THE PAPSA PEER REVIEW PROCESS FOR PROGRAM EVALUATION AND PLANNING
Overall program evaluation in a field as diverse as Pupil Services has always been a difficult task. Typical educational program review procedures, such as those conducted by regional accrediting organizations, have tended to be more appropriate to curricular components than to services, which were touched upon briefly if at all. Some professional associations have designed self-evaluation materials for specific aspects of Pupil Services such as guidance or nursing, but self-evaluation is always open to criticism due to bias on the part of the program staff. An effective antidote for these problems of existing evaluation systems can be found in a peer review process.
In 1985, PAPSA undertook the development of a peer review process that would be available to any school district whose Pupil Services administrator has been a member of PAPSA for two consecutive years. Otherwise, there would be a charge for the review in addition to the expenses of the team members. Each year, a number of school districts have participated with evident satisfaction.
The peer review process to some extent resembles those used by regional accrediting bodies, but focuses entirely on Pupil Services. Peer review teams typically run from five to eight members, depending upon the size of the Pupil Services staff in the school district. In cases where only one component, such as counseling, is being reviewed, the teams may be as small as three members. Teams are composed of individuals with expertise in the various areas to be examined.
The expenses to the school district of a peer review include only the following: (1) rooms for the team for two nights; (2) all meals for team members during the stay; and (3) mileage and tolls incurred during travel. No honorariums are accepted, since this process is seen as a professional responsibility and the team members are receiving their regular salaries through their home school districts.
Once dates for a peer review visit have been agreed upon, the school district contact person and the team chairperson work together to establish an agenda for the review. During the pre-session, the team will assemble on-site during the evening prior to the review for dinner and an orientation by the team chairperson and the school district Pupil Services administrator. On the first day, staff interviews are conducted and, on the second day, the team meets with staff, parents/guardians, and students and/or will visit other program components. At the end of the second day, the peer review team will provide the school district with an oral summary, Within two weeks after the completion of the on-site visit, the chairperson shall submit an electronic report to the school district contact person. Each school district that has participated in the peer review process receives a follow-up survey six months later in which they are asked to comment on the process and the value of the process to the school district.