Its starting again, the one-sided media onslaught of the ATR pool by again bringing up the so called viable option of an ATR time limit. While, in the beginning of this latest round of media ATR bashing has not explicitly stated that ATR are "bad teachers" like the round before, we all know its coming. First Charkbeat wrote an article about Chancellor Carmen Farina telling her audience that she will not "force place" ATRs. However, if you read the article the writer does a very poor job of "fact checking" and took a very anti-ATR slant. To say it was sloppy reporting is an understatement. Today the Daily News editorial board asked for an iron-clad ATR time limit of one year. I expect similar editorials from the Post, Times, and the Wall Street Journal to follow. Its time to set the record straight on the DOE policies that have resulted in an ATR pool of 2,000 or more and why ATRs need to be placed back in the classroom next school year for the betterment of the students.
The leadership at Tweed is permeated with the education reform ideology that the public school system can be run as a business model with students as widgets and teachers as cogs, while the Principal is the CEO of the school and being a business manager is more important than being an educator. Combine that with the Bloomberg demonetization of the teaching profession that want a temporary non-pensionable teaching staff and the very willing media allies and the result is an attack on senior teachers. Only an ideologue can justify wasting 160 million dollars annually and misuse much-needed talent for the sake of an ideological cause that only hurts student academic achievement. The fact that Chancellor Carmen Farina has not done her necessary "spring cleaning" at the DOE and especially at Tweed is troubling.
Fair Student Funding:
The primary reason there are over 2,000 ATRs, including teachers, school secretaries, guidance counselors, social workers, and assistant principals is the "fair student funding". This is the most important reason there is an ATR crises. The "fair student funding" forces principals to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers". According to UFT Michael Mulgrew no other school district in the nation uses the "fair student funding" the way the DOE does.
School Budget Cuts:
Since 2007 the NYC public schools have experienced a 14% decrease in their budgets. Combine that they must now fund teacher salaries and pay for the useless and money sucking "Children First Networks", principals are reluctant to hire veteran teachers. With already tight budgets and scrounging for supplies, few principals will take on a high salaried teacher even if that's what's best for the students.
While there are to be no more closing schools, the damage has been done. With 163 schools closed during the Bloomberg years, over half of the ATR pool are teachers from closed or closing schools. Their only fault is to have worked in a school targeted by the Bloomberg administration for their own nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, the De Blasio administration has not reversed any of the closings that are in progress and even more teachers will be joining the ATR pool next year if nothing is done to change the situation.
Leadership Academy Principals:
Going hand-in-hand with the ideology at Tweed is the hiring of those "Leadership Academy Principals", many who had little or no classroom experience who naively believed the Bloomberg/Klein propaganda that ATRs are bad teachers. While Chancellor Carmen Farina has made changes to the "Leadership Academy" requirements, it still means that 19% of the present day principals in the NYC public schools are run by principals with little or no classroom experience and are unwilling to hire ATRs.
The truth about ATRs is that the ATR pool has many "highly qualified teachers" who are unfairly stigmatized by false allegations, ideology, and by a deliberate media misrepresentation of the issue. Sure some of the teachers in the ATR pool were subject to discipline due to alleged misconduct or incompetence. However, if the alleged incompetence or misconduct were true, these teachers would have been terminated through the State 3020-a process. However, the reason these teachers are still in the ATR pool and going from classroom to classroom is because the teachers were found to be innocent of these charges by the independent State arbitrator after carefully reviewing real and relevant evidence. A fact, that the media never seems to mention in their articles and editorials.
The ATR pool is made up of mostly senior teachers with over fifteen years of experience and an average age in the 50s, based upon a small sampling done and published in my blog. Because of their age and salaries, applying to the Open Market Transfer System and going to the "useless job fairs" results in no interviews. The union claims there are only 900 ATRs, the truth is that there's over 2,000 ATRs when you include the ATRs who are covering for leave replacements, provisional vacancies for the year, and counting all the other excessed staff not assigned permanently to a school. Only the newly excessed, less experienced teachers are even able to be appointed to vacancies as the veteran, higher salaried teachers are just too expensive for the schools to consider.
Placing the ATRs back into the classroom where they belong is a win-win solution for the DOE as it will bring lower class sizes, deep curriculum knowledge, and good classroom management skills to improve student academic achievement. Many of the teachers in the ATR pool are "quality teachers" and our union most push back against the inaccurate media reporting about the ATR pool. Hopefully, when a new contract is signed, the ATRs will be offered to the schools. However, the only way principals will be able to hire an experienced ATR and improve their students academically, will be to eliminate the "fair student funding", have the teacher budget reverted back to the DOE Central as a unit and a hiring freeze until all excessed teachers in the district are "provisionally appointed" to a school. This will mean no "forced placements" and allows the principal and the ATR to decide if they are a good fit for the school.