Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in the newsletter for the National Art Education Association, and has been reprinted with permission.
Nearly one thousand art educators from all parts have reviewed and provided feedback to our Next Generation Visual Arts Standards. I am pleased to report that reviewers have supported our work as “agree” or “highly agree” with 85% to 92% approval in all categories. As chair of the team of art educators writing the standards, I am proud and amazed by their perseverance and professionalism demonstrated throughout the process. While still a work in progress, we are on a positive path to support art education for all students and the teachers that serve them.
What are Standards?
The Common Core State Standards Initiative define standards as:
Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.
Further, educational standards, are developmentally appropriate, assess with reliable measures, and pay close attention to the gaps of demonstrated learning for all students. Standards in education can be traced to the early 1980’s when a “Nation at Risk” was published prompting legislation by congress through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Standards for Arts Education were first published in 1994 after the standards movement in education was well underway. Since the birth of the standards arts teachers have been increasingly held accountable to them. Our new standards reflect new practices in art education aligned to new challenges teachers face such as demonstrating growth in art for teacher effectiveness ratings and to help teachers with qualities that matter most transferring learning into adulthood. NAEA in partnership with the National Coalition of Core Arts Standards in the local autonomy of teachers and is striving to write standards that can be adapted to a wide variety of teaching and learning conditions. The standards further make the case for more learning in and through the arts.
Through feedback review it was noted that there is a fine line between standards and instruction & curriculum. Indeed, standards in the new Common Core for English Language Arts & Math oftentimes have a tone suggesting “how” to teach not “what” to teach. Like our standards, they are a hybrid of sorts providing enough detail for teachers to assimilate for unit planning.
What standards are not…
The standards are voluntary. Art teachers are faced with expectations from within their school communities, counties, states and local administrations. National standards in the arts are sometimes adopted as they are, amended for local conditions, or simply used as a resource.
Instructional or Curriculum Specific
Standards do not suggest how to teach. At best standards will clarify what students should be able to know and do in art and at what age but not how to get there. The standards should provide a springboard for art educators of any age student, using any media or focus to develop meaningful art experiences. The structure of the standards, placing Enduring Understanding as paramount, supports any pathway a teacher may take with students over time into adulthood. For example: A “design centered” approach to art education or and “inquiry based approach” with specific problem solving or instructional strategies can easily be used to reach the Enduring Understandings through adulthood. The standards make no attempt at a particular brand, style, belief or philosophy of art education.
Just about Ideas and Not Art Making
The artistic processes of Creating, Presenting and Responding organize the standards. The structure allows teachers to plan comprehensive experiences. However, creating art is still viewed paramount by most and is reflected in the number of standards presented. The standards promote art making and skill building but do not suggest how a teacher teaches. Practice, hard work, skill development and perseverance all have a place of prominence within the standards.
Our Visual Arts Standards will not be about any specific media. Teachers in low resourced areas with minimal supplies will be able to achieve comprehensive art learning with students. While the standards support a wide variety of media including digital technologies, the materials a teacher uses to help students in a local decision.
Proponents of High Stakes Tests
The standards will provide models of assessments that are art content specific with benchmarked examples. Formative models or “assessing along the way” as well as project based units will be highlighted over time by NAEA. Our standards will be best assessed by authentic measures that are important and relevant to students. Portfolios, exhibitions, place specific presentations and use of technology for assessment are examples of measures of student learning.
Permanent and Ridged
The standards will be web-based and evergreen for continuously improvement. The standards will be flexible and change over time. Processes will be in place to provide linked examples of units of study for art teachers to adapt to their teaching circumstance.
Impossible to Attain
The standards will be aspirational but still attainable. Educational standards by their very nature aspire to reach all students will optimal learning experiences. Standards can to be “cluster grouped” by artistic processes and embedded into units of study. Our standards will help make the case for more instruction in art for all students yet still allow flexibility and support teachers.
NAEA is busy developing strategies that will help members learn about and implement the new standards. Multiple modalities such as focused sessions at the convention, on-line video presentations, partnering with states, regions and universities and the use of technology to provide interchanges of ideas are all being considered. This is an exciting time in our field; the standards will provide the language needed to support our members and their students for the next generation.