Peer support available for struggling San Francisco teachers

Peer review and assistance
In an age when taxpayers are increasingly asking for schoolteachers to be held accountable for a child’s success, the San Francisco Unified School District offers struggling teachers a chance to improve.

The program, known as peer review and assistance, began more than a decade ago. It was expanded in 2006 to include additional teacher mentors and a voluntary program for those who thought they needed it even if they received satisfactory remarks on reviews.

If a teacher is put into peer review and assistance by receiving a poor performance review, the troubled teacher is assigned a coach — who is also a classroom teacher — and given one year to show improvements or face dismissal.

Union contracts make it hard for districts to fire the teachers. However, many teachers who are offered assistance and a plan for improvement instead choose to leave on their own if they don’t show progress.
Superintendent Carlos Garcia said at least 12 teachers have left the district of their own accord since the program was beefed up.

In addition to work on lesson planning, coaches help struggling teachers improve their ability to engage students and help them reflect on their own practices. Much of the coaching is focused on the teaching standards set by the state.

Debra Eslava-Burton, the district’s supervisor for teacher support and development, said as many as 40 teachers can be in the peer review program at a time. All teachers qualifying for peer review and assistance are veterans.

“It’s a changing practice,” Eslava-Burton said of the profession. “If you’re used to being autonomous with 30 students in and a closed door, it’s not that anymore.”

Eslava-Burton said teachers in the program are still in the classroom receiving periodic reviews and up to 150 minutes of one-on-one time with their coaches each week. They’re not given administrative duties.

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