How Teachers Can Support And Evaluate Other Teachers

You’re a teacher. Your performance is evaluated by teachers, judged and rated by teachers. Your mentor is a teacher, and your boss is a teacher.

Imagine that. Would you love it or hate it? What if you’re a student or parent – how do you feel then?

The Montgomery County Public Schools system in Rockville, Maryland has a unique process of teachers evaluating other teachers, according to an article in the New York Times. Stronger teachers provide support to weaker ones, and teachers there also have the power to fire weaker teachers if they do not improve. 

The program, Peer Assistance and Review (PAR), allows more senior teachers to mentor new teachers and struggling veteran teachers. If the mentoring and assistance does not work, then the PAR panel of eight teachers and eight principals can vote to fire the struggling teacher(s).

The PAR program also has the power to question tenured teachers.

This program began 11 years ago, and it has voted to fire 200 teachers; 300 more have resigned after the comments in a PAR hearing, said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of the Montgomery County Public School system.

Weast also said that only five teachers were fired before the PAR program was implemented 11 years ago.

The school system said that trust is pivotal when implementing the PAR program. All teachers must buy into the program, believing that they won’t be fired to be made an example out of or because of their salary. Teachers must believe that the PAR panel will always act in the best interest of the school and its students for it to be successful.

“It took three to five years to build the trust to get PAR in place,” Weast told the New York Times. “Teachers had to see we weren’t playing gotcha.”

The Montgomery County Public School system is one of the growing number of schools to implement the PAR and other similar programs. Many other schools are beginning to extend teachers’ control and authority beyond the classroom to administrative decisions of hiring/firing and actually shaping course curriculum.

 Many believe that teachers know what’s best for schools and students more so than anyone else involved in education because they are right there on the front lines of it. They believe veteran, proven teachers are better judges of good and bad teaching.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, told Weast that he supported his school’s actions, saying, “You’re going where the country needs to go,” according to Weast and the New York Times.

Unfortunately, for Weast and the Montgomery County Public School system, the PAR program will have to go. The Obama administration’s Race to the Top program is trying to improve the quality of teachers just as the PAR program. Yet, the Montgomery County Public School system does not submit its students test scores to the federal government, thus making it ineligible for the $12 million Race to the Top funding.