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

How will the Panel carry out its work?

Panels we studied have very similar responsibilities. However, the way in which they do the actual work varies in practice.

“We are all focused on the goal, and the goal is to protect children and to make sure that children get the very best adults to work with. . . .We are all equals in that room. We are all peers in that room.”

Montgomery County, Panel Member

Decide whether a teacher should be placed on PAR
In most districts, the Panel decides, based on a CT’s assessment, whether an experienced teacher who had been referred to Intervention should be placed in the program. In other cases, a substandard evaluation triggers automatic placement in PAR, provided the teacher’s supervisor has met all contractual requirements during the evaluation process. This is the case in San Juan, where an “unsatisfactory” rating in two of the six performance areas means that a teacher is placed on PAR.

Oversee CT selection, supervision, evaluation and training
All of the Panels were responsible for ensuring that the CTs were effective. They conducted a careful selection process and then supervised the CTs throughout the year. Often the Panel—or one member of the Panel—is responsible for matching CTs with the referred teachers by making the best match of subject and grade level. The Panel is often responsible for arranging CT training, as well. In some districts, Panels delegate some of these responsibilities to program directors.

“It is our responsibility to make sure that the CT and the referred teacher are getting everything that they feel they need to be successful.”

San Juan Panel Member

Montgomery County and Cincinnati support CTs by assigning each to a “PAR Pair”—one administrator and one teacher from the Panel who jointly supervise a small group of CTs. The PAR Pair may troubleshoot about problems, confer with the CTs about their caseload and reports, and provide feedback in practice presentations. Those who use PAR Pairs reported great satisfaction with this arrangement.

Related documents

Review the progress of the teachers in PAR
Reviewing the CTs’ reports about their work with teachers is central to the Panel’s responsibilities. Panels decide how often to review these cases and whether to deliberate about every case, only cases where the teacher is not meeting standards, or only cases about which the principal and CT disagree. In general, districts give more time and attention to Intervention cases because the consequence—potential dismissal of a tenured teacher—is greater. Usually CTs attend Panel meetings only when teachers in their caseload are on the docket, although Toledo’s CTs attend all Panel meetings.

Principals who are involved in the cases may also attend these review meetings. Having principals attend ensures that they are informed about the case and allows them to present their views and observations to the Panel.

No matter how districts choose to structure their meetings, agendas are detailed and predictable, affording an opportunity for all involved parties to speak. Often the Panel requires CTs to submit their reports to the Panel in advance of the meeting. In most districts, CTs have a set amount of time to present their case, including descriptions about the teacher’s progress and current challenges. Panel members then may ask the CT questions. In some districts, the referred teacher is invited to attend the meeting. Minneapolis allows the referred teacher to present a written statement about her experience with the process.

“The Panel is the best management team in the district and everyone knows that on both sides. We can have our wars, but this isn’t a battlefield. We all want quality.”

Rochester Union President

Most Panels prefer to reach agreement unanimously about the progress of a teacher in PAR. However, if agreement is not possible, districts require that a majority of Panel members must approve the action. One district, Toledo, requires a super-majority—six of nine votes—for all decisions. Again and again, Panel members said that votes never split along party lines, and that, based on the discussion, it is never possible to tell “who is labor, and who is management.”

Other responsibilities
Often PAR Panels are responsible for setting PAR’s budget for the year, although often, as in Cincinnati, Panel co-chairs oversee the budget. Others Panels take on responsibility for program evaluation, collecting data to gauge others’ satisfaction with the work of the CTs or the effectiveness of the program. Panels can benefit from having regular and thorough evaluations, which can inform them about how to refine and strengthen their PAR program.