Peer Review of Teachers for Improving Teacher Quality, Accountability, and Evaluations

The topic of peer review is something that professionals in the fields of law and medicine have known for years. In talking about this topic with fellow teachers, we wonder why systems of peer review aren't as prevalent in the teaching profession. We know that current styles of teaching are antiquated, and teachers young and old find it difficult to compete with the high-stimulus lifestyle of many of our students.

There are many teachers who do well to reach their students despite these challenges, but they're rarely rewarded for their creativity and ingenuity. A reliable, reputable and accountable peer review system could change that and acknowledge teachers who raise the bar in our profession and make us all desire to do better.

Shouldn't teachers set the standards for their own profession similar to doctors and lawyers? Shouldn't seasoned and committed veteran teachers help newcomers meet those standards and assist anyone who struggles to meet them? Moreover, shouldn't the committed, good teachers recommend the removal of those teachers who, after receiving help, are still not meeting those standards? Are administrators the only ones to whom we can trust this process?

Some unions, such as the AFT, strongly support this idea of having experienced, effective, and specially trained teachers mentor and evaluate new teachers to meet specific school and district standards.

The way that teachers are evaluated now, at least in my district, is by a very busy and distracted administrator who has very little idea of how to understand new, progressive teaching methods that require lots of student discussion, and sometimes lots of moving around the classroom! How can this administrator and others like him shake their traditional ideas of how a class is run, to see how accountable talk, classroom galleries, and other high-energy activities contribute to student learning?

Any teacher who has finished an undergraduate degree in education, or Master's Degree in the last 5 or 6 years knows the importance of student-driven instruction. Different programs call these methods different things, but the focus is on group learning, conversation between students on different topics, student presentations, and other non direct-instruction methods.

Why then isn't it already in place that teachers rate and hold evaluations of one another in these areas of proven, data-informed student learning? Why is an administrator, who has not been primed on these new methods telling teachers (especially new teachers) how he or she should be teaching in the old ways... the OPPOSITE of what he or she has just learned at the university?

I really encourage you to bring these topics up at meetings, in the teachers room, or with teachers in other districts who will argue with or against this idea. I know it's easy to receive an evaluation and think that it adequately reflects your teaching. Evaluations take place on good days and bad days, and I am happy to report that never did I have an evaluation on a bad day. :) Does this mean I am a teacher who goes "above and beyond" in my role? Not really, but on the day I was evaluated, you better believe I went above and beyond!

If a teacher on the staff had evaluated me instead, She or he would know my approach, and determine whether I was using my strengths to meet the learning needs of my students. Teachers on my staff naturally know one another better than the administrators do, so there's already a level of familiarity there that can help teachers who need assistance from someone working with the same challenges.

I strongly think that schools who incorporate peer review will improve, simply because of the dreaded phenomena that we encourage students to avoid: Peer Pressure.

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