How do we measure quality in arts education?

Close your eyes and envision a quality arts education experience. What do you see? 

This is the question posed last week by Steve Seidel from Harvard's Project Zero to the 270 attendees who attended the Arts Education Roundtable at Central High School #9 and hosted by Arts for All. 

The event featured Steve Seidel and Lynn Waldorf of the Griffin Center for Inspired Instruction, who together led a discussion on the qualities of quality arts education. What are the indicators of quality arts education, and how do you recognize it when you see it?

It was an interesting time to be asking the question as many districts in LA County are faced with the struggle of keeping their arts ed programs afloat.  The advocates who might ask of their decision makers the questions that bring about excellence in programming are instead focusing their efforts on the urgent need to preserve critical infrastructure.  This was an opportunity to be visionary and think beyond our current struggles.  It was also an opportunity to think fundamentally about why we're all working so hard to maintain and build these programs in the first place.

The most profound insight I took home last week was the realization that, for all the amazing work that our community has done to build arts education infrastructure and provide dynamic programs, we have spent little effort assessing what is actually going on in the classrooms.  Of course, the infrastructure that's been built is the reason there's now something to assess, but even with the funding, the plans, the experts, the providers, and all the other indicators that have till now been used to measure the quality of arts education, we still haven't figured out a way to know if the end product - the child's experience in the classroom - is a quality educational experience. 

That's what Lynn and Steve have been working to change. Through their research, they have both independently developed a set of indicators, or lenses, to assess the level of quality of arts education programs.  Synchronously, both of their studies found the quality indicators falling within one of the same four categories.

1. Pedagogy

2. Student Learning

3. Environment

4.  Community

I found this particularly exciting as it relates to the initiative that I am a part of.  Lynn will be piloting these indicators in the same five school districts that we are building advocacy teams in. Seeing that the community's participation is one of the four major areas that influence the quality of a child's arts experience reminds me just how important the work we're doing is to build the capacity of community members to advocate for quality arts education in their districts. 

One woman at the event asked at the end, "so then, what do I do?"  Lynn and Steve had no definitive answers just yet, but encouraged us to continue asking the question of our friends, colleagues, and most importantly of students, "what does quality arts education look like to you?"

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment. :-)





arts assessment

I attended a conference in 2006 sponsored by LAUSD's Arts Ed Branch; DELTA or Designing Education, Learning and Teaching through Assessment. It was the 4th Annual National Study Group with SCASS Arts Assessment and CA Arts Assessment Network. Assessment in arts education isn't new and has been relative to teaching the arts at least as long as I have been teaching arts (1991).

In LAUSD we have been working on an instructional guide for several years with built in assessment and quality indicators. What I would like to see is everyone get on the same page and stop reinventing. Art teachers, artists, classroom teachers arts advocates all have the same goal and have had the same goal, ensuring that students are receive quality arts education.

The arts are afterall what keeps students in school.

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