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Thompson: "Is New Haven bad for D.C.?" Is the Truth bad for the New Teacher Project?

Pinocchio The Flypaper worries that "New Haven’s contract [calling for peer review] will derail DC bargaining." Can’t "reformers" compete in the free market of ideas? And the TNTP’s Tim Daly complains that peer review is an incomplete approach ... of doing what districts have been trying to do for decades—to detect incompetence," and it is not enough to satisfy all of the goals of the Race to the Top." And that is a stinging criticism of "the fundamental collaborative initiative between union and management" because of ...?

At least Daly did not repeat the intellectually dishonest statement in the TNTP’s "The Widget Effect" that only five (or .7%) of probationary teachers in Toledo were dismissed from the classroom in a five year period.

Stephen Sawchuk does an excellent job of explaining why teachers and unions are proud of peer review’s (PAR’s) rigorous process for counseling ineffective teachers out of the profession. He also clarifies the difficult task of determining how many teachers resign rather than face dismissal after a poor PAR review. Contrary to the TNTP’s polemic, nine rookie teachers in Toledo, or 9.2% of novices, "nonrenewed or resigned" after the 2007-08 school year. In the Rochester PAR program 7% of the new teachers exited, as did 9.7% in Syracuse, while 10.5% of novices resigned in Montgomery County or had their peer review process extended for another year.

Strong supporters of the Toledo Plan and peer review have no problem in acknowledging that PAR is not yet as effective in removing veteran teachers who are ineffective. We also agree with Randi Weingarten that "meaningful evaluation systems are expensive ... [PAR] means basically taking the entire notion of mentoring, induction, observation, support, and end-of-the-year evaluations and putting them all together."

But as in the case of the Rhode Island AFT Innovation Fund program, union reformers know that "we are under a microscope; we have to succeed," she said. "We don’t have any choice." Sawchuk concludes "in Montgomery County, teachers and administrators remain convinced that peer assistance and review is on the right track. ‘The philosophy of peer review, is the only thing here that’s etched in stone.’" - John Thompson

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Great TNTP analysis. Widget, might as well call it juking the stats.

Agree completely. TNTP needs to lose all that gates money they get and stop having districts hire them...they LIE

I've been going on ad nauseam about Viers Mill Elementary School in Montgomery County, but they have an internal peer assistance program--informal, it seems--that makes entire TEAMS of teachers more effective. It's part of their collaborative model. One of the strengths of PAR is the focus on collaboration--teachers helping other teachers become as effective as possible. Done well, that work can improve the working climate in schools.

John,

Sorry I've been away from your wonderful column these past weeks.

You know me, I'm always asking questions because I don't fully understand all this "How do we know teachers are doin' their job?" stuff. (To me, it's always pretty obvious who's doin' their job and who isn't. But that's just me.)

On the subject of "peer review", isn't this just a way of passing the buck? I mean, I've never heard of peer review being a significant determining factor in any non-school organization where I've worked. I love peer review in a multi-rater feedback process. But that's just a piece of pie in that situation. The final decision always comes down from above. The boss/manager makes the hard choices because that's what he/she gets paid for.

Pushing the tough talk down to peers -- essentially saying, "Hey, you be the hatchet man because (a) I'm a chicken; (b) I don't know what I'm doing; or (C) I don't have a hatchet; just seems a little odd to me. And also unfair, I mean, what kind of "peer" want to responsible for such "unpeerish" activity as getting someone fired? We call this "rattin' somebody out" on the docks in Manhattan where I have learned about all my employer-employee relations theory.

I mean, at some level, don't school leaders actually have to lead?

Steve

Steve,

The term today is "snitchin." Seriously, the union has found that the best type of person to do the peer reveiwing is a teacher with no plans to move to administration and is happy to return to the classroom after three years.

Universities rest on multiple peer review institutions. Don't law partners utilize their form of peer review? I could be wrong, but auditors and accountants - before abandoning their systems and leading us off the cliff helping to cause the current recession - used to have traditions and processes that I understand to be similar.

But I'd like to hear your response to Claus' excellent coverage of peer review at Viers Mill.

I can think of other comparable systems but then again, "reformers" have driven us into a ditch by patterning reforms for schools based on different institutions. I know you don't do their simplistic policy by analogy. But I'd say the issue isn't whether other jobs have comparable systems but whether other jobs or systems have systems or sub-systems acting on the same principles as peer review and whether those lessons can be applied to education. I'd say many systems have peer review dynamics. In fact, any system where you cross examine other peoples' evidence incorporates peer review.

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