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Regents eye portfolios over tests in arts degree

Regents eye portfolios over tests in arts degree

Regents raise concerns about funding for arts programs, particularly in poor districts
Regents eye portfolios over tests in arts degree
Lester W. Young Jr. and MaryEllen Elia at a meeting at the NYS Education Building in Albany on Monday May 16, 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

ALBANY -- The Board of Regents is considering allowing students to earn arts-focused high school degrees using portfolios that demonstrate artistic achievement and growth.

The portfolios would give students a chance to showcase their knowledge and earn a “4+1” high school degree, which allows students to bypass a final Regents exam by demonstrating expertise in a specific topic, like art or science.

The portfolios would document how students' work progressed over time, including drafts, revisions and final works, and would require students to reflect on how their art developed during their time in school.

While the board has not approved a portfolio-based assessment, they heard an update Monday morning on efforts to develop the criteria and to outline what those portfolios would look like and how they would be judged.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, along with some regents, indicated an interest in looking for ways to use portfolios and other forms of non-test-based assessments in other subjects, as well.

“The regents are interested in expanding portfolios that will be available on subjects across the state,” Elia told reporters after the presentation.

Students are already able to earn degrees by replacing one Regents exam with an arts-based Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam. But not all schools offer those tests. State officials are also reworking a current test to account for new art education standards adopted last year.

Some of the regents raised concerns about funding arts programs in schools, pointing out the programs have been especially hurt in budget cuts in recent years and that there is a shortage of certified arts teachers across the state.

Regent Judith Johnson said state education officials have done a poor job of emphasizing the importance of the arts. She also noted that schools and districts in low-income areas are often the ones that have had the hardest time maintaining strong arts programs across grade levels.

“We need to ensure that children have a chance to get to this pathway,” Johnson said during the meeting. “How do we bring the arts into the schools? How do we budget for this?”

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