Archive | April, 2012

Creating Standardized Assessments in Music…A Journey into the Unknown

Posted on 11 April 2012 by urbanmusiceducation.org

I thought I’d take a moment to share some thoughts about standardized testing in music since I am now on a district team to discuss, research, and eventually create a pilot assessment for music in our district by next year. Right now, it is inevitable that my 50% of my teacher evaluation will be based on student outcomes by the year 2014. This is because of Senate Bill 191 passed by the Colorado Legislature this past year. For this reason, our district arts department has put together a team to research assessments that other states are doing and come up with an appropriate assessment or two (or three or four??) to measure student growth in music.

There are many difficulties in approaching this subject as a district-formed committee. First, our team of passionate music teachers have consistently debated over philosophy while meeting to create these assessments. High school teachers believe assessments should propel them into college groups, high state festival ratings and AP coursework, even though many join high school band in our district as beginners. On the other end of the spectrum, most elementary teachers on the team want to teach and foster the “enjoyment” of music and feel strongly that any type of formal assessment will not only kill their love of music, but the teacher’s as well having to assess an average of 500 students. So how do we approach this request by the state and district to formally assess our students in a standardized way in order to evaluate our own teaching?

There are many questions our team has to work out. What is considered acceptable Growth? What model would we use to show growth? Unit-long? Semester-long? Year-long? What grade levels should be assessed? What should the dosage be? What about students who only see their music teachers less than 20 contact hours a year? Should there be a variety of assessments for the variety of school schedules and courses in the district?….and on and on…

For now, the team has designed several “units of study” to pilot with district teachers in order to gain information about the nature of their assessments and how to best administer them. This however is tricky because we only have 2 more months of school and most of us are in final concert season, unwilling to pilot anything new at this time. In a few weeks we decided to re-convene and look at designing a more comprehensive test that will cover multiple standards for one grade level, and work on it all together instead of breaking in to grade level strands. I’m interested to see if this new format will bring us closer or just drive us more and more into the depths of disagreement.

SO what do you think about standardized testing in music? Feel free to add your comments below….

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