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Saturday, November 1, 2014

How Do You Test For Art - What is the Right Way To Create or Design?

Art Portfolio as A.P. Test
Here is an unhappy thought: “Monet wouldn’t have done well in A.P. studio art. I’m sure of that.” The reason, continued Lauren Sleat, who teaches the course at Westminster Schools in Atlanta, is that there isn’t much breadth to his work. That is, he did the same thing again and again.

But he would have done well in terms of concentration, what the College Board describes as “the thoughtful investigation of a specific visual idea … through a number of conceptually related works.” Concentration and breadth are two of three categories in which students’ art portfolios are scored. One might expect Monet to score high in the third, quality, but the fact is, it took years for his work to be widely appreciated.

Now, Picasso is different. “Picasso would have scored very high,” Ms. Sleat said, because he could do traditional figurative work, modernist still life and abstract art in a variety of media — the whole package. Or, in College Board speak, Picasso would have earned a 5 on his portfolio.

It’s strange to picture famous artists struggling to get a good score in a high school art class. But unlike United States history or Latin or calculus, there are no right or wrong answers in Advanced Placement studio art. Students are tested not by their mastery of the material but by their skill, a far more subjective area of evaluation. “Readers” must make judgments about competence and inventiveness as they work their way through some 48,000 portfolios of student artwork. That’s more than double the number submitted a decade earlier.
Advanced Placement, run by the College Board, offers high school students college-level work, and the possibility of college credit for those who pass the exam in May. Studio art is one of the fastest growing of the A.P. disciplines, and has become a transcript staple in the applicant pool for Bachelor of Fine Arts programs at independent art colleges. “Maybe 25 to 30 percent of our applicants have done A.P. in high school,” said Linda Schwab, director of admissions at Watkins College of Art, Design and Film in Nashville.
A.P. COURSE: Studio Art, 2-D Design
SCORE RATIONALE: Variety of intentions and approaches. Successfully uses media and applies 2-D design principles, though at varying levels of accomplishment. Hand-drawn illustration, left, is strong; digital illustration, right, is good. In contrast, image at center is less engaging. (Portfolio by Lorelei Shannon, Spring Woods High School, Houston)
But the growth does not necessarily signal artistic aspirations. According to a 2007 survey by the College Board, only about 13 percent of the students major in art. So why take A.P. studio? To try to impress a college admissions office, of course, or perhaps to make a rest stop along the academic autobahn or, maybe, art really is a labor of love.
The art program comes in three yearlong options: drawing (which also encompasses painting and printmaking), 2-D design (graphic and digital design; photography) and 3-D design (sculpture and crafts).
Much is required. For drawing and 2-D portfolios, for example, students must submit 24 works: 12 in a breadth section, showing a variety of subjects, visual concepts and techniques, and 12 in the concentration section, presenting a unified body of work (all portraits, say) and ideas. Five works are highlighted as indications of quality, revealing understanding of concept, composition and execution and overall accomplishment.
As much as high school teachers will seek to give their students the rigor of a college class, time is a factor in A.P. courses that is difficult to get around. Studio art classes in college generally last two or three hours, sometimes longer, while high school art remains a 50-minute affair, with the last 10 minutes devoted to cleanup.
“You don’t get a lot done in class,” said Deborah Callahan, chairwoman of the art department of Longmeadow High School, in Massachusetts. “So twice a month, we keep the art room open from 2:15 to 8 p.m.” Several other A.P. art teachers relayed the same thing. Class time is for conversation — critiquing work, learning terms and concepts, watching presentations on contemporary art. The art, the portfolio, is made at home or after school.
Classroom grades reflect an instructor’s sense of a student’s effort and improvement, which the teacher sees on a daily basis. In contrast, the A.P. score — on a 1 to 6 scale for sections, recalibrated to 1 to 5 for the portfolio — is based on the end-of-year submissions to the College Board.
The Advanced Placement program in general has been criticized for its focus on a single test — likewise, studio art’s portfolio. “A.P. studio reveals some of the problems with how much we test,” said Jack Schneider, assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross and author of “Excellence for All: How a New Breed of Reformers Is Transforming America’s Public Schools.”
“Slapping a score on a work of art, based on checking off this and this and this, is crazy,” he said. “Meeting all the requirements is not what makes a work of art move us.”
The process of evaluating and scoring all those portfolios is monumental, requiring 120-plus readers — an even mix of high school and college art instructors who are divided into small groups that must reach a consensus. They follow a rubric that has been worked out over the years outlining principles of design and visual elements. In effect, is the artwork interesting and what are the elements that make it so? If not, what’s lacking? The rubric is intended to result in an objective assessment of artwork.
A.P. teachers need to know how to teach to that rubric. They need to speak the language — for instance, “composition” and “mark-making,” the lines, patterns and textures used to create an artwork. Greg W. Shelnutt, chairman of the art department at Clemson University in South Carolina and an A.P. reader for five years, explains what he looks at in judging mark-making: “how line is utilized, the weight of the line, where it is thin, where it’s thick, the movement of the line, the variety of marks.”
The teachers also need to know the difference between an artwork that earns a 4 or 5 or 6.
The continuing studies division of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers weeklong training workshops for A.P. teachers. Maybe half of them have art degrees, according to Kaye Buchman, former associate director of the division. “We’ve had the occasional shop or phys ed teacher who are told to teach A.P. studio,” she acknowledged. “That’s the nature of school budget cuts.”
The Taft Educational Center in Watertown, Conn., also offers optional A.P. training. Instructors may take a class to the nearby Yale Art Gallery “to see what makes certain paintings good,” said the center’s director, Al Reiff. They will point out how one student’s work compares to another’s. Perhaps, he suggested, “the composition is more complex — it draws your eye all over the image, while that student’s image is more flat.”
Barbara Petter Putnam, who has a bachelor’s in art education and a master’s in fine arts, teaches at St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts, where she prepared for her A.P. studio art class by looking at portfolios on the College Board website. “That taught me a lot about what was considered bad and what was considered good,” said Ms. Putnam. “I gained information through my own eyes.” The approach has worked. “There is the occasional 4, but almost all of my students get a 5,” she said.
While few of her 5s go on to B.F.A. programs, Trevor Packer, senior vice president in charge of Advanced Placement, pointed to a College Board survey finding: Students who take A.P. studio art are more likely to take an art course or two in college.
Ms. Putnam mentioned another benefit. With students stuffing five and six A. P.s into their schedule, offering an A.P. art class is the principal way “to get kids to make room in their schedules for art.”
“Otherwise,” she said, “they probably wouldn’t do it.”
Alina Libowitz, a first-year student at the University of Delaware with plans to major in either international business or speech language pathology, took A. P.s in English, European history and environmental science and found this: “Art was less stressful than my other classes.” A.P. studio, she said, was “a lot of work, but it doesn’t feel like work.”
Her classmate in studio art at Longmeadow High School, Madeline Maurer, took four A. P.s all told. She describes herself as competitive, and wanted the most challenging art course available. “I like to keep going up and up in levels.” Besides, she said, it was fun.
Art academies are receptive to the idea of A.P.-trained applicants. David Sigman, admissions director at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, said the courses “put students in line with what we are teaching here.” Elizabeth O’Brien, vice president of enrollment at the San Francisco Art Institute, said graduates who have taken A.P. art “tend to do a little better than others in their cohort.”
Traditional colleges don’t sniff at studio art, either. “We are very impressed with applicants who have taken that course,” said Mary French, associate director of admissions at Boston College.
Nat Smitobol, an admissions consultant for IvyWise and former assistant director of admissions at New York University, explains why that might be. He calls studio art “a soft A.P.,” adding: “But no one is penalized for taking it. It shows that a student is seriously interested in art.” (He names environmental science and human geography as soft A. P.s that are more apt to be viewed negatively. “Taking those sounds like you’re dodging A.P. chemistry or biology.”)

David Dickinson, an art teacher at Deerfield Academy, a preparatory school in Massachusetts, recommends that his students send their portfolios with their college applications even when not majoring in art. “A portfolio is a hook — it grabs their attention — in the same way that lacrosse is a hook at many colleges, or crew is a hook with the Ivies,” he said. “Seeing a portfolio thrills them.”
A.P. studio may help bolster an admissions résumé, but it can lack a benefit of many other A. P.s: Most colleges will not allow a student with a passing score (3, 4 or 5, depending on the institution) to skip a first-year core course, either because they have nothing comparable or, for art majors, they want all of them to take the same courses.
“It’s not just a skill set we’re teaching in foundation,” said Mr. Shelnutt about Clemson’s core courses. “They are getting inculcated into the culture of the program.” Instead, students may use any credit they receive for studio art toward an elective. But because most art majors want to take electives in their area of interest, it isn’t likely the credit will be used.
“A.P. courses are more a vehicle for college acceptance than credit,” confirmed Mr. Reiff, whose center trains instructors in all 35 A.P. disciplines. “They look good on your transcript.”
Then he added: “The question I keep asking is, does it make sense to bring that kind of mentality to the fine arts? Why not just offer more and better art classes in high school?”

Retaliation and Harassment by a Principal: Lisa Capece Case

I have posted Lisa Capece's long journey through the Courts of NY before (see below) and I am now posting another 2009 decision by Judge Minardo, 2009.

Probationary Teacher Lisa Capece Wins Her Case Against The NYC DOE, Wins Reinstatement and Backpay

Matter of Capece v Schultz
2009 NY Slip Op 51679(U) [24 Misc 3d 1230(A)]
Decided on August 3, 2009
Supreme Court, Richmond County
Minardo, J.
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.


Decided on August 3, 2009 

Supreme Court, Richmond County


In the Matter of the Application of Lisa Capece f/k/a LISA GRANDE, Petitioner, 


Margaret Schultz, Individually and in her capacity as Community Superintendent of Community School District 31, COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT 31, by its Trustees and/or Directors; and THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondents.


Philip G. Minardo, J.


In this CPLR article 78 proceeding, petitioner seeks review of a determination dated January 9, 2009 by respondent Margaret Schultz, Community Superintendent of Community School District 31 of the New York City Department of Education discontinuing petitioner's probationary service as a public school teacher on Staten Island.

It is undisputed that petitioner commenced her probationary employment as a fifth grade teacher at P.S. 1 on Staten Island on January 26, 2005. Her probationary term was to end on January 25, 2008, however, in November of 2007 she entered into an "Extension of Probation Agreement" with the Community Superintendent Schultz in which she was allegedly coerced into agreeing to extend her probationary period for one additional year under threat of immediate termination. The purported reason for this act of largesse apparently orchestrated by Principal Diane Gordin (hereinafter "Principal Gordin") was to allow petitioner to demonstrate improvement in her alleged areas of "difficulty", i.e., time management, differentiation in her manner of instruction, adapting her teaching lessons based upon the students' needs, and effectively assessing her students' level of comprehension and individual abilities.

During this extraordinary extension period, petitioner received two unsatisfactory evaluations from Principal Gordin, i.e., a report dated May 16, 2008 based on a formal classroom observation of petitioner's performance [FN1], and an "Annual Professional Performance Review and Report"[FN2] (hereinafter "APPR") dated June 13, 2008. Petitioner [*2]was also required to attend several disciplinary meetings with Principal Gordin and a union representative pertaining to alleged instances of "professional misconduct", i.e., petitioner's violation of the school's telephone policy by calling a colleague during instructional time, and altering the program schedule without seeking the permission of an administrator.

Based in principal part upon the foregoing, respondent Community Superintendent Schultz notified petitioner by letter dated July 25, 2008 that her "probationary service" had been terminated. She appealed this determination to the Department of Education's Office of Appeals and Reviews, and on December 4, 2007, a hearing was held pursuant to the Chancellor's Regulation C-31 before a Committee designated by the Chancellor. The Committee rendered its "Report" in which two of its three members voted to concur with the recommendation to discontinue petitioner's probationary service. The lone dissenter recommended that the decision be "overturn[ed]". Based on this report, the District Superintendent re-affirmed her previous decision of July 25, 2008 discontinuing petitioner's probationary service. This proceeding ensued.

In her verified petition, petitioner alleges that she was subjected to harassment and discriminatory treatment at the hands of the administration of P.S. 1, in particular Principal Gordin and Assistant Principal Lisa Arcuri, at least in part in retaliation for her union activities. In support, petitioner reiterates that she received solely satisfactory evaluations, letters of praise, and commendations from the previous administration and her colleagues for the prior two and a half years of her probation, as evidenced by, inter alia, the six initial "Supervisor Observation Forms", and APPR's dated June 6, 2005, June 1, 2006 and June 18, 2007, some of which were authored by Principal Gordin, herself. According to petitioner, everything changed after March 15, 2007, "in [apparent] revenge" for her continuing activities as the UFT co-chapter leader. It is further alleged that "in order to create their false and fabricated file" of unsatisfactory performance, Principal Gordin and co-conspirator Assistant Principal Arcuri engaged in "an intense, guerilla campaign of intimidation, criticism and [unwarranted] attacks [upon her]...and a pattern of [issuing her] conflicting instructions and [engaging in] discriminatory treatment." By way of example, petitioner notes that in her final June 18, 2007 APPR, although she received an overall "satisfactory" rating, three of the twenty-three categories were rated "unsatisfactory" by Principal Gordin based upon her alleged manipulation of test score data using a "skewed" analysis to compare the performance of petitioner's students against other students. Allegedly, no other fifth grade teacher was evaluated in this way. In addition, petitioner claims that during the observations of her teaching performance by Principal Gordin on or after March 15, 2007, the latter engaged in a series of disruptive actions calculated to intimidate petitioner and disrupt her lessons from proceeding as planned. Illustrative of the foregoing, is the Principal's purported sorting through items on and inside petitioner's desk while the latter was trying to teach, examining folders that were irrelevant to the lesson, and interrupting petitioner during "guided reading" and "share time". Petitioner also claims to have been "denied continued enrollment" in a literacy workshop for teachers due to her observance of a Catholic holy day of obligation which happened to coincide with the first day of the workshop. It is claimed that none of her colleagues were similarly penalized. Her petition also includes other instances of alleged harassment and abuse on the part of Principal Gordin in support of the contention that her termination was unjust and that she was "singled-out by an administration that took revenge for [her] serving as an advocate for [unionized] colleagues." [*3]

Finally, insofar as it may be pertinent to the instant matter, during her extension period (i.e., on or about January 23, 2008), petitioner filed a "special complaint" with the Chancellor of the Department of Education asserting that she was being subjected to a "course of harassment" at P.S. 1. Although deemed of sufficient merit to send to a Joint Investigating Committee to P.S. 1 to conduct interviews with certain witnesses, it may be worthy of note that the Committee was unable to come to any resolution. A Level 2 Special Complaint Hearing was therefore held on April 14, 2008 before a Hearing Officer assigned by the Chancellor. In the end, petitioner's complaint was denied due to the lack of sufficient evidence.

In opposition to the petition, respondents maintain that any claim asserted by Ms. Cacese is time-barred, and, in any event, she was afforded an extraordinary opportunity to show improvement of her teaching skills in order to avoid termination. Respondents further maintain that although a probationary employee can be terminated at will, the record before the Court is replete with evidence of petitioner's unsatisfactory work performance and misconduct. Therefore, it is argued that the decision to terminate petitioner's probation was not made in bad faith.

In support of dismissal, respondents maintain that notwithstanding three years of experience teaching the fifth grade, certain deficiencies in petitioner's teaching skills failed to improve. More particularly, it is alleged that she was unable to (1) assess the needs of students with differing learning abilities, (2) plan and adapt the lesson to meet the individual needs and capacities of the students, (3) demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the curriculum and (4) follow suggestions for improvement. Respondents further argue that even if this Court were to find that there is evidence in the record of a "personality conflict" between petitioner and Principal Gordin, it is well settled that mere animosity and personality conflicts do not rise to the level of unconstitutional or illegal conduct (see Forrest v Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 NY3d 295, 309 [animosity on the job between people of different races held insufficient to support a claim of employment discrimination; unequal treatment based on racial animus is required]).

It is well settled that a probationary employee may be discharged "at any time and for any reason, unless the [probationer] establishes that the determination was for a constitutionally impermissible purpose, violative of a statute, or done in bad faith" (Matter of Frasier v Board of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of NY, 71 NY2d 763, 765; see Matter of Johnson v Katz, 68 NY2d 649; Matter of York v McGuire, 63 NY2d 760, 761; Matter of Rossetti-Boerner v Hampton Bays Union Free School Dist., 1 AD3d 367, 368). Stated alternatively, judicial review of the discharge of probationary employee is limited to whether the determination was made in bad faith or for an improper or impermissible reason (see Matter of Swinton v Safir, 93 NY2d 758, 763;Matter of Johnson v Katz, 68 NY2d 649, 650). In such cases, it is the employee who "bears the burden of establishing such bad faith or illegal conduct by competent evidence rather than speculation " (Matter of Rossetti-Boerner v Hampton Bays Union Free School Dist., 1 AD3d at 368). Were it to be held otherwise, substantial evidence of, e.g., bad faith, would be required in every case of a probationer's dismissal, thereby standing the probationary process on its head (see Matter of Cipolla v Kelly, 26 AD3d 171). Thus, the law has developed that the appropriate standard of review to be applied in these types of cases is whether the determination to terminate petitioner's probationary employment was arbitrary and capricious (see Von Gizycki v Levy, 3 AD3d 572, 574).

Consonant with the foregoing, it is the Court's opinion that petitioner herein has sustained her evidentiary burden by the production of sufficient evidence to raise a material issue of fact as to whether or not her discontinuance was made in bad faith, i.e., as a "retaliatory measure designed to punish her [at least in part] for her exercise of her constitutional right to engage in activities as a member of [the] local teachers' union" [*4](Matter of Tischler v Board of Educ., Monroe Woodbury Cent. School Dist. No. 1, 37 AD2d 261, 263).

Here, the evidence before the Court indicates that the unsatisfactory performance evaluations and alleged incidents of professional misconduct occurred solely within the period that she was engaged in union activities. This is also the same period during which she filed the harassment grievance against Principal Gordin. In fact, even the recommendation of discontinuance by the majority of the members of the Chancellor's Committee was forced to concede that the onset of petitioner's "negative evaluations...[happen to] coincide with [her]...election as [the union's] co-chapter leader." All teachers have the right of free association and union membership as guaranteed by the First Amendment, and where the dismissal of a probationary teacher represents a substantial interference with his or her First Amendment rights, "such action cannot [be permitted to] stand unless it can be shown that...the conduct in question has a clear relationship to the maintenance of an efficient educational system, and the [dismissal] was motivated by a desire to benefit the system rather than to interfere with the exercise of [his or her] constitutional rights" (id. at 264).

Under these circumstances, since the retaliatory nature of petitioner's dismissal cannot be determined on the facts thus far adduced and the reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom, judicial review is mandated (see Matter of New York City Dept. of Envtl. Protection v New York City Civil Serv. Comm., 78 NY2d 318, 323), and the matter must proceed to trial (CPLR 7804[h];see Matter of Martinez v State Univ. of NY Coll. at Oswego, 13 AD3d 749,750-751; cf. Matter of Anonymous v Commissioner of Health, 21 AD3d 841, 844; but see Matter of Johnson v Katz, 68 NY2d at 650; Matter of Weintraub v Board of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of 

NY, 298 AD2d 595).

Accordingly, the petition is granted to the extent that the parties are to appear for a Preliminary Conference on September 15, 2009 at 9:30 A.M.

This constitutes the decision and order of the Court.

E N T E R, 

Dated: August 3, 2009/s/Philip G. Minardo



Footnote 1: A public school's performance review process for a probationary teacher entails a minimum of two formal classroom observations a year, i.e., one conducted by the principal and a second conducted by the teacher's supervisor, an assistant principal. The observations and comments of the prior administrators at P.S. 1 during petitioner's two and one-half years of probationary service had been uniformly positive. 

Footnote 2: This annual review was purportedly based on certain hearsay documents: an observation report dated September 25, 2007; three disciplinary letters dated October 5, 2007, January 16, 2008 and April 9, 2008; an observation report dated November 9, 2007; the final observation report referenced above; a time and attendance printout dated June 3, 2008; and the principal's critique dated June 13, 2009 of petitioner's report card comments. 
Judge rebukes Staten Island principal, reinstates PS 1 teacher
Frank Donnelly | By Frank Donnelly | Staten Island Advance
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on February 14, 2012 at 4:16 PM, updated February 15, 2012 at 7:23 AM
Diane Gordon
Lisa Capece received positive performance evaluations during her first 30 months at PS 1, Tottenville.

But the glowing reports changed after the Westerleigh resident became involved with the teacher's union and had a dust-up with the principal over preparation periods.
Her reviews suddenly turned poor, she was required to extend her probationary period and was ultimately fired in the summer of 2008.
But after almost four years of legal battles, Ms. Capece, 31, has finally won her job back.
A Staten Island judge has ordered her reinstatement along with back pay, benefits, retroactive seniority and tenure. Justice Kim Dollard also blasted the principal who fired Ms. Capece, saying her sacking had been orchestrated and "done in bad faith."
"Lisa Capece possessed the attributes of an excellent teacher, and, but for arousing the displeasure of Principal Diane Gordin because of her union activity, she would have been granted tenure," Judge Dollard wrote in her recent decision. "It seems evident that it was never [Ms.] Gordin's intention for [Ms. Capece] to obtain tenure, and all of the actions throughout the 2007-08 school year were calculated toward [Ms.] Capece being let go in June 2008."
Ms. Capece's lawyer, Jonathan B. Behrins, said his client's dismissal hurt both her and PS 1 students.
"This is the kind of teacher a parent wants their children to have," said Behrins, a principal in the Bloomfield-based Behrins Law Firm. "We are happy that justice was served and Lisa is reinstated."
Ms. Capece declined comment on the decision, as did Ms. Gordin through a school secretary.
A spokeswoman for the city Department of Education referred all inquiries to the city Law Department.
Adam Collyer, a city lawyer expressed disappointment with the decision. He said the city is considering its legal options.
"She was terminated because she was a poor teacher -- not because of union activities," Collyer said in a statement. "The other UFT (United Federation of Teachers) co-chapter leader at that school has consistently received satisfactory ratings and is still employed."
According to court papers, Ms. Capece was hired, mid-year, in January 2005, to teach a fifth-grade class at PS 1. Ms. Gordin was then the assistant principal, later becoming principal in the fall of 2006.
Ms. Capece's performance ratings over the next two and a half years were all satisfactory, said court records. In addition, administrators, fellow teachers and parents praised her teaching ability.
In 2007, Ms. Capece, along with fellow fifth-grade teacher Diana Allan, became the school's UFT (United Federation of Teachers) co-chapter leaders. Ms. Allan was tenured.
In March of that year, the two women talked to Ms. Gordin about personal prep periods they had missed while proctoring state-mandated standardized tests. By contract, teachers are entitled, on a regularly scheduled basis, to the prep periods to help get ready for class. Missed prep periods are supposed to be made up, or, if not, teachers get paid for them, said court records.
Ms. Gordin told the women to put their request in writing and they did so, asking for a reply in four days (which included two weekend days).
Afterward, Ms. Gordin confronted them, and her attitude toward them changed, said court records. The two women later gave up their union positions.
Ms. Capece, who was not tenured, "was subjected to a course of abuse, harassment, discrimination and disciplinary action" by Ms. Gordin and the assistant principal, the judge wrote.
She "suddenly and unexpectedly" started receiving negative evaluations, despite her students' test scores being on par with other fifth-grade classes. However, those marks were evaluated in a manner designed to appear as though the students performed poorly, the judge wrote.
Ms. Capece, whose three-year probationary period was to end in January 2008, was "pressured" into signing a one- year extension through January 2009. She was threatened with firing if she didn't do so, said court papers.
Judge Dollard viewed the probation extension as a means for Ms. Gordin to create a paper trail and fire Ms. Capece.
"Lisa Capece was cast in a completely different light, almost as if she went from a respected, competent educator to an uncooperative, disorganized, pedagogical mess," wrote Judge Dollard. "As an untenured teacher, [she] was a viable target; a virtual sitting duck."