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ACA Week: Patricia Moore Shaffer on Assessments for Student Learning in the Arts

Welcome to Arts, Culture, and Audiences Topical Interest Group (ACA TIG) week with a focus on evaluating arts education! My name is Patricia Moore Shaffer of the Shaffer Evaluation Group. I am a former arts educator turned evaluator. As educators and policymakers look for alternatives to standardized, multiple-choice tests, I’m delighted to see a growing interest in arts education assessment tools like the portfolio review. Let’s take a closer look at what we can learn from the field of arts assessment.

Lessons Learned:

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently commissioned a study, Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts – State of the Field and Recommendations, to examine current practices in the assessment of K-12 student learning in the arts. Through conversations with expert consultants in the field, a review of arts assessment literature, and a nationwide survey administered to policymakers, educators, arts and cultural organization staff, and researchers, the NEA learned that arts assessments come in many forms, ranging from tools that assessed student knowledge in the arts to those that tested skills. Many arts assessments involved analytic and holistic rubrics. Administration procedures ranged from large group paper-and-pencil tests to individual, one-on-one performance and portfolio reviews.

The NEA study also found that there is a lack of publicly available high-quality assessment tools and guidance related to K-12 student learning in the arts. Few research, evaluation and technical reports are publicly available. As evaluators, we can help address these needs by identifying and/or developing high-quality arts assessment instruments and encouraging our clients to make evaluation reports publicly accessible. AEA365 and the AEA Public eLibrary can provide platforms for this sharing.

Rad Resources: Here are some high-quality arts assessment tools and/or guidance available online:

  • The web report Developing an Arts Assessment: Some Selected Strategies from the Institute of Education Statistics, uses the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) arts assessment and field test as a case study to explore useful strategies for developing an arts performance assessment.
  • The Arts Assessment Toolbox, developed by Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, is a great new resource for improving assessment of student learning in the arts. This one-stop site for cutting-edge assessment philosophies and methodologies also features case studies documenting a wide range of assessments as put into practice by arts organizations and educators.
  • Arts PROPEL was a five-year, collaborative effort involving Harvard’s Project Zero, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and the teachers and administrators of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. In addition to pioneering the “process-folio,” model programs combining instruction and assessment were developed for middle and high school students in music, visual arts, and imaginative writing.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arts, Culture, and Audiences (ACA) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 comment

  • Captain Richard Arlington Briggs, Jr. · February 2, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Ms. Patricia Moore Shaffer!
    G’day and Howdy from Killeen, Texas!
    Neighbors to the U.S. Army’s Fort Hood–“The Great Place!” and regional home to Texas A&M University – Central Texas (TAMUCT)! Yes, “Warriors!” not “Step-Aggies!”

    As a card-carrying Thespian since 1976, a theatre arts educator since 1996, and a retired Army officer since 2007–I have experienced a plethora of assessments, evaluations, and inquiries designed to make me a better actor, teacher, warrior.

    I enjoyed your blog and seek to follow-up on a few specific items.

    In your research, did you happen to come across any mention of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) and/or the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA)? Both of these organizations were keenly involved in the propagation of arts education standards signed into federal law in March 31, 1994, entitled as Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227).

    The state goal was: “Goals 2000 establishes a framework in which to identify world-class academic standards, to measure student progress, and to provide the support that students may need to meet the standards.”

    More details may be reviewed at

    Excerpted without permission from:
    Paris, K. (1994). A leadership model for planning and implementing change for school-to-work transition (pp. 22-25). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center on Education and Work.

    As an educator and a parent, I am very supportive of any and all well-conceived, properly executed, and thoroughly assessed learning opportunities with the focus of hands-on and cooperative group interacting taking the lead. “Learning by DO-ing” lights my path to educating those I have the privilege to facilitate teaching.

    Again, thank you for sharing your blog.
    I look forward to your feedback!
    As always, and ever, in Service,
    Capt. Rick. ;-D


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