Final Paper

Why would schools eliminate programs that foster creativity & concentrate more on standardized testing? Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. (http://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/creativity/define.htm) Creative thinking is a skill that all students should acquire throughout their educational experience, yet it is not the emphasis. Rather, the focus has shifted to the implementation of both new curriculum standards and new forms of standardized tests. While considering the issue of cutting courses that promote creativity, it is also important to note how the budget is being increased in other areas, such as the implementation of these new standards, revised curriculums, and new tests. Companies such as Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson are making a fortune off the recent changes in education. So it is apparent what matters most is not necessarily what is best for our future. Is the push for accountability motivated more by profit than by our students? Are we preparing our children for the future in a global economy by providing them with a quality education? Creativity is quite evident in the way the testing corporations are discretely profiting off of our students losses.

When considering budget cuts and budget spending, two areas come to mind, the arts and test administration. Art education is a vital component to the school system and to a child’s overall, well-rounded education. The arts involve students intellectually, personally and emotionally, like no other content area. The art classroom is a safe place for students to problem solve, express their thoughts and feelings & develop their skills. Students are taught art appreciation, diversity, tolerance and respect for others. Topics such as art history, art criticism, art making and analysis are just a few things that occur in the art classroom. Artists create, they invent, they use their imaginations and think outside of the box; in fact, our society depends on the ability to create new and better solutions to the challenges ahead. Visual arts education provides a means for understanding the diverse world in which we live.
Despite this, the arts are often seen as a meaningless subject area to cut and even considered a prep release for the other content teachers. Unfortunately, the overall perception of the arts is their lack of importance. According to Stevenson & Deasy in their book Third Space, The different art forms provide a range of frameworks and tools with which students work, but there is no single set of correct answers nor single prescribed way for assembling technical aspects into a work of art- a poem, a dance, a jazz solo. When students create their own artwork, they must apply their own technical abilities in the art form and develop their capacities to try out possibilities, solve problems, and revise toward a final product. They learn to critique and to assess their progress in realizing a work of art that will convey to an audience what they envision. It is a process. (p. 41). So with the focus on test scores, and the inability to assess creativity effectively, it gets overlooked, or eliminated. Creativity is instilled and fostered in art courses, yet due to the lack of formative assessments for the arts, they are the first programs to be eliminated due to lack of funding. The focus is on memorization, testing and recall.
Shannon Steen gives a detailed example of the arts being cut in her article, “We Are All Arts Departments Now”. She states the following; Arts departments, like theater, are natural sites for resistance to the organization of universities precisely because we are the first units on campus to be axed under its structures. In the recession of the early 1990s, several theater departments (including Berkeley's) faced closure. In some cases, those closures were threatened against departments that seemed either poorly managed or out of step with the research agendas of the universities in which they were housed, but it was hard not to see those decisions as also driven by the fact that theater departments train their students for a profession that is notoriously poorly remunerated and therefore unlikely to generate high alumni donations, seem divorced from the increasingly technocratic drive of many US research institutions, and are expensive to run.” http://lion.chadwyck.com.libproxy.nau.edu/searchFulltext.do?id=R04619249&divLevel=0&queryId=../session/1372710232_25191&trailId=13F01691AA3&area=abell&forward=critref_ft).
This is just one account from an arts teacher’s perspective. The other side of this issue is not just about what is being cut, but what is the money being spent on?
States are making decisions on where and what money should be spent on, ignoring the damage that is occurring in the school system. Testing corporations are making huge profits by marketing to schools. According to a November 2012 report by Matthew Chingos, Strength in Numbers, it is estimated that the new common core standards and revisions are going to cost roughly 1.7 billion dollars to implement. Additionally he states, “there is the risk of multi-million-dollar assessment contracts contributing to a political backlash against testing among parents and taxpayers who oppose the use of standardized testing for accountability purposes or object to public dollars flowing to for-profit companies (as most of the testing contractors are)”. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2012/11/29%20cost%20of%20assessment%20chingos/11_assessment_chingos_final_new.pdf
The issue is clear, our priorities are out of alignment with what is most important for our future. Creativity and critical thinking are not accurately measured using standardized tests. As noted by Marion Brady in E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s book, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know,” The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence (and waste boatloads of money). (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html). Education should not be run like a business, and it should not focus on making profits from standardized tests. The textbook and test publishing industry is clearly on the incline, meanwhile our students are falling behind.
In order to be able to solve the problem, more people need to be on board with the issue. Unfortunately the majority of American parents do not see any problems with standardized tests. The parents who are most affected are those who have students that cannot meet the national standards due to their economic levels or cultural barriers. It is unfair to hold a student who can barely speak English due to their immigration into our country to the same standard as a white student who has lived her their entire life. Likewise, it is unfair to score a student who comes from a foster home, whose parents are in prison and compare them to another student who lives in a home with parents who value their child’s education. There are so many hidden variables that are overlooked. These factors are not taken into consideration when it comes to looking at data. The courses, which bridge cultural gaps, are the arts. Art is a universal language, expression and creativity and complex problem solving can be measured and demonstrated in the arts in comparison to a multiple choice bubble sheet test. With NCLB act students from all backgrounds were measured the same. We are now turning to a different direction with the introduction of Common Core Standards. However, the AIMS test has not completely vanished, rather a more rigorous test has replaced it, the PARCC. Tests and their costs are not going away any time soon. Following the passage of NCLB on Jan. 8, 2002, annual state spending on standardized tests rose from $423 million to almost $1.1 billion in 2008 (a 160% increase compared to a 19.22% increase in inflation over the same period), according to the Pew Center on the States. (http://standardizedtests.procon.org)
A possible plan of action is to turn to portfolios for accurate data. Measuring an individual students overall growth is much more meaningful and powerful than a multiple-choice test. However, these require much more work and effort on behalf of the teachers and test publishers. It is much easier to just batch them all in one category and generate standard tests. The same can be said with regards to rigor and differentiating the curriculum. Certain students suffer due to the teacher’s lack of time and ability to differentiate to meet all of their needs. This added pressure on teachers is due to the fact that they are trying to teach to a test. We have lost focus of what really matters and our attention has shifted from caring about the individual students growth to our overall scores as teachers. The threat of budget cuts and evaluations grows as testing increases. Teachers need to show growth in their numbers, similar to that of their students. The evaluation process for a teacher is the same as that of a student. Quanitative data do not show a clear overall picture of the actual performance of that teacher throughout the school year. Creativity, problem solving and critical thinking are just some of the skills teachers transfer to their students in the arts. However, getting America on board to support the arts will require standardized tests and assessments. Portfolios are one possible solution to this issue.

References:
Brady, Marion. Excerpt taken from E.D. Hirsch Jr.’s book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. March 1, 1987. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html on July 1, 2013.

Franken, Robert E. Human Motivation, 3rd ed. Retrieved from http://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/creativity/define.htm on June 28, 2013.

Matthew M. Chingos. Strength in Numbers; State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems. Governance Studies The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, DC 20036. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2012/11/29%20cost%20of%20assessment%20chingos/11_assessment_chingos_final_new.pdf on June 27, 2013.
Shannon Steen. We Are All Arts Departments Now. Representations. Berkeley: Fall 2011. , Iss. 116; pg. 181, 5 pgs. Retrieved from http://lion.chadwyck.com.libproxy.nau.edu/searchFulltext.do?id=R04619249&divLevel=0&queryId=../session/1372710232_25191&trailId=13F01691AA3&area=abell&forward=critref_ft on June 28, 2013.

Standardized Tests. 2013 ProCon.org. 233 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Retrieved from http://standardizedtests.procon.org on July 1, 2013.

Stevenson, L. & Deasy R. Third Space; When Learning Matters. Arts Education Partnership. One Massachusetts Avenue. Suite 700. Washington, DC.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License