Arts Education Common Core Education Reform

Laura H. Chapman: Drowning in Standards

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Laura H. Chapman, a retired teacher and curriculum advisor in the arts, posted this comment:

 

 

People who work in the “orphaned subjects” have a long history of playing tag-a-long to subjects deemed to be “core.” There is a persistent hope that writing standards in great detail will somehow get you a bit more curriculum time.
Just published standards in Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Art, and Media Studies (new discipline) seem to have been written in the wild hope that all of the standards will be tested with “authentic” assessments.

 

These standards are grade-specific, starting in Pre-K. The standards come to a screeching halt in high school, with three levels defining studies: Proficient, Accomplished, and Advanced. The writers of the standards wanted a parallel structure for each art form.

 

I have seen the standards for the visual arts and media arts. Each of these art forms has acquired 234 standards. If the writers followed that rule across all of the arts, then students and teachers are facing 1,170 arts standards.

 

I see that a model evaluation for the new Dance standards for grade 2 has nine conventional “knowledge and skills” statements…. (“students will…” ). Then the same assessment guide throws in five references to the CCSS,  four references to “Blooms,” three “21st century Skills,” four DOK’s, and ten “habits of mind.”

 

Some arts educators hoped to hitch their star to STEM subjects. Just transform the acronym into STEAM.

 

Same for those “21st century Skills.” They have been like sticky glue. Most of the skills are not distinct to the 21st century, are modified statements from personnel managers, and came into being by virtue of the political savvy of Ken Kay, a lobbyist for the tech industry (KAY tried twice to get his mixed bag of terms and phrases into federal legislation.)

 

When I entered teaching, there were frequent claims and articles to the effect that arts educators were going to help the nation beat the Russians, win the Space Race because we knew how to educate “creative scientists.”

 

Some readers may recall the standards written under the Goals 2000 Educate America Act (H.R. 1804, 1994). At that time, K-12 standards were written in 14 domains of study, 24 subjects, then parsed into 259 standards, and 4100 grade-level benchmarks.

 

A dispute over the status of history versus social studies ended in no “approved standards” for the latter, but 1,281 grade level standards for history. In those history standards, facts are supposed to matter. Even so, students were (falsely) expected to know that Mary Cassatt was a famous American Regionalist painter. (Wrong. The artist lived in Paris for most of her life, is best known as an Impressionist). Source: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education, “Process” Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, (2011), http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/process.asp

 

Teachers are drowning in standards and the waters keep on getting churned. The tsunami of expectations is just short of asking all of our students to be omniscient. Writers of the CCSS think their version of the 3R’s are just fine and that all teachers should comply even with the ridiculous Lexile Score in ELA.

 

Ohio currently has 3,203 standards on the books, including 1,600 CCSS (counting parts a-e). That’s about 267 per grade level. The arts standards in Ohio were developed and approved at the state level before the NEW arts standards were written. Which ones really matter will be determined by which ones are acceptable for teacher evaluations.

 

If Ohio’s current standards are typical, there has been no crosschecking of the sets of standards for duplications, synergies, contradictory expectations, feasibility, developmental coherence, or simply dead wrong content.

 

The CCSS standards are surrounded with all of the mandatory rhetoric of the day. They are strictly academic. They are rigorous. Students must master them on time, grade-by-grade with no regard for networks of understandings that may later produce unexpected insight and understanding. Not all learning occurs in a tidy progression within or across the grades.

 

Federal officials seem to want national standards for every subject, as if the sum of all the separate standards that can be conjured will make educational sense and favor the development of coherent and feasible curriculum work. They are clueless and learned nothing from the Goals 2000 project.

 

In any case, well-informed work on curriculum does not begin with standards. It begins with a vision of what education is for, and who should be involved in deciding that, especially in a democratic society.

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