This research evaluation was initiated to describe, research and evaluate the use of the Evidence of Teacher Student Learning (ETSL) by Arts-in-Education partnerships across New York State. The New York State Council on the Arts (New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA)) funds arts-in-education partnerships consisting of a cultural institution and a school that strive to integrate the arts into core disciplines in K-12 schools. Each year, these partnerships receive professional development support throughout the year through regional networks, statewide conferences and a summer seminar. All partnerships are invited to send a team for the week-long professional development seminar in the summer. These teams are exposed to several over-arching themes for professional development, speakers from national arts organizations, faculty-lead workshops, team-meeting and planning time and peer-to-peer sessions.
Few could argue with the view that more is expected from today’s educators than ever before. Federal mandates, state accountability plans, and greater local accountability all point to the fact that continuous school improvement is not optional but required. How do educators improve their ability to retool teaching, update curricula, integrate new research methodologies into instruction, meet the growing list of the sociopolitical needs of students, and raise test scores? The most frequent answer is professional development. Yet significant challenges impede the ability of professional development to make a difference in improving student learning: rigid, antiquated scheduling; limited funding; and, in too many schools, an inadequate and ineffective follow-up and evaluation process (McCaw, Watkins, & Borgia, 2007).
As in the larger field of professional development in K-12 schools nationally, NYSCA has had difficulty in evaluating the learning outcomes in these state partnerships. Although the impact of NYSCA’s work through regional networks, statewide conferences and summer seminars on the field of art-in-education partnerships is significant, evaluation of that impact on the students of each partnership has been much harder to accomplish. In 2003 an evaluation of the NYSCA Arts-In-Education Department recommended the adoption of new forms of assessment to drive stronger accountability for learning by placing some of the burden for evaluation on the partnerships (R. Southworth, & Harris, M., 2003). In the following year, each partnership’s accountability was modified to include a performance assessment that asked each partnership to collect evidence of student learning (J. R. A. Southworth, 2004). In 2007 a template for presenting this evidence was adapted from the CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnership, 2008). In 2008, the first 20 partnerships initiated the piloting of the Evidence of Teacher and Student Learning (ETSL) template.