A New Beginning

No Child Left Behind was a very long and painful chapter in education and I am excited to begin to see changes trickle down to the schools. I love that the new national legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), no longer references “core curriculum,” but rather talks about a “well-rounded” education which it defines as including the arts! This is going to have a significant impact on the way we talk about education in the future! I am also excited to see our state board of education doing work to align with ESSA and open the way for innovation in the schools in the commonwealth.

What They Say When Flowers Bloom by Ming Zaleski, art teacher
What They Say When Flowers Bloom by Ming Zaleski, art teacher

Our school system is already making progress toward leading this work in the state. One of the ways this is will be evident, as early as the start of the fall semester, is through a new learning model that will define what quality instruction and best practices look like in our schools. This model for quality instruction aligns amazingly well with the way our art curriculum is designed.

The learning model is organized into four areas: Learner Centered Environment, Purposeful Assessments, Meaningful Learning Experiences, and Concept-Based Curriculum.

  • An important aspect of the Learner Centered Environment is incorporating student interests into the design of instruction. A quality artmaking lesson should be based in a challenge which allows students to find a personal connection to the concept and encourages individual student responses to the prompt.
  • Purposeful Assessments in the learning model will focus on performance based assessment, reflection practices, and student led assessments (I see self-assessment and critique when I read this). We do these every day!
  • Meaningful Learning Experiences emphasize learning-by-doing and project based learning. This is the standard model of art instruction through which students have the opportunity to learn through inquiry, experimentation, and discovery. This may represent a change for some of our colleagues, but not for us.
  • I am especially excited that FCPS is promoting Concept-Based Curriculum through this learning model. Read this quote from a current draft document: “A foundational aspect of our learning model is a rigorous curriculum that is aligned to larger essential/enduring understandings. Such a curriculum allows students and teachers to move beyond a focus on facts and encourages them to find authentic, engaging connections to the world around them.” If you have been teaching with big ideas, as our curriculum is designed, this should all sound very comfortable and familiar.

I believe art educators have an amazing opportunity to serve as role models and experts as some of these changes are implemented in our schools and in other subject areas. Even as we strive to improve, we are doing great work that others can learn from.

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