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Arts education experiencing a mini renaissance.

At last, good news for the arts: Washington State is debuting the country's first performance-based arts assessments and three Miami-Dade County Public Schools are participating in a unique museum program to improve statewide exam scores.

Washington's performance-based assessments are the result of statewide legislation requiring K-12 students to be assessed in dance, music, theatre and visual arts. AnnRene Joseph, program supervisor of the arts for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Washington, says it's the only state conducting individual performance-based evaluations. The assessments, which measure instruction and not talent, integrate the arts with other subjects. For instance, students might be asked to create and perform a dance and then write a short essay about it. "When students respond and reflect, that's when they learn," says Joseph.

Students at three magnet schools in Miami-Dade Public County are enjoying structured museum trips that support their studies. Helen Blanch, administrative director for Schools of Choice, says she wanted to move beyond the yearly or twice-yearly museum field trip and teach children about creating exhibits. The district received a U.S. Department of Education grant to allow museum educators to work with a curriculum-writing team to determine which standards could be taught through certain collections.

Each school has different partners. For instance, Southside Elementary works with the Miami Art Museum, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and the Children's Museum. Every nine weeks, the kids turn their school into a mini museum and explain their projects to visitors. Students at Shenandoah Middle are working on a collaborative book based on conflict resolution.

"We're developing a generation of museum-goers," says Marie Mennes, curriculum support specialist for Schools of Choice, who hopes to continue the program once funding ends by hiring a teacher who can train other teachers in object-based learning.

Blanch admits it was risky for children to spend time away from school and not lose ground in preparing for assessment tests, but says that recent essays show that the children's language skills are blossoming.

For administrators who want to start similar programs, Mennes suggests talking with local museums, as they are continually looking for outreach opportunities.
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Title Annotation:Curriculum Update
Author:Ullman, Ellen
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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