NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Peer Review Of Teacher Performance

December 12, 1997

The nation's biggest teachers' union -- the National Education Association -- recently voted to end its opposition to peer review programs, which supporters claim will boost teachers' performance by allowing them to observe one another in the classroom and offer advice and criticism on teaching techniques. The American Federation of Teachers, the second biggest union in the profession, never formally opposed the idea.

However, some educational specialists warn the NEA's change of heart may have more to do with protecting incompetent teachers than raising standards. They say the unions want to allow sub-standard teachers to undergo years of on-the-job mentoring before local unions finally agree they should be dismissed.

Many school principals, who typically have been responsible for evaluating their teachers' performance, are said to favor peer review since it allows them to focus on other aspects of school management.

Analysts at the Educational Policy Institute report teachers can be in intervention for three-and-a-half years -- and describe the process as "dragging out incompetence, not getting rid of it."

  • While some school systems in Ohio, as well as in Rochester, N.Y., have long had such programs, unions are pushing for them in states such as Florida and Louisiana.
  • In California, the state chapter of the NEA is weighing whether to urge local chapters to get moving on peer review, and an AFT spokeswoman says the movement is "really beginning to catch on now."
  • Leaders of a program operating in Columbus, Ohio, claim to have helped nearly 3,000 first year teachers and 175 other teachers with "severe difficulties" over a 12 year period.
  • Only two teachers have been fired, but about 70 more quit or were placed on disability retirement by the school board.

Experts report that few teachers have been fired in other locations where the program operates. School authorities say it is very difficult to get rid of incompetent teachers under union contract rules.

Source: Laura M. Litvan, "Getting Rid of Bad Teachers," Investor's Business Daily, December 12, 1997.


Browse more articles on Education Issues