External Assessment

External assessment, or standardized assessment, refers to all student testing developed and used by sources outside of the student’s school. Examples of external assessment include criterion-referenced tests, such as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS); norm-referenced tests, such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Tests; and college entrance tests, such as the SAT and ACT.

In addition to their role in public accountability systems, fine arts educators can use the results to inform their instruction. By interpreting data in the context of their personal knowledge of students and by using data in conjunction with internal assessments, teachers gain additional tools for understanding and promoting student learning.

Fine arts education may lend credibility to schools and strengthen college applications by boosting external assessment scores. Music lessons have been shown to improve preschoolers’ spatial concept formation, which is crucial for higher brain functions such as complex mathematics (Frances Rauscher, PH.D., Gordon Shaw, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine). Additionally, there is a direct correlation between improved SAT scores and the length of time spent studying the fine arts. Those who studied fine arts four or more years scored 59 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math portions of the SAT than students with no coursework or experience in the arts. (Profiles of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, The College Board, compiled by MENC, 1995).