Why Have Assessments?

NCLB demands that states assess their students in core subject matter. This high-stakes standardized testing will not give you an accurate snapshot of student proficiency. In most states, different students take the test every year and the test changes. Because of this, it is impossible to see growth over time.


Enter alternative assessments. Not only will these give you a much more accurate snapshot of your students, but you can adjust your teaching so that you focus on identified weak areas. These will in turn help your school meet AYP.


Performance-based Assessments

Performance-based assessments, also called authentic assessments, are a form of testing that requires students to perform and demonstrate a task rather than write or select an answer. The advantage of this is that it is a very accurate indicator of student knowledge. The disadvantage is that sometimes a teacher has to make subjective judgments about the work. This is why it is important to use rubrics prior to giving a grade. Rubrics will take most of the subjectivity away.Pic of student


There are several ways to give performance-based assessments. One is the portfolio. The student (or with younger children, the teacher) collects their best work and saves it for a time when the teacher can sit down with the student and give feedback. The portfolio is a great way to illustrate improvement over time. Journals also fall in this category.


Another assessment is the extended task. These are assignments that are carried out over several hours or longer. They could include poems, collections, models, musical scores, inventions, drafting, science experiments, and of course, an art project.


The final performance-based assessment is called the open-ended or extended response exercise. Students explore a topic orally, or in writing. An oral report from a science experiment, art criticism, presenting arguments, and speeches are items that fit in this category.


You can find out more about performance-based assessments here and here. [Archive]

Type of Assessment

Course Grades/Class Assignments

End of Course Surveys

Field Observations/Journals

Work Samples


Proficiency Exams


Electronic & Regular Portfolio

Peer Reviews

Internal Audits


Standardized Assessments

Standardized tests measure a student's performance compared to others who took the test. If everyone did poorly on the test and you had the highest score, your score would be considered the highest score. This also works inversely. If every did very well on the test and you were the lowest- no matter how good- you would have the lowest possible score.


There are many types of standardized assessments. These seem to be popular with politicians and testing companies who make a lot of money publishing and scoring them. The Wechsler Intelligence, the Kaufman Assessment, and the SAT are included in this category. According to Stephen J. Silver, there tests have proven to be an inaccurate indicator of intelligence due to examination errors, over-interpretations of data and other facts.


Standards-based Assessments

With these tests, the standards or objectives are set ahead of time so students know what they have to know. The grading criteria is also set in advance. Usually each question is assigned points. If given properly, it is clear whether students have mastered that standards given. The advantage to this test is that students are measured against standards of performance.


The disadvantage is that usually this test is given as multiple choice (as in most state tests for NCLB) usually as a "bubble in" test where students use a #2 pencil to fill in a circle. They are also given as the sole criteria for success. Many times, standards-based tests are standardized and don't measure the breadth and depth of a standard. Sometimes the questions are vague and students are over-tested.


Because politicians and other people who are clueless about education are involved with setting up the testing, it is not done properly so that it supports good teaching rather than undermines it.


Competency-based Assessments

With competency-based assessments (also called learner-centered assessment), goals are set, evidence of mastery is collected and compared to objectives and an opinion is formulated. The assessments are individual and not compared among other students. Competency-based assessments can be given as performance-based assessments- a demonstration of knowledge. Competency-based assessments are a nice blend of standards-based and performance-based assessments. You can read about the differences between competency-based and traditional assessments. pdf [Archive]



Rubrics are an important aspect of assessment. Because the arts are frequently relative from one person to the other, what one person may consider art another can consider junk. The best way to take the subjectivity away is to have a rubric that explains in detail the amount of proficiency there must be for each aspect of the assignment. There are many samples of rubrics on IAD. Some of the lessons here have them. To download and view various art rubrics, visit the IAD Art Rubrics page.


Other Types of Assessments

  • Criterian-referenced assessment

  • Participatory assessment

  • Alternative assessments

In Summation

Art teachers are already ahead of the game with assessments. Most art teachers use competency-based and performance-based assessments. Assessments determine the success of your art program and your teaching method. Use the results of your assessments to drive your instruction. Make adjustments as needed as you go along. Use rubrics to take the subjectivity out of your grades and to make students aware of exactly what is expected of them.