Student Assessment and Teacher Performance

Like I mentioned last week, Portsmouth Public Schools is piloting an art teacher assessment tool.   Current trends indicate that in the future, a teacher’s compensation and employment may be linked directly to student performance.  This is pretty clear for teachers of students who take standardized tests, but what about non-tested subjects?  Our art supervisor, Diana Davenport, met with other area art supervisors to determine a fair model.  Although we are not judged by this model YET, we are all taking this year to get used to the idea. 

The targeted area for this year’s experiment is third grade still-life.  A still life is an arrangement of objects placed on a stationary surface, for example, a vase of flowers or a collection of toys.  The task of the art teacher is to have students draw a still life three times over the year:  first, as a pre-test, second, as progress, and third, as a final assessment.  I have chosen to conduct this assignment in September, January, and June.  For the objects, I saved various packages from my home, such as detergent bottles, oatmeal cans, and pasta boxes- basically, what is usually recycled.  I felt that it was important for students to draw items with which they are familiar. 

Last week, I conducted my post test.  I have to say, it was an eye opener.  Some students did great- easily understood the assignment and proceeded without hesitation to develop a level-appropriate still life.  However, I have to admit, those were the minority.  As a result of this experience, here is a summary of what I need to address in my instruction:

  • foreground, middle ground, and background (this is a 3rd grade sol)
  • form, such as cube, cylinder, and cone (also 3rd grade sol, although it is introduced in 2nd)
  • overlapping
  • drawing what you really see, rather than, what you THINK you see.

Some of the techniques really surprised me.  I was stunned to see at least one student from every class try to pick up the objects and trace them on their paper.  I definitely understand why they did this from a child’s point of view, but I need to help them understand a different way.  Other students would draw items that were on their table but not in view at their seats, just because they *knew* they were there, not because they *saw* them.  Many times, if objects were overlapping, they only chose one of the objects to draw.  When objects were placed at an odd angle, some kids still drew them straight and front-facing. 

Let me be clear that I am NOT making fun or picking on my students.  What I am doing is assessing them so that I can see how I can help them.  Over the next few months, I will be teaching lessons to target the weak areas so that students can do a better job in January and June.  After all- it is not only my goal that students are able to draw a still-life in a level-appropriate manner- it is also my goal that they can do so with joy and confidence.

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