Friday, March 22, 2013

The Structure of the High School Art Department

Our art department has gone through several changes over the past few years. When I was hired, it was because our system (an International Baccalaureate system) needed someone to teach a half-day of semester Art Appreciation classes so students could fulfill their IB MYP (Middle Years Program) requirements in 9th and 10th grade. My first year I worked half days, my second and third I got sent to an elementary school for the other half of the day, but my fourth year through now (my sixth) I have been full time at the high school, and I love it.

We have always had Art I, II, III, and IV. Since I've been here, we've always had Graphic Design, AP Studio, Photography, and Film & Video Production. I have been fortunate enough to get to teach AP Art History and Ceramics & Crafts for the second year now. But things are changing.

Alabama State Diplomas through the Class of 2013 require one semester of fine art - visual art, drama, music, or dance. Yet another reason we have kept the one semester Art Appreciation class these past few years. But the new requirements will be two years of a fine art or career/technical prep class. It is suggested (but not required) that both classes are in the same 'track,' or subject area.

We also have new course descriptions from the state. Anything we teach that is not an explicitly listed course under Art cannot get Arts credit, only general elective credit. This includes my Ceramics and Crafts class. It also includes my Animation class, which is listed, but is under 'technology,' which I'm not certified in, so again it counts as general elective credit.

This has led us to reevaluate the whole structure of our department. Visual Arts Levels I-IV are listed, but so are 2-D Design and 3-D design. We are sure we need to keep Art I, but should we then move students to 2-D or 3-D instead of Art II? We have always liked the Art I-IV way of doing it because we are free to do any type media with our students. We have flexibility to change what we are doing based on donations, contests, or our budget. Someone donates a bunch of wire? New lesson plan: wire sculptures! But if all of your kids are in 2-D design, forget it.

That is how the high school across town does it. They teach Art I and then send the students to Drawing/Painting, Ceramics, Photography, or Graphic Design. I don't know that their way is any better. I do believe that students interested in art for college need two years of drawing/2D and some 3-D.

Basically, we are trying to figure out how to set it up so that we can maximize the number of students taking classes in our department and give them the classes they want to take while adequately preparing them for college. I would love to hear from any other schools who have done this or are in the process of doing this. We hope to have it figured out in the next few months in order to get some good information out next year to students to help them plan their years in our department (this year we are beginning with some slight changes). We are mulling things over now, and will take another look at it in a few weeks when we get our numbers for next year - how many students enrolled for each of the classes offered.

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