Last Spring the Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) held a JAM (an online asynchronous conversation) on the role of Peer Review in teacher evaluation. Consensus was that leadership is needed to create a viable Peer Review Process. While we are in a society that wants results immediately, time is needed for a full implementation of the process while teachers learn to give and receive feedback from peers. The Peer Review Process is most effective when the entire staff works to implement an instructional practice to improve student outcomes. Lastly, Peer Review and evaluation can mix when multiple indicators are used for teacher evaluation and there is role clarity and professional development for implementation.
In September of this year the Chicago Teachers Union held a strike. The central issue was that a proposed evaluation system that places a high level of the evaluation on the test scores of the students, is unfair not just to teachers but also to the students. The Chicago Teachers Union eventually settled for a contract that based the evaluation on multiple measures with test scores counting for 30% of a teacher’s rating. This was the first test of the proposals that are currently underway in many states and districts to measure teacher effectiveness with student test scores. If this compromise sets a national agenda, then it is important for teachers to work to define the other measures that will be used for their evaluation.
The central question is, “what is the purpose of these evaluations?” Is it to hold teachers accountable for teaching or to fire teachers? Is it possible to do both?
Isn’t improvement in teaching the most important agenda item that the nation faces to raise the level of education and thereby provide a family living wage for all? MCNC has ample evidence that improvement in instruction comes from “just in time” feedback from respected educators, administrators, coaches, or other teachers.
Using a Peer Review process, that is valued and supported by the school leader and provides regular feedback from other teachers in the school, pays benefits way beyond test scores. Traditionally, teaching has been an isolated profession with professional development done by attendance at scheduled workshops. But like anyone learning a new skill, the role of practice and feedback is critical for improvement. A peer feedback support system that intentionally uses teacher time to visit other classrooms and provide feedback on instructional practice is an effective and cost efficient way to improve academic achievement. Most importantly it relies on the existing resources and expertise that our teachers bring to the work.
MCNC has documented that schools with Peer Review Programs that include a peer hiring system, regular inter visitation, formal feedback from peers and students in end of year teacher evaluations, have higher graduation rates than other schools in the cities in which they are located and have high rates of college credit accumulation for all graduates. For more information visit our website www.mcnc.us.