The Consulting Teacher’s Role
Toledo CT and new teacher
Consulting Teachers (CTs) play a leading role in PAR by working with the teachers in their caseload to help them meet the district’s performance standards. They do this primarily through frequent scheduled and unscheduled visits as well as ongoing email contact with each teacher. They provide support through such activities as:
- Developing a growth plan based on a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses
- Observing lessons and providing feedback in post-observation conferences
- Co-planning lessons
- Modeling a lesson
- Providing resources and materials
- Arranging a visit to another classroom to demonstrate a new practice
At regular intervals throughout the year, CTs submit written and oral reports about each teacher’s performance. Reports include observation notes along with an assessment of each teacher’s progress in meeting the district’s teaching standards. These reports, usually combined with in-person presentations, constitute the basis of the PAR Panel’s employment recommendations.
In some districts, CTs investigate whether an experienced teacher should be placed on Intervention. In many ways, the success of PAR rests upon getting the right people in the role of CT and ensuring that they have the skills and resources to do their work. Program designers need to consider how they will select, train, and compensate CTs, as well as how they will structure the role to maximize its effectiveness.
“In general, principals are generalists. Some know content well and others know content not as well. The teachers know their content. If we choose the right teachers who are knowledgeable and have the experience in their content areas, you can’t have a better group of people out in the field working with their colleagues, because they know what they are looking for. They know what should happen.”
— Cincinnati Superintendent
When they are appointed, most CTs leave their classroom for a term of three to five years. In some districts, however, CTs may carry a partial caseload of PAR teachers while continuing to teach their students. In deciding whether to appoint full-time or part-time CTs, a district is likely to consider whether they prefer a system that is largely school-based (which accommodates part-time CTs) or one that is centralized (which calls for full-time CTs).
If CTs are skilled and respected, the program is likely to be well received by teachers and administrators involved in PAR. To ensure that PAR will attract CTs of the highest caliber, a program must conduct an open and well-organized hiring process, publicizing positions widely, recruiting strong candidates, assessing them carefully, and selecting them fairly.
CTs take on new responsibilities. Coaching and assessing the work of peers calls for different skills than those required to succeed with students. Thus, CTs need to be prepared for a new role. Most districts provide training for new CTs, including summer workshops, professional development, and meetings throughout the year. Across the districts, CTs were variously supervised by Panel members, program directors, Lead CTs, and/or fellow CTs. Few districts had a formal process for evaluating the CTs’ work.
Most PAR programs have a full-time caseload of 10-15 teachers, though it can be as high as 20. When deciding how large a CT’s caseload should be, program planners should consider how much time individual teachers will require. Districts will also have to decide whether or not to match CTs and teachers by grade level and/or subject area.
“They’re worth their weight in gold. We should have more.”
– Minneapolis District Administrator
CTs receive additional pay for their work because it requires an advanced level of knowledge, skill, and responsibility. Some districts also compensate CTs for the extra time they spend in summer training days or weekend workshops.
Many districts require that CTs return to the classroom after three to five years in the role, sometimes preventing them from entering administrative roles for a year or two. This is done to reinforce the sense that a CT is a “peer” and to ensure that the CTs will continue to enrich the schools with the best teaching practices.