It’s one thing for Randi Weingarten, the teachers union president, to say she’s behind President Obama’s reform mission to track teacher performance — as long as he gets the details right. It’s another for her to lay out what those details are.

That’s what her national union, the American Federation of Teachers, did today, by way of a press release from Anderson, Indiana. Yeah, I’ve never heard of Anderson either, but apparently teachers there passed a program that will mentor struggling teachers — and give evaluations that point out their strengths and weaknesses.

“PAR is an example of an innovative, successful union-led education reform,” said Dal Lawrence. “It shows just how inaccurate the stereotype is that teacher unions are anti-reform or anti-accountability.”

Here’s the full release, which is from the Anderson union but was sent to me by the national press shop:

Anderson Federation of Teachers
422 West Ninth Street, Anderson, Indiana  46016
(765) 643-5432 •  (765) 643-5743 (Fax)

For Immediate Release                                                                     Contact:
March 11, 2009                                                                                  Rick Muir                                                                                                                                                                   765/643-5432

Anderson Teachers Union and School Board Vote
For Indiana’s First Peer Assistance and Review Program

Anderson, Ind.—Union and school board members voted to pass Indiana’s first peer assistance and review (PAR) program, a teacher evaluation program that will provide new teachers, and those who are struggling, with intensive mentoring, evaluation and support.

“The peer assistance and review program will do more to benefit the teaching profession in Anderson than any other education reform that our union has brought to our schools,” said Rick Muir, president of the Anderson Federation of Teachers.

The Anderson Federation of Teachers, in collaboration with the school district, developed the Anderson Peer Assistance and Review Program. Expert or consulting teachers will be selected and assigned to mentor and evaluate teachers based on specific criteria and the Anderson school district performance standards. Teachers’ strengths and weaknesses will be identified. After receiving help in such areas as teaching strategies, communication and working with peers, teachers will be evaluated and recommendations will be made about retaining or dismissing them.

“PAR is a high-quality program that will fairly and fully evaluate teachers, and help us to provide a world-class education for the Anderson public school students,” said Philip “P.T.” Morgan, an Anderson school district board member.

The PAR concept was developed nearly 30 years ago by the Toledo Federation of Teachers with its school district. It has since been replicated in other Ohio school districts as well as in California, Maryland, Minnesota, New York and elsewhere. Dal Lawrence, past Toledo Federation of Teachers president and architect of the Toledo Plan, helped craft the Anderson PAR program.

“PAR is an example of an innovative, successful union-led education reform,” said Dal Lawrence. “It shows just how inaccurate the stereotype is that teacher unions are anti-reform or anti-accountability.”

The PAR program that the union and school board approved is part of a package of contract items. The PAR program will be implemented in the fall of 2009.

Carole Greenwalt, a 5th-grade teacher from Forest Hills Elementary School, said that she is looking forward to PAR because it will help her become an even better teacher.

Mark Finger, principal of Highland High School, said he visited Toledo to see PAR in action. “What I saw there convinced me that PAR not only is an effective evaluation system but is a safety net for new teachers who need the extra support as they get started in their careers.”

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