Governing: "Peer Assistance Review Helps Teachers in Toledo"


Think of it as rehab. In Toledo, Ohio, when teachers underperform, their principal calls for help: A consulting teacher -- an experienced veteran who is already working in the school system -- is assigned to work with the troubled teacher. The idea is to get the struggling teacher to, as one principal put it, “step back up their game.” If the reboot doesn’t work? Under the rules of the school system’s Peer Assistance Review -- PAR -- program, the teacher can be terminated.

In most public school systems, teacher-union contracts make the firing of an incompetent teacher almost impossible. And most educators know where that leads. The teachers either remain in their classrooms to the detriment of their students or the principal passes the teacher on to another school. As a last resort, New York City had its infamous “rubber room” where failing teachers were essentially warehoused -- with pay -- for years.

That’s how it’s been for generations. But in the past year, the issue of teacher tenure -- the inability of a school system to fire incompetent veteran teachers -- has become politically charged. Pressure has increased on unions to prove that they care about retaining the best and brightest, and shedding the least productive. This year, at least five governors -- in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey -- are calling on their legislators to pass bills that eliminate or dismantle teacher tenure.