Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

A Factor Analytic Model of Eighth-Grade Art Learning: Secondary Analysis of NAEP Arts Data

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

A Factor Analytic Model of Eighth-Grade Art Learning: Secondary Analysis of NAEP Arts Data

Article excerpt


A visual arts consortium formed in 1999 to study statistical data from the 1997 NAEP project (Diket, Burton, McCollister, & Sabol, 2000), responding to an open invitation at the National Art Education Association conference in Washington to apply for funding under a secondary analysis grant. Three investigative plans emerged from collaborative planning efforts. The lead investigator would test the consortium's structural model (see Figure 1) that represented responses and sets of responses from NAEP survey instruments. The primary question was "what are the factor sets associated with eighth-grade students' general and art background, and data provided at the school level, that are impacting arts achievement?" Other investigators would use confirmed variable sets from the model in examinations of regional and quartile variation (see Sabol & Burton, this issue). In 2000, group members received a secondary analysis grant from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and the Department of Education. Findings from the first year of investigation were reported at the NAEA annual conference in New York and during the AERA annual meeting in Seattle. The grant team also connected with Richard Siegesmund (see this issue) who had recently completed a school-- level NAEP replication in California, enlarging the loose consortium of investigators in the visual arts. The investigators continue to work interactively, sharing findings and consulting on decision paths as study proceeds with NAEP.


The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the Arts illuminated several concerns in the field: (1) Was the impact on arts achievement for students taking art in eighth grade dependent upon issues of teacher preparation, instructional delivery, and collaborative activity with community arts agencies? (2) How important was family environment to arts learning? (3) What does student motivation in art contribute to art achievement?

A related issue emerged concerning the development of national standards (that include expectations for writing components and experience with a variety of media) which coincided with the development of the national assessment project. Respective committees intended a smooth articulation between standards and assessment (Arts Education Consensus Project Team, 1994). Constructed answers and artistic products typically are not standard fare in NAEP educational assessments that stress objective items; but constructed tasks have been considered standard, even exemplary practice, in arts assessment (Armstrong, 1994; Beattie, 1997). Given that national standards were released between piloting and full implementation of the NAEP arts assessment, the 1997 assessment provides carefully articulated benchmarks against which to measure subsequent infusion of standards and exemplary practices in arts education through student performance in American schools. The 1997 assessment results provided a tentative, rather than a consistent, reflection of the standards in action.

The visual arts consortium assumed as its purpose a multi-faceted examination of factors related to arts achievement that are connected to stakeholders (students, parents, and educators) and impacted by external support (legislative, community and arts agency). Grouping variables that could not be impacted by educational decisions (i.e., gender and race/ethnicity) were not included in the examination.

Towards a Strong Research Base in Art Education

After several decades of research favoring qualitative designs, an important resurgence of quantitative publications addressed correlational indicators for academic achievement (Fiske, 1999). The seminal publication Champions of Change (Fiske, 1999) interpreted findings from several studies of "the real world of learning," posing policy implications that had "immediate relevance for both policy and practice in American education today" (p. …

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