The Maryland State Board of Education has established that the arts – dance, music, theatre and the visual arts – are essential core subject areas and that all students will participate in fine arts programs that enable them to meet content and achievement standards established by State standards for the arts.
Maryland’s content standards in the fine arts are defined through the Essential Learner Outcomes for the Fine Arts State Curricula that have been developed to articulate a shared vision of what every child should know and be able to do in the arts. There is a continuing effort at the state and local levels to determine how best to assess and support student achievement of the content standards and for schools and school systems to demonstrate student and program success.
Of several possibilities, building a portfolio culture appears to have promise, especially for programs in fine arts, whose disciplines have relied on alternative types of assessments as long as they have been taught in schools. Portfolios are most generally understood to be a purposeful collection of work. Portfolio assessment, on the other hand, is the evaluation of a systematically collected body of work used to demonstrate growth and learning. Portfolios generally fall into two major categories: product and process. Product portfolios emphasize displaying “best works.” Process portfolios contain evidence of the process that led to producing finished products. This type of portfolio contributes to an in-depth look at what a student can do and how the student has developed over time. Since alternative assessments are seldom used as stand-alone evaluations, the Maryland State Department of Education is developing multiple measures of progress. These will include exhibitions, performances, demonstrations, and tests that measure how well students achieve State standards.