Dec 23, 2013

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3 Simple Tips to Make Tracking Student Growth Manageable

I just got off the phone with a dedicated teacher of 20 plus years from Ohio.  As you may know, Ohio is going under rapid changes when it comes to the new teacher evaluation system focusing on showing student growth. This veteran teacher stated that he’s totally had to change the way he teaches and is completely overwhelmed. After his first evaluation, his administrator is asking him to give pre-tests, differentiate, give follow up assessments and create centers for all his students so each can work at his or her own pace. Whew! Seems impossible. If you truly did this with each grade level, would there even be time to make enough projects by the end of the year to put on an art show? We chuckled at this thought, but the reality of it all is kind of daunting.

I might ask…

At what point do we sacrifice everything we know as art teachers for a new initiative? 

At what point do evaluation systems, laws and protocols consume us so fully that we forget our initial love and zest for teaching? 

How can art teachers meet the rigorous assessment initiatives being thrown at them, while still maintaining the same amount of content in the same amount of time?



Here are three of simple tips tips that for anyone in this situation.


 3 Tips to Make Tracking Student Growth Manageable 

 1. Pilot. If classroom teachers only need to assess 25 students and track their growth AND they see them every single day, why should art teachers be asked to track the growth of 600 students when they see them once a week? If permissible, choose a test pilot class (i.e.: One section of 4th grade or even one grade level) to do your assessments with.

2. Find the MOST Important concept to track. Find a concept to track that you truly believe you WANT to see your students grow in – something you would hope every student could walk out of your art room and master by the end of the year. Something so specific and important, you will be excited to see their growth, instead of seeing it as a grueling chore.

3. Keep the duration short. Just track the one unit.  It will be intense, and then be done with it. (If your schools allow you do to this). Drawing it out for the entire year will just prolong the agony of data collection longer and longer. Keep it short and sweet.

These simple tips can change the way you think about tracking student progress. If more tips like this would be helpful to AND you need time to work on a detailed roadmap to get your growth on track, we’ve actually jam packed it all into our brand new online class “Showing Student Growth in Art” which starts on January 1st. There is just SO MUCH information we have to share with you. The month long class format seemed like the perfect place to house all of the resources and samples related to student growth (just for art teachers). I honestly believe that by getting organized and tackling a problem ‘head on’ we can all feel better about changes that come our way in education.

Not sure if any of these ‘modifications’ will be permissible in your school/state? Just ASK. Don’t assume anything. Simply asking for some of these tweaks could save you hours of time and give students back one of the most important things – time to make art!


 Tell us about student growth initiatives in your area.

 What are you tracking? How is it going? What questions do you still have? 




Jessica-RoundThis article was written by AOE Founder and President Jessica Balsley. Jessica is a passionate thought-leader in the field of Art Ed, and a tireless advocate of helping Art Teachers get the ‘Ridiculously Relevant’ PD they deserve.

About Jessica | Jessica’s Articles

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  • Sarah

    Tennessee is doing some really interesting things in this area. I participated in a Webinar with one of the leaders of the system and I was intrigued! This PDF has an outline…

  • Beth

    I’m in Ohio also. I teach at a K-5 building, and see 720 kids. Luckily I don’t have to track data for all of them…but I did have to choose 2 grade levels (about 250 kids). While that’s better then tracking data on ALL of them….250 is a LOT. Ten times more then regular class room teachers. Also, I was told I COULD track data for my kids for only one unit/project, but it would probably not be in my best interest. If the students don’t show enough growth on that project, I’m screwed. While tracking data for a full year is nuts….they are all almost guaranteed to make growth by then. (Also, I chose drawing as my focus for growth targets, and since we do draw for almost every single project, I couldn’t justify only tracking data for 1 project.) I have my first formal observation when we come back from Winter Break….

    • Jessica Balsley

      I would agree that 250 is still a lot. If you were to just track one project for a smaller group, you would need to choose the project very carefully. Drawing seems like a good place to start, as long as your rubrics are clear enough to use throughout the year to track your growth. I am anxious to see how it turns out for you. Keep us posted.

  • Mrs.C

    Here in NJ we have to track our students progress for the entire school year ( well really only till the end of April that’s when my final data is due ) I had to do a pre-assessment to get base-line data, I am doing my mid-assessments when we get back from Christmas break and my Final assessments in March. I too have to assess hundreds of students since my SGO must cover the majority of my students and I have 2 SGO’s! The initial set up was insane! I have done a lot of research and I have calmed down about a lot of what we are now required to do when it comes to assessments. My second observation is coming up after the break and I feel confident that I am doing all that I can humanly do to satisfy the rubric that my administrator has to follow. I’m done stressing myself out about all this!!!