Sunday, October 06, 2013

The ATR Crisis, Oversized Classes, And Teachers Teaching A Sixth Period.




















We all know there is an ATR crisis with over 2,000 ATRs not assigned to permanent positions throughout the New York City schools. What is probably more puzzling is with so many ATRs traveling from school to school weekly how can there be oversized classes?  In Queens Hillcrest High School has 400 and Cardoza has 385 oversized classes!  Throughout the City there are over 6,300 oversizred classes, the highest in over a decade.  Since 2007 the average school has lost 14% of their budget while charter schools increasingly gobble up more and more of the DOE funds at the expense of the public schools. The number of oversized classes even  would be higher if the schools didn't encourage teachers to take a "sixth class".  In my previous two schools almost 25% of the teachers were teaching a "sixth class" because principals found it to be more economical to pay a teacher the extra money than to hire another teacher.  In multi-session schools one of the tricks that principals do is to assign the teacher the "sixth class" at either the beginning or end of the teacher's schedule so they only have to pay the pro rated per session rate ($31.48) rather than the teacher's actual salary which would be near $50 a period for senior teachers, not including the 7% TDA interest contribution the City is required to pay.

At Cardozo High School the Principal has experienced an astounding $400,000 shortfall along with 18 uncovered classes (classes with no assigned teacher).  When the Principal requested ATRs to help reduce the overcrowded classrooms and uncovered classes, the DOE refused!   Yes the very same people who has the slogan "children first....Always".  Instead they told the hapless Principal to find another way.  The Principal had to do the unthinkable, after getting as many teachers as possible to volunteer to take a "sixth period class", he reduced the Advanced Placement classes from two periods, the standard in the country, to one period daily.  This freed up enough teachers to cover the uncovered classes but has put the students looking for college credit in a terrible academic position or as the late comedian Heni Youngman stated "its like a one legged man in a butt kicking contest".  These students will be at a competitive disadvantage when compared to their peers and few will get the scores necessary to earn college credit for the course.

Why didn't the DOE assign the ATRs to the school?  The reason is simple, the DOE wants the school
to pay for the extra teachers on their galaxy budget since they are not filling vacancies or long term leaves.  Of course the school is broke and already is in a $400,000 hole.  It doesn't matter that the school had already reduced one period of Earth Science and Living Environment weekly by making it a 4-1 course  instead of a 5-1 program it was intended to be nor does it matter that the school reduced the  two period Advanced Placement courses to one period daily. For the DOE it's not about what's best for the school's students its what's best for the ideology coming from from Tweed that drives the stringent and unfair budget requirements that lead to the crowded classrooms and unreasonably high class sizes.  Even a public demonstration by Cardozo students, parents, and teachers failed to move the DOE to help the school.

You would think if the Principal was at fault they would simply replace him and provide the extra funding needed to help the school meet this crisis.  But no, the DOE would rather hurt the students then provide the necessary resources to meet the budgetary crisis.  For the DOE and their leadership at Tweed it's "children last.......Always".

Update:  Thanks to NYC Educator who wrote me that  ESL, Science, and Special Education teachers who pick up a sixth period have that period  paid for by the central office and does not even come out of the school's budget.

6 comments:

NYC Educator said...

As a matter of fact, in emergency shortage areas like special ed., science and ESL the sixth class is paid for centrally. There's actually an additional and substantial financial incentive, in that case, to not hire a teacher.

Anonymous said...

The "oversized class situation" also sounds as if it deserves the personal attention of Larry Becker.

Maybe he would be open to being invited into the schools by the Chapter Leaders so that he can witness it with his own eyes.

James Eterno said...

A couple of contractual points based on part of this piece:

"In my previous two schools almost 25% of the teachers were teaching a "sixth class" because principals found it to be more economical to pay a teacher the extra money than to hire another teacher."

This should not be happening. If there are at least three classes in a subject area being covered by a sixth class, it is a program and should be grieved under Article 5 of the UFT contract. At Jamaica, we won at the chancellor's level on a similar complaint. It took until January before they gave in but this should be grieved.



"In multi-session schools one of the tricks that principals do is to assign the teacher the "sixth class" at either the beginning or end of the teacher's schedule so they only have to pay the pro rated per session rate ($31.48) rather than the teacher's actual salary which would be near $50 a period for senior teachers, not including the 7% TDA interest contribution the City is required to pay."

The rate of pay for a sixth class is covered in the contract. It is in Article 7O5. The rate is currently $5,660 per semester and it is pensionable. Anybody doing it for less should grieve because they are costing themselves thousands of dollars.

Anonymous said...

I guarantee you that the DOE was far more concerned about containing the publicity that the protest may have generated than about solving the problem at Cardozo.

Anonymous said...

Mayor-Elect de Blasio, “The ATR Pool is Insanity,” (A Hopeful Scenario)
Posted on October 7, 2013 | 9 Comments
Mayor-elect de Blasio speaking to a high level Department of Education official,

“Let me get this straight, when you close a school you dump the staff into what is called the ATR pool, the teachers are not assigned to another school, they rotate weekly from school to school and do whatever the principal assigns them, there are over 200 guidance counselors who also rotate and you have just added assistant principals to the rotation system. You have a team of field supervisors who observe and evaluate the folks in the ATR pool, the vast percent are rated satisfactory, and this system is costing, me, costing the city over $100 million a year.”

Department official, “Yes, you’re basically correct, let me explain the underlying reason for this policy.”

de Blasio, “Not not, do you have any evidence that this system improves students’ academic achievement or social and emotional well-being, by evidence I mean a peer-reviewed study?”

Department official, “No, but this policy is a core belief of our administration, can I explain further?”

de Blasio, “No, by core belief you mean dogma unsubstantiated by evidence, it is a politically driven policy, you believe that principals should select all teachers in their schools and are willing to divert $100 million to support an unproven political agenda.”

Department official, “There’s much more to it, I’d like to explain.”

de Blasio, “You already have explained,” and makes an aside to an aide as he walks away, “This is total insanity.”

jd2718.org said...

The budget questions here are a shell game. All of our salaries are paid by the DoE (check your stub or your electronic transfer). There is no actual money in any school that is paying for salary...

The school budget is an allowance, on paper. A principal cannot offer a teacher a check, only a placement - a placement that does not effect how much money the DoE pays that teacher every two weeks.

For schools to make rational decisions about placement, they need to be allocated teachers, not pretend money. (Essentially the old "unit system")

Everybody who comes in contact with kids - parents, teachers, principals, would prefer the old, rational system to the current one, designed to punish principals who give placement to the best teacher available by stealing that school's funds for supplies.

Jonathan