Friday, April 11, 2014
The Reason Why ATRs Should Be Put Back Into The Classroom. It Helps Student Academic Achievement.
The Wall Street Journal's education reporter, Leslie Brody wants to talk to ATRs about their situation and what should be done to the ATR pool. She contacted Norm Scott and told him that the she wants to "untangle the weeds of the ATR pool and see it's very complicated". Ms. Brody claims she will write a fair and accurate article. Personally, since she works for the Wall Street Journal, and like all the City newspapers who continually call us "bad or unwanted teachers", I highly doubt it and even if she tried to be fair, I'm sure her editor will make sure the ATRs are cast in a negative light. However, while I will not speak to her, my blog represents my view of the ATR pool and what should happen next year. Here is my letter to Leslie Brody.
Dear Ms. Brody:
The ATR pool consists of over 2,000 (not 1,000 the DOE or 960 the UFT claims) ATRs. Included in this group are teachers, guidance counselors social workers, assistant principals, and school secretaries. The DOE and UFT, to avoid embarrassment, do not include ATRs who are temporarily in schools as "leave replacements" and "provisional appointees" and who will be back into the ATR pool at year's end. The ATR pool is composed of mostly senior educators with the average age in their 50's and fifteen or more years of experience. These educators came from closing schools or schools that needed to reduce staff, and educators targeted by principals that survived their termination hearings.
The ATR pool was formed when the DOE and UFT agreed in the infamous 2005 contract that no excessed teacher need to be placed in a school in their district and that Principals can hire outside of the school system regardless of how many excessed teachers in the subject area were in the district. To ensure that highly experienced teachers would not be appointed, the DOE imposed the "fair student funding formula" on the schools and forced principals to include teacher salaries in their budget. The result was that principals had an incentive to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers" for their school since it would save money in their increasingly tight budget. To make matters worse the UFT unwisely proposed the weekly rotation where ATRs are sent weekly to different schools and the DOE eagerly agreed to it for the 2011-12 school year going forward. The weekly rotation has proven to be a disaster, its dehumanizing, non-professional, and wastes talent and money which costs the DOE $160 million annually for "glorified babysitters". How depressing it is to be a "stranger in a strange land" in a different school every week. I personally put in over 20 requests for vacant positions through the Open Market Transfer System in the last three years and received not one interview!
Many in the ATR pool are "quality teachers" and are long-term teaching professionals, we are the teachers that Mayor Bill de Blasio should want to retain since we are not likely to leave for greener pastures as less experienced teachers do. Furthermore, by placing the ATRs back in the classroom where we belong, the City achieves their goal of reducing class sizes without additional cost since we're being paid anyway. Finally, we bring with us deep curriculum knowledge, classroom management skills, and most importantly a passion for teaching and connecting with the children to see them achieve their academic goals.
Unfortunately, that will not happen until Chancellor Carmen Farina ends the destructive "fair student funding", freeze outside hiring, and once again make educator salaries as a unit and come from DOE Central as it was done for decades. It wouldn't be a bad idea to give principals an incentive to hire us as they did once before. ATRs should be back in the classroom if the City really wants to put "children first" and see real academic improvements for the public school students.
Ms Brody, while I only speak for myself, I suspect I speak for the majority of ATRs who just want a chance to be back in a classroom with our own students and help them reach their academic potential.
Note: There is a deliberate misconception that the DOE picks up part of the ATR salary if a school selects an ATR to fill a leave replacement or vacancy. The DOE only picks up the difference in salary between the ATR and the salary of the teacher the ATR is replacing for the first year only! If the school decides to pick up the ATR for the second year the ATR's salary must be included in the average teacher salary of the school and comes out of the school's budget. Therefore, very few, if any, ATRs are picked up the second year since it will cost the school money.