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

The PAR Novice Program

captionToledo CT meets with new teacher

PAR programs usually are designed to serve both new and experienced teachers, but because there are usually more new teachers in the program, districts commit most of their resources to the novices. The novice program helps new teachers meet the district’s teaching standards and succeed during their first year on the job. Districts see this as a worthwhile investment because they are convinced that successfully launching the careers of new teachers will lead to higher retention rates and more learning for students. To achieve this, CTs mentor new teachers by helping them to build skills in classroom management, lesson planning, assessment, and general pedagogy. In addition, they advise the novices about day-to-day matters such as paperwork, deadlines, and procedures.

“These new teachers soar, if they get the right kind of support, if they’re able. If they’re not able, it’s different.”

Minneapolis CT

On the surface, PAR looks like many mentoring programs. What sets it apart, though, is the extensive over-the-shoulder coaching that CTs provide and the fact that CTs not only assist the new teachers, but also assess their progress in reports to the PAR Panel. Many believe that the person responsible for coaching a teacher should not be the same person who evaluates him. However, experiences with PAR suggest that combining these responsibilities in a single role is not only possible, but wise. New teachers appreciate being evaluated by a skilled teacher who knows them and their work well. In describing their approach, CTs confirm that building trust with the novice is essential and say that they can do this effectively even while they are evaluating a teacher’s work.

“There is no way an administrator could go in and offer the support at the level that our PAR consultants do. Not because they wouldn’t want to, they just can’t.”

Syracuse Panel Member

Who will be included in the Novice Program?

Districts define “novice” in different ways when they decide who will be included in the program. Some PAR programs provide a CT for every new teacher, including those who have taught elsewhere. Other programs assign CTs only to those who are teaching for the first time. Finally, districts with few resources may assess the needs of new teachers and provide CTs only to those who seem to need them most.

captionNovice teacher in Toledo

How will Consulting Teachers work with novices?

CTs help novice teachers meet the district’s performance standards primarily by observing their teaching and giving feedback. In addition, they frequently assist in lesson planning, teach model lessons, share resources and offer ongoing consultation by phone or email.

How will the novice’s performance be reviewed?

PAR Panels require CTs to submit reports on each novice teacher’s progress at regular intervals throughout the year. Reports include descriptions of the novice teacher’s practice and evidence from the CT’s observations. Final reports include the CT’s assessment of whether or not the teacher meets standards. Based on these assessments, the Panel recommends to the Superintendent whether the teacher should be rehired by the district, dismissed, or, in some cases, provided a second year of PAR.

Will the principal have a role in evaluating novice teachers?

PAR typically requires that CTs, rather than principals, evaluate new teachers. Some principals object to this change, arguing that they, alone, should oversee the work of teachers in their schools. Districts have resolved this issue in several ways. In some, CTs are solely responsible for evaluating novices, although administrators may provide supplementary documentation if they choose. In others, administrators maintain formal responsibility for evaluation, even while novices are coached and assessed by CTs. In these districts, PAR Panels consider an administrator’s evaluation only when it conflicts with the CT’s report.