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Holly Olzsewski: Who’s teaching whom? Using assessment to build relationships in the classroom

Holly Olszewski    Leave a Comment   

I hear many complaints about assessment from my colleagues, those in my subject area and others. When I am in a good mood, I try to counter their complaints with “Assessment is great!”, “Assessment helps...

I hear many complaints about assessment from my colleagues, those in my subject area and others. When I am in a good mood, I try to counter their complaints with “Assessment is great!”, “Assessment helps us know our students!” This is usually met with a groan, an eye roll, or worse. I am serious when I say that assessment does help me get to know my students. It not only informs my instruction and helps me pick activities, but it helps me get to know that student as an individual.

Because I film my assessments, whether it’s singing, steady beat, movement or playing, it allows me to watch the student during the assessment for other behavior. It frees me to really focus on the student instead of the outcome of the assessment. I can see if their hands are shaking, if they are biting their lower lip, clenching their teeth or other signs of distress. It allows me to focus on that student and watching their comfort level with the assessment. I can address issues by just quietly saying something to the student, or I can use the opportunity to re-teach on the spot.

I find that the more assessments I do, the more comfortable the students get with them. Occasionally they even request the assessment! For them it is a measuring stick as well, particularly with my younger students who frequently repeat an assessment. M.E101, Singing a Song and M.E104, Performing a Steady Beat Accompaniment on instruments work really well for these frequent check-ins. This year’s favorite version of M.E104 included a special ‘Frog guiro’ or “ribbit”. While the class sang the short folk song “Frog in the Meadow”, one student accompanied the class on the ribbit, keeping a steady beat. At the conclusion of the short song, the ribbit was passed and the next student had a turn. During this assessment the camera was watching the beat, and I was watching the students. As the activity was fun, most students were very confident in their playing. A couple students were hesitant and that allowed me to then spend an extra few minutes with students at a different time.

This assessment was repeated several times over the course of the year. By the end of the year, everyone had shown growth in singing and in keeping the steady beat. I changed the song and tried to find interesting instruments that would captivate young learners. We all had fun, we grew, and assessment was not a bad word! Your students will teach you what they need to know, you will get to know them and build relationships with them by repeating assessments frequently. Look for ways to make it fun! If it is fun for you, it will be fun for them. Building those relationships, getting to know them and their strengths through assessment will help you help them overcome their deficiencies. Keep Playing, Keep Making Music, Keep Assessing!

Holly Olszewski teaches for Grand Traverse Area Public Schools and serves as a MAEIA Leadership Fellow, offering professional learning on the MAEIA tools and resources.

A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: Holly Olzsewski- Who’s Teaching Whom

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Carrie Jeruzal: “Making it Work” for Students with Learning Differences

Carrie Jeruzal    Leave a Comment   

Educational modifications and accommodations are every teacher’s responsibility.  They are required as outlined in federal and state law (Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1997, Reauthorization of IDEA 2004 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973-Section 504). If...

Educational modifications and accommodations are every teacher’s responsibility.  They are required as outlined in federal and state law (Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1997, Reauthorization of IDEA 2004 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973-Section 504).

If you teach students with special needs or learning differences and want to administer a MAEIA assessment, then you will need to apply required modifications and accommodations.  Accommodations are changes in how a student accesses information and demonstrates learning. Modifications are changes in what a student is expected to learn. Sometimes however, in the arts, it is difficult to know exactly what accommodations or modifications should be applied.  This blog post is intended to give arts educators ideas and options of how to best meet the needs of these students by accommodating or modifying MAEIA assessments.

One of the best things about MAEIA assessments is that they were designed and published in a way that teachers can modify or alter them to best fit teachers’ and students’ needs in widely differing arts classrooms around the state.  This kind of flexibility naturally lends itself to alterations and changes that need to be made to assessments to comply with Individualized Educational Plans, or IEPs.

The attached document is an example of a MAEIA Visual Arts Assessment called: Analyze and Describe, meant for 6th grade students.  The accommodations and modifications that I made are described and highlighted in yellow.  Some of the changes I made benefit all students and simply make the booklet more accessible, such as the images and color coding that I implemented on the Graphic Organizer, and the option to type the answers rather than hand write them.  Other accommodations were only for students with IEPs, such as the option to dictate or “tell” the answers to questions within the space of our school’s resource room with the aid of a Special Education teacher.

Here is a list of additional accommodations and modifications that you may want to consider when administering the MAEIA assessments:

  • – Download the Student Booklet into Word and rework it to print with fewer items per page or line
  • – Print the Student Booklet with larger text
  • – Read and re-read the assessment instructions aloud to the student as needed
  • – Provide an outline or checklist of the assessment tasks on a separate sheet of paper
  • – Allow students to give responses in a form (spoken or written) that’s easier for them.  For example, they  can tell you the answer instead of writing it down           or typing. Some computers have a dictate option.  The student can dictate answers to a device instead of writing it down.
  • – Allow the use of a spelling dictionary or digital spell-checker
  • – Allow students to use notes or handouts from class
  • – Offer the assessment in a different controlled and quiet setting, such as a Resource Room or library.
  • – Allow the students to sit where they can perform best (for example, up front near the teacher)
  • – Use special lighting or acoustics
  • – Take the assessment in a small group setting
  •  – Use sensory tools such as an exercise band, wiggle seat, yoga ball, stress squeeze ball, etc.
  • – Give extra time to complete a task or all of the assessment
  • – Have extra time to process spoken information and directions
  • – Allow the student to take frequent breaks
  • – Administer the assessment in several sessions or over several days
  • – Take sections of the assessment in a different order
  • – Administer the assessment at a specific time of day
  • – Use a gentle alarm or chimes to help with time management
  • – Mark text with a highlighter for organization
  • – Allow students to answer fewer or different assessment questions
  • – Select a different standard to assess than other students
  • – Students may be excused from particular parts of the assessment
  • – Provide pencil grips and wide-lined paper for writing
  • – Provide adapted scissors
  • – Accommodate students with sensory issues by removing art media that triggers them
  • – Allow the use of earplugs or headphones (without input/hookups) to block out background noise
  • – Reduce actual clutter in the room and visual clutter on the Student Booklets
  • – Insert meanings of vocabulary words continuously throughout the assessment and/or on a separate help sheet
  • – Repeat and rephrase directions
  • – Reduce multiple choice answer options using white-out tape
  • – Keep student from distractions by special seating, study corrals, etc.
  • – Give clear directions and repeat and rephrase them
  • – Write the assessment workflow schedule on board


Arts teachers are masters at being flexible, finding substitutions, differentiating instruction and in general, “Making it Work!”  However you choose to provide accommodations and modifications to students with learning differences, it is important to check-in with your building’s special education educator and review mandates outlined in IEPs.

In any case, documentation and reporting of accommodations and modifications are required by law.  Check with your special education teacher to understand the preferred documentation process for your school.

Additional Resources:

Carrie Jeruzal is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and Visual Arts Educator in Pentwater, MI. She was recently honored by the National Art Education Association as the 2017 Western Region Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.

A downloadable PDF of this article is available here:Carrie Jeruzal: “Making it Work” for Students with Learni

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Zach Vandergraaff – 5 Ways MAEIA Assessments Can Improve Your Teaching

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

“Assessment.”  It doesn’t have to be such a dirty word. As ARTs teachers, we’re often scared off by the idea of assessments. We think they’re just...


 It doesn’t have to be such a dirty word. As ARTs teachers, we’re often scared off by the idea of assessments. We think they’re just hoops to jump through and impossible work for us to do.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Effective and applicable assessments make a huge difference in teaching. According to 10 Research And Proven Practices of Dr. John Hattie, assessment has a potential combined 0.80 effect size.

This means we can improve student learning by almost 2 years over the course of one year!

While this is important, improving your own teaching is important too, and the MAEIA assessments are a big part of what I’ve been doing to improve myself.

Here are 5 ways I use MAEIA assessments to improve my own teaching.

#1 Accurate Picture of Students

If you’re teaching elementary music as I do, you likely have more than hundreds of students (I’m at 650+). I’ve always thought ,as we did small assessment activities, that I had a decent idea of how the whole class and individual students were doing.

When I started doing more intentional assessments with MAEIA, I found something quite different. There were some students I had been assuming could do my tasks easily, but they were faking it with confidence. The assessments showed me that I was leaving them behind.

There’s no way you can accurately just “eye-ball” success in your classroom. These tools from MAEIA now help me ensure I’m getting an accurate picture of all my kids.

#2 Pushes Students to Improve

There are times over the years I’ve gotten stuck in ruts with my students. They learn the things I’m teaching them, but they have a harder time seeing the end-result they’re working towards.

This is more of a failure on my part than on theirs. Introducing some MAEIA assessments has actually helped me to push them harder.

It also gives them an idea of where they’re heading. My students talk to each other across grade level and share their pride at mastering certain assessment activities (although they don’t always realize that “tests” are what they’re doing).

They come to me later and ask when they can do what the older kids are doing. I always plan curriculum long-term, but MAEIA helps me to help them see the grand scheme of what they’re working on.

#3 Self-reflection

The MAEIA tools also help me to reflect on my plans overall. There are dozens on dozens of examples of assessments to pull from; they show me areas I’m neglecting too.

You could pick assessments you feel your kids will be successful at, or you can look at ones you’re not sure about and teach with more of those ideas in mind.

#4 Checks My Assessment Practices

Each assessment also has very specific details on how you may want to teach and administer the assessment. As I went through some of these, I learned something:

I am accidentally doing things which give students the answers!

For example, I’ve often assessed my Kindergarten students on their ability to keep a steady beat to recorded music. I also knew I shouldn’t pat the beat with them, or they would just copy me.

Going through MAEIA’s version of the assessment, it mentioned specifically how they need to do the check with their eyes closed.

This may seem obvious to everyone else, but it was something my kids needed. They were subconsciously looking to others to come up with a group answer for the steady beat.

This is just one example of the high-level assessment practices MAEIA can help you with to get the best picture of your students’ ability.

They also include various rubrics to help you see where students could be.

#5 Informs My Teaching

Finally, the act of collecting data with MAEIA assessments informs my own teaching. I can see more specifically where the gaps in my students’ knowledge are.

For example:

The rhythm reading assessment for third, fourth, and fifth grades uses different types of rhythms over 10 questions for each grade level. I used this with my fourth graders as a pretest just a few months ago.

In the assessment, I was able to see which types of rhythms in which meters the students struggled with. Then I adapted my pacing to specifically fill those gaps.


Assessments are important and make a big difference in how I reach my students better. It can be hard to know all the assessment best practices, but using the MAEIA assessments streamlines the process and helps me keep up with the current teaching practices.

I strongly encourage all music and ARTs teachers to check out this program for their own classroom and find what works for them. You won’t regret it!


Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher at Bay City Public Schools and writer for Dynamic Music Room. He also serves as Past-President of Michigan Kodaly Educators and current Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association. A downloadable pdf of this post is available here, 5 Ways MAEIA Assessments Can Improve Your Teaching.

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Rebecca Arndt: Why I Teach

Rebecca Arndt    Leave a Comment   

Today, MAEIA launches the Michigan Collaborative Scoring System field test (MI-CSS powered by Oscar Classroom ™) for 2019. The following article was written by MAEIA Leadership Fellow, Rebecca Arndt, based on her participation in the...

Today, MAEIA launches the Michigan Collaborative Scoring System field test (MI-CSS powered by Oscar Classroom ™) for 2019. The following article was written by MAEIA Leadership Fellow, Rebecca Arndt, based on her participation in the MAEIA CSS pilot in 2017-2018. 

It’s a cold and windy day in the downriver area. I am sitting at my computer and working on all the things that teachers work on during the day, I find myself asking why? 

Why is it such a  struggle to pick good music for my students? 

Why can’t this child just follow directions? 

Why is it so hard to reach all my students?

Why do I need to give another test? 

Or better yet, how do I give assessments that will give me accurate and authentic information for each of my students? 

How can these assessments drive my teaching? 

I may not be able to answer all these questions everyday but I can answer how I can use authentic testing and scoring to drive my teaching. 

Being part of the MAIEA 2017-18 Collaborative Scoring System team has truly helped me understand my students and has given me authentic feedback to what they are understanding and implementing. I am using three different MAEIA assessments with grades five, two, and one. 

I just gave my fifth graders a listening and create assessment. The students needed to write and answer five questions then they were asked to create a piece of artwork or write a poem or short story to depict what the composer was trying to convey.

WOW what an amazing moment for me as I was grading their written answers to the listening. Many of these students are below grade level and struggle with writing. I was so very proud of these answers. I could honestly tell that they were listening, using the tools in the classroom to explain their reasoning. This is one of the many “aha” moments that I had while being part of this team. 

Although I am part of the CSS team, there are still days that I have found myself teaching to the next test (the ones I have to use for report card purposes) and not teaching for those “aha” moments. But it is those “aha” moments are the reason I and many others got into teaching. 

As I navigate through our curriculum each year and highlight in my calendar when I need to give each assessment and what are the outcome goals for those assessments, I need to remind myself I am in the arts. The arts are a performance-based curriculum. 

I believe that if we use the mindset of “Think, Create, Perform”, we will be able to better understand what are students are truly learning and our assessments can be truly authentic and meaningful.  Using authentic testing and scoring will give me a better understanding of where our students are and it will create more and more “aha” moments versus let’s take the next test. Testing is important but so it the journey of learning. 

Rebecca Arndt is a music educator and a MAEIA Leadership Fellow. A downloadable version of this post is available here: Rebecca Arndt: Why I Teach.

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Michael Letts: Art as Energy!

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

One integral aspect of many MAEIA assessment items is time limits. Sometimes this may seem unnatural, high pressure, or “test-oriented.” But in the arts, limiting time can often...

One integral aspect of many MAEIA assessment items is time limits. Sometimes this may seem unnatural, high pressure, or “test-oriented.” But in the arts, limiting time can often be good, can even be liberating, and can spur creativity.

Creativity is not just coming up with new ideas. In fact, there are few if any truly new ideas. Usually creative concepts are changes to existing ideas. We can invert an idea, or synthesize it with another idea, or magnify it, apply it to a different purpose. Creativity is change.

Time limits are part of many art forms. Music, drama, and dance are all time based. In visual arts, time limits may seem less appropriate. But, a common question from new art teachers is “what do I do with students who finish early?” That can be a real concern, until we learn to structure visual arts lessons in terms of process, to consider that time is of the essence.

Creative Process as Time and Energy

It is often said the first idea is the worst idea. It is the first thing that comes to mind. It may even be a cliché. It is first because it is the idea we already know. But, it does have some value: it is a start.

So, we change it, we modify, combine, repurpose, transform, extend, or oppose (flip) it. Creative ideas don’t come to us like magic, fully formed. Creativity is what we do with ideas, how we edit, transcend, and develop them. Creativity is really about process. Great works of art come from artists so committed to process that they cannot stop processing ideas until something fresh emerges.

Therefore, we need be sure to teach process, not just product. A product goal is a goal already conceived. Creativity is also finding a new goal. We don’t always just want to get to a product, we want to create a process that leaves artifacts as evidence of a unique trail of thought. Then we arrive at creativity that can flow without a beginning or end.

The great artist/educator Thomas Hirschorn took the idea of a monument and redefined it. Traditional monuments are permanent structures that create and honor memories. Hirschorn flipped the “permanent” part of monuments and came up with the idea of a temporary monument. And he didn’t design it himself. He designed a process and let the people of the community create their monument. The idea was “monument”, but also was “temporary”; it had a time limit. A time limit can be a very empowering idea: we know when it is over. It eliminates the pressure of judgement of the “final product”. It is done when it fills the time, when the energy has been applied and sustained, and the artifact or outcome is the experience: the power of process, the real memory, not the object.

Hirschorn also came up with a great concept to define art: “Quality no, Energy yes!” He says quality is a characteristic of a product, but art is about energy. This is true when we consider that art is communication of ideas and emotion, empathy and expression; the true completion of art lies in also presenting (one of the process categories of the National Arts Standards), not only creating. The impact art makes in experience and ideas is the ultimate value. We make art to communicate and express.

Energy can take the form of time spent. The real goal of most artists is to spend their time making their art. When one piece is done, they don’t quit with relief, they start another. The value for the artist is in the creative thought, the time spent. The goal is to be creative, not to be done being creative. And more and more, for contemporary artists, the real creation is of a process which produces an artifact.

Oliver Herring, in his Art 21 episodes, says he doesn’t care about “the medium or the object…I really care about the process.” His “Task Party” process is one of play; “Play- it’s a thing we put on hold because we get distracted by so many things.” As educators, we know play is a primary learning process. Daniel Pink has identified play as one of the “Six Senses” of right brain creative thought. Picasso famously said “Every child is an artist…”. Herring says “everyone is a creative agent.” Children love play time. Tell a child to go play for an hour, and give them something to play with, and they will fill the hour with energy. Herring simply provides time and materials in his Task Parties and people bring the energy and infectious play.

Time is a major component of systems to structure energy. Ask any musician. Time in the art studio also is identified in Harvard Project Zero as a key benefit of visual arts education, one of the “studio habits of mind”: “engage and persist”. Inspire to play, to explore ideas, we engage and persist. The process of art is often playful search and research, an exploration. Exploring is grounded in play. It doesn’t end when you have a product, it ends when you run out of time.

How can we structure a visual arts lesson to target systems of time and energy as an objective?

Some of my most successful visual arts lessons use structured systems of time and energy as objectives. I think of them as creative systems and as “art problems”: play with a purpose, a structured exploration rather than an “assignment.” Assignment sounds like something you do for work, not play. I like the word “problem.” In math, a problem is about learning a process as much as finding a solution. The successful math answer is evidence that the student knows the process. Why not think of an art project of the evidence of engaging and persisting in a process? Energy, yes! Many less than successful art pieces look like they just lack real engagement or involvement by the artist, for whatever reason.

Time limits can force us to be more creative. If we have all the time in the world, we will search our mind for that next decision, that next best move, the right answer. But the answer is not there. In our mind is only what we already know. With a time limit, we must go back to our play state, make a random decision, go with it, play with it, and then decide what it means and see how it works: the process of discovery. Limits of time and of materials will force new analogies.

As my young son once told me when I asked him what he would do if he wasn’t so lucky to have all his cool toys- he didn’t miss a beat: “It’s okay dad, I’d just go outside and play with sticks.” Play was the experience, not the object, the process not the toy or artifact.

Time limits also give your students freedom and deniability. They do what they can with the time given, the goal is to make it through the process and have something to show for it, and to describe the decision-making process. The art from each student can be unique and surprising, not a replica of something that some other artist already did better than they can. It will be their voice.

In one of my recent MAEIA presentations, I had a group of teachers do a timed collage, based on a MAEIA visual arts performance event. At the end, much of the group discussion was around the feelings and outcomes we encountered because of the time limit. The teachers were interested and surprised by the effect of a timed project. The project was loosely based on the collage-based Performance Event “Communicating an Idea”. If art is about communicating, then this item gets right to the core of our purpose! Don’t be afraid of timed projects and assessments, and take a look at the MAIEA assessments to inspire your own use of time systems to inspire your teaching and students.


Michael Letts is an Associate Professor of Art Education at Northern Michigan University as well as a MAEIA Leadership Fellow.

A downloadable pdf of this post is here: Michael Letts: Art as Energy!

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Cecilia Gollan: How MAEIA has Made Me a Better Teacher (Part 1)

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

If you were to stand outside my classroom or talk to kids that take my classes, you would get the impression that I know what I am doing. Kids would make comments about how they...

If you were to stand outside my classroom or talk to kids that take my classes, you would get the impression that I know what I am doing. Kids would make comments about how they like my class and want to take more art. Well, that is all true. Personally, however, I feel that I am not a master teacher and can always do better.

An Invitation to Elevate
Back in 2011, there was this survey about arts education came out and I told my principal I was filling it out. Little did I know, I would become a part of this project called MAEIA.  I am not sure how it came about, but I applied to become a part a meeting with other art teachers from across the state.

I remember sitting in my first meeting as a blueprint writer. I was in awe and a little intimidated by the brain power in the room. I had heard of some of these names, but had never met them.  It was pretty amazing. As the day went on, our task unfolded. We were going to create a gold standard plan for four arts disciplines in Michigan.  All I could think about was how exciting this MAEIA thing was going to be for the arts programs in our state and I was going to be a part of it.

Program Benefits
I started as a blueprint writer. During this process, I learned how to better express myself in order to have a greater impact on arts classrooms, including my own. I researched to see what was happening in our state and across the country to support our recommendations.

Next, a program review tool was created to help districts and schools take a deeper look at their arts programs. I tested this on my own visual arts teachers. The results were similar to what I expected. I was able to share my results with my superintendent and he then was able to look deeper at our programing.

Around the same time an assessment specifications document was created which looked at state curriculum and national standards to suggest ways to assess students. This process helped me to look at what I was doing in my own classroom and reevaluate my assessment processes.

As these documents were written I don’t think is was until we started writing the high school assessments that I was able to reflect on my teaching and see the benefits of this project. The process of connecting the standards with a way to assess students that let me see my practices needed a 2.0 version.

At that point, I had been teaching middle school for 19 years. I had always strived to change things up and be innovative in my classroom.  It is amazing what diving into state and national standards does for your classroom practices.  As I worked through the writing of first high school, and then K-8 assessments, I also switched from teaching middle school to high school. I was a veteran teacher, but really felt like it was my first year. As I made this switch and needed to familiarize myself with the state standards I was relieved that I had these assessments as my finger tips.

The best part of this project and MAEIA assessments is that they are adaptable to our current practices and projects. I found that it was easy to slip in an assessment when I could search for one that was related to what was already planned.

Fast forward to October 2017, I am still a part of MAEIA. I am a Leadership Fellow- sharing these resources with teachers, administrators, districts, and cultural organizations who want to advance creativity in education. I am also a Team Lead for the Collaborative Scoring System pilot. Along the journey of MAEIA there has been many parts to make it what it is today. I have been fortunate to have been involved in many of them.

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Rebecca Arndt: Why is MAEIA so important?

Rebecca Arndt    Leave a Comment   

I have been asked about what the MAEIA project is and why it is so important. The simple answer is I want to give my students the best of me and the...

I have been asked about what the MAEIA project is and why it is so important. The simple answer is I want to give my students the best of me and the best opportunities to experience music and to develop an appreciation for all genres of music.

When I joined a MAEIA pilot program, I didn’t know what I was really getting myself into. I just knew that I was going to be presenting assessments to my students and sending them out to get graded. 

Doing these assessments was different, challenging and definitely rewarding to me as an educator. It was a great way for me to see exactly where my students were struggling and excelling. I am sure many of us have those students who you think are really getting it but when presented with an assessment that isn’t a whole group activity they don’t seem to grasp the concepts that have been presented.

These assessments give you a step by step way to test your students.

These assessments aren’t changing what you are teaching but maybe how you instruct and gather informative and formative assessments.

After doing the first assessment I knew that I needed to change what I thought about my teaching and how my students learned.

I  needed to do some pre teaching of different techniques. For example with melodic contour, I used to primarily use body movement or look at sheet music. Drawing the melody line was a foreign to me as Urdu. I knew that I needed to add this element to my teaching so that the students could perform this task without being unsure of the task.

Doing this type of activity was fun for them and for me as their teacher. They didn’t even realize they were being assessed. They thought it was “art”.   

These assessment tools were a great way for me to teach concepts in a different manner than the Quaver curriculum that our district uses. Using the MAEIA assessments have helped me become a stronger teacher and in turn has helped my students’ love of music continue to grow.

Rebecca D. Arndt is a K-5 general music teacher for the Taylor School District, she also teaches a 4/5 grade combined choir. Prior to teaching in Taylor she also taught in Waterford Schools for 13 years. While in Waterford she taught k-5 general music and choir. She is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow. 

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here: Rebecca Arndt: Why MAEIA is Important. 

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Heather Vaughan-Southard: Who Teaches That Way?

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

Years ago, I worked with a colleague who told me she had viewed the catalogue of MAEIA assessment items and wondered, “Who Teaches that Way?” I think her impression was there was a lot of...

Years ago, I worked with a colleague who told me she had viewed the catalogue of MAEIA assessment items and wondered, “Who Teaches that Way?” I think her impression was there was a lot of theory embedded in the assessments and I speculate that perhaps she felt she didn’t have that much time to dedicate to theory.

My thoughts at that time were:
1. Our goal was to create assessments which fit naturally into the curriculum you teach but also items which may push you outside of your norms.

2. Any time “how” is asked, we enter the territory of theory. Perhaps the theoretical principles presented in your class are not the same as those represented in select assessment items, but could the assessment item be adapted to address your theoretical approach or maybe it is the charge of turning “implicit” or discreet curriculum into “explicit” curriculum. With time and/or conversation with someone who does teach that way, it might make more sense and seem more feasible.

My thoughts now are:
Perhaps we would be better served to think of MAEIA as a Professional Learning Community rather than merely a set of resources. If so, the answer to her question of “Who teaches that way?” is “We do. Let us explain how, why, what, and when.”

MAEIA starts to feel more like a practice than a protocol. A lifestyle, a means to so many ends. I felt the MAEIA work helped me better understand the components of measurement, but even more impressively helped me better organize my conversations with students, my administrators, and families.

In my role now as Professional Learning Developer, I often hear from teachers who are asking why they didn’t know about MAEIA sooner. Certainly, visibility is one of our goals. Use of the assessment items, and the other resources is too. But it is connection which makes the work most meaningful.

When we connect with ourselves to improve our work and save time, we advance.

When we connect with others to deepen their work and drive the dialogues further, we advance.

When we connect with a larger community, we engage and contribute to conversations which shape the landscapes our students and our families experience. We advance.

We are advancing creativity in education. Join us. Bring others.

Subscribe to the MAEIA newsletter, use the assessment items, attend or host presentations, connect with the Leadership Fellows, share and comment on our social media posts. Watch videos from the Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness pilot or contact us for information on the Collaborative Scoring System pilot.

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Carrie Jeruzal: Redesign- Make it Bad, Then Make it Better

Carrie Jeruzal    Leave a Comment   

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect…. A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a...

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect….

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a bake sale during a community event as a fundraiser for a field trip. I don’t have much confidence or experience in baking so I thought this one “treat recipe” that I found online would be cute, easy and perfect for a busy mom like me. Well, it wasn’t so easy and I messed it up terribly. Turns out candy kisses look the same slightly melted as they do burnt and one should not let them stay in the oven, “just a little bit longer!”

So I took a deep breath, ate some burnt chocolate, regained my strength and senses and decided to persist by getting creative with my odd sense of humor. So, tongue-in-cheek, I created a new recipe embracing the struggle. I called it “Mommy Can’t Bake Mix”.

Mommy Can’t Bake Mix
Step 1: Wait till the last minute to make baked goods for your daughter’s bake sale. Go to the store at night when most of the other crazies and overworked moms are out.

Step 2: Look up easy recipe on phone that literally requires two minutes of baking time. Step 3: Screw up baking and throw tantrum / blame husband for no reason.

Step 4: Pout for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Step 5: Think to self, “Failure is Impossible,”- Susan B Anthony.

Step 6: Throw failed ingredients into a bag anyway along with random treats found in cupboard like pretzels, m&ms, crackers, marshmallows, croutons, cough drops, glitter, etc.

Step 7: Get computer genius husband to make cute labels.

Step 8: Put it on social media like a legit baking mom would.

The end.

If these treats were going to be bad, I was going to make them really bad. It became fun and funny. They became a novelty. I hoped people would buy them, not for the “treat” that was inside, but for the clever concept behind them. I ended up selling 5 bags! Turns out homemade brownies taste and sell better than clever concepts, however, I still counted success points in creativity!

So, what did I learn from this “lemons to lemonade” moment, and how did I apply it to art education? I learned that when the objective of a problem becomes to make something really bad, the doors of humor and creativity become wide open. That’s where I got the idea for my middle school “Redesign” learning unit which leads to the MAEAI V.T209 Performance Task: Redesign- Make it Bad, Then Make it Better. 

“Redesign” Learning Unit

Introduction: I start by introducing my students to the concept of object/product design, design thinking and the design process. We look at examples of everyday objects and talk about the differences between good design and bad design depending on factors such as the object’s intended use, intended customer, cost of materials, durability, demand, etc. All students share a story of a time when a product broke or failed. We also look at and describe the evolution of a product’s design such as a car, the telephone and the vacuum cleaner. Students get concrete examples as to how visual arts have inherent relationships to everyday life through these product designs. Then it’s time for students to engage in a 2-4 day performance task.

Performance Task V.T209: I start the task by asking students to all select a different everyday-manmade-designed-object by having them cut one out of a magazine ad. I have also modified the task by asking all students to start with the same object, such as a shoe. I have instructed students both ways and by settling on one object for everyone to focus on I do sacrifice the variety of outcomes, but I also save on time and the need for cutting and pasting materials. Either way, once the object is selected students are asked to reflect upon and explain the current relationship of the object to everyday life.

Then begins the fun part. Instruct students to make it bad. Invite them to redesign the product so that it is truly terrible by transforming it into something impractical, unappealing, and/or harder to use.

In order to do this, the student must recognize the object’s intended use and successful design attributes and design against them. I tell my students that as long as their ideas are school appropriate, (no potty humor, nothing mean spirited or overly violent), that there are no limits to their creativity! At first some of my more regimented students don’t quite understand me, they don’t believe that I’m actually telling them to make something bad. I have to clarify that they are exercising their creativity in a new way by thinking about a design problem from a fresh perspective.

By exploring what makes something really bad, you in turn are also open to exploring its opposite design, what might make it really good. Then lightbulbs. Then students sketch truly creative results that they can’t wait to share with the class.

“Shark Shoes”

One of my favorites created by a 6th grade girl was a design that we quickly knick-named, “Shark Shoes.” What would make a pair of shoes the most uncomfortable shoes ever? Well, the answer is tiny sharks swimming in the bottom of your shoes that would bite your toes all day, of course! Pair that with slippery seaweed soles and fish hook laces for added discomfort and you have a terribly creative design!

Students overwhelmingly enjoy this part of the process. They will fly around the room to share their ideas with everyone and anyone, each trying to one-up the others. It’s like I’m giving them permission to be silly and a little naughty and they love it! They reflect on their design through this verbal exchange and then in writing.

Then the next day the instructions flip. Students are asked to reimagine the design of their object to be even better than the current design. They must solve the problem of how to improve it. Again, there are no restraints to their creativity and they must reflect upon their design once it is complete. The first image above is a “good design” for a shoe that can not only adjust the temperature of your feet cooler or warmer depending on comfort zone required, but can emit four different pleasant fragrances including lavender and grape fizz from a secret compartment in the heel.

In conclusion, instructing to develop student creativity doesn’t always take a safe and expected path. Just like in real life, approaching a problem from a fresh point of view can open our minds and force us to think in new and interesting ways. Design problems can be fun and silly. Our best ideas sometimes arise from our failures when we give ourselves and our students the opportunity to flip the measure of success.


This task is one that I wrote for the Michigan Arts Education and Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project. Here are links to the complete task booklets available for V.T209.

Teacher Booklet
Student Booklet

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Cheryl Poole: Watching as They Assembled the MAEIA Tools

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Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the pleasure of working with educators in the MAEIA...

Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the pleasure of working with educators in the MAEIA project over the last 5 years.

Watching as They Assembled the MAEIA Tools

Sometimes you don’t what tools you need until you start the work.

In 2012, I had recently retired from an ISD position when a friend enticed me to give just a ‘bit of time’ to a new project being directed by the Michigan Assessment Consortium. It was the very beginning of the Michigan Arts Education, Instruction, and Assessment project. Ultimately, working for MAEIA became the most satisfying experience of my 40+ year career in arts and education.

I met with the early leadership team in late fall to acquire a description of the project I was thinking about joining. Over the subsequent five years, I’ve reflected on that initial description of the project…and the evolving dialogue. Although that early leadership team was describing for me the goal of the MAEIA project, they were also clarifying and elaborating on it for themselves. What I heard that day anchored my understanding of the project and has been the context of my work with MAEIA since then.

The Why
It started with a rumor. While, personally, I was in the meaning-making stage of joining this project, I was also watching four great minds with diverse areas of expertise (three of whom I knew by reputation and admired a great deal), grappling with important ideas. They had come together over a concern about a rumor circulating among Michigan educators and legislators.

The rumor was that legislation might come to pass that would force teacher evaluation to be based on student achievement data. These leaders were passionate about arts education and they were aware of the absence of formal, quality assessments that would provide the achievement data for educators in dance, music, theatre and visual arts.

If the rumor came true and law required educators to be evaluated on student assessment data, what would that mean for educators in the arts?

The worry around the table was that arts teachers would be evaluated on reading or math test data.
They all held that that would be wholly unfair. There was clearly a need for legitimate data of student performance in the arts.

The What
As the conversation evolved that day, I observed what I interpreted as their growing realization that the project would have to be a great deal more comprehensive than appropriate assessments in the arts:

-Evaluating a student would also need to be understood in the context of the dance, music, theatre and visual arts program to which they had access.

-Arts assessments would have to be created with the assumption of a quality, articulated K-12 arts education program.

-What about the many configurations of arts programs within districts?

The questions that needed to be answered were:

-What was a quality program?

-What did it look like?

-What criteria defined a quality arts education program?

-Who decided that?

-Based on what research?

Aha! The plot thickened because then the conversation came around to how to measure quality for each a dance education program. A music education program. Theatre education program. Visual arts education program.

The research had to be compiled first for each discipline and a tool for measuring programs had to be developed. Only then could performance assessments in the arts exist within an understandable context. And an understandable context was necessary before a teacher could select appropriate assessments and subsequently be evaluated on the resulting data.

So as I sat at the table that first day, making meaning of the MAEIA project, I heard the project expanding in real time.

Starting with the environmental need and the goal, the importance of developing tools became clear. To get to quality performance assessments, MAEIA would first have to define a quality program and have an ability to quantify and measure that quality.

Yet to unfold was the realization that, as we stepped forward and backwards toward the goal, MAEIA-involved educators would also need a compilation of research, to identify specifications for creating assessments, and guidelines for administering them.

The Community
We recognized, as a group, that collectively we didn’t have that expertise to achieve the task. Hundreds of educators, artists and researchers representing all four arts disciplines would need to bring forward what they knew to assemble the tools of MAEIA. And they did.

Fast Forward
Five years later, measuring educator effectiveness with student data was realized under PA 173 of 2015, over a thousand educators have contributed to what has become the MAEIA tools and resources: a Blueprint, Assessment Specifications Document, Research and Recommendations, a Program Review Tool, and 360 Assessment Items in Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts.

With support from the MCACA, fifteen MAEIA Leadership Fellows are prepared to deliver professional learning to districts, buildings, and community partners with an invitation for additional Associates to be extended soon.

The MAEIA Project Management Team along with dedicated participants, have just wrapped a Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness pilot with plans to continue the work into a second year while we also launch a Collaborative Scoring System pilot.

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