Sunday, November 10, 2013

How Do You Measure Student Growth in Art?

With the induction of the Language Arts and Math common core standards and the revamp of teacher evaluations, many districts are pushing harder for evidence of growth in all learning areas, and how other subject areas are infusing common core into their lessons. In Illinois, state law is requiring school districts to create and implement performance evaluation systems to measure teachers’ skills while factoring in student academic growth (about 30-50% of a teacher's evaluation score). Yes, that includes all teachers, including art, music, physical education, drama, and any educator that works with students in the public school system.  The use of goals and tests to measure growth and tying it to a teacher's evaluation has been a delicate topic among educators.

These recent changes have been a challenge for many teachers who already have a load on themselves, especially while traveling or working with a lack of space.  While general classroom teacher can have 20-40 students in their classroom, art teachers have over 800+ students they teach.  It would be nearly impossible to evaluate the growth of that many students and gather data forms throughout the entire school year, on top of project prepping, lessons, and other duties art teachers perform within their buildings.  And what if you have a high transient rate?  Stay calm and teach art.  

So with the already heavy workload many of us have, why do this?

According to author Susan Riley (founder and President of Education Closet):

As an arts teacher, you know what skills and concepts your students struggle with year in and year out.  This is our chance to identify these areas and focus on them with intensity over a long period of time.  It’s also our chance as educators to identify areas where we would like to grow and request professional development or other resources to help support our goals.

Susan further explains:

Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) have the potential to be a way to advocate for your program and to provide a frame for having meaningful conversations about student growth.  As arts teachers, we use performance tasks, formative assessments, and a lot of professional judgment to help our students grow in their capacity to make art and participate in the artistic process.  SLOs simply provide a context to showcase this work to others who may not understand what we do each and every day.

So how can we measure student growth in art?

1. Find out if you need to create a series of goals for each student, or for a specific group of students.  Knowing the amount of students you will measure will determine the complexity of the goals you set.  For example, if you need to set objectives for your entire amount of classes, decide on an attainable goal, such as meeting the project objectives set in place.  If you are asked to monitor a small group of students for growth, consider specific goals related to each individual learning style.

2. Determine the length of time you need to measure.  Is it a full year?  a few month span?  Knowing your length of time can also be a determining factor in planning your objectives.

3. Create your objectives, no matter what the name may be: Student Growth Objectives (SGOs), Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), or SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals are more common names, depending on your district.  The first point is to find out what it is you are measuring in your art class.  Are you wanting to measure students' drawing skills over time?  Identification of elements of art?  Whatever goal you set, make sure it's relevant to your curriculum.  

4. Make a form to track your data.  Depending on the goals you set, you can use excel sheets, data tables, or even consider a portfolio!  Did you know that one of the visual arts standards currently being developed by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (CCAS) is focused on presentation, which includes portfolios of work?  If you check out the NCCAS website, you'll see that the standards are currently in progress and are due for release in Spring 2014!

If you're confused about where to start, consider some options to learn more about this process.  

Option #1: The Art of Education is offering and online class in January 2014 called Showing Student Growth in Art.

Option #2: Read up on blogs that offer guidance.  The Americans for the Arts Artsblog contains plenty of articles related to student growth in art and common core connections.

Option #3: Reach out to your PLN (professional learning network) on social media.  Ask other art educators what they do, what works, and what doesn't.

As I enter into this new territory as well, I will share my experiences in the process.  Are you using goals to measure students growth?  Please share your experience!


  1. Here in NJ we had to develop SGO's for all subject areas. Special subject teachers(art,music, phys ed, etc) are responsible for showing and tracking their students growth. 15% of our yearly evaluation is based on our SGO student scores/growth this year. It's been a crazy ride to say the least!

    1. I've been following what's been happening in New Jersey on the BATS group on Facebook. This is also a wild ride here in Illinois. I'm trying to be optimistic, because there are pros and cons to this set up, and I want to focus on the positive. Hang in there, Mrs. C. Thank you for reading :)

    2. Same here...I'm trying to stay positive and find the good in all of this...see a couple posts on my blog from Sept. where I talk about my journey...(click on my name at top of the comment and you can link to my blog.) :)