The student news site of Brookline High School

Grading

June 1, 2022

Sartanowicz said visual arts grades at the high school are based less on preference than on concrete learning objectives.

“If you’re going to do a representational portrait, for example, the canon of proportions that governs the human head and skull is very concrete. There is a way to think about most of us: our eyes are placed on either side of the bridge of our nose, and your nose is generally in the center. This is a proportion that you can do that will make the portrait look more human. Does the work give evidence that the artist understands this proportion? That’s pretty concrete,” Sartanowicz said.

Visual arts teacher Eric Latimer said he doesn’t love grades, but they provide accountability for students to get their assignments done and don’t necessarily have to block creativity if used productively.

“I would, in a heartbeat, make the classes pass/fail. It’s as simple as that. I would remove the ultra-competitive, reward-and-punishment type of a system,” Latimer said. “I was a student; I understand where they are coming from, but it undermines creativity. I find that the students who are so obsessed with grades tend to take the fewest risks and tend to obsess on this idea of perfection.”

Latimer said he has profoundly struggled with the complexities of the grading process for years, but he also said the exercise of turning in art projects for a quantifiable standard mirrors the art world outside of school.

“Artists that ultimately follow their own personal muse are kind of rare. The rest of the art world that earns a decent profession is where the world of grades I think comes into play. If there is a scale, employers can exemplify the standard,” Latimer said. “There is an element of creativity in it, but there’s also a huge element of a standard or a conformity that artists strive towards in that domain; a definitive mark of an A versus a B can provide some guidance.”

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