Middle School Art and the End of Course Exam

Nobody wants to be unfair.  Even people working for impersonal, heinous bureaucracies (like me!).

Because of this, one problem when it comes to evaluating public school teachers is that EVERYONE has to have the same chance of being formally told they are awful at teaching.  It would be unfair to focus on Math and English teachers, for example, just because the standard standardized tests are most specifically geared at those subjects.

Hmmm…what to do?  (this is your impersonal, heinous bureaucracy thinking here)

Well, here’s what you do:  You create “End of Course” (EOC) exams for middle school Art classes (even elementary school!).  I’ll focus on the middle school one, as that’s the insane level I have insanely chose to spend the last ten years of my professional life.  The funniest (as in most heinous) thing about the Art (EOC) is that nobody gives a shit about art.  You don’t open up the newspaper and see another study about how Finland’s educational system produces better artists than the U.S., or that an increasing “Art Gap” exists with our techno-economic rivals such as China.  Nobody is bemoaning the low quality of Art teachers….uh, anywhere.

But that’s unimportant, because we in the impersonal, heinous bureaucracy have to treat everyone the same, otherwise we’ll all feel bad, or as bad as a impersonal, heinous bureaucracy can feel. So…a complex formula has been created in which teachers teaching “testable” subjects in standard standardized tests have no more of a chance of being formally told they are awful as teachers teaching “non-testable” subjects, including Art.  Here is the complex formula.  One can only imagine the meetings and at which this baby was put together.

So, thankfully, Art teachers in middle school have pretty much exactly the same chance of being formally told they are awful.  They give an EOC that accurately reflects how little everyone gives a shit about Art, and how much everyone seems to care about information that makes for really easy-to-construct test questions.

Because that’s really what this is all about.  The focus by just about everyone is on whether a certain test or testing in general should exist, but the bigger question is:  What’s on the test?  Testing companies don’t want that question brought up, so they use concepts like “fidelity” to hide the fact that in many, many cases the test questions solely come from information that makes for easily created test questions.

I think we call that a vicious circle.

Anyway, middle school Art has an EOC “preliminary blueprint” that supposedly includes the testable concepts, etc. for the upcoming First Semi-Annual (Art is quite often a Semester class in middle school).

It is hilarious.  Well, unless you actually care about the creative process and making art and, you know, Art.  Here’s my favorite section (Warning:  Bad formatting most likely here):


Standard 4: Demonstrate an understanding of the dynamics of the creative process.
Benchmark 4A: Demonstrate understanding of how the qualities and characteristics of various art media, techniques and
processes influence the creative process to communicate experiences and ideas.
 Identify the proper media used for selected elements of art and/or principles of design.
 Make observations to determine which selected elements of art and/or principles of design to use for an artwork.
 Recognize how various art media, techniques and processes can influence the creative process. S:  Synthesize ideas into an art piece.  Create an art piece using appropriate media for the selected elements of art and/or principles of design.
 Experiment various techniques in using various media.
 Practice various techniques with a variety of media.
 Apply selected elements of art and/or principles of design using various art, media, techniques, and/or processes in an art piece.


Yup, those are same exact things every working artist thinks about every day before they make stuff.  Picasso probably had a list just like this on his refrigerator next to those “poetry magnets” and the recycling schedule.  Diane Arbus almost certainly followed and meditated upon such a list religiously every time she picked up a camera.

P.S.:  Oh, I forgot the punchline.  These middle school EOCs don’t really have a grading purpose for the students.  None.  They exist solely for the purpose of making things fair in terms of being able to formally tell teachers they are awful.  Sometimes impersonal, heinous bureaucracies are like that.  Oh, here’s my second favorite “assessment blueprint,” the one for 4th-5th Grade P.E.  And here’s the master list: collect them all!


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