Thankfully, we already have a group of teaching professionals who are accustomed to this type of completely integrated assessment, that becomes part of the learning process, instead of separate from it. This group of educators already clearly understands performance-based and authentic tasks. Our teachers of the arts (music, dance, theater, and visual arts) have always evaluated their students’ learning, and their own teaching, through an imbedded, performance-based process. It is what they do every single day. They understand how to evaluate student learning based on an authentic task such as performing a dance combination or song, completing a sculpture, or portraying a character in a play.
Unfortunately, some states are reacting to the public outcry for education reform by doing the opposite of what the Common Core State Standards will require. For example, the Florida legislature is moving toward end-of-course exams that do not allow for performance-based tasks. In some districts, arts teachers who were already using authentic assessments, are now being required to test kids in a way that is much less effective in assessing learning. This is quite ironic because Florida is playing a major role in the multi-state consortium called PARCC, which is focused on designing the new assessments.
To make matters worse, many school districts in Florida are responding to budget cutbacks by dramatically reducing or even eliminating arts programs from their schools. The belief is that academic classroom teachers can just integrate some arts into their lessons. While that may be true, it is no comparison to what a teacher in an arts discipline can do. Further, schools and districts that eliminate this talented group of educators will be sacrificing the very resource they need to move their schools toward the new Common Core assessments.
The arts provide an incredible context for learning. Their value has long been studied and affirmed. Schools, districts, and states that support arts in education will be much more effective in preparing their students for college and career.