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Program teaches art of recognizing good teaching

SALEM — Trying to measure teacher effectiveness is one of the mysteries of the education profession, according to Superintendent Michael Delahanty.

Over the past several years, the school district has been making greater use of an educational program called Teachscape to help administrators develop consistent and effective measurements for how teachers perform in the classroom.

“How you measure how effective a teacher is or isn’t has really been a Holy Grail for this profession sometimes,” said Delahanty.

Administrators and parents like to think they can be objective in how they measure a teacher’s effectiveness, but Delahanty said the biggest roadblock is there is no single measurement of a student’s performance within a single classroom.

Although there are several types of standardized testing, such as SATs and NECAP tests, Delahanty said those tests do not necessarily evaluate what a student learns within a single classroom.

Because there are no clear measurements for student effectiveness, Delahanty said the goal is to find an effective and objective measurement for that teacher performance.

To that end, administrators have been using the Teachscape program, which is based on international education expert Charlotte Danielson’s standards of teacher effectiveness.

“The goal is to reduce disparity between evaluators,” said Delahanty.

By watching and being trained on teaching techniques within the domains of planning and preparation, instruction, classroom environment, and professional responsibility, the administrators come to learn what the most effective teaching techniques are.

“We can train our administrators to be very good at observing good teaching,” Delahanty said.

As the administrators have become more comfortable using Teachscape to help evaluate teachers, the district has also branched out to include the teachers themselves into the program.

“We have expanded this further to train teachers so they know what we are looking for,” said Assistant Superintendent Maura Palmer. “We use the videos with the probationary teachers so they can see where the teaching components come in.”

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