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Pennsylvania invests in training school administrators

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:34 p.m.
Clairton Middle/High School teacher Brian Davis looks for answers from his seventh-grade science class on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Clairton. James Knox | Tribune-Review
Students take a quiz in Clairton Middle/High School teacher Brian Davis' seventh-grade science class on Wednesday ,Jan. 9, 2013. James Knox | Tribune-Review
Clairton Middle/High School teacher Brian Davis makes his way around his classroom during a science class on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Clairton. James Knox | Tribune-Review
Principal Thomas McCloskey uses an iPad to do a teacher evaluation as Brian Davis teaches a seventh-grade science class on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Clairton Middle/High School. James Knox | Tribune-Review

A new state law requires that public school teachers be evaluated based on uniform standards, so the Department of Education is spending about $2 million to use an online system to train and assess administrators who would do so.

Teacher evaluations will be linked to student achievement as the department implements the Teacher Evaluation Effectiveness System. It must be in all Pennsylvania school districts by next school year.

The project began in 2010 when the department received $800,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “help develop statewide policy, tools and processes to evaluate teachers (and principals) in which student achievement is a significant factor affecting performance ratings,” Education Department spokesman Tim Eller wrote in an e-mail.

The agency is buying licenses for the online Framework for Teaching Proficiency System to train 5,330 administrators. It will purchase the licenses from San Francisco-based Teachscape Inc. in phases through a contract ending in 2015.

The state's 29 intermediate units, which are educational service agencies, will train teachers and evaluators who must observe and gather evidence, said Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of teaching and learning at Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

The Teachscape system includes 35 hours of training for evaluators and culminates in a test, said Scott Noon, vice president of business development at Teachscape.

The system trains evaluators to use Princeton, N.J.-based educational consultant Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, a major component of the state's system. The Danielson framework focuses on planning and preparation; classroom environment; instruction; and professional responsibilities.

The Teachscape licenses are being distributed in phases at no cost to school districts, Eller wrote. So far, 1,100, licenses have been distributed and 450 will be distributed in February.

School districts are not required to use the Teachscape system, since several vendors offer training products.

Administrators in some districts, including Allegheny Valley, Clairton, Cornell, Duquesne and Shaler Area, received Teachscape licenses, the AIU said.

Four Cornell administrators completed Teachscape training in the fall, said Ginny Hunt, director of curriculum and federal programs, who completed the training.

“I think the strength of this program is that it's collaborative,” she said.

Pittsburgh Public Schools began using Teachscape in November 2011, but it bought the licenses on its own — 250 at $299 per user, or $74,760 — using part of a $40 million grant from the Gates Foundation, said Kimberly Basinger, director of professional development in the district.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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