The Top 5 Reasons to Make Student Growth Data Visible

If your state is implementing a new student growth model for teacher evaluation, you are well versed in assessment. In fact, you may feel like assessments are coming out of your ears!

Showing growth in art education means we are able to track where students start in their learning, how they progress, and where they end up. Many of you probably are required to submit an SLO (or similar) document at the end of the year or collection period.

Collecting this data is a lot of work. Since you’ve already put the work in, I want to encourage you to take it one step further. Consider sharing your growth data with parents, community members and colleagues. Think of it as an advocacy tool. Chances are, your students made excellent growth this year, and everyone should know about it!

Consider sharing your growth data with parents, community members and colleagues. Think of it as an advocacy tool.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons to Make Student Growth Data Visible

  1. It helps you recognize that all the hard work you’re putting in is actually paying off.
  2. It demands extra accountability, which can be a bit scary, but will ultimately push you to become a better teacher.
  3. It allows your colleagues and administration to visualize and recognize the learning going on in your classroom.
  4. It provides concrete evidence for those who still think art is all about “finger painting.”
  5. It can inspire students to take charge of their own learning.

How can you go about doing this? You could submit data in your school’s monthly newsletter, write an article about your students’ growth over the course of the year, or even present at a PTO meeting with student artwork samples to supplement the data.

Here is another creative idea – One of our class participants in the Showing Student Growth in Art course shared her innovative idea for publicly displaying Pre and Post Test data in her school.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 11.54.00 AM

You can see the Pre-Test data already displayed on the bulletin board along with the learning objective, “I can understand, identify and create landscapes with a foreground, middle ground and background.” After she gives the Post-Test, she will add a second pie for each class to show student growth.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 11.56.16 AM

I love this take on data collection!

If your state is implementing a new teacher evaluation model tied to student growth next year, raise your hand! You are not alone. In fact, currently 30 (and counting) states are requiring that teacher evaluations include some evidence of student learning. This is because in 2011, states were offered the chance to gain flexibility with some of the main components of the No Child Left Behind Act in exchange for abiding by some new ideas, one of them being tying teacher evaluations to test scores. You can read more about this, and check the status of your state, right here. Art teachers aren’t exempt from this. It will impact ALL teachers.

If this conversation sounds familiar, you know who you are. If not, it will sound familiar very soon!

Tell us, what state do you teach in? What is the status of using student growth in teacher evaluations?

What are you doing to share your Student Growth data at the end of this year?

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Beth Ensign

    I’m sorry, but I really do not like the idea of quantifying art learning with data charts. Our children’s creativity is being stifled enough by the incessant measuring they must endure already. We need to stand strong and advocate for the importance of OTHER MEASURES. Remember, it was Einstein who said that not everything that counts, can be measured (and not everything that can be measured, counts). If we go along with the current mania for numerics, we will wind up further marginalizing ourselves, not to mention further impoverishing the minds of our students.

    Personally, my end of the year art show is how my students and I demonstrate the art learning they have done. Every child participates. They choose which work to submit, title it and write an artist statement about it. Older students participate in preparing the work for the walls. Once the artwork is on display, we have an in-school “field trip” to visit the exhibit. Students can write “fan mail” to artists whose work they admire. While it is an enormous amount of work, it is well worth it. And I am pretty sure that the art show is a more memorable and meaningful measure of learning than a pie chart can demonstrate.

    • Thanks for your ideas, Beth! I do agree, we need multiple measures in the art room, however, the honest state of the public school system today is requiring more and more of art teachers in the realm of assessment. I am all about helping teachers find quick and easy was to glean data, meet their own district and state requirements and not sacrifice the art making, which can be quite the daunting process. I appreciate you thoughts on the topic.

  • Mrs. G

    While creative growth is an individual, organic process, and it shouldn’t be stifled, these charts are a great way to validate the arts in the school! Sure, you can’t collect data on every single thing, but there are major areas of creative growth that need to be understood by the whole community. This is one way to ensure that we are advocating the arts,and proving their worth to student development in a common language used in the educational environment. This seems more to me about the communication of information than it is about adding more tests, assessments, and data collections.
    The creative process doesn’t have to be hindered. In fact, the assessments I do implement are straight-forward, unintimidating to students, and they give them simple goals to focus on. It doesn’t have to be standardized, procedural, and stifling. It’s really all about HOW we approach the implementation of these tools of assessment into the arts that helps to mold the way we teach our students. As instructors, we still hold the keys to creating a program that is easily assessed, commonly understood, and creatively inspiring.

    • Mrs. G – I like the idea of focusing and reporting out on one specific thing (For some teachers this would be there SLO or Growth Goal) because it can feel impossible to collect data on 800 students. By going deeper into one area of art, we have strong data numbers AND are able to save time with other groups and focus more on the art-making. It’s truly a balance.

  • Anne Fry

    Let’s think about famous artists and how they would have been evaluated during their lifetimes…..Vincent Van Gogh?……Hmmmm I do not think his “post assessment” would have shown growth. How many of our students are not making the grade now, but years from now their work will be considered priceless.

    As a 34 year Secondary Art Teacher I must say retirement at the end of next year is a breath of fresh air!
    I feel so badly for young teachers starting their careers.

    • Anne- You are correct and I agree with you in every way. However, so many art teachers write in to AOE asking for help with gleaning the data their administration is asking for… without sacrificing the art. This is just one example of this!

  • Keri

    I applaud this teacher’s efforts but It makes me very sad to see that many public school teachers are being forced to show numerical charts for the purpose of teacher evaluation and to justify student growth. Think of the big picture: We are taking an organic, abstract, subjective, creative subject and trying to measure student growth with objective, linear, analytical methods. Authentic assessment should always involve a portfolio of actual work regardless of subject matter and this is what the arts have been doing for decades. Traditional core subjects should be following our lead, not vice versa. Showing student test results only shows a small percentage of what they learned. I agree that sharing student growth is an excellent and necessary advocacy tool. However I’d rather show a bulletin board of pre-assessment drawings (done at the beginning of the year) next to post-assessment drawings (done at the end of the year).

    • Keri – Using drawings as a visual is a great idea! The more we can organically show the PROCESS of creation and find ways to also translate the process into numbers for our administration, the quicker we can get back to making art with kids. I agree, I don’t envy some of the new requirements being placed on teachers.

      • Keri

        Jessica–you are correct, our administrators and policy makers speak the language of numbers. We need to find the best way to translate a subjective, organic growth process into numbers–and it needs to be able to be done quickly and authentically, That is quite a challenge, especially for elementary teachers who see their students once a week or month! Have you seen the new National Core Arts Standards? Maybe the NCAS can help us. You could definitely give a written test to older students using the Essential Questions. Perhaps the “I can” statements could be used as a check off list for younger students?

    • Susan

      I completely agree with Keri. What could be more authentic assessment than looking a child’s portfolio of finished work? I feel we are being forced into the same format as subjects that have very different expectations and outcomes…math, science, etc. as we assign grades. I love having my students fill out reflection sheets at the end of projects, but they are not rubrics, they are not assigned point value, they are personal reflections on their piece…what worked well, what was a challenge, what they learned, how much they enjoyed the process, etc. Art learning should not be quantified. It is a process of development.

  • Anne Fry

    My assessment for my high school art I students has always been a drawing. On the first day of class students draw their own hand. At the end of the semester they once again draw their own hand. (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards) These results are always so excellent! I have always kept them on file…just in case someone would question the progress the students make.

    • Drawing is an excellent place to start with writing a growth goal or performance based assessment. Thanks for the photo!

  • Here in North Carolina, we have recently started the Analysis of Student Work process. I was skeptical, but it turns out the results are much more meaningful to me than the type of data we already had to produce for our Professional Development Plan. Quantitative data becomes qualitative data. Below are examples of each.

    Quantitative Data for PDP:

    Qualitative Data for ASW: