shifting sands

R – When Jarika and I started this blog a few years ago, the landscape as it applied to music assessment in Maine was still a pretty static entity. A few teachers here and there were invested in it, but it was something most people wanted to find out more about (the 2011 Arts Assessment Conference had well in excess of 200 attendees). Yet it was still in infant stages of “how do we do this and why?” Now in 2015, the state has implemented its proficiency law and we are all in the throes of “assessment” and standards and proficiency.

It’s been an amazing shift. But where does it leave us? No one is utilizing the same standards (national? MLR? hybrid?). No one is reporting out the same way (standards? 108558973grades? hybrid?). No one is invested the same way (“I do it because I value it”, “I do it because my administrator told me I have to”, “I’m seeing the value even though I don’t fully believe in it”). No one does it the same way (paper/pencil tests, performance assessments, one time shots, multiple opportunities). No one reports it the same way (power school, infinite campus, mastery connect, who knows what else).

MAAI held its annual Winter Retreat for the assembled Teacher Leaders from across the state a couple of weeks ago. We collected feedback and data and it is flat out overwhelming what we have in front of us for needs. We know we want to link up with other organizations to further assessment in the arts. We know we want to further advocacy efforts and utilization of Teaching Artists. We know we want to offer professional development opportunities for every teacher in Maine, but that the needs of each are very, very unique.

Where is this all going and where does it end?

Well, I don’t know the answer to those two questions, but I do know for a fact that we’re moving and progressing and developing and morphing. And shifting. MAAI’s mission has been a simple one: Creating an environment in Maine where quality assessment in arts education is an integral part of the work all arts educators do to deepen student learning in the arts. The goal has NEVER been to utilize the same standards, report out the same way, invest the same way, do it the same way or report it all out the same way. It HAS been about deepening student learning in the arts.

As we individually and collectively continue our work, I’m imploring all of us to keep our eyes on the target. Get through whatever filters are in front of us – or imposed brick walls  – etc. etc, and keep making our work more meaningful and integral for our students. If we make our work authentic and see to it that it furthers the cause, let’s keep moving. The alternative to movement is standing still. And even though we’re in the middle of a morass of assessment soup right now, I’ll take this every day of the week as opposed to standing still. The sands are shifting and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

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