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 other costs and benefits of PAR?

“I believe in this program completely. I have seen the difference it makes. The success stories are ones to really cheer about.”

San Juan Panel Member

PAR programs clearly have financial costs and generate cost-savings for school districts. Nonetheless, district and union leaders did not usually talk about the program’s costs and benefits in financial terms. Instead, they focused on the broader benefits for the district and the students it serves. Some expressed concern that the program removes expert teachers from the classroom, but they also noted these teachers can have wider influence in their roles as CTs. Across the board, these officials focused on how PAR raises teacher quality and can help improve student performance. They acknowledged that the strong induction component, improved teacher retention rates, and ability to assist or remove underperforming teachers can save the district money, but they spoke more about the positive effects that PAR has on teachers and, as a result, on their students. They viewed expenses of PAR as investments in the district’s human capital rather than a cost the district had to bear. Several union members and administrators, including one Superintendent, called the program “priceless.”

“There’s a huge benefit because, number one, if you tenure somebody that’s not ready, those are million dollar decisions.”

Minneapolis District Administrator

Key stakeholders in these districts viewed the novice program as a strong induction program, a worthwhile investment to launch careers in teaching. By closely supervising teachers as they enter the schools, PAR also improves decisions about tenure. Both administrators and union leaders recognized that granting tenure has long-term consequences for the district and said that PAR helps them make good decisions.

captionProfessional development for new teachers in Rochester

Administrators and union leaders also talked about the price students pay when they have a poor teacher. They told of many experienced teachers who improved substantially through their experience in PAR and noted that when that intervention failed, the teacher could be removed from the classroom. In both cases, students stood to benefit.

“So to me, the biggest benefit is getting this dialogue, continuing this dialogue about what good teaching practice is.”

Cincinnati District Administrator

Beyond these specific advantages, PAR can help bring about larger cultural changes in the district. Many said that PAR contributes to a strong, professional culture of teaching and increased collegiality among peers. A steady focus on teacher evaluation stimulates dialogue about good professional practice. Several individuals argued that PAR achieves the type of broader transformation that many other induction and evaluation systems promise but seldom deliver.

Furthermore, both administrators and union leaders reported that PAR improves labor-management relations in the district. Several union leaders reported that the number of grievances overall had fallen as the parties learned to work together in PAR. Having succeeded in establishing PAR, they ventured collaboratively into other areas.

“[PAR] was by luck or genius or some combination of both, a very good thing. It was good for the district. It was good for those individual teachers. It was good for the lead teachers. It was good for the union, because it gave the union a different stake in what was going on.”

Rochester Teachers Union Leader

Finally, PAR benefits CTs, themselves. Most said that the role offered professional challenges and opportunities that were new and rewarding. Former CTs often said that the experience was the best professional development they’d ever had. They returned to the classroom revived and inspired by a sense of new possibility and a better understanding of what makes for good and successful teaching. These former CTs also enjoyed a measure of respect as instructional experts when they returned to their classroom, where they continued to influence others’ practice more widely, even outside of their formal CT role. Other former CTs eventually moved into various leadership roles, carrying with them all that they had learned about teachers, classrooms, and schools.