An Unfinished Canvas

A Review of Large-Scale Assessment in K-12 Arts Education

Regie Stites and Heather Malin

2008, 51 pages. SRI International, 333 Ravenswood Avenue, Menlo Park, CA, 94025, 650-859-2000,

This report reviews existing approaches to large-scale assessment in the arts, considering both the benefits and limitations. It is a follow-up to an earlier report, An Unfinished Canvas: Arts Education in California. That report revealed that a large majority of California schools fail to meet state goals for arts education—that is, they fail to offer a standards-based course of study in dance, music, visual arts, and theatre—and identified key barriers to the delivery of arts education.

This paper provides a review of the status of large-scale arts assessments and current practice in statewide arts assessment for the purpose of K–12 education accountability. It begins with an overview of the recent history of developments in standards, assessment, and accountability in arts education. It then describes and discusses the strengths and limitations of several approaches to large-scale arts assessment, the NAEP Arts Assessment and two large-scale portfolio assessment models, the IB arts portfolio assessment and the AP Studio Art portfolio program. The paper then follows a discussion of the very different approaches to standards-based arts assessment adopted by five states that currently have active large-scale arts assessment programs.