The Teacher as Stakeholder in Student Art Assessment and Art Program Evaluation
Dorn, Charles M., Art Education
As politicians attempt to improve U.S. schools, art teachers are facing an arts assessment dilemma that is exacerbated by the lack of standardized art tests and by district-wide assessment plans that can economically and accurately assess the art instructional program of the schools. Without adequate tests and realistic district assessment plans, it is quite probable that the arts in most U.S. schools will never be assessed, and with the current climate suggesting that what cannot be tested cannot be taught, the arts in the near future may face being left out of the curriculum.
The Reform Movement
According to Cusic (1994), reformers generally believe that there is a power vacuum in schools that needs to be filled with mandates and regulations to control teachers. They think that the teacher-centered classroom is to blame for our educational problems and that teachers should accept reform or be regulated. Reformers want more power at the state rather than classroom level, in part because reformers come from outside the schools and most often have little or no school experience.
School reform, on the other hand, is usually resisted by teachers who are, in reality, the true deciding element in any reform movement. Cusic (1994) believes teachers should feel free to join or not join in reform efforts. Further, he states that the reason teachers choose to teach is that they see personal interpretations and choices as central to their professionalism and that most of all they are individuals and not a collective force. What teachers need, he thinks, is not more regulation and control but rather the opportunity to join in reform efforts without state-mandated compliance. This supports his view that teachers are quasiautonomous individuals who are independent, self-reliant, and able to regulate and evaluate themselves and set their own standards.
However, for art teachers in U.S. schools to begin to regulate themselves and set their own standards, they will have to overcome a number of obstacles, some of which were set in place by the Goals 2000 school reform effort. These obstacles include the National Education Goals, the National and State Content Standards, and the current national assessment effort being undertaken by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
The National Education Goals
First, the art teacher must recognize that the National Education goals that are the foundation of the Goals 2000 effort were framed as public policies that are for the most part unrelated to the aesthetic or artistic goals of the educational program. These national goals as public policies have mostly to do with the social, political, and economic goals of local, state, and federal governmental programs. As public policies they are more concerned with issues such as law and order, employment, and commerce. While art may contribute to realizing some of these goals, they are neither necessary nor sufficient for the purposes of art, nor are they what it is that art does best.
The National Visual Art Standards
Six national visual art standards were established in the early 1990s by teams of art professionals in the Goals 2000 Educate America Act. These standards are reaffirmed by the standards set at the state level that,while differing in number, nevertheless generally cover the six federal standards. Florida, for example, has five standards and Vermont three.
The standards, while useful in specifying the basic performances that need to be assessed in the arts, must also be recognized as reflecting a discipline-based bias to curriculum development and assessment, which may now, indeed, reflect what some feel is a failed program and one that has acknowledged it was designed in practice as an in-service program for the education of curriculum generalists (GCEA, 1994) and was never intended to be viewed as a curriculum per se (Kaagan, 1990). Teachers should also be aware that the national content and achievement standards do not tell us what artistic skills should be taught, what emphasis should be given to a specific standard, or how much attention comparatively speaking should be given among and between the standards. …