Toledo, Ohio, has the longest history of teacher peer reviews in the country, having started almost thirty years ago, according to National Public Radio. A “consultant” (or master teacher) studies a colleague’s preparation, planning and presentation of lessons, knowledge of material, engagement and discipline of students, even dress and punctuality. Poor performance can result in job termination—a decision that once rendered is rarely overturned or appealed.
According to the NPR piece, special education teacher Joshua Singer started teaching in Toledo in 2000 and left the position after a positive peer review. He went on to earn a master’s degree before returning to a teaching job in a middle school in the district. He then received a dissatisfactory peer review, according to the report. He believes he was targeted unfairly by his consultant for having a good relationship with his students. “There’s nowhere to turn, there’s no grievance process,” he said in the piece by reporter Claudio Sanchez. “I knew I was in a losing situation.”
While the peer review system may leave teachers like Singer feeling scorned, David Strom, general counsel at the American Federation of Teachers, believes the peer review process preserves the integrity of teaching and prevents lawsuits with overwhelming union support. “A union’s job is not to defend every teacher no matter what the teacher has done, particularly if that teacher is not competent or capable,” he noted.
According to Del Lawrence, former president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, a peer review can shorten a new educator’s learning curve and spare a lot of grief: “A bad teacher can do a lot of damage in 5 years.”
Editor’s note: This post was updated attributing comments and quotes about Joshua Singer to the NPR report and clarifying his tenure with the district.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.