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What Does the NAEP Arts Assessment Measure?

The NAEP 2008 arts assessment measured the extent of what American students know and can do in the arts disciplines of music and visual arts. The assessment measured students' knowledge and skills in the arts by asking them to observe, describe, analyze, and evaluate existing works of music and visual art and to create original works of visual art. The NAEP arts framework, developed by the National Assessment Governing Board, serves as the blueprint for the assessment, describing the specific knowledge and skills that should be assessed in the arts disciplines.

According to the framework, dance, music, theater, and the visual arts are important parts of a full education. When students engage in the arts, they use intellect, emotions, and physical skills to create meaning. At its best, the teaching and assessment of the arts emphasize creating and performing works as well as studying existing works of art. Educators have acknowledged that the arts are basic to the acquisition of a well-rounded education. The arts provide meaning to learning. They serve as a vehicle for acquiring the skills to which educational reformers have said students should aspire: problem-solving, higher order thinking, flexibility, persistence, and cooperation.

The framework specifies that students' arts knowledge and skills be measured in four arts disciplines: dance, music, theater, and visual arts. In 1997, students were assessed in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. In 2008, NAEP assessed students in music and visual arts only because of budget constraints and the small percentage of schools with dance and theater programs. The 2008 assessment is based on a nationally representative sample of eighth-grade students.

Because of the breadth of the assessment, each student was assessed in only one arts discipline, either music or visual arts.

The music area of the assessment consisted of multiple-choice and constructed-response questions that evaluated the responding process. Constructed-response questions required students to generate answers that ranged from a few words or sentences to a paragraph or more.

The visual arts area of the assessment consisted of multiple-choice and constructed-response questions that evaluated the responding process and constructed-response questions that evaluated the creating process. The constructed-response questions included not only questions that required students to generate written answers, but also questions that asked students to create original works of visual art. Many of these visual arts questions contained multiple parts.

Arts Subjects Kinds of Exercises
  Creating: assessed with performance tasks Responding: assessed with written exercises and multiple-choice questions
Music Listen to a rhythmic pattern and then complete the measure. Listen to pieces of music and then analyze, interpret, critique, and place the pieces in historical context.
Visual Arts Using oil pastels, a mirror, and a charcoal pencil, create a self-portrait that communicates to a viewer something important about one's personality. Study artworks and then do exercises exploring aesthetic properties and expressive aspects of the works.

For more detailed information about the objectives of the arts assessment, explore the NAEP Arts Framework (1420K PDF file, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

Last updated 08 May 2009 (JM)