Peer Review: Getting Serious about Teacher Evaluation & Support

Peer Review: Getting Serious about Teacher Evaluation & Support
September 7, 2011 Stuart Foundation

Peer Review: Getting Serious About Teacher Evaluation & Support

Sep 07, 2011

As education leaders continue to grapple with the best approach for teacher evaluation, a new study provides fresh evidence that teacher peer assistance and review (PAR) programs offer a rigorous and comprehensive way to evaluate teachers. The study comes on the heels of the California Department of Education’s Blueprint for Great Schools, which recommends the creation of a Commission on Educator Excellence to identify and implement teacher support and evaluation systems.

The study, which was conducted by SRI International and J. Koppich & Associates and funded by the Stuart Foundation, examined exemplary PAR programs in two California school districts: Poway Unified (San Diego County) and San Juan Unified (Sacramento County).

“The Stuart Foundation strongly believes in examining what is already producing successful results in our education system,” said Christy Pichel, president of the Stuart Foundation. “The study tells us that the peer assistance and review model shows promise for other districts in California.”

Under peer review, carefully selected experienced teachers, called Consulting Teachers, provide intensive support to beginning teachers and underperforming veterans and then conduct their evaluations.

“People assume that whoever is in charge of improving teachers shouldn’t also be in charge of evaluating them,” said Daniel Humphrey, associate director of SRI’s Center for Education Policy. “We found that assumption to be wrong.”

In the Poway and San Juan districts, Consulting Teachers diagnose PAR teachers’ strengths and weaknesses and offer tailored one-on-one support. Along the way, Consulting Teachers carefully document their own efforts, compiling evidence-rich files averaging 190 pages in length. The evidence in these files becomes the basis for Consulting Teachers’ recommendations to the joint union-management PAR Governance Board about PAR teachers’ employment status, fostering better collaboration and relations between district and union officials.

“The Governance Boards take their work very seriously,” said Julia Koppich, president of J. Koppich & Associates. “Sitting in on a Board meeting, it’s hard to tell the district representatives from the union representatives.”

Among the study’s key findings:

  • Integrating support and evaluation works. Consulting Teachers successfully provide deep support to PAR teachers and conduct rigorous performance evaluations.
  • Consulting Teachers provide very comprehensive assessments of teachers’ practice. Consulting Teachers conduct an average of 5 formal and 38 informal observations per year per participating teacher. Principals conduct on average 1 formal and 2 informal observations. Not surprisingly, Consulting Teachers’ evaluation reports are much more thorough than the principals’ reports.
  • PAR Governance Boards, in addition to overseeing the work of Consulting Teachers, serve as union-management problem solving arenas. Issues surface at Board meetings and union and management officials solve them on the spot.
  • PAR acts as a springboard for collaborative union-management decision-making around high-stakes issues. In Poway and San Juan, union and management together confront tough issues of teacher support and evaluation and reach agreement on how to proceed in ways that are both fair and accountable.

The study was conducted between May 2010 and June 2011. Data collection included site visits to each district; interviews with district and union officials, Consulting Teachers, principals, and PAR participating teachers; collection and analysis of a sample of redacted evaluation files; classroom observations; and attendance at a PAR Governance Board meeting in each district. To view and download the full study, visit

About SRI International

Silicon Valley-based SRI International, a nonprofit research and development organization, performs sponsored R&D for governments, businesses, and foundations. SRI brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, new products, and spin-off ventures. Commemorating its 65th anniversary in 2011, SRI is known for world-changing innovations in education, computing, health and pharmaceuticals, chemistry and materials, sensing, energy, national defense, and more.

SRI’s Center for Education Policy conducts studies of education reforms that hold promise for improving the K-16 system of schooling. Clients include the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, various states, and a wide variety of private foundations.

About J. Koppich & Associates

J. Koppich & Associates is a San Francisco-based education consulting firm. Julia E. Koppich serves as the firm’s principal. J. Koppich & Associates conducts research and program evaluation principally in the areas of teacher effectiveness, including teacher evaluation and compensation, and public sector labor-management relations. Clients have included the National Governors Association, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, U.S. Department of Education, Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools, Memphis City Schools, and the National Center on Performance Compensation

About the Stuart Foundation

The Stuart Foundation is dedicated to transforming public education and the child welfare system so that all youth can learn and achieve in school and life. The Foundation is a partner and convener in melding the resources, thinking, and energy necessary to create and sustain system-wide change in California and Washington. It invests in programs and practices that serve as scalable and sustainable models and that inform policy.