Marc Wigler Will Not Be Peer Evaluated

Peer review is back -- in 12 Chicago schools, at least. 

Congrats and condolences to CTU's Marc Wigler, who has the challenging task of implementing and coordinating the program.

Ed Week's Bess keller gets into some of the details in this week's edition of the paper. 

Published: January 25, 2006

Teachers to Conduct Peer Reviews in Chicago

A
program that puts teachers in charge of evaluating and helping some of
their own will get a trial run in Chicago starting next fall.

If
the pilot proves a success, Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan wants
to see it go systemwide, a spokesman for the 424,000-student district
said. Such a move would be by far the largest expansion of a model
pioneered in Toledo, Ohio, by its school district and teachers union
in 1981 and continued there since then.

The expensive
arrangementwhich uses master teachers who have been released from
classroom duties to oversee and help improve the work of new and poorly
performing teachershas spread slowly, even if variations are included.
Besides Toledo, where such peer review has long been viewed as a
success, forms of the plan have been adopted in Cincinnati and
Columbus, Ohio; Rochester, N.Y.; Minneapolis; and at least two midsize
California districts. Most notably in recent years, the 139,000-student
Montgomery County district in Maryland instituted such a plan in 2000.

Peer
review remains a divisive approach to weeding out bad teachers, despite
widespread acknowledgment that most current systems of teacher
evaluation are superficial and ineffective. ("Teacher-Evaluation System Likely to Be Replaced in Miami District," Dec. 14, 2005.) 

Administrators
are wary of giving up their legal responsibility for determining
employment, while union leaders dont want to foster divisions in the
teacher corps.

Union Involvement

The program
in Chicago is one of the changes envisioned for up to a dozen
low-performing schools that the Chicago Teachers Union will have a
major role in helping under an agreement made with the district last
year.

The new evaluation and mentoring program has the strong backing of both Arne Duncan and the city teachers' union, led by President Marilyn Stewart.

Like other district schools that have been earmarked for
improvement, those Fresh Start schools will get more say over their
budget, staff, and curriculum than has been standard, and they may get
more money. But the peer-review program, along with professional
development provided by the CTU and its national parent, the American
Federation of Teachers, will make the schools distinctive on the
Chicago scene.

The district holds high hopes for the program.

Evaluation
as it stands does not really benefit anyone; its kind of a cursory
review, said Michael Vaughn, the district spokesman. The best teachers
are not recognized, and the worst teachers dont get the help they
need, he explained.

Were open to exploring new ideas,
Mr. Vaughn added, and were excited about the model were using at the
Fresh Start schools.

Marc Wigler, the CTUs coordinator
for the Fresh Start schools, said new teachers were a particular
concern at the schools because turnover hobbles improvement.

Weve
surveyed new teachers, and they consistently said they didnt feel
there were resources they could turn to, Mr. Wigler said. As a result,
he noted, they would leave.

The initiative will begin by
evaluating and guiding new teachers. Later, the evaluators will work
with veterans who have been ordered into the program by either their
principals or a committee of teachers, according to Mr. Wigler.

Currently
in Chicago, he said, principals evaluate teachers using a pair of
checklists after two classroom visits that might last less than 15
minutes each. Principals will continue to evaluate experienced teachers
who are not in trouble.

But for teachers participating in
peer review, the mentor teacher will be in that classroom every week,
said Mr. Wigler. Our goal is certainly not to get rid of teachers.

Modest Weeding-Out

Such
programs do not appear to produce dramatic increases in the number of
teachers who are fired, though figures from Toledo and Columbus suggest
that 7 percent or 8 percent of new teachers are screened out.

Teachers
filling the mentor role will be chosen from the classroom and will be
paid extra, based on the hours worked, Mr. Wigler said. After two or
three years, they will return to the classroom so they can stay a part
of the teacher corps.

The mentors will have the power to
recommend that a teacher be fired, but a board appointed jointly by the
district and the union will make the final decision.

Mr. Wigler said the start-up year in eight schools was expected to cost between $1.1 million and $1.5 million. 

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