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 challenges of collaborating to adopt PAR?

“The union would say, ‘Look, we don’t want poor teachers, either.’ And they have no intention of hanging on to poor teachers. It doesn’t look good for them.”

Minneapolis District Administrator

Implementing PAR is not easy or routine. The idea behind PAR—that teachers assist and evaluate their peers—seems to many to violate the basic tenet of union solidarity as well as challenge assumptions about top-down management of schools. In districts where unions and administrators have successfully established PAR programs, the parties often worked for years to ensure that the program they created would be accepted and would work well. Usually those involved saw the limits of competing over scarce resources in conventional bargaining and realized that their larger, shared goals for the district’s students could not be achieved without collaboration. Even after they have accepted joint responsibility for establishing PAR, however, representatives of the union and district must participate in careful, collaborative planning to make the program a reality.

captionLabor and management leaders celebrate success in Syracuse

PAR faces several significant roadblocks on the road to successful implementation. Union leaders who promote PAR often encounter resistance from members who believe that the contract should protect all teachers rather than set out a process for dismissing some. Similarly, administrators must contend with charges that they have abdicated their responsibility for running the schools by allowing teachers to assess their peers. Therefore, it is important for those involved to become well-informed about how PAR works in other districts and how it can enhance the professionalism of teachers.

Frequent turnover, especially among superintendents, can also disrupt progress in developing a PAR program. Therefore, it is important to establish continuity in the planning process by involving many individuals, who work as teams to explore the possibilities of PAR and to design the district’s program.