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Winter 2002

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Fine arts forums will help measure arts successes

By Julia Murin Lee, Fine Arts Coordinator, WV Department of Education

In an effort to discover what West Virginia students are actually learning in dance, music, theater and visual art classes and to determine ways of measuring what they know and are able to do as a result of their study in the fine arts, the West Virginia Department of Education has been hosting a series of evening forums across the state this fall. This project is being conducted with the help of a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The forums are scheduled to give participants an opportunity to talk about effective measurement strategies and to voice concerns about implementing those strategies. Invited participants include fine arts educators, their students, students’ parents, school administrators, college and university fine arts educators, artists, community arts groups and other interested persons.

During the forums, organizers have been sharing information about current means of measuring what students are learning in fine arts classes. Then participants are invited to share ideas for future directions of measuring arts education in the state. The results of the forums will be presented to the West Virginia Board of Education later this year.

At this writing, four forums have been held and two more are scheduled. This is a brief report on the progress of the arts forums thus far, based on general observations made by me (Julia Lee, Fine Arts Coordinator) and by the professional consultant and facilitator of the forums, Eileen Barker.

First, and foremost, we notice an overarching theme of the need for flexibility in several areas. Flexibility is needed because:
• There is great disparity in quality of fine arts programs around the state – county to county, school to school.
• Even though the fine arts are required to be offered in all schools, some programs are nevertheless non-existent.
• There is difficulty in accounting for creativity and effort — differentiating between objective and subjective assessment.
• We must account for special needs students in the fine arts.

Second, we notice that our forum audiences (primarily consisting of fine arts educators) have great concern about the concept of a statewide uniform process of measuring student achievement, knowledge and performance. In fact, we noticed in the very first forum, held in Shepherdstown, that the word “assessment” seemed to translate as “statewide standardized test” — in spite of our explaining at the beginning of the forum that there are various ways to “assess” student achievement, knowledge and performance.

Third, we notice that the forum participants appreciate hearing from each other about what is going on in arts education in the state’s schools. There is an educational process resulting from the very conducting of the forums. Although this process has, to date, involved mostly educators, it has also involved a legislator, a member of the State Board of Education, a county superintendent, an assistant state superintendent, an executive director at the State Department of Education, several county board office and RESA personnel, professional artists, art museum and arts organization representatives and several fine arts students.

For more information, contact Julia Lee, Fine Arts Coordinator at 304-558-7805, ext. 348. E-mail:

Dear colleagues in Art Education and Arts in the Community:

I have been asked to report what West Virginia’s fine arts educators and arts organizations are doing in response to the events of September 11.

Have you developed any special activities, events or programs in response to what took place? If so, would you please briefly describe what you did so that I can report it in an update on the Arts and Cultural Response Nationwide? We are being encouraged by Americans for the Arts in an overall initiative called America Begins to Heal.

Please e-mail me about what you have done, are doing or plan to do to help your community.


Julia Murin Lee, Coordinator, Fine Arts
Office of Instructional Services
WV Department of Education
Building 6, Room 330
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
Charleston, WV 25305-0330
Office Phone: 304-558-7805, ext. 348