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 does it take to implement and sustain PAR?

Once a PAR program has been approved by the union and management, responsibility for its governance is handed over to the PAR Panel. With its co-chairs and members—equal, or nearly-equal numbers of teachers and administrators—the structure of the PAR Panel formalizes the labor-management collaboration that is central to PAR. The Panel’s regular meetings and procedures provide a blueprint for moving ahead, which in most districts can be elaborated or amended as needed. Once PAR has been approved in bargaining, subsequent changes usually are made by the Panel, under the leadership of its co-chairs. The program will not likely succeed unless the co-chairs work well together and, in their working relationship, exemplify for others the kind of trust and candor that PAR requires.

“I think if we all focus on what matters most, we can find common ground. The process, the road, may be slightly different. We may argue about the way we get there. But if we all agree it’s about the children and improvement, we’ll make a case for why this is the way to do things.”

Rochester Superintendent

Collaboration on the PAR Panel at the district level is not sufficient, however. If PAR is to truly work, collaboration must extend to the schools. Traditionally, the school-based labor relationship is an adversarial one between the principal and the union’s building representative or steward. However, PAR introduces a new and unprecedented relationship between the CT and the principal. Under PAR, the role of principal as instructional leader changes as the CT assumes a share of responsibility for evaluating teachers. The CT, though a peer of teachers, has a supervisory role and the CT’s judgments about whether teachers should be employed or dismissed may supercede those of the principal. Some PAR proposals have run into intense, sometimes legal, opposition by principals and their unions who initially object to surrendering their right to evaluate teachers. In virtually all cases, that opposition subsides once the program is well established.

“I always brag about how much better this process is than the old process [where] the burden was entirely on the principal. But in the new system you have a consulting teacher, who is another set of independent eyes, who is providing that regular kind of support for the teacher… And that didn’t exist before.”

Montgomery County Panel Member

Districts’ experiences make it clear that PAR depends on principals’ active participation just as it depends on CTs’ steady work. In the most successful circumstances, principals actively identify teachers for PAR Intervention and work closely with CTs to improve those teachers’ performance. As yet, however, we know little about what contributes to an effective working relationship at the school level between the principal and CT. Its conventions, structures, and procedures are not nearly as well defined as those of the PAR Panel.