Art education in Maine is redefining Gifted and Talented Visual Art Programs (GT Art). Lisa Ingraham, former President of the Maine Art Education Association, hosted a spring conference roundtable discussion in 2019 promoting inclusiveness for every student. Educators considered how enrichment program assessments impact student success within summative rating practices. These practices define the first stages in the selection process for identifying potential GT Art students. Are the assessments limiting student access to GT Art programs? How do we establish exceptionality among art students without establishing exclusive perspectives of “acceptable” art promoting traditional norms?
Gifted and Talented education in Maine for students in grades K–12 is defined by the Maine Educators of the Gifted and Talented (MEGAT) organization in reference to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC, nagc.org) and Maine Education Rules, chapter 104. MEGAT would best define the terminology used in this article, “GT Art students,” as: “‘Gifted and talented children’ shall mean those children in grades K–12 who excel, or have the potential to excel, beyond their age peers, in the regular school program, to the extent that they need and can benefit from programs for the gifted and talented. Gifted and talented children shall receive specialized instruction through these programs if they have exceptional ability, aptitude, skill, or creativity in one or more of the following categories (Maine Education Rules, ch. 104):
- General Intellectual Ability as shown by demonstrated significant achievement or potential for significant accomplishment above their age peers in all academic areas,
- Specific Academic Aptitude as shown by demonstrated significant achievement or potential for significant accomplishment above their age peers in one or more academic area(s),
- Artistic Ability as shown by demonstrated significant achievement or potential for significant accomplishment above their age peers in the literary, performing, and/or visual arts” (“Gifted and Talented Defined”).
Realistic traditional art forms with formal rules (see photos #1 and #2) are stronger when assessed alongside expressive non-traditional art forms (refer to photo #3). Contemporary art is exploding into our culture as the Media Arts are now defined as Fine Art within the Maine Learning Results’ Visual and Performing Arts standards. Expanding GT Art demonstrative drawing assessments provides a broader range of student exceptionality in the arts. Considerations for expanding thinking are:
Infuse the subjective nature of formative assessment processes into demonstration tasks to become more inclusive of every student’s creative genre.
- My student once claimed, “I am a digital drawer” (refer to EXAMPLE 1 below). Expanding early stage assessments is imperative in promoting independent student voice within the exceptional learner’s visual arts creative process.
- Acknowledge contemporary art forms when selecting students that will prepare the final stage of portfolios.
- Implement assessments recognizing art stylized by student’s personal familial or cultural influences (refer to photo #3).
Example 1: 3rd-Grade Digital Portfolio and Digital Drawing Practice
Evaluate GT Art assessment policies to develop norms more inclusive of all demographics—geographic, socio-economic, social-emotional as well as familial and cultural influences. In consideration of community members’ varying exposures to art opportunities:
- Promote quality scoring guides preparing evaluators to comfortably assess all works.
- Implement conclusive rubrics to clarify art making qualifiers defining desired student outcomes.
- While techniques for creating art are important, it’s imperative to insert criteria mindful of cultural social behaviors less apparent to evaluators.
- Creativity Behavioral Characteristic checklists and interviews should accommodate students presenting lower oral expression and emotional responsiveness levels within a classroom environment.
Teaching Talented Art Students: Principles and Practices (Clark and Zimmerman, 2004, p. 135) co-authors cite panelists asserting that Indigenous cultures potentially display more outgoing behaviors outside the school setting. While teaching art in Maine’s impoverished multicultural schools, I have noticed that students within varying socio-economic parameters display works of exceptional quality but are less able or willing to engage orally and emotionally within the school environment. Researching demographically diverse rubrics that gauge exceptional behavioral characteristics with these differently informed aspects considered, including the Project Arts (NM): Native American Student Creativity Behavioral Checklist highlighted by Clark and Zimmerman (Clark and Zimmerman, 2004, p. 135), has allowed my current district to establish more inclusive, non-traditional “norms” within our GT Art assessment policy. Expanding our assessment practice to include a non-traditional demonstration task and rubric designed to consider socio-economic and cultural characteristics has improved our current policy. Together, the additional assessment and updated rubric defy the limitations that the traditional realistic drawing task with its summatively-scored rubric had previously placed upon our community. Our district art education and Gifted Talented educators collaboratively re-envisioned inclusivity to evaluate unintended limitations of previous GT Art assessment policies. Together, we provided the transformation every student in our district deserves.
Expanding the parameters of GT Art entry examinations alone will not provide answers for all student challenges. As educators work to identify GT Art students, we also encounter student mobility as an additional hurdle in formally identifying our exceptional art students. Student mobility is defined as “‘churn’ or ‘transience,’” and “can include any time a student changes schools for reasons other than grade promotion, but in general it refers to students changing schools during a school year” (Sparks, 2016, edweek.org). The GT educators in my district further re-envisioned inclusivity and evaluated the additional unintended limitations of previous GT Art assessment policies concerning benchmark testing restrictions. The GT team addressed accommodating student mobility by increasing the number of grade level entrance exams provided within our district’s elementary and middle level art programs, thereby increasing the probable inclusion of our students impacted by the upswing in residential transiency numbers.
It’s imperative to offer ample opportunities to infuse formative assessment theories and contemporary art practices into the GT Art selection process to maintain inclusivity of every student’s artistic creativity. It‘s critical that art educators and local education systems continue to ask: How can we provide every student in Maine the opportunity to enter the GT Art program with an increased and empowered independent voice?
Clark, Gilbert and Zimmerman, Enid. Teaching Talented Art Students: Principles and Practices. New York: Teachers College Press, 2004.
“Gifted and Talented in Maine.” Accessed 22 February 2023.
Sparks, Sarah. “Student Mobility: How It Affects Learning.” Education Week 11 August 2016,
Lynda Leonas is the current President of the Maine Art Education Association and a K–6 Elementary Visual Arts Educator with the Auburn Public Schools.
Image at top: 1st-Grade Comparison Diptych—Expressive and Realistic Art Forms.