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
captionLabor-management collaboration in Syracuse

How do the union and management begin to develop a PAR Program?

In most districts, it is the union leaders who first propose a PAR program, many having learned about it from their counterparts in other districts. Some districts formed joint committees to investigate the possibility of a PAR program as a first step in gaining local understanding and acceptance. In an effort to build support on all sides, these joint committees may recruit and convert the skeptics early. Committee members might include union leaders, teachers, principals, district administrators and school board members. Members of the committee will often visit successful PAR programs in districts across the country or bring experts to their district to speak about PAR. A joint committee might meet for months while members collect information, weigh options, discuss alternatives, and make tentative decisions about the program.

“The buy-in from both Union and Management is necessary. That culture, that climate of working together really needs to be there.”

Syracuse Principal

Often PAR develops in districts with some history of working collaboratively on related topics. For example, before implementing PAR in Syracuse, union and district officials had created new standards for teacher evaluation and were exploring alternatives to evaluations for veteran teachers. Those involved described having learned how to work together through that process. As one said, this experience “helped to open up the doors” for PAR. In Minneapolis, a small committee composed of both union and management leaders met to improve the supports that were already in place for teachers who were struggling in the classroom. The committee met regularly for a few years as they worked to change the existing system to one in which a teacher could actually be dismissed. In the process, they learned about Toledo’s PAR model and their committee evolved into the PAR Panel.

These districts’ experiences suggested that, although leaders of the union and administration must be ready to collaborate, their relationship need not be smooth or tension-free. What seems important is that the parties be ready to take some risks and trust one another’s good intentions.