The brief video below explains the process of benchmarking; or adjudicating student work with groups of teachers in order to come to a shared understanding and agreement on student work that demonstrates proficiency and learning at standard.

NCCAS Benchmarking Student Artwork from Cory Wilkerson on Vimeo.

From July 2014 through December of 2015, and again from January 2016 through December of 2016, thanks in part to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the partner organizations of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards piloted Model Cornerstone Assessment tasks aligned to the newly released national core arts standards.


Emerging from the pilot was a set of protocols for assessing student work in the arts. A step by step process which includes:

1. teaching to pre-established model cornerstone assessments; units of suggested instruction aligned to standards with embedded assessment models created by and for arts educators

2. creating online communities of learners to support teachers, establish sharing and communications and meet needs for professional development

3. collecting student work scored by the teachers as meeting standard from diverse classrooms across the nation through a process of online uploading to secure sites

4. forming small teams of five educators for each discipline as benchmarkers who would be asked to visit the uploaded student work and rescore

5. convening the benchmarking teams face to face to review work for which they could not reach consensus in order to finalize the adjudicating process, increase inter-rater reliability and produce benchmarked samples of student work aligned with model cornerstone assessments and national core arts standards at grades 2, 5 and 8 and three levels of High School

The piloting teachers utilized Model Cornerstone Assessments- units of study and sample assessments linked to the national core arts standards released in June of 2014. The arts were the first among the core academic subjects to embed model assessments within the package of resources offered with the publication of national standards. Called Model Cornerstone Assessment (MCA's), these sample tools are designed to be teacher friendly, relevant to student learning, and to yield proof of student achievement. The goal of piloting these embedded assessments to develop and refine benchmarking protocols was two fold. First, to provide a rich source of professional development for the educators directly involved in the project, and secondly to generate student work benchmarked at grade levels 2, 5 and 8 and three levels of proficiency in High School using a tested process with inter-rater reliability. The result was a data bank of student artwork as evidence of what standards based learning in the arts looks and sounds like available to all and housed on the national arts standards website at www.nationalartsstanards.org

MCA's, or Model Cornerstone Assessments, are performance assessments linked to the new national core arts standards. Click on the link above to access and download a definition of an MCA. This excerpt from National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning defines model cornerstone assessments and describes their use. (Used by permission of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards.)

MCA Pilot Project Assessment Consultants
Dr. F. Robert Sabol,Purdue University
Dr. Scott Shuler, National Association for Music Education Past President
Dr. Pam Paulson, Perpich Center for the Arts
Susan McGreevy-Nichols, Executive Director, National Dance Education Organization
MCA Pilot Benchmarking FacilitatorsSusan McGreevy-Nichols, Dance
Dr. Pam Paulson & Cory Wilkerson, Media Arts
Dr. Scott Shuler & Richard Wells, Music
Jim Palmarini, Theatre
Dr. F. Robert Sabol, Visual Arts
NCCAS MCA Pilot CommitteeLynn Tuttle, Committee Chair, Sr. Regulatory Policy Adviser, National Association for Music EducationDr. Amy Jensen, Brigham Young University, American Association for Theatre and Education Board MemberJim Palmarini, Director of Educational Policy, Educational Theatre AssociationDr. F. Robert Sabol, Purdue University, National Association for Art Education, Past PresidentDr. Scott Shuler, National Association for Music Education Past PresidentMichael Blakeslee, Senior Deputy Executive/Chief Operating Officer, National Association for Music EducationSusan McGreevy-Nichols, Executive Director, National Dance Education OrganizationRichard Burrows, Arts Consultant, National Association for Core Arts Standards Media Arts Committee Co-chairDr. Pamela Paulson, Senior Director of Policy, Perpich Center for the Arts, Trustee, The College Board, NCCAS Media Arts Committee Co-chairMarcia McCaffrey, New Hampshire Department of Education, State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education Past PresidentBethany Lambert, Maine Department of Education, State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education representativeDebra Hansen, Delaware Department of Education, State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education representativeCory Wilkerson, Project Manager, National Coalition for Core Arts Standards and member NCCAS Media Arts Committee