Alternative Assessments for Mainstream Programs

Mike Lawson • Technology • August 14, 2007

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In our continuing coverage of how music technology is improving music education, we?ll take a look at a remarkable innovation in the state of Washington: the Classroom-Based Performance Assessments (CBPA). Because music, dance, theater and visual arts are core subject areas in Washington, per state and federal law, all schools will annually report student progress in the Arts at grades 5, 8, and 10 beginning with the 2008-2009 school year. The CBPA were developed as state approved resources to be used in this process. Washington is leading the nation in developing a systemic structure to sustain, support, implement, grow, assess, and celebrate arts education.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has developed an impressive Web site to share the Arts CBPA and other methods used to measure and report student achievement in the arts. The Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALR) standards indicate what Washington teachers want students to know and be able to do. The CBPA measures what needs to be learned, taught, and whether those goals are being achieved. Educators see what their students know and are able to do, and can modify each student?s needs. Teachers of the Arts have been being trained in multiple ways to use the CBPA with their students since 2003, in preparation for 2008.

The CBPA music assessment differs from others because it is based on individual and solo performance rather than paper-and-pencil tests about music. Students are actually assessed on what they do in class by creating music, including composing on electronic keyboards and computers.


The music portion of the CBPA, where the Beethoven and Mozart assessment curriculums were presented, was discussed in the July, 2007 issue of SBO. Please refer to that article entitled ?Mainstream Music Technology with Performance Classes? for a look at how the CBPA works for music in the Bellevue, Wash. School District.


The CBPA encourage teachers to be creative, utilizing its methods, philosophies, resources, courses, and teachers? own personal strengths. This type of flexibility and creativity motivates instructors to think and teach ?outside the box? of traditional instruction. The process involves composing a short melody, performing a pre-selected piece or sight-reading, and responding in writing to a music sample. Students using music notation technology demonstrate their understanding of music fundamentals. The quick playback of their music creations is incredibly motivating.

The Washington State OSPI Arts Assessment Web site includes additional information, resources and links (, and the 15 music CBPAs are clearly marked in lilac (

Assessments are administered within the regular classroom setting. Each evaluation option contains a complete packet of information, including guidelines for administering the CBPA, student task booklets, and rubrics for scoring. Teachers have the flexibility to use the CBPA as formative, summative, ?end of course,? Senior Project, Advanced Placement, or high school graduation requirement exams. The time needed to take the CBPA is taken into account so flexible guidelines allow teachers to tailor the CBPA to their students and schedules.

Rubrics measure the ?artistic creative process? of creating, performing and responding. This design is unique to the Washington CBPA, and celebrates how the arts are taught, following the MENC Schuler design. CBPA measure students individually, which is important because Washington is now testing actual student achievement as it aligns with the state?s standards for the Arts. Students may sound great in ensembles, but the state wants to know what each child is learning through performance, and CBPA provide that information.

DVDs with performing arts student samples are available from the Washington OSPI Arts Program. Many of us already have performing tests, but CBPA allow teachers to measure student learning beyond scales or challenging passages from their repertoire. CBPA that focus on composition or sight-reading, for example, can let you know how well students understand the concepts of music theory or how well they process skills and understanding of music notation.

When groups perform, the audience or adjudicators hear the entire ensemble. But we need to remember that the group is composed of individuals and, as such, it benefits when all the individuals are competent. CBPA help to identify and assist individuals who may need more instruction and mentoring.

CPBA give valuable information about what is missing in the education processes. Teaching ?outside the box? of rehearsal-for-public-performance lets students become better musicians and educators become better teachers. Music software can make a significant contribution to this creative process because it takes students beyond paper and pencil with immediate feedback, as I have discussed in previous articles in SBO.

Washington Shines
At its core, CBPA guide students to become conceptually acquainted with their music environment in alignment with state standards. At the same time, students are developing a ?love for music? through creating, performing, and composing music, with teacher instruction in the performance-oriented classroom. To date, 60 Classroom-Based Performance Assessments have been developed. These include 15 in each arts discipline of music, dance, theatre and visual arts; five for each benchmark in grades 5, 8, and 10. This information can be found online (

Any district, school, or teacher that wishes to use CBPA outside of Washington must request permission from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, as the items are copyrighted. Several CBPA items were recently revised and some new items added based on feedback from teachers, students and others. These will be online for use by January, 2008.

The Cook?s Tour
The cook?s tour begins with Washington?s OSPI Web site ( Look at the Curriculum/Instruction and the Assessment pull-down menus found by touching the top bar. For an introduction to their commitment to Arts, as well as information about the curriculum, go to: Reading down the page, there is important information below all the artwork and introduction material. Links on the left sidebar column include key information, such as state and federal law and policy, state standards, assessments, frameworks, resources, and links, and professional development. Scroll down and check out the Elementary Disciplines, Secondary Disciplines and Frameworks by Grade Level for some impressive information regarding arts instruction for all learners.

There is also a 27-page document entitled: ?Arts Assessment in Washington: Classroom-Based Performance Assessment – The Journey in Progress? (, which is a great resource for understanding the entire CBPA project from its inception in 2003. If you?d like to see the results from this program check out the national Arts Education Partnership (AEP) Policy Database and Database Results for Washington ( and On this Web site, you can search by state to see how the rest of the country is developing leadership in music education and the arts.

Grade Level Expectations are currently being developed for publication in 2009 (, as well as Essential Academic Learning Requirements ( Both of these sites give a view of the engine that drives this assessment project.

My favorite poster, which presents a great summary of the entire project, is also available online (

A Musical Journey in Progress
All of this creative instruction is made possible because Arts education is a core academic subject area in the state of Washington. Additionally, computers and Sibelius software assist a quality staff of teachers in Bellevue, Wash. and throughout many other districts in the state to meet local expectations for students in music.

Through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the dynamic leadership by their program supervisor for the Arts, Ms. AnnRen? Joseph, the CBPA were created by Washington arts teachers to make more arts happen for their students, and to celebrate the way that instructors teach Arts through the process of creating, performing, and responding. Kudos to AnnRen? and her Arts Assessment Leadership Team, who are the authors of the Classroom-Based Performance Assessments and to the over 200 school districts and 1,000 arts educators for providing the OSPI with over 350,000 student samples of this work for implementation, which is evident on the Web sites included in this article.

AnnRen? shares that, ?The Arts CBPA make more arts happen wherever they are given. Teachers and students are validated for their strengths, talents, skills, and love for and in the Arts. Students are the stars! They get a few minutes to shine for their teachers during the CBPA and they love it. The implementation of the CBPA makes more arts happen in the lives of those who take them, by developing more arts (and music) classes that are needed and insuring arts education in all districts for success in the Arts. Additionally, the CBPA utilize technology as the transparent tool that includes all learners in multiple ways.?

Thank you to Pam Schroeder of the Bellevue, Wash. School District and AnnRen? Joseph, program supervisor for the Arts from the state of Washington for sharing information and resources about the great progress taking place in music education in Washington. If you know of good things happening with music technology, feel free to shout it out at


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