A User's Guide to

Peer Assistance and Review

  • What is PAR?
  • Costs and benefits of PAR
  • Designing your PAR project
  • Labor-management relations
  • Practical issues and advice

What are the financial benefits of PAR?

captionNew teachers attend summer training in Rochester

PAR programs provide several key financial benefits to districts. Studies suggest that the financial costs of teacher turnover are high, with urban districts spending $10,000 to $20,000 to replace a novice teacher who leaves. Some evidence suggests that PAR reduces teacher turnover. Rochester, one of the districts that did track turnover, reported a retention rate of approximately 90%, far greater than in other urban districts. Although the other districts that we studied did not track turnover systematically, they reported similar patterns. It’s impossible to say for sure that PAR produced strong retention rates. However, union and district officials were convinced that PAR helps attract and keep good teachers in their districts because of the support it provides. They also said that PAR encourages selective retention, screening out teachers who fail to meet standards, identifying those who need help, and retaining those who are doing a good job.

“The cost doesn’t bother me at all. It can be very, very expensive. But I think it’s an essential investment in launching teachers in our district successfully.”

Rochester District Administrator

Most districts with PAR have an Intervention program that can lead to the dismissal of experienced teachers. Dismissing teachers with tenure is ordinarily a very expensive undertaking. District officials reported that dismissals outside of PAR typically range into what one called the “double digit thousands.” PAR programs are built on strong labor-management collaboration, with union members being involved throughout the review process. Thus, districts reported that very few dismissal decisions were challenged, none successfully. Because PAR helps to ensure that teachers’ due process rights are met, unions can satisfy their duty of fair representation without facing legal challenges. In other districts, such challenges are so costly in time and dollars that the district avoids dismissals altogether.

Calculating the financial benefits of PAR is tricky, though, since the potential cost-savings of PAR often come in areas that districts tend to ignore. A district that introduces PAR won’t save money on induction unless it already invests in a comprehensive program. Similarly, districts that don’t dismiss incompetent teachers never incur the costs of dismissal. They may not save money with PAR because their dismissal costs are already negligible.