Multi-Year Portfolios to Assess Growth and the 5 C’s

K-12 education in America (or maybe I should only make claims for Virginia) is starting to recover from years of over-testing under No Child Left Behind. Schools are able to identify alternative assessments to replace some state Standards of Learning (SOL) exams, and are being tasked with developing Balanced Assessment Plans which include performance assessments. In addition to these adjustments in assessment format, schools are being asked to consider how they can assess growth in the 5 C’s addressed in the Profile of a Virginia Graduate rather than just the disciplinary content addressed in all those SOL tests.

These five C’s have been an important part of art education for ages, even before everyone else started focusing on them.

So, What does this all mean for art?

Art educators should rejoice! Things are turning our way. In my school division, more and more art teachers are being valued as experts in performance assessment. At the division level, work is being done to design ways for schools to assess growth in the 5 C’s over time. Art teachers can help with this too. After all, to show growth over time you need to collect evidence over time. If that doesn’t sound like a portfolio, I don’t know what does.

Parallel to this work, art teachers have been exploring ways to vertically align portfolio expectations so that elementary, middle, and high schools in the same community can teach technology and portfolio skills sequentially to help students create digital portfolios which can follow them across courses, teachers, and schools.

For us, the technology is in place to use Google Apps for Education. Perhaps you would use a different tool. Our student can create portfolio presentations in Google Slides, at a lower level, and in Google Sites, at a higher level. (In fact, some schools are experimenting with students creating multi-yer portfolios with Google Sites as early as the third grade!) In a single document, we have organized a draft approach to building technology skills sequentially while having students document their learning over time.  At multiple grade levels from elementary to grade 12, we have identified:

  • Platform and skills
  • Image expectations
  • Reflection expectations
  • Five C’s reflection expectations

At this time in education, art teachers have an opportunity to have a strong voice in our assessment practices. This is the opportunity many of us have been waiting for! An opportunity to be valued for what we do. I hope we can take advantage of it and become leaders in our schools.

This is a summary of a presentation presented at the 2019 VAEA Conference. Go to to view the presentation and access additional links and resources.

Practice vs. Theory

How does the saying go? All work and no play…?

As much as I love to be challenged to think deeply about theory in art education, the VAEA conference offers equal opportunities for art educators to engage in art making. The best examples of this prepare teachers to deliver high leverage instruction and model the qualities we aim to develop in our students.

Continue reading Practice vs. Theory

A Visual Audit

The VAEA conference has offered great session choices all day long. I was grateful to have an early audience for my 8 a.m. session on multi-year portfolios, had some meaningful discussions in Libya Doman’s Hidden Curriculum session, and then joined a large crowd at the Northern Virginia Region meeting. Next I learned about community art organizations here in the Harrisonburg area, and was challenged to consider if, how, and why we include art appreciation in our curriculum. And that was all before one o’clock!

I hope you have learned much in your own sessions!

Activities that Engage

I have spent some time this school year looking at engaging activities and how they impact instruction. I especially enjoyed an opportunity we had to share and play with a number of such activities with a cohort of new art teachers to our district. Most recently, though, I learned of a clever idea that was used to engage a different audience, families!

Continue reading Activities that Engage

Leadership, Trauma & Cultural Proficiency

I may be inappropriately mixing topics in the title of this post, but with an honest intent to honor the powerful messages shared in two presentations by FCPS art teacher and VAEA Secretary Libya Doman.

In her presentation, The Journey to Being a Trauma Sensitive Art Educator, Libya guided a full room to a better understanding of trauma and how it impacts students and educators. She discussed (in more detail than I will) a few ways teachers can support students with trauma including:

  • Stay calm
  • See the need
  • Meet the need
  • Don’t quit
  • Perhaps the most powerful messages from this session is this:
  • The number one most powerful impact on students with trauma is an adult who cares.

  • In another session, Leadership, Art, and Grappling with Cultural Differences through Visual Literacy, Libya guided attendees to think deeply about what it means to be a leader, both in title and as a de facto leader – one who acts and serves as a leader even in the absence of title or compensation.
  • Cultural proficiency was woven into the discussion through the lens of leadership and Libya warned against the perils of “business as usual” when we might otherwise make steps to include underrepresented populations. In other words, when new members join a team and make that team more diverse, it is a disservice to that diversity to continue operating as you always have.

    She included it her recommendations for culturally proficient leaders including:

    • Learn more about affinity bias
    • Audit your group (where 30% makes a critical mass)
    • Hold people accountable for “othering” and inappropriate behavior
    • Recognize your privilege
    • Contemplate pathways to success
    • Be deliberate in mentoring and supporting diverse populations.

    I am so excited to see that art educators are getting the opportunity to explore these complex issues through our conference. It is great to give art teachers an opportunity to make art and share lesson ideas but we must continue to think deeply about the broader context of our work.

    Thank you, Libya!

    Bridging the gap between Art and Education