"Peer assistance and review is the first step on the path to becoming a real profession."
—Dal Lawrence, Past President,
Toledo Federation of Teachers
Teaching is a hard job—and novice teachers need significant support as they come to understand curriculum goals and objectives while also dealing with professional expectations and responsibilities. When support is not provided, teachers leave-and our kids are shortchanged. As financially strapped school districts waste money on the endless cycle of recruiting, training and replacing new teachers, the education of students suffers from the faculty turnover. Further, under the current system, tenure decisions are often made on the fly, by ill-prepared principals without the time or the expertise to make informed judgments.
To address both issues, we propose a professional induction program for new teachers, ending in peer review. In Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) programs, new teachers benefit from intensive assistance and training from skilled colleagues-and the integrity and quality of the teaching profession benefits as new teachers meet the standards of a rigorous pretenure review by knowledgeable peers.
The AFT has long supported peer assistance and review (PAR) programs, and provides support to locals that want to institute a PAR program. PAR ensures (1) that new teachers get the professional development and support they need from experienced, expert teachers; (2) that only capable, well-prepared teachers who meet high entry standards are offered permanent positions; and (3) that unions and experienced teachers help set the standards for all teachers. PAR programs must be devised collaboratively by the district and the union. They must be coherent and ongoing, and must encompass hiring and orientation; intensive professional development, support and mentoring; and a final review that determines whether each aspiring novice meets high standards of practice. In addition, PAR programs must include the following characteristics:
- High quality teachers, selected through a fair and quality-conscious process, who are responsible for mentoring and assisting new teachers, preferably on a full-time basis.
- District provided training, time, resources and responsibility for expert teachers to mentor new teachers through at least their probationary period.
- Expert teachers who are responsible for making wise, tough, evidence-based recommendations to decisionmakers about whether a new teacher merits continuing employment.
- Recommendations that are based on agreed-upon, transparent, evidence-based professional standards.
- Adequate and sustained budget support guaranteed through the regular district budget.
Peer Assistance and Review, American Educator (Fall 2007)
Where We Stand: Teacher Quality (June 2003)
Peer Assistance and Peer Review: An AFT/NEA Handbook (Sept. 1998)
Learning from Ohio's best teachers: A homegrown model to improve our schools, Policy Matters Ohio (2008)