improve learning. Given a choice, reformers would rather mandate teacher compliance and, eventually, also mandate the means for assessment.
Testing as Reform
Although the federal and most state governments are currently committed to testing all elementary and secondary students, a limited number of standardized visual arts tests in addition to the NAEP test are available for teachers or school districts to use. Also, the use of paper-and-pencil, true-false, and multiple choice tests and even essay type responses rarely provide adequate estimates of what students learn in most K-12 school art programs where studio-based activity is the primary means of instruction. …