August 23rd, 2016

Courtesy Molly Gottschalk of

This spring, the New Hampshire will put forth a pilot arts testing program cultivating alternative ways to measure creative learning, following its similar programs already in place for math, science, and language arts. But can these re-imagined assessments (say drawing and reflecting on a self-portrait) actually push forward teaching and learning in the arts—and aspiring Picassos into careers?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up,” Pablo Picasso once famously mused.

The initiative is the latest step in a new model for education that moves away from standardardized tests as a sole measure of accountability and instead focuses on measuring students’ abilities in ways more akin to how they will eventually be measured in the real world. (New Hampshire is one of a small number of states, including Michigan and Florida, exploring this method for the arts.) The arts tests were developed by a cadre of teachers across the state. They score students through a series of tasks that more clearly map onto the actual process of arts disciplines.

At its core, the program is an opportunity to inform the teaching and learning process. And this stretches far beyond the benefit to individual students and their instructors. Perhaps even more critically, the findings become fodder for a frank comparison between schools, which is where an equitable and actionable conversation about the state of arts education begins.

In a society where creative expression is increasingly valued in nearly every aspect of culture and industry, it’s become crucial that we define a rubric to fairly quantify creative work and empower young creatives. For example, a 2010 study by IBM found that 60% of CEOs polled cite creativity as the most important leadership quality over the next five years. “There are a lot of signals out there that point to creativity being more and more valued in the school setting,” says Marcia McCaffrey, an arts consultant for the New Hampshire Department of Education. “This work helps promote the value of art in education, because art supports creative thinking.”