Tag Archives: Students

Summatives in the Humanities

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Click on the image above to hear Claire Wandro’s students talk about why the Regents Summative Assessment mattered to them!

Check out the quick video above of some of Claire Wandro’s students reflecting on why the Regents final assessment matters to them.

As the frost starts to harden over our Mississippi fields, and plans start to emerge for the winter break, it’s yet again time to start thinking WAY ahead so that it doesn’t rush up on us: it’s time to start thinking about Summatives in the Humanities!

All DRAFTS of Humanities Summatives (unless they are directly the SATP2 or the Regents) need to be submitted to Jacob and your TLD Coach by January 2nd!

To help you with this, this blog post contains:

  1. Why summatives? Why now?
  2. Requirements for your Summatives (with links and resources!)
  3. Links to Teacher-Made Summatives
  4. FAQ and Other Guidelines
  5. Need Additional Support?

Why Summatives? Why Now?

  • Students deserve to reliably know where they stand at the end of the year: After a year of work and growth in your classroom, students deserve to know where they stand compared to their peers across the nation. Summatives are the most reliable way of comparing how our students are doing in relation to other students within TFA, or against a national bar for rigor. Communicating this progress to our students helps them celebrate, reflect on their work this year, and grow as life-long learners.
  • Summatives help YOU plan: Having a summative at this point in the year helps you get concrete on what your students still need to learn, believe, and be able to do between now and the day you administer it. You shouldn’t be teaching to the test: instead, you should be teaching beyond it. A summative will help you clarify the basics of what your students need, and help you develop plans to teach beyond those basics.
  • Summatives are different from normal tests and quizzes: Unlike tests and quizzes, summatives often contain information that students may not have seen before (think about how the AP or the ACT or the SAT work… they test you on a national bar for how you use skills and solve problems rather than for what you already know). This is a chance for students to show their resilience and confidence in potentially unknown territory. And that’s EXCITING, not defeating.
  • Summatives help us advocate for the Humanities: Once we have the data and we can compare it to national standards, often we can apply for grants, advocate for more funding and attention in our schools, etc. Being able to have reliable proof of our students’ progress is the best way to do this.
  • Sometimes we need to give summatives early: due to testing, test-prep, etc. we often don’t have the opportunity to prepare our students for summatives and administer them part-way through the second semester. Having them handy gives us the chance to be flexible with this schedule, and still guarantee our students the right to know where they stand.
  • Summatives take time, feedback, and sharing: Besides all of the above, your summatives need to be vetted by me and your TLD Coach before they are valid, and the whole process is more enjoyable if we have an environment of sharing and collaboration! If we get that going, it will just be simpler in future years when people can pull summatives straight from a resource bank!

Requirements for your Summatives.

  • What should a summative look like?
    • For the most part, a summative assessment should look like a “traditional” assessment, plus any performance tasks or additional projects that would better help you measure your students’ progress towards your holistic vision.
    • It should be a final assessment, so it should be cumulative and cover the information, skills, and progress towards vision you should have mastered this year.
    • It should usually be given in the final weeks of school. However, you should check with your administrator, since often this is not the best time for Humanities classes that become test-prep part way through the second semester.
    • It should be subdivided by standard and/or skill, should be easily trackable by those skills, and should have rubrics or student responses for any open-response questions.
  • What is my summative assessment?
    • This differs a little, depending on your specific content. Any additional performance tasks are welcome, but optional. In the table below, you will see the basic requirements.
    • PLEASE NOTE: None of what is contained in the grid below is optional! In order to have valid measurements of how your students progressed (and to be in good standing with TFA), you MUST execute these full criteria.
    • Click on the links in this table to get access to the rubrics and assessments you need!
Content Level Assessment Type Additional Academic Prompt
Art Lower Elementary A Regents-aligned  assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the ECE Rubric
Upper Elementary A Regents-aligned  assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the Mississippi Art Creation Rubric
Secondary A Regents-aligned  assessment (or the Regents itself!) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the Mississippi Art Creation Rubric
Music & Dance Elementary A Regents-aligned assessment (Dance, Music) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Performance assessed according to the Dance or Music Performance Rubrics
Secondary A Regents-aligned assessment (Dance, Music) (or the Regents itself!) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Performance assessed according to the Dance or Music Performance Rubrics
World Languages Elementary A Regents-aligned  (Spanish, French) assessment that covers:

–          Reading

–          Writing

–          Speaking

–          Listening

–          Culture

This should be age-appropriate and pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD.

N/A
Level 1 The Regents Second Language Proficiency Exam (Spanish, French) N/A
Level 2 EITHER:

–          The Regents 1.5 that we designed for you (Spanish, French)

OR:

–          A blind assessment on the Regents Second Language Proficiency (PLEASE EMAIL JACOB IMMEDIATELY IF THIS IS YOUR PREFERENCE!!!)

N/A
Social Studies 5th Grade Social Studies EITHER:

–          A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD/

 

OR:

–          The 5th Grade Regents assessment

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
8th Grade Social Studies EITHER:

–          A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD.

 

OR:

–          The 8th Grade Regents assessment

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
US History The MS State Assessment

 

(OPTIONAL ADDITION: The Regents US History assessment)

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
All other Social Studies A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD. A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (aligned to the Regents assessment that closest fits your grade-level)

 

Links to Teacher Made Summatives

Check out some of the summatives that teachers have administered in the past!

Featured at the above link are:

  • MUSIC: Alice Hasen’s General Music Summative and Project
  • DANCE: Kasey Wooten’s Dance Summative and Project
  • SOCIAL STUDIES: Patrick Newton’s Summatives, as well as many others!
  • WORLD LANGUAGES:

FAQ and Other Guidelines

Check out this Humanities Summative FAQs for further guidelines, answers, and resources!

Need Additional Support?

  1. Sign up for “Knowing Where You Are Going: Summatives in the Humanities” now!
    1. Wednesday, December 3rd in Greenwood (RSVP here)
    2. Tuesday, December 9th on WebEx (RSVP here)
    3. Wednesday, December 10th in Jackson (RSVP here)
  2. Talk to Jacob, your TLD Coach, and/or your Humanities Content Leaders!
  3. Reach out to your peers!
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Collecting, Analyzing, and Sharing Student Data

Hey friends! It’s time for our second ever Humanities Blog Post! Woop!

One of the biggest challenges we are facing in the Humanities at the moment is the fact that we don’t know where students stand in their Picture1progress towards goals. This is a natural challenge for us since we are the teachers that often see 500+ students a week, often have time with students taken away from us in favor of tested classrooms, AND often have subjective measures (“is this performance any good”) that make collecting data funny business. But this is precisely also why it is DOUBLY important that we do so: we want our students and stakeholders to understand that this is a valuable part of their education as well, and advocate for its expansion!

To help you address all that, in the following post, you will find:

1. Why collecting and sharing data matters.

2. Where we stand in the Humanities data-wise. 

3. Your metrics, rubrics, and trackers (and videos to help you set it all up!)

4. Resources for analyzing, collecting, and sharing data. 

1. Why collecting and sharing data matters.

Before we dig in further, I want to be clear about the BASIC importance of ensuring we have, collect, and share accurate data for our students: ultimately, this is an issue of justice and equity.

If we are withholding data from students and they don’t intimately know where they stand compared to national standards , is that not an injustice? Are we not deceiving them as to their progress if we are not holistically measuring their progress against a high bar of rigor (if an “A” in our class would be an “F” in New York, for example)? Are we not taking away their ability to take action for themselves to change their progress, and instead labeling them as a “B” student at every report card?

Consider the potential: Instead, we can demonstrate that we are on a path to equity by showing that our students ARE progressing against a national bar for rigor!

Plus, I want to be clear that having data can have a BIG positive effect. In fact, based on research, I have articulated that one of our key priorities this quarter is the following:

Priority 3: Students are invested in their Humanities-content goals because they see their success as critical to their future leadership, and are aware of their progress. This is because their teachers are invested in their end-of-year goals and what they represent for students, and thus measuring and sharing progress towards goals with students and stakeholders.”

Alas, not having accurate and complete data basically could mean any/all of the following:

1. Students, parents, and administrators may not have an accurate understanding of where students actually stand.

2. You as a teacher aren’t making data-aligned analysis and taking action accordingly in your classrooms.

3. Your TLD Coach, your Specialist, and your TFA team can’t support you and coach you from an accurate understanding of the outcomes of your classroom.

Finally, according to TONS of research, giving students consistent feedback (including student conferences – wait for next week’s blog post for that one!) has awesome results. Check out just this small tid-bit below:

Black and Wiliam’s (1998a) cited 250 studies in their review of the effects of sharing assessment feedback  on learning.  They found that effective use of feedback yielded high levels of student achievement (effect sizes ranged from between 0.4 to 0.7 of a standard deviation). Nyquist (2003) found effect sizes for feedback ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 of a standard deviation.

According to Black and Wiliam (2004a), the effectiveness of  on student learning comes from the feedback provided by the teacher, not from the kind of assessment used. The teacher must have evidence of learning that can be used to provide students with  feedback.

2. Where we stand in the Humanities data-wise.

To give you a sense of where we stand, I’ll share this little report that was just shared with me – “yes” indicates classrooms in which we know where students stand (in part, because it was communicated with TLD coaches), and “no” indicates that we don’t yet have that crucial information. Unfortunately, we, as a region, are in kind of a rough spot (only 37% “yes” total), so let’s make an initiative to switch things up in the Humanities! The more information we have, the more we can collectively and collaboratively problem-solve about how to push our students forward!

As you look at the following data, consider:

How can we learn from each other and the way that we are collecting and sharing data in our classrooms? Who are the others in our team who can support us in this? What is your role in the successes we see? What can we collectively celebrate in the Humanities? Where do you know that the areas in which we need to grow are reflective of your own areas for growth?

Group YES – we know where students stand in relation to their goals. NO – incomplete or missing student achievement information.
Art 43% 57%
Music/Dance 25% 75%
Social Studies 38% 62%
World Language 29% 71%
Grand Total 33% 67%

Pic 1

Before we move on, I want to give some shout outs here to some individuals that are doing an AWESOME job with this (there are many more, but these are some highlights that come to mind):

  • Richard Pettey – For having simple, clear, and exciting bar graphs displayed in his classroom to show student mastery by period, and get students invested in some friendly competition!
  • Gabriella Sharpe – For working to create a small network between me, Camille Loomis, and her TLD Coach so we can all norm on the performance rubrics while looking at videos of her classroom!
  • Amanda Welch – For making a personal commitment this year to share data in her classroom more consistently, and in MANY different ways! She is sharing behavior AND mastery data with students!
  • Catherine Serenac – For implementing regular and consistent data reflection after each test… I got to see its effects on students’ thinking when I observed her a couple months ago!
  • Salma Akhtar – For pro-actively seeking support to help problem-solve about how to make the creation rubric work within her school context!

3. Your metrics, rubrics, and trackers (and videos to help you set it all up!)Picture2

  • Want to know WHAT you are measuring and collecting data around? Check out your metrics here.
  • Have questions about those or want to know WHY they matter? Email Jacob, or call him!
  • Where do I find these Rubrics and Trackers? In this easy folder, or on your content-specific page!
  • How do I set these trackers up? Check out this video (for World Languages and Social Studies) and/or this video (for the Visual and Performing Arts)

4. Resources for analyzing, collecting, and sharing data.

  • Some tips for analyzing data:
    • Organize your assessments! (by skill, objective, or topic!)
    • When analyzing data, do it “test-in-hand” (it will help you notice trends by question!)
    • Search for separators. (What questions were particularly tough for some students, but easy for others?)
    • Scan by student and by period. (Who surprised you?)
    • Some good questions to ask yourself:
      • How did the class do as a whole?
      • What are the strengths and weaknesses by standard?
      • How were the results different in different question types?
      • Did any results in one standard influence results in others (i.e. if students got one question wrong, they also got the next one wrong)?
  • Check out these awesome, quick videos on “Sharing Assessment Data with Students” and “Working With Students to Develop Their Next Steps” and “Developing Students’ Ownership of their Learning
  • Examples of easily track-able assessments:
  • Sharing data with students and parents:
  • A gallery of classroom applications (more to come!)!

Music: Pathways to Opportunity

As you formulate your vision for this year, consider what you hope will be accessible for students thanks to what your classroom is accomplishing this year. What new opportunities will be available to them? How will you prepare them to take advantage of those opportunities, and be competitive for them?

A list of potential Pathways to consider for your vision are below!

SPOTLIGHT: Mississippi School for the Arts

We are starting a partnership with MSA! They want us to send them our students so that they can audition and try to get into their school on a scholarship! They are also starting a summer program next year, and are hoping to draw many more students in that way. We will also be partnering with them for some professional development later this year… SO, they have been kind enough to give us a glimpse into their audition requirements. Check them out!

Potential Pathways for Music

Experiences

Art: Pathways to Opportunity

As you formulate your vision for this year, consider what you hope will be accessible for students thanks to what your classroom is accomplishing this year. What new opportunities will be available to them? How will you prepare them to take advantage of those opportunities, and be competitive for them?

A list of potential Pathways to consider for your vision are below!

SPOTLIGHT: Mississippi School for the Arts

We are starting a partnership with MSA! They want us to send them our students so that they can audition and try to get into their school on a scholarship! They are also starting a summer program next year, and are hoping to draw many more students in that way. We will also be partnering with them for some professional development later this year… SO, they have been kind enough to give us a glimpse into their audition requirements. Check them out!

Opportunities

Other Competitions:

Museums

Dance Vision for Content

Our Vision for Content in Dance

Children … come into the world … mindless. I know that must sound a bit strange to you. They do not come in without brains. Brains are biological; minds are cultural. Minds are a form of cultural achievement. And the kinds of minds children come to own is in the large measure influenced by the kinds of opportunities they have in their lives. And the kind of opportunities … is largely influenced by the kinds of programs and options that are made available to them in the course of their childhood. 

– Elliot Eisner, Professor of Art and Education at Stanford University

With the idea that “Brains are biological; minds are cultural,” we are confronted with the fundamental importance of ensuring our students have the highest quality and the greatest breadth of opportunity we can offer in the arts. To be cultural is to have firm grounding in your identity, to express yourself creatively and uniquely, to feel you have a voice and a critical mind. All of this, and more, can be provided by an arts education.

Developing Key Skills:

Research shows a positive correlation between arts education and cross-disciplinary skills. Students who do not have the opportunity to engage in arts education are often found to be at a disadvantage in the following pillars of learning (for more, see ArtsEdSearch.com):

  • Literacy and Language Development.
  • Reading and Writing Readiness.
  • Reading Comprehension.
  • Mathematics Achievement.
  • Creative Thinking.
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning.
  • Engagement and Persistence.
  • Positive Behavior.
  • Social Development.

Pathways to Opportunity:

While this logically follows from the development of key learning skills, it’s impressive to look at the numbers for how the arts affect future success. Life-long opportunities are at stake for our arts students.

  • College-Readiness: The College Board has examined the impact of arts education on SAT scores. Math  SAT scores improve by 41 points, and verbal scores improved by 57 points for students who benefit from a music education. Studying the arts for extended periods of time (four years or more) improved total SAT scores by 119 points (68 for verbal and 51 on math).
  • College Applications: Should our students want to apply for an Arts and Design College or Conservatory College, they will need to be prepared to speak cogently about their own development, exploration, and ideas on their artistic discipline. Whether heading to the Rhode Island School of Design, Julliard, Memphis College of Arts, or any other Arts institution, our students will need a transcript with competitive GPAs, high standardized test scores, writing samples, as well as a demonstration of their performance skills, and a portfolio that shows depth, research, and ideas. All of these materials – and the opportunities they make available – are correlated to and products of a strong arts education.
  • Job Opportunities: The College Board has also researched the job listings that their AP Studio Arts (2-D, 3-D, Drawing), their Art History, and their Music Theory classes make more accessible to students. They list over 100 career paths ranging from Aerospace Engineering to Composers to Computer Programmers to Editors to Fine Artists. Whether or not a student takes these specific courses of study, an arts education will make these careers more available and real. Our students deserve to have these pathways available.

A National Problem

Despite wide-spread, consistent findings that participation in the arts is correlated with higher academic achievement, the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the proportion of students receiving arts instruction has been in constant decline since 1985, especially among poor and minority students (see the NEA’s “Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation”). While the NEA, the Cultural Learning Alliance, and the Arts Education Partnership have all confirmed that “Low-income students that have the opportunity to engage in extensive contact with the arts are 12% more likely to earn a BA, 33% more likely to read the newspaper on a weekly basis, and 12% more likely to participate in student government at a college level”, it is these same students for whom arts education is least available. In fact, “arts instruction is often least prevalent in schools reporting large percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches,” and a study conducted in 2008 found that only 26% of African American 18-24 year-olds had received an arts education. As we undertake teaching art, we must consider not only how we can generate opportunities for our students this summer or this year, but how we can leave a legacy of change that makes a quality arts education the norm, and not the exception.

The Arts in Mississippi

A recent study conducted by Paul Theobald and Kathy Wood, and featured in Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century, revealed that “rural students and adults alike seem to have learned that to be rural is to be sub-par, that the condition of living in a rural locale creates deficiencies of various kinds – an educational deficiency in particular” even if they are being offered an excellent education (18). This holds true in the numbers: only 6.8% of adults in Mississippi hold a graduate degree, and only 12.6% hold BAs (Measure of America, 2012). If our students are to succeed and become life-long learners, we need to enact a cultural shift that places value on rural culture and cultural identity.

Given these studies as well as our own regional experiences…

… We believe that a strong Arts Education is instrumental to overcoming educational inequality for our students in Mississippi. We know that our students deserve equal opportunities in education so that they may have equal opportunities in their futures. The arts are one of those critical opportunities, and one that is too often ignored. Our students deserve confidence in their cultural identity, pride in their creative expression. They have the right to the long-term benefits of a strong arts-education.  They deserve to see the arts as providing them with viable pathways to opportunity, and engage with the arts in their own communities.

It is no mystery that Mississippi is rich in culture, history, art, and music. From entire musical genres such as the blues and jazz, to some of our nation’s most celebrated writers like Faulkner and Walker Percy, from the pottery of McCarty to the portraits of Chris Kruse, to the birth of the Civil Rights movement to the recent ratification of the 13th amendment, Mississippi is brimming with beautiful and difficult culture.

However, the fertile cultural grounds of Mississippi are seldom if ever exposed to our students. Most elementary schools in Mississippi offer arts instruction to their students on a weekly basis at best. In the Delta, where regulation is less consistent, students may not have an art or music class for years on end. While the arts have been federally recognized as a core subject, they are untested and therefore often left to the wayside. Comparing our students’ rural experiences to their urban counterparts, it is only logical that they have less access to museums and concert venues as well as exposure to art we take for granted: buskers, concerts, street art, and other cultural events. Even if they do get a solid arts foundation, they have limited options in terms of real performance venues or opportunities to compete on a national level. It is therefore instrumental that we begin such exposure in the classroom and draw upon the communities we work within to enact a paradigm-shift for the arts in Mississippi.

What an Arts Education Looks Like for Us in the Classroom:

We have found that Discipline-Based Arts Education to be a highly effective pedagogy and structure for ensuring our students receive a holistic Arts Education. While we encourage invention, creativity, and exploration of different pedagogies, we want to ensure that every classroom focuses on the following strands throughout the year :

Production: Creating or performing. How do we know if students are getting it?  Dance Performance Rubric.doc

History/Culture: Encountering the historical and cultural background of works of dance. How do we know if students are getting it?  Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Dance Regents, artist statements, and more.

Aesthetics: Discovering the nature and philosophy of dance. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Dance Regents, visible in performances, artist statements, and more.

Criticism: Making informed judgments about dance. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and  Dance Regents, artist statements, and more.

Social Studies Vision for Content

“A primary object…should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing…than…communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country.”
–George Washington

From the Outset:

In 2009, Leon Wieselter, editor of The New Republic (an admittedly opinionated website) responded to a New York Times article that claimed “In Tough Times, The Humanities Must Justify their Worth” as follows:

In tough times, of all times, the worth of the humanities needs no justifying. The reason is that it will take many kinds of sustenance to help people through these troubles. Many people will now have to fall back more on inner resources than on outer ones. They are in need of loans, but they are also in need of meanings…. We are in need of fiscal policy and spiritual policy. And spiritually speaking, literature is a bailout, and so is art, and philosophy, and history, and the rest.  … Regression analysis will not get us through the long night. We need to know more about the human heart than the study of consumer behavior can teach.

The words of Wieselter are remarkable because, rather than defend the worth of the Humanities when these are being questioned, he ultimately questions the purpose of studying everything else. What is its value if it does not impart meaning and spiritual growth? It is through the study of identity and history that we gather meaning and the reasoning abilities to move forward in times of crisis.

Developing Key Skills:

Research shows a positive correlation between an education in Social Studies and cross-disciplinary as well as life-long skills. Students who do not have the opportunity to engage in Social Studies education are often found to be at a disadvantage in the following pillars of learning (for more, see The Ohio Department of Education and Reading Quest):

  • Reading and Writing Readiness
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Classifying, Interpreting, Analyzing, and Evaluating Information
  • Decision-Making
  • Metacognition
  • Social and Political Participation
  • Social Development

Pathways to Opportunity:

While this logically follows from the development of key learning skills, it’s impressive to look more closely at how Social Studies affects future success. Life-long opportunities are at stake for our students.

  • Social and Political Participation: Studies have shown that children may learn to accept and embrace biases – such as racism – as early as 3 years of age. However, the same studies argue that there is hope: if the child can be introduced to environments in which new ways of thinking are fostered, these biases can be re-considered and dismantled. In addition, “a developed sense of justice and law” is a pre-requisite to being an activepatricipant in a democracy (for more, see Social Studies.org) and classrooms in which students must actively think and communicate about each other’s reasoning facilitate this type of growth.
  • College Applications: Should our students want to apply for any top-tier college or university, they will be expected to have a minimum (keeping in mind that applications are looked on more favorably when they exceed the minimum requirements) of 2-3 years of Social Studies classes. Whether or not our students decide to go to college, we must ensure they have access to these opportunities. Harvard, MIT, NYU, and Pomona all require at least two years in the Social Studies classroom.
  • Job Opportunities: The College Board has researched the job listings that their  Social Studies courses and tests make more accessible to students. They list over 130 career paths ranging from Acting to Legislators to Health Educators to News Analysts. Whether or not a student takes these specific courses of study, a Social Studies education will make these careers more available and real. Our students deserve to have these pathways available.

A National Problem

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in 2010 only 24% of all graduating seniors were proficient or above in Civics. Breaking these numbers down by race, 30% of White students were proficient or above, and only 8% of Black students were proficient or above. These trends remain consistent across U.S. History, Geography, and Economics. Considering the extent to which this course is directly correlated with engagement in society, these statistics are at a massive detriment to our nation, and to minorities in particular. Most evidence points towards the fact that these are not required or prioritized contents: the Thomas Fordham Institute found that, between 1987 and 2003, the amount of instructional time dedicated to Social Studies in public schools decreased by 18 hours a year. This takes into account only the first year of No Child Left Behind, under which student assessments focused mainly on English/Language Arts and Math – the result being that schools struggling to make needed gains on the test often axed Social Studies instruction in favor of test-prep. And the effects are being felt: despite the election of 2008 being the highest voter turnout in years, only 58% of eligible voters showed, and the number of people who are writing letters to newspapers or to their Congressional representatives have declined by 15%.

Despite all this, there are some slight glimmers of hope. The NAEP also found that there has been a score increase since 2006 for Black and Hispanic eighth-graders on their Civic assessments. And, while there are some legitimate concerns towards the adoption of the Common Core curriculum, the requirements emphasize the importance of non-fiction even within the English/Language Arts classroom.

Social Studies in Mississippi

A recent study conducted by Paul Theobald and Kathy Wood, and featured in Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century, revealed that “rural students and adults alike seem to have learned that to be rural is to be sub-par, that the condition of living in a rural locale creates deficiencies of various kinds – an educational deficiency in particular” even if they are being offered an excellent education (18). The Thomas Fordham institute studied Mississippi’s state standards in social studies and rated them at a 1/7 for rigorous content, and a 1/3 for clarity and specificity. This is an obstacle to our teachers, students, and active participation in democracy. The effects of these mindsets – caused by genuine educational deficiencies – are manifest in the numbers: only 6.8% of adults in Mississippi hold a graduate degree, only 12.6% hold BAs, and only 37% of eligible voters showed up for the presidential elections (Measure of America, 2012). If our students are to succeed and become life-long learners, advocates for their own cause, we need to enact a cultural shift that places value on rural culture and cultural identity.

Given these studies as well as our own regional experiences…

We believe that a strong Social Studies Education is instrumental to overcoming educational inequality for our students in Mississippi. We know that our students deserve equal opportunities in education so that they may have equal opportunities in their futures. Social Studies set students up for those critical opportunities, and yet they are too often ignored, denying their civic power and future pathways. Our students deserve confidence in their cultural identity, and pride in their voice as world citizens and thinkers. They have the right to the long-term benefits of a strong Social Studies education.  They deserve to see Social Studies as providing them with viable pathways to opportunity, with a civic voice, and a knowledge-base of history with which to form their own opinions about the world today. 

It is no mystery that Mississippi is rich in culture, history, politics, and a need for civic engagement. From the birth of the Civil Rights movement to the recent ratification of the 13th amendment, Mississippi is brimming with beautiful and difficult history, as well as a long and challenging pathway forward. We need our students to be prepared and willing – or perhaps ready and compelled – to engage with it.

However, the fertile  grounds of Mississippi are seldom if ever exposed to our students. Comparing our students’ rural experiences to their urban counterparts, it is only logical that they have less access to museums, information, and civic venues where they can see history play out. The locations where Mississippi history is commemorated, celebrated, and criticized are few and far between for our most rural students. Even if they do get a solid Social Studies foundation, they have limited options in terms of real experiences or opportunities to compete on a national level. It is therefore instrumental that we begin such exposure in the classroom and draw upon the communities we work within to enact a paradigm-shift for Social Studies in Mississippi.

World Languages Vision For Content

Often, it is easy for us to look at the most complex reasonings and the hardest facts to explain why our work matters, and then get lost. Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois, Sandra Savignon, reminds us that the answer for why World Languages (WL) education matters is actually quite simple:

 Learning to speak another’s language means taking one’s place in the human community. It means reaching out to others across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Language is far more than a system to be explained. It is our most important link to the world around us. Language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people.

Fundamentally, our students have the right to be a part of the larger human community as Savignon defines it. They deserve to bring their culture to others, and to experience new cultures in return. Perhaps more materialistically, as we consider our increasing need to compete – as individuals and as a nation – against international education and job markets, our students will require a WL education in order to be prepared and be genuinely competitive.

Developing Key Skills:

Research has found that the benefits of learning a WL in early childhood are significant and long-lasting. Students who do not have the opportunity to engage in a WL education are often found to be at a disadvantage or completely lacking in the following life-long skills (for more, please see The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and “Why Bilinguals are Smarter”):

  • Cognitive and academic abilities.
  • Language sensitivity
  • Increased vocabulary
  • Reading and listening competencies
  • Problem solving and reasoning
  • Engagement and persistence
  • Improves understanding of  native language.
  • Communication skills
  • Social behavior
  • Cultural awareness
  • Native-like accents

Pathways to Opportunity:

While this logically follows from the development of key learning skills, it’s impressive to look at the numbers for how WL learning can affect future success:

  • Academic Success: According to a study of 13,200 fifth graders in Louisiana public schools, students who had taken WL classes performed better on the English section of the Louisiana Basic Skills Test than those who did not. This was true regardless of race, gender, or academic levels of the students (Dumas 1999).
  • College-Readiness: Students who have studied a WL consistently perform better than their peers who have not, including on all sections of the SAT. The 2007 College Bound Seniors report (issued by the College Board) showed that students with four or more years of WL study score on average 140 points higher (out of 800) in the Critical Reading section, almost 140 points higher in the Math section, and over 150 points higher in the Writing section, than students with half a year or less in WL education. In addition, Horn & Kojaku found in 2001 that students who took three years of WL in high school were likely to earn better grades in college and were less likely to drop out. In addition, students with a strong WL background could save thousands of dollars by testing out of required college courses, and prioritize valuable study abroad experiences.
  • College Applications: Competitive colleges are increasingly requiring several years of WL courses at the high school level from its applicants. Most colleges require at least two years, but Stanford is recommending three or more, and Harvard urges four. With WL experience from an early age, we increase the likelihood of their fluency and confidence with languages in the future.
  • Job Opportunities: The College Board has researched the job listings that their AP WL classes make more accessible to students. They list over 100 career paths ranging from Curators to Editors to Teachers to Public Health Workers to Sociologists. Whether or not a student takes these specific courses of study, a WL education will make these careers more available and real. Our students deserve to have these pathways available.

A National Problem

Despite these wide-spread, consistent findings that participation in a WL education is life-changing for all students, regardless of their background, we are not providing sufficient opportunities to engage in second language acquisition to all our students. In fact, Curtain & Dahlberg found as recently as 2004 that “children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds make the greatest proportionate achievement gains from foreign language study.”  Nonetheless, particularly in low-income and minority school districts, these courses of study are often lacking. In Connecticut, for instance, WL instruction is offered in only one quarter of all urban public schools compared to two-thirds of suburban private schools (for more, see “The Benefits of Foreign Language Studies” on the Connecticut Department of Education website). As of 2003, “29 percent of public school principals in heavily minority school districts anticipated future decreases in instructional time for foreign languages.”

In the past decade, however, interest and support for WL education has been energized by an increasing recognition of a dangerous reality: only two in ten Americans speak a language in addition to English. A report from the Council of Foreign Relations, titled “U.S. Education Reform and National Security”, states that this lack of preparedness can lead to struggles in “economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion.” Besides the disadvantages we are generating through a lack of WL provision on an individual and on a community level, we have come to realize that these disadvantages will catch up to us on a national level as well. Hopefully, this is an indication of a tide turning towards a more holistic and comprehensive education for all students.

World Languages in Mississippi

A recent study conducted by Paul Theobald and Kathy Wood, and featured in Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century, revealed that “rural students and adults alike seem to have learned that to be rural is to be sub-par, that the condition of living in a rural locale creates deficiencies of various kinds – an educational deficiency in particular” even if they are being offered an excellent education (18). This opinion is reflected in the numbers: in the 2007-2008 school year, Mississippi was one of three states to enroll less than 10% of its students in an WL course, despite showing an increase in enrollment since previous years (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). The education opportunities our students are receiving is less than satisfactory. Speaking more broadly, only 6.8% of adults in Mississippi hold a graduate degree, and only 12.6% hold BAs (Measure of America, 2012). The effects of this education are felt state-wide. If our students are to succeed and become life-long learners, we need to enact a cultural shift that places value on rural culture and cultural identity. We need to give our students a competitive and holistic education.

Given these studies as well as our own regional experiences…

.. We believe that a strong World Language Education is instrumental to overcoming educational inequality for our students in Mississippi. We know that our students deserve equal opportunities in education so that they may have equal opportunities in their futures. World Language learning is one of those critical opportunities, and one that is too often ignored. Our students deserve confidence in their cultural identity as well as the cognitive, economic, social, and linguistic advantages provided by a World Language Education. They have the right to these long-term benefits.  They deserve to see World Language as providing them with viable pathways to opportunity, both within and outside of their communities.

Comparing our students’ rural experiences to their urban counterparts, it is only logical that they have less access to new cultures, exposure to a diversity of languages, and the opportunities to experience how a second language can be beneficial. Even if our students do get a solid WL foundation, they have limited options in terms of real application, travel, or exchange with a native speaker of the language they are learning. It is therefore instrumental that we begin such exposure in the classroom and draw upon the communities we work within to enact a paradigm-shift for the World Languages in Mississippi.

What an World Language Education Looks Like for Us in the Classroom:

We have found that Total Physical Response (Storytelling) to be an extremely effective pedagogical framework and method for teaching WLs. While we encourage invention, creativity, and exploration of different pedagogies, we want to ensure that every classroom focuses on the following strands throughout the year:

Reading: Building literacy skills through stories. Reading comprehension cements language acquisition through the connections students build between stories and their personal emotions and experiences. How do we know if students are getting it? A Reading section on Regents-aligned assessments (you can find the New York State Standards for Foreign Language here).

Writing: Mastering grammar conventions and vocabulary by crafting stories that echo structures and motifs from their reading. How do we know if students are getting it? A Writing section on Regents-aligned assessments, measured against our Regents-aligned rubric.

Listening: Engaging all resources at our disposal, such as cognates and context clues to help interpret conversations at native speed. How do we know if students are getting it? A Listening section on Regents-aligned assessments

Speaking: Speaking fearlessly about the places and people students love. How do we know if students are getting it? A Speaking on Regents-aligned assessments, measured against our Regents-aligned rubric.

Culture: Taking the time to discuss the idea of culture and define culture in Mississippi so that it can be understood what it means to come from a different culture, to have a different perspective, and to celebrate a different history. How do we know if students are getting it? A Culture section on Regents-aligned assessments

Art Vision for Content

Our Vision for Content in Art

Children … come into the world … mindless. I know that must sound a bit strange to you. They do not come in without brains. Brains are biological; minds are cultural. Minds are a form of cultural achievement. And the kinds of minds children come to own is in the large measure influenced by the kinds of opportunities they have in their lives. And the kind of opportunities … is largely influenced by the kinds of programs and options that are made available to them in the course of their childhood. 

– Elliot Eisner, Professor of Art and Education at Stanford University

With the idea that “Brains are biological; minds are cultural,” we are confronted with the fundamental importance of ensuring our students have the highest quality and the greatest breadth of opportunity we can offer in the arts. To be cultural is to have firm grounding in your identity, to express yourself creatively and uniquely, to feel you have a voice and a critical mind. All of this, and more, can be provided by an arts education.

Developing Key Skills:

Research shows a positive correlation between arts education and cross-disciplinary skills. Students who do not have the opportunity to engage in arts education are often found to be at a disadvantage in the following pillars of learning (for more, see ArtsEdSearch.com):

  • Literacy and Language Development.
  • Reading and Writing Readiness.
  • Reading Comprehension.
  • Mathematics Achievement.
  • Creative Thinking.
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning.
  • Engagement and Persistence.
  • Positive Behavior.
  • Social Development.

Pathways to Opportunity:

While this logically follows from the development of key learning skills, it’s impressive to look at the numbers for how the arts affect future success. Life-long opportunities are at stake for our arts students.

  • College-Readiness: The College Board has examined the impact of arts education on SAT scores. Math  SAT scores improve by 41 points, and verbal scores improved by 57 points for students who benefit from a music education. Studying the arts for extended periods of time (four years or more) improved total SAT scores by 119 points (68 for verbal and 51 on math).
  • College Applications: Should our students want to apply for an Arts and Design College or Conservatory College, they will need to be prepared to speak cogently about their own development, exploration, and ideas on their artistic discipline. Whether heading to the Rhode Island School of Design, Julliard, Memphis College of Arts, or any other Arts institution, our students will need a transcript with competitive GPAs, high standardized test scores, writing samples, as well as a demonstration of their performance skills, and a portfolio that shows depth, research, and ideas. All of these materials – and the opportunities they make available – are correlated to and products of a strong arts education.
  • Job Opportunities: The College Board has also researched the job listings that their AP Studio Arts (2-D, 3-D, Drawing), their Art History, and their Music Theory classes make more accessible to students. They list over 100 career paths ranging from Aerospace Engineering to Composers to Computer Programmers to Editors to Fine Artists. Whether or not a student takes these specific courses of study, an arts education will make these careers more available and real. Our students deserve to have these pathways available.

A National Problem

Despite wide-spread, consistent findings that participation in the arts is correlated with higher academic achievement, the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the proportion of students receiving arts instruction has been in constant decline since 1985, especially among poor and minority students (see the NEA’s “Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation”). While the NEA, the Cultural Learning Alliance, and the Arts Education Partnership have all confirmed that “Low-income students that have the opportunity to engage in extensive contact with the arts are 12% more likely to earn a BA, 33% more likely to read the newspaper on a weekly basis, and 12% more likely to participate in student government at a college level”, it is these same students for whom arts education is least available. In fact, “arts instruction is often least prevalent in schools reporting large percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches,” and a study conducted in 2008 found that only 26% of African American 18-24 year-olds had received an arts education. As we undertake teaching art, we must consider not only how we can generate opportunities for our students this summer or this year, but how we can leave a legacy of change that makes a quality arts education the norm, and not the exception.

The Arts in Mississippi

A recent study conducted by Paul Theobald and Kathy Wood, and featured in Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century, revealed that “rural students and adults alike seem to have learned that to be rural is to be sub-par, that the condition of living in a rural locale creates deficiencies of various kinds – an educational deficiency in particular” even if they are being offered an excellent education (18). This holds true in the numbers: only 6.8% of adults in Mississippi hold a graduate degree, and only 12.6% hold BAs (Measure of America, 2012). If our students are to succeed and become life-long learners, we need to enact a cultural shift that places value on rural culture and cultural identity.

Given these studies as well as our own regional experiences…

We believe that a strong Arts Education is instrumental to overcoming educational inequality for our students in Mississippi. We know that our students deserve equal opportunities in education so that they may have equal opportunities in their futures. The arts are one of those critical opportunities, and one that is too often ignored. Our students deserve confidence in their cultural identity, pride in their creative expression. They have the right to the long-term benefits of a strong arts-education.  They deserve to see the arts as providing them with viable pathways to opportunity, and engage with the arts in their own communities.

It is no mystery that Mississippi is rich in culture, history, art, and music. From entire musical genres such as the blues and jazz, to some of our nation’s most celebrated writers like Faulkner and Walker Percy, from the pottery of McCarty to the portraits of Chris Kruse, to the birth of the Civil Rights movement to the recent ratification of the 13th amendment, Mississippi is brimming with beautiful and difficult culture.

However, the fertile cultural grounds of Mississippi are seldom if ever exposed to our students. Most elementary schools in Mississippi offer arts instruction to their students on a weekly basis at best. In the Delta, where regulation is less consistent, students may not have an art or music class for years on end. While the arts have been federally recognized as a core subject, they are untested and therefore often left to the wayside. Comparing our students’ rural experiences to their urban counterparts, it is only logical that they have less access to museums and concert venues as well as exposure to art we take for granted: buskers, concerts, street art, and other cultural events. Even if they do get a solid arts foundation, they have limited options in terms of real performance venues or opportunities to compete on a national level. It is therefore instrumental that we begin such exposure in the classroom and draw upon the communities we work within to enact a paradigm-shift for the arts in Mississippi.

What an Arts Education Looks Like for Us in the Classroom:

We have found that Discipline-Based Arts Education to be a highly effective pedagogy and structure for ensuring our students receive a holistic Arts Education. While we encourage invention, creativity, and exploration of different pedagogies, we want to ensure that every classroom focuses on the following strands throughout the year :

Production: Creating or performing. How do we know if students are getting it?  Creation Rubrics (Elementary Childhood Education Rubric as well as the Delta Creation Rubrics).

History/Culture: Encountering the historical and cultural background of works of art or music. How do we know if students are getting it?  Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, artist statements, and more.

Aesthetics: Discovering the nature and philosophy of art or music. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, visible in artworks, artist statements, and more.

Criticism: Making informed judgments about art. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, artist statements, and more.