Archive for July, 2012


Maine Arts Assessment Initiative Summer Institute

July 30, 2012

First day

The last week has been crazy, busy getting ready for the summer institute which starts this morning. The Maine Department of Education’s second summer institute of the Maine Arts Assessment Institute gets underway today at Maine College of Art Thirty five teacher leaders started arriving in Portland yesterday to be ready for the early start at Maine College of Art. The leadership team met to go over the details of the daily schedule and participants continued to communicate electronically.

Over the past six weeks the 20 phase 2 teacher leaders have been communicating on the initiative wiki by responding to questions and having conversations on assessment, leadership, and technology. The standards based, student centered institute will continue to ask questions and provide the time for participants to discuss ideas, share practice, and explore options. Two essential ideas identified by Stiggins in Classroom Assessment for Student Learning:

  1. Teachers must be masters of the five standards of assessment quality in order to communicate accurate, dependable assessment information to any audience or assessment user.
  2. Students are the key users of assessment information and one of the best practices for teachers to improve student use of assessment information is to involve them directly in classroom assessment in appropriate ways as much as possible. 

    Throughout the week I will blog on the institute and keep you posted on the progress. I am excited about the possibilities and opportunities this provides, not only directly for the institute’s participants but for all Maine arts teachers and arts classes this could reach. One outcome of the week is that the teacher leaders will put together a workshop to present at the regional level. This allows the initiative to come to your region of the state! This work aligns with the Department’s strategic plan Education Evolving.



Stephanie Trick in St. Louis

July 28, 2012

Young piano player

Thank you to music educator Iris Fields for sending me this YouTube link of Stephanie Trick playing at the Celebration of Arts, a 17-day American Arts Experience in St. Louis, Missouri. Stephanie was interviewed and opened the event with “St. Louis Blues,” “Death Ray Boogie,” and “Hallelujah.” Iris said in her email: ” I enjoy her ability to do Jazz and Boogie as well as Stride.” Enjoy!


Dancing with Matt

July 25, 2012

Denver and back

My plan today included writing a blog post about the rest of our trip to Colorado but the list was so long of other tasks that it just didn’t happen. With the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative 4-day summer institute for arts teacher leaders starting next week there are many tasks. Instead of providing another blog post on Colorado, I have included a YouTube link that music educator Kate Smith sent to me.

In the past I had been introduced to the videos called “Where the Hell is Matt?” about a young man who travels around the world dancing with groups of people. It has been some time since I have seen any new ones so I was happy that Kate sent me this link. And, sure enough “Matt” dances in Denver in front of a very tall, skinny people sculpture created by Jonathan Borofsky called Dancers. We passed the sculpture each day in a park on our way to and from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design where the conference was held.

The sculpture was a tiny part of my experience in Colorado and this video provides a great big good feeling!


Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Charlie Johnson

July 24, 2012

This is the 18th in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Charlie Johnson started teaching at Mount Desert Island High School in 2004. He started his career as the first visual art teacher at the Jay School Department in 1973. He is the National Honor Society advisor for 20 students. His courses include Photography, Video, and New Media Arts. Charlie is a teacher leader with the first phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

What do you like best about being a art educator?

I discovered my love for art at an early age, while my love for teaching did not develop until I was in college, so there is one interest overlapping another, and they make each day different and exciting for me. Teaching something I love and that I can “do” as well as teach makes my connections with students real and meaningful, not only to them, but to me as well. The “best” part is that I can learn from them and their solutions to problems in art every day, and it’s something I love to experience.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Teachers with passion for teaching and the ability to transfer that passion to students.
  2. Teachers with a strong knowledge of pedagogy and the content they teach and who can share this effectively with students.
  3. Teachers who constantly make the value of ARTS education obvious to everyone in their school from students all the way down to administrators.

Express yourself in many forms and let others see you do that!

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

Students who are given the opportunities to be successful at many levels through understanding completely how they will be assessed and have had input into that assessment are usually on one hand very satisfied with their work and the processes involved in achievement or, on the other hand, understand why their work was not proficient and understand what they need to do to alter their processes to accomplish proficient work.

The vast majority of my students enjoy the task of making their work mean something and seeing purpose and content applied in their work as expression of their own ideals and thoughts and feelings. It is through the process of discussion, critique and revision that draws them into their work and lends to it an enhanced sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

The “Learning Results” are an excellent structure to have students work within, and as soon as they begin to understand what the structures of the ARTS discipline are, their work begins to improve.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

For me personally, it has been similar to earning my Master’s Degree; as intense, but a shorter period of time. Being involved in the ARTS assessment initiative has really helped me to open my mind around education in general and to understand the need for a shift in the way education works. I think ARTS teachers have had it all together as a package for a while, but need to be more reflective and accountable for the important work they do with young people. It has caused me to “read” more concerning the specifics of my profession in general and myself as a teaching artist through books, professional papers, literature and articles/online content concerning the “how to” of methods and software around what I teach. I have “grown” connections to a small, but dedicated group of teachers within my geographical area of Maine, and feel a closer collaboration to teachers from other schools.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Making a difference to my students and what they accomplish in their lives, by far.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Nothing, any other answer to that question would simply be an excuse for not being the best you can be. If we are to expect the best from our students, then we need to be able to overcome all kinds of obstacles in our classrooms, from money to obnoxious administrators.

Apple or PC?

There’s a difference? Really, I own an iPhone, iPad and several PCs. The important understanding is around software, not platform. Apple seems to still be a bit more user friendly overall, but more controlling as well.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I am fortunate to be working in one of the best ARTS supported schools in Maine, but the pathway to this school required a lot of dedication, hard work, love of craft, and yes, luck!

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Stand up for yourselves, promote our profession as a profession by acting professionally and setting good examples for students at all times.

Do things for your students/school without expecting extra pay, it is much louder than words and will more often be appreciated rather than expected. This also ties into the concept of being professional and of teaching being respected as a profession. Encourage or help colleagues to step up every chance you get.

Technology is about to change the face of education, get on board or get ready for a long cold swim. Don’t succumb to technology, but embrace it, always leaving time for a walk in the woods or along a beach!

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would fund a subsidized living complex for people with mental illness, making it as comfortable and spacious as the money would allow.

Charlie invites you to visit his blog at

Thanks Charlie for telling your story!


Colorado: Day 2

July 21, 2012

Wicked hot and interesting conference!

Yesterday was 101 degrees here in Denver. Catherine and I traveled the 5 miles out of downtown to Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design where the Assessment in the Arts Conference is being held.

I attended two sessions, one on facilitating the creation of arts rubrics and the second was documenting the arts using video and qualitative methods. I was reminded of how fortunate we are in Maine to have MLTI and the impact that has had during the last 10 years on education.

The keynote was given by Olivia Gude who is an visual art educator, K-higher ed. She presently teaches at the University of Illinois. She received the National Art Education Association’s Lowenfeld Award for significant contributions to the field of art education. Her presentation was on her mural work. She has created over 50 mural and mosaic projects, often in collaboration with inter-generational groups. The images she shared were very powerful.

Today, Catherine and I present the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative work in an afternoon session. We are excited and proud to let folks from across the country know about the outstanding work Maine arts educators are doing!



July 20, 2012

Elevation high, temperature also

Catherine Ring and I are in Denver for the Assessment in the Arts Conference being held at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design which starts today. Our adventure started yesterday morning when our plane was delayed in Portland which caused us to miss our connecting flight in Cleveland. We finally got to our hotel last night at 12:45 Maine time.

We are looking forward to the full schedule with interesting workshops and presenters including three keynote sessions. You can read more about the event by clicking here. I will post tomorrow to provide the highlights of today. Tomorrow Catherine and I present on the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative and the work many of you are doing throughout the state in arts assessment.

It has been 33 years since I’ve been to this part of Colorado and it certainly has changed. Denver is very large and everyone has been very friendly and welcoming!



Central Elementary School – South Berwick

July 19, 2012

A real happening!

Thank you to music educator Kate Smith for providing this blog post. It is a wonderful example of a powerful service learning project directed by the arts!

Summertime means comfortable sandals, marinated steak tips on the grill, a cold margarita in hand and time to reflect on the school year. In the process of reflecting, I realized I am long overdue on a blog post I promised Argy. 

In early 2010, Bill Page, a community member, approached me with a problem, “Hey Kate, do you think the students could help me convince the town that Powderhouse Hill is a really important part of our community?” (I should pause and explain: Powderhouse Hill is a town-owned ski area with a total of three trails and 175 feet of vertical elevation and is completely volunteer run. Visitors pay $5 to ski and snowboard and are pulled up the hill on a tow rope powered by a 5 cylinder engine. It’s a super place for beginners, but the town was getting concerned about rising insurance costs and was considering shutting down the hill).  I was touched that he would turn to the music teacher for help, and I was determined to follow through. I brought the concern to my arts team and a service project was born.

What we did
Week 1: We began with  a discussion about Powderhouse Hill to activate students’ prior knowledge and inform new students. In the music room, we wrote poems or lyrics to express our love for Powderhouse Hill, some students added notation. Then we asked the overarching question, “How can we convince the town that Powderhouse Hill is an important part of our community?” Students chose the art form they would prefer when answering this question, indicating their first and second choices. They could chose: music, art, movement (physical education) or writing (library).

Week 2: The students were now divided into groups according to their preferred art form. Instead of a regular special week, in which they would see each specialist for one day and have a no special day, the student went to their assigned art form group each day (music for four days, for instance). On the fifth day, we had a museum walk. Two students stayed as presenters, while the rest of the students rotated to hear how each group answered the same question. We presented our ideas/final projects to Bill and the audience at the third grade concert. It was met with a standing ovation for both Bill and the students.

The final products
The music group wrote and recorded a song with local songwriter, Sammie Haynes, using the poems and lyrics they had written as their inspiration. We then taught the song to the rest of the third grade and sang it at our third grade concert. The art group painted 7 foot high wooden skiis to be displayed at Powderhouse Hill. The movement group took photos and made posters to show safe ways to ski, snowboard and sled. They had hoped to walk to the hill and make videos, but the weather was not conducive. The library group researched the history of Powderhouse Hill and created a display for the town hall and brochures for the town businesses.

What we found
The students took ownership of the project (as a true service learning project should). Each final product was unique and reflected the students’ learning styles. Students were engaged, for many it was their favorite special all week long! The teachers were thrilled for a multitude of reasons including one we hadn’t foreseen. In a typical week, the third grade classes see us in two different time blocks. For this project, we arranged for them to all come during the same block, which meant some of our groups were pretty big (the music group had over 40 students) but it also meant the third grade team had common planning time all week (yay for them!) and we had extra planning time due to the combined classes (yay for us!). The most important part- the parents and community LOVED it and the students LOVED sharing it. What a wonderful model for sharing the amazing power of the Arts!

Kate Smith is a music teacher at Central Elementary School, a preK-3 school in South Berwick. 


Why Arts Education Matters

July 18, 2012

Arts and Technology Academy

This YouTube provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about an intensive arts education environment at the Arts and Technology Academy located in Washington D.C. By listening to these students and teachers at this link you can get a clear picture is evident of the power of the opportunity that the arts provide. You can learn more about the academy by clicking here.


Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Shalimar Poulin

July 17, 2012

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an educator

This is the 18th in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Shalimar Poulin teaches at Wiscasset High School (RSU 12), grades 9-12. She has been teaching for 18 years. Prior to Wiscasset High School for the last year she taught at Gardiner Area High School for 8 years, 3 years at Hyde Schol in Bath, and 6 years in suburban Philadelphia. At WHS she teaches Draw/Paint, Printmaking, Art Revolutions (Art History- inspired Art-making class), Digital Art, Ceramics, Sculpture. Shalimar has served on the leadership team for the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

What do you like best about being an art teacher?

It comes naturally to me, always has. Harvesting the belief that all people can practice creativity, can learn the skills of making quality art, and one does not have to be talented to enjoy art-making. This belief is something that works best when discovered first hand; however, learning vicariously through one’s child can change limiting perceptions of art making.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Community attitude towards art (including administration, teachers, staff, students, parents and community at large). One does not necessarily need to be 100% gung ho art, but must have a curiosity, positive learning attitude, and a willingness to accept changes in art education.
  2. Art teacher dedication, commitment, quest for doing one’s best.
  3. The establishment and maintenance of a flexible learning environment where teacher and students learn together, where guidelines are clear and open to interpretation and the door is open for extended-learning and community visitation.

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

I can’t be sure that it is successful. Right now, it is a lot of work. I hope at some point to better manage the long out-of-class hours I spend on creating quality assessments, modifying quality assessments, providing quality evaluation and feedback to students, and the one I am least successful at- timely feedback. The assessment tools I use are: (1) project rubrics (that ask students to self reflect on their work, modify project goals to suit their interest, and clear teacher and peer feedback for improvement), (2) bi-weekly exit slips- a substitute for quizzing, including: comments about learning and activities, class participation and effort, teacher and self ratings, art language exercises, hopes for upcoming weeks, feedback for teacher (3) start-up questions- discussion questions posed to students to answer individually, in pairs, or groups depending on the pre-start up activity. Usually there is an out-of-class expectation of sorts- read a google doc, visit a blog, do an activity to reinforce learning such as a 10 minute or less class start-up questions. (4) artfolio development and presentation checklist and rubrics (photographing, writing and revising student artist writings and storing, filing and posting of electronic files to student g-site artfolios),  (5) critique preparation, discussion, and reflection 

Next year I am going paper-less with all non-art activities. I am using an on-line classroom called Canvas (supported by our tech integrator). I am looking forward to this practice and I believe it will improve student’s tendency to resist “paper-work” and “academic” activities in art class. I also am certain it will stream-line evaluation such that the required time will be reduced.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Collaboration- sharing stories, problem-solving together, shop talk. Working with leaders in Maine State Arts Education- kind, thoughtful, energetic, movers and shakers.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The life skills I share with students by example and through the making of art: work ethic, problem solving, commitment to completion, risk taking, development of creative self, allowing a project to take time (not everything we do need be instant gratification). Turning kids on to something they believed they had no aptitude for- the skills of art making.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

A growing epidemic of the failings of the education system being blamed on those of us in the trenches- teachers. The lack of parent involvement in the lives of their children. The failure of educational consultants and school administration to interview and honor their greatest resource- teachers. The troubled economy and instability of arts place in the future of education. Students who make it their main mission to defy authority (who fail to see we have their backs and want the best for them).

Apple or PC?


What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Nothing. It seems all that I have perceptively succeeded in has come from hard work, determination, working with others, and intentional moving and shaking. I will say, I have been lucky to be invited to work in some interesting schools and I have had the privilege of working with some amazingly outstanding students. These blessings were not a function of my efforts, they are providence.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Please don’t consider art an exception to the rule. When our peers in the core disciplines are asked to make changes, meet new standards, jump through hoops, JOIN THEM- be an example of change. Validate what we do as being part of current educational trends. Expect our administrators to include us in all requirements.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would ask for more money because 500 is a spit in the bucket. Then, I would build and open a state of the art after-school arts center for children ages 4-18. I would include disabled adults as well. This center would be the equivalent of a magnet school for the visual and performing arts- only less formal. It would offer students enrichment, a place to be after school, and the opportunity to create life-time habits in creativity. It would have all the ideal facilities I have ever dreamed of and never had. I would link it to a community center (YMCA maybe) that also offers exercise programming. I would close it in the summer so that I could continue to devote time to personal art-making. Besides there are so many great summer programs already established for young people. I would have a massage once a week, schedule my loved ones for a once a week massage and hire a personal chef and a sherpa. I would establish a college fund for my nieces and nephews. I would by a place on the water.

Websites that Shalimar recommends:

Thank you Shalimar for sharing your story.


Update on National Standards

July 16, 2012

Writing teams met

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) writing teams met (in person for the first time) in Reston, Virginia, June 19-22. The teams include dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. They gathered along with the leadership team of the NCCAS and had an intense productive four days.

The website to learn more is at where you will find video clips of team members providing information on the work. The meeting featured a live video broadcast session entitled Embedding Enduring Understandings, Essential Questions and Cornerstone Assessments into the new Core Arts Standards. You can view the recording of the session and learn more about the details of the development of the standards document.

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