Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Peer Assistance and Review

This Monday our Executive Board had the chance to revisit the notion of Peer Assistance and Review(PAR) for the first time in many years. There was a lot of information shared, some great questions asked, and an overall feeling at the end of the day to pursue this.

Establishing a PAR program will not only help us begin to realize the power of our contract language included in the Career in Education Board section (Section 4, Subd. 4 and Section 5, Note) but it will begin to allow us an opportunity to take control of the quality of our profession as well.

Peer Assistance and Review could serve those entering our profession by being comprehensively supported and reviewed by a consulting teacher in a complementary license area. Ideally, a consulting teacher would spend hours with a probationary teacher while observing them at least 10 times. In practice now, a principal is responsible for observing a probationary teacher for 25-30 minutes three times a year. That is not nearly enough time to make an informed decision on a teacher's practice, and the principal may have no background in the teacher's license area as well.

PAR could serve those teachers in our Teacher Assistance Program as well. If a teacher has been identified as struggling in an area recognized in the Standards of Effective Teaching that teacher could have the option of continuing in the improvement plan process as currently written in the contract or accessing high-quality, confidential, peer assistance for a certain amount of time. Once that teacher chooses PAR, we could pair them up with a well-trained teacher to coach them on how to improve in areas in which improvement has been identified. The team would have a set amount of time to work. If progress is documented at the end of the coaching work, then a formal improvement plan would not be needed. If progress is not needed then the teacher needing improvement would move to the formal improvement plan.

The improvement plan language in our contract is meant to improve teachers who are struggling. The spirit of that language is meant to assist teachers and set them back on the course to working at their full potential. As stories have emerged from teachers on improvement plans, the reality is that some improvement plans feel like a mere witch hunt, some feel like retribution for asking questions at Site Council or speaking up at a staff meeting, and a few are doing what is intended: Improving teachers.

I want the opportunity for teachers to control the quality of our teaching profession. I want every improvement plan to be unconditionally dedicated to sincerely improving teachers. I want Peer Assistance and Review to be implemented in our district as one way to achieve both objectives.

1 comment:

PAR Panel Member said...

Mary Catherine,
The Syracuse City School District is starting its third year with PAR and it's been an overwhelming success. New teachers and administrators are finding this support to be invaluable. We would be glad to share "The Syracuse Plan" with you.
Please feel free to contact us!