Skip Navigation
Development Strategies

Arts Tasks in This Report

Devote as Much Time as Possible to Arts Exercises

A valid arts assessment should be as in-depth as possible. The NAEP arts framework calls for an in-depth assessment of students' abilities to respond to, create, and perform works of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. An in-depth assessment demands that students spend a reasonable amount of time focusing on assessment tasks. But schools do not have a lot of time to spare for assessment. To address the problem of balancing assessment depth with assessment time, NAEP took several approaches.

  • Different assessments were created for each art content area.
  • Separate assessments were developed for the four arts subjects. This means that any individual student participating in the assessment was assessed in only one arts subject, that is, dance, music, theatre, or visual arts.5 Individual students usually spent an average of 90 minutes engaged in tasks for one arts subject, allowing an in-depth assessment of the students abilities in that subject. The cost of assessing each student on an individual basis in each subject area would have been prohibitively expensive and would have created undue financial constraints on schools.

    Further, no student took all of the exercises developed for any one arts subject. Rather, all assessed students took a portion of available exercises; in this way, no one student needed to be assessed for longer than 90 minutes, but the data gathered from all student responses together give a full picture of what students know and can do in each arts subject. This is because NAEP does not report individual scores, but reports aggregate data on demographic groups of students. Results for demographic groups of students are available in the NAEP 1997 arts report card.

  • Separate tasks were developed to assess students' abilities to respond to works of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, and the students' abilities to create and perform.
  • To allow appropriate amounts of time to be spent on different kinds of tasks, students first completed paper-and-pencil exercises by describing, analyzing, critiquing, and interpreting works of dance, music, theatre, or visual arts. Students usually spent approximately one hour doing paper-and-pencil tasks. As an example, take a look at a theatre responding task asking students to do a series of paper-and-pencil exercises analyzing a folk tale.

    Second, students did one creating and/or performing task in small groups, pairs, or as individuals. As an example, take a look at a dance performing task asking students to create and perform a brief dance.

  • Tasks were streamlined as much as possible without compromising assessment quality.
  • For example, when assessing students' abilities to analyze music, it was usually necessary to have students listen to a piece of music at least twice. Because this was time consuming, whenever possible, a short excerpt of a musical piece was used to assess student ability. Naturally, excerpt lengths varied with themes of exercises and the nature of the musical examples.

NEXT: Strategy 2: Use Authentic Stimuli to Assess Students' Arts Knowledge and Skills

5. Because of sampling complications, a final NAEP dance assessment was not administered, although it was developed. For further information, see Who Took the 1997 Arts Assessment.

Last updated 26 March 2003 (HM)