Friday, September 29, 2006

The Kleinberg Plan For The ATR's

It is common knowledge that there are over a thousand Absent Teacher Reserves (ATR's) roaming around with no teaching assignments and wondering what their future is? What is their future? Uncertain at best and ominious at worst.

First, let's start on why we have all these ATR's in the first place. Until this year all excessed teachers were placed in teaching positions within their borough before any other teacher can be hired. However, that all changed this year when the Department of Education allowed schools to hire newly-minted teachers and even uncertified teachers from the alternate certifaction programs like Teach For America & the Teaching Fellows Program without placing the excessed teachers. The DOE did not even try to pretend to care about the ATR's by having their job fair AFTER the new teacher job fair. Therefore, many of the schools that needed teachers were inclined and maybe even pressured to hire the new teacher over the experienced teacher.

Second, why are there so many ATR's? Good question and an equally good answer. The closing down of the large schools into small schools was a primary reason. See, once a large school closes and is replaced by small schools, the small schools are only required to select 50% of the large school staff and since many of the small school principals come from the Leadership Program who's emphasis is on loyality to the DOE and ignorance of how to collaberate with the teaching staff, many of the more experienced and knowledgable teachers were not selected in the interview process. To be fair, many of these teachers didn't bother to apply to the small schools since small school teachers are required to take on more non-teaching responsibilities and prepare more preps.

Third, a secondary reason is the reduced budgets to the remaining schools that are not part of the empowerment zone. Yes, I know the DOE said that the extra money the empowerment zone schools comes from the elimination of mid-level district administrators. However, DOE's lack of transparancy makes that claim highly suspect. Many of the non-empowerment schools have suffered budget cuts for this year. The result, more excessed teachers!

Finally, the increased hiring of new teachers, encouraged by DOE with recruitment packages and job fairs, at the expense of the excessed teachers, increased the ATR's.

The result is that there are over 1,000 teachers without their own classrooms.

Why would the DOE have 1,000+ ATR's doing no classroom teaching? Wouldn't it be in their best interest to place these teachers into the classroom by reducing class size? You would think so since lower class sizes would benefit the children and result in higher test scores. However, Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Klein are not interested in the children but are looking long-term to the next contract where their goal is to fire these ATR's.

Just think, the Kleinberg people will wail how the teachers' contract forces them to pay over 1000 teachers their full salary, including senority time, and step pay raises, while they are just doing day-to-day substitute teaching. The Daily News, New York Post, & the Sun will have full page editorials demanding the end to tenure for life for the ATR's and even Newsday & the New York Times will ask for contract changes. The result will be a media blitz that puts the union on the defensive with the ultimate goal of putting a time limit on ATR's in finding a full-time teaching job. An example of this is in Chicago where excessed teachers have 18 months to find a job. If not, they are fired!

I don't believe that whichever faction wins the UFT election will agree to an ATR time limit. Yes even gasp Unity! However, unless the UFT becomes pro-active on this issue by bringing up the class size issue, the waste of experienced & talented teachers while hiring untested and clueless people from alternate certification programs, and failing to ensure a quality teacher in every classroom by running an "education on the cheap" program. The union will find itself increasingly on the defensive and the political pressure may result in an ATR time limit and the beginning of the end of teacher tenure. Therefore, it is a must that the UFT come out strong and hard over how Kleinberg has caused the ATR mess.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to suggest a further DoE motivation for not putting these teachers to work in their own classrooms. The Mayor and Chancellor are far more interested in creating a parallel school system -- charters, small schools, etc -- than in fixing the core system. If they use classroom space to decrease class size, there's less room to insert charters. More cynically, any measure taken to improve the public schools, especially an impactful one like decreasing class size, would lessen parent demand for charters. If they give every advantage to charters, then they know the test results will be better and the sympathetic press will make the case for them. The Post ran the "charters have better test results" story today.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, of course, but I have to stress this situation was entirely predictable. The UFT's lack of vision in this matter is one of the single most disturbing factors in their mishandling of contract negotiations.

Chaz said...


I couldn't agree with you more on the Charter/small schools.

Interesting that despite all the advantages the Charter schools have. Parent involvement, better test grades of the children coming into the school, small class sizes. added instruction, and expelling of discipline problems. They can only show a 5% increase in test grades. The reason! Easy the achilles heel of the Charter schools, the lack of quality teachers!!!!

nyc educator:

I wonder why Cleo eh Leo Casey hasen't commented on this wonderful part of the contract lately? I guess he is too busy saving the world.

Anonymous said...

In fact, he has. He maintains that because more transfers occurred under this program, it is successful. He simply refuses to address the plight of the thousand ATR teachers.

Anonymous said...

Here is an email from George Schmidt in Chicago that is pertinent to this discussion.-- Norm

July 22, 2006

Any charter school study that compares a charter school with local non-magnet elementary or high schools is biased and statistically invalid.

Chicago pioneered this form of dishonesty.

Charter schools require at least two (usually four) conditions that do not apply to neighborhood public schools.

1. Charter schools require that children apply for admission. The most at risk children come from families that can barely get the information together to prove the child lives in the public school attendance area.

2. Charter schools require that students and families sign performance agreements that result in "voluntary removal" if the child or family fails to comply. Depending upon the charter school, the compliance can even include Saturday classes (for the children) and mandatory "parenting" sessions (for the family).

3. Charter schools exclude the most severely disabled children and families, either by having inaccessible facilities or by telling the families they don't have the staff to provide the services.

The first and pioneering dishonesty in these reports was compiled by Chicago's Greg Richmond about seven years ago, on orders from the Chicago Tribune. Since that "report," Richmond has moved on from his job as Chief of charter schools at the Chicago Board of Education to the national charter school bureaucracy (he is currently head of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers; he was recently featured in a news story on New Orleans). Richmond's study claimed that the charters surpassed neighborhood schools, but left out the conditions I cite above. On several occasions, Richmond simply ignored FOIA requests for the data underlying the claims made in his "study." To date (more than four years after the original FOIA request), the Chicago Board of Education still refuses to make available any data used as the basis for the Richmond report. That report, like "A Nationa at Risk" and similar stuff, has since taken on a life of its own, thanks mainly to the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, which simply asserts its conclusions now, as "research based."

If comparisons between charters and public schools are going to be made, at least in Chicago, the comparisons have to be between Chicago charters and Chicago magnet schools.

A study that used this standard of comparison would show Chicago charters are performing less well than Chicago public schools.

But that's not a study that will be done in Chicago, because the party line here is that charters are good and publics are bad.

One thing I've just begun looking into is the really primitive level of discrimination against children (and families) with disabilities here in Chicago, especially those with the most severe disabilities. Most Chicago charter school buildings are inaccessible to many disabled (e.g., wheelchairs). This is the result of the charter schools being an indirect subsidy to the Catholic schools. When inner city Catholic schools have been closed in Chicago, they are rented (by the public school budget) for charter schools. But the Catholic schools we're talking about were never brought into compliance with accessibility regulations, and the Chicago Board of Education is not trying to force its growing number of charter schools into compliance. This alone is a major scandal, but also reveals, among other data, how the charters cherry pick students to provide the "results" they want.

And even with all the cherry picking, they are not doing very well in Chicago when compared honestly with those public schools where comparisons can be made.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

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