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.