In Memphis, Arts Assessment Through Portfolios

A quick follow-up on my Slate piece about testing in the arts and physical education: The Department of Education reminded me that in this Februrary speech, Arne Duncan highlighted Memphis' pilot arts assessment program, which was created by teachers and uses portfolios of students work — something more like the highly-regarded Advanced Placement program, and less like the multiple-choice exams and timed performance tasks some other states are trying.

Duncan said:

Evaluation should include classroom observation, peer review, parent, and student feedback. We need to figure out how to evaluate and support teachers in subjects like the arts, foreign languages, and physical education. In many places, teachers themselves are already leading and driving this complex, important work.

Just two weeks ago, I met with Dru Davison, a music teacher in Memphis, Tennessee. Arts teachers there were frustrated because they were being evaluated based only on school-wide performance in math and English. They didn't think that was fair. So Dru convened a group of arts educators to come up with a better evaluation system.

After Dru's committee surveyed arts teachers in Memphis, they decided to develop a blind, peer-review evaluation to assess portfolios of student learning. It has proved enormously popular—so much so that Tennessee is now looking at adopting the system statewide for arts instructors.

Read more about Memphis arts assessment in the Commerical Appeal.

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