And while many of those in attendance wanted to know what school officials were doing to improve local MCAS scores, Mayor Kimberley Driscoll was quick to point out that the turnaround effort is still a work in progress.
"Currently we're in year two of our plan and that means we've started and we have a strong foundation but it also means that this is the year we have to execute and start closing some of these achievement gaps," she said.
The forum, entitled Salem Public Schools Turnaround: Two Years Later, began with a slide presentation from Dr. Karla Baehr, who was charged with designing, developing, and launching the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s model system for evaluating local administrators and teachers.
Much of Baehr's presentation was focused on the teacher goal-setting portion of the model, which requires that local educators set realistic goals for themselves and then gather data throughout the year to show how they are improving.
"We want to have a system in place that provides for continuous improvement with a focus on goal-setting, that's what we're aiming for," Baehr said. "Teachers or schools that consistently get higher results than others, we want to know exactly what they're doing differently than in typical classrooms."
Superintendent Stephen Russell provided those in attendance with a brief overview of recently released MCAS scores and reiterated that an added emphasis has been placed on goal-setting, data collection and analysis.
"The scores for the most part have been mixed," Russell said. "We're seeing some evidence of positive change and we're also seeing some areas that need further attention."
Also speaking at the forum were Salem High School Principal David Angeramo and Kathy Marchetti, a fifth grade teacher at Witchcraft Heights School, who explained how the new goal-setting system and teacher evaluation model is already making a real difference in the way she teaches her students.
"I feel that this model is way better than what we've had," Marchetti said. "The part I like the most is that it gives us as teachers the chance to reflect on our teaching in a way that is collaborative with our principals."
Driscoll asserted that the school system's ultimate goal is to "improve student achievement and growth through the creation of a culture of high expectations and accountability across all of our schools."