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Ohio Lawmakers Sanction Teacher Peer-Reviews as Fair

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The Ohio legislature last week narrowly approved a measure altering state labor-relations laws to sanction teacher peer-review programs after Toledo officials warned that their district's model program could be forced out of existence by labor complaints.

The controversial measure engendered a fierce lobbying campaign pitting the 20,000-member Ohio Federation of Teachers, which generally supports all teacher peer-review programs, against the 100,000-member Ohio Education Association, which disapproves of programs that enable teachers to dismiss other teachers.

"David slew Goliath," the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers proclaimed last week after an amendment establishing peer-review as fair labor practice withstood a challenge in the Senate by a vote of 16 to 15.

The amended bill--a measure enabling districts to establish teacher4loan programs--was approved by votes of 30 to 0 in the Senate and 90 to 3 in the House.

Gov. Richard F. Celeste supported the measure and was expected to sign it, a spokesman said last week.

Joseph W. Rutherford, an administrative assistant to the superintendent for the Toledo Public Schools, hailed the vote, calling peer review "the cornerstone of educational reform."

Last spring, a Toledo teacher who lost his job through the peer-review program filed a complaint with the State Employment Relations Board, Mr. Rutherford said. The board then warned the district that its nine-year-old teacher-evaluation program probably would not survive a state court challenge, because it could leave union members without union job protection.

Had the legislature not amended the state labor law to describe teacher peer-review programs as fair labor practice, said Dale Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, "there was a very real possibility" the district could not continue its program next year.

The Toledo program provides for first-year teachers to be monitored and assessed by veteran teachers, who then recommend to a review board whether the individual's contract should be renewed.

Similar teacher-evaluation programs have been implemented in Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, Worthington, and other Ohio cities, although not all give teachers as much power as the Toledo program to influence decisionsabout the retention of their peers.

Cecile A. Gill, director of governmental services for the o.e.a., said her organization had opposed the amendment because the state already had "a model law" and because the Senate Education Committee had passed the amendment too hastily.

The responsibility to renew teacher contracts should be left to the school administration, Ms. Gill said. The oea supports peer-review programs that leave administrators with the final say over who is rehired.

"Our position is that teachers who evaluate other teachers should do so for the purpose of improving the performance of the teacher being evaluated," Ms. Gill said, asserting that teachers who know that their evaluators could eventually recommend their discharge will be less likely to discuss the difficulties they are encountering.

The o.e.a. was strongly opposed in the debate by the Columbus Education Association, its largest local.

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