Can anyone fully fathom the glory of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel?
Perhaps no one can, but there is a group of third graders in Somerset, Massachusetts who may come closer to understanding Michelangelo’s labor and art than anyone else alive. They were studying the Renaissance when their teacher decided that they should live part of it.
Walking into the classroom, you would find every student lying on her back painting her version of the Sistine Chapel—the bottom of her desk replacing the ceiling vaults, water color replacing the fresco.
Years from now, will the third graders remember the facts of the Renaissance, facts that can be measured by a standardized test? Or, will they remember how it felt to be in Michelangelo’s skin and the challenge of articulating their individual vision?
They will remember and relive the creative act—from inspiration to failure to compromise to success. And, these third graders will have practiced the art of creativity; something that is not measured anywhere on today’s standardized tests.
Standardized tests use individual student performances to provide one measure of school achievement. This is valuable. But, because the tests are currently the only public measure of school success, schools have an incentive to “teach to the test” and to educate children to be test takers. Standardized tests were implemented to provide accountability and to answer an important question for tax payers: are we receiving value for our investments?
Here in Massachusetts, we are on the way to creating a new measure of accountability for our schools—the Creative Challenge Index. On August 5, 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Creative Challenge Index legislation into law. Massachusetts will be the first state to truly address the fundamental issue of creativity: how do we foster creativity in our students?
How It Will Work
In the first year, a commission—comprised of legislators, business and community leaders working with the Department of Education and education leaders—will establish the Index. The Index will be a rating system to measure how many opportunities each school provides for students to engage in the practice of creative work, which involves taking a project from inspiration to revision to fruition. Through the Index, schools can be rewarded for offering a wide range of creative opportunities.
Schools that provide opportunities for traditional creative work in the arts, music, drama and dance will rise in the Index. Schools that also engage students in a broad range of creative activities like science fair projects, debate club, fashion design, film making, creative writing, photography, animation, graphic design or architecture will also receive high marks.
To be creative means asking “how do you see the world and how do you see it in a way that no one else does?” Questions like these lead to innovation—whether you are Michelangelo working under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Somerset third graders painting under their desks.
Creativity is indispensable in today’s world. The Creative Challenge Index will establish incentives for schools to foster creative skills through arts education and other innovative educational opportunities. Our children need to practice creative skills in our schools to become the source of innovation to drive our economy in the future. We thank the Massachusetts Legislature for their vision and support.