Saturday, July 22, 2017


If you can believe this Chalkbeat NY article from Thursday, it looks like the principals in New York City public schools are ready to take a firm stand against the Department of Education force placing Absent Teacher Reserves in their schools for a year to cover certain vacancies. Since the giveback filled 2005 UFT contract, principals completely controlled the hiring process in each school. Chalkbeat interviewed several principals who are not at all satisfied over this limitation on their power.

For anyone who has not been monitoring the situation, DOE's Randy Asher said that ATRs will be placed in a school that has any remaining vacancies after October 15. Usually it is the more difficult to teach in schools that still have openings in October, often because they have principals who are tough to work with. If the teacher is rated Effective or Highly Effective on observations, they get to stay in the school permanently.

The principals are not going to take this reduction of their autonomy lying down. Here is an excerpt from the Chalkbeat piece:

“Many of them (ATRs) have been coming from schools that have been closed down or subject areas that were cut,” said Scott Conti, principal of New Design High School in Manhattan. “The majority of them were at schools that were highly dysfunctional.” He noted that some may have been out of the classroom for years and not getting proper professional development, effectively hindering their performance as teachers.

Conti said he did hire a teacher from the ATR pool three years ago, through the standard procedure he would use to hire other teachers. He objects to the idea of being forced to hire someone whose effectiveness he could not fully judge.

“It’s never good when somebody from outside a school decides to fill in a vacancy in a school,” Conti said. “ It’s scary that some teacher could be put in your school that you have no choice about.”

Other principals were more harsh. One Bronx principal said multiple experiences working with ATR teachers sent to the school for monthly rotations in the past left the impression that those in the reserve are “not qualified, with very few exceptions.” Other principals agreed, suggesting that if the teachers were high-quality candidates, they probably would have found positions on their own.

The principals and Chalkbeat forget to mention that with "Fair Student Funding" ATRs who are senior teachers will cost a school significantly more money when their average salary is factored in on a school's budget. Chalkbeat contradicts the comment from the principals on the low-quality of the ATRs when they point out later in the article  that "the city offered an incentive system to encourage schools to hire from the ATR pool. During that school year, 372 teachers were hired from the ATR pool under a DOE policy that subsidized the cost of the teachers’ first-year salaries by 50 to 100 percent." That's why I was picked up permanently. I was a freebie for the school in 2016-17 and I'm half price for 2017-18. When ATRs are free or on sale, we suddenly aren't so bad.

Blogger Chaz has covered the reasons why ATRs are not given permanent positions fairly extensively. He cites the high cost of senior ATRs if hired on school budgets, ATR seniority over junior teachers who might have to be excessed if an ATR is hired and the school later has budget cuts, institutional memory as ATRs who are hired permanently might ask questions if a principal says jump, and finally how ATRs have been demonized by the DOE.

When someone sees over and over again the press reporting that he/she is not of high quality, it can have a real effect on the person. I was a rotating ATR for only three months and it impacted on my confidence as a teacher for sure. I have been to several meetings of ATRs done by various groups where polls are taken. Each time, majorities of ATR's vote that they would like to stay in rotation and don't want regular teaching positions. The first time I saw this result I was kind of stunned. After all, what kind of teacher wouldn't want a regular class to teach? Also, who wants to be observed by roving supervisors sometimes nicknamed "field assassins"? These supervisors observe ATRs in classes where the teachers might not even know the kids in front of them and perhaps are not even be skilled at an out-of license subject they happen to be teaching. In the opinion of many ATRs, this is still better than the Danielson observations regular teachers are subjected to.

Looking back with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight after having been appointed to a regular teaching position in 2017, I can say the ATRs who have given up trying to seek a permanent position and/or are blacklisted by the DOE so they can't find a regular job have mostly developed superior coping skills and are to be admired and not criticized.

By making minor tweaks in the system so more ATRs will be placed in schools, Randy Asher is really not making any radical changes. The principals still get to rate the ATRs who are placed and as previously stated only those rated Effective or Highly Effective exclusively on the observation portion of their annual rating will stay permanently. Ultimately, principals remain in control and only the ATRs forced placed will suffer as principals will now have an incentive to rate these teachers Developing or Ineffective on observations which unfortunately will happen many times to ATRs who are sent to some of the system's worst principals.

Chalkbeat did not quote one ATR, not even one, for their article. We don't matter to them and that is why I stay away from their biased reporting most of the time. However, it is worth noting that more principals seem to be unhappy since Farina re-empowered superintendents in 2015. A piece from Chalkbeat in June describes the complaints of principals going from a system where they controlled everything in their schools to one where the superintendent has some authority over them.

One principal described the changes:

Ari Hoogenboom, principal of Abraham Lincoln High School, spelled out the pros and cons. Farina's system is likely to minimize wayward principals from breaking the rules or getting in over their heads. But in the long run, it might also discourage stronger principals from taking risks that could help students.

"With Bloomberg, it was like running a hamburger joint, but it was my own hamburger joint," Hoogenboom said. "And with de Blasio I'm running a McDonald's and I have to serve the Big Mac."

Whether the administrative nonsense comes down on teachers and other UFT staff from the principal or the superintendent does not matter much. We are still the ones who are powerless along with parents and students in too many schools. The only solution for the future is to re-empower the actual school communities. That is where the check on principal power needs to come from. In contract negotiations, the UFT should seek to take back all of the givebacks from 2005.


Anonymous said...

I am disgusted by any principal that won't "take" an ATR in their school. ATR's are licensed, experienced, and mostly tenured teachers. In other words, they are fully capable to teach in their subject area. Can you imagine a police captain trying to deny a veteran police officer a job in his or her precinct?

RBE said...

This is going to end badly for most ATR's, exactly as it was designed to do. How many forcibly-placed ATR's are going to be rated "effective" or "highly effective" if that means principals have to hire them permanently?

I bet less than 5% receive those ratings. Not because ATR's are "bad" teachers or their "skills" have eroded because of a lack of professional development, as the Gotham Charter Schools hack alleges in the article, but simply because the incentive is there for principals to nail ATR's with bad ratings.

Superintendents in many districts are telling admins they must increase the number of "ineffective" and "developing" ratings in their schools - you can bet that what superintendents tell admins regarding the ATR's is, You don't want them, then give them ineffectives and get rid of them.

This is just another example of a UFT sellout sold as a deal that scraps the skies for teachers: "Hey, here's your chance to prove you're good teachers and get back into the classroom!"

The genius of this move from the DOE/UFT perspective is, it actually looks to outsiders like teachers are being given a fair chance to succeed here. But anybody who has been paying attention to how the DOE treats teachers since Fair Funding knows the chance an ATR can survive this coming year is negligible at best.

Anonymous said...

The DOE & the UFT created this mess and the media has perpetuated it.
#1 issue for the contract - get rid of Danielson or revise it! No more drive by observations! No independent observers for ATRs or appointed teachers!
#2 get rid of fair student funding!!!

What would be a good number to compensate or incentivize teachers to leave the system? The city has to pay!

What do people think?

For people over 55, I think one-year full salary pensionable with full benefits and eligibility for unemployment benefits upon severance ... also teaching license has to be intact.

For people under 55, two years salary, etc.

Anonymous said...

You want us out, buy us out. Most of us will leave in a damn hurry.

Anonymous said...

My crystal ball shows placed ATRs will be negatively rated in droves. It is a complete set-up. I love the implication that the ongoing meaningless PD is actually of value.

Abigail Shure

Anonymous said...

For people under 55, two years salary is not enough. Could negotiate the number of years til I am 55 plus everything else you mentioned @1:08PM. Only this will get my attention. I need to continue to work; have never been written up for anything and I have never tried to get over. If there are ATRs that have not been able to keep up with their "skills", provide professional development and support. It will all come back. Let's remember, we are educators and need to build each other up so that we can continue to provide support to students. If there are ATRs that do not possess the "skills" required, it is the fault of the DOE and UFT. ATRs are victims of this situation and we will not be brushed aside. Help us and the only way to help us is by changing the mindset if principals, administrators and the DOE. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been to a school or a DOE workshop and the minute you say you are an ATR, there are faces. The mindset is negative and the UFT sends us into a hostile environment. There are some principals that have claimed they don't want us while others remain silent, but one thing is for sure - principals do not want veteran ATRs and this system has not done anything to change that mindset. ATRs have had to develop superb coping skills. People can be very mean spirited - even our own union member colleagues. What people fail to understand is that everyone is one step from becoming an ATR and everybody needs to fight to stop this negative mindset. It does not matter that this agreement has been made. The mindset is the same. I just want to see the faces of the principal and administration of the site I will be placed in after October 15th.

Anonymous said...

There will be virtually NO ATRs hired, except for leaves. We are too expensive. End individual school budgets and you end the ATR pool. Every principal and UFT lackey knows this.

Anonymous said...

Remember everyone to check out the New Action Do Not Apply site. Good luck to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Hoogenboom's a bipolar, petty, vindictive misogynist. His mood swings/ temper tantrums are legendary. And his quote contrasting Burger King and McDonalds makes little to no sense. Teachers who know him are fleeing Lincoln by the dozen, and I don't envy an ATR having to work for Ari.

Anonymous said...

That list is ancient (some close to 10 years old) and needs to be updated - it's no long relevant. There are many new principals, staffs and of course schools that should be and should no longer be on that list.

Anonymous said...

If you say so Tony.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Tony, 2008 is the date of the school I checked on - Rincon.

Anonymous said...

I meant '09. The others are mostly '08.

Anonymous said...

Principals should continue to be vocal. These principals have the audacity to say they don't want ATRs because ATRs come from problematic schools. I have not been impressed with school sites. These principals should look at their own sites which many have the following in common: oppressive, micromanagement, intimidation, low morale, corruption, grade inflation, harassment, targetting of veteran staff - age discrimination, staff not getting paid to stay late which is a wage and hour violation, etc. I am a veteran in the "ATR" pool and the factors mentioned are excessively being exercised in today's "fabulous" schools. It is an embarrassment. Yet these principals which cause all of the above want to try to justify not wanting ATRs due to coming from "problematic" schools. Let the principals speak!

Anonymous said...

The DOE lawyers are a sneaky bunch. Yes this ATR idea will look like it's solving the issue, but when only the worst schools (and consequently, the worst teacher ratings due to student misbehavior) have openings, and ATR's get rated developing or ineffective, next year the bias against the ATR's will be worse, as there will be a high percentage that were rated poorly and therefore deemed to be bad teachers.

Anonymous said...

Decade after decade there are students that do not do well and will not perform as expected. Wasn't this true in 2005. We are in 2017 and are there students that do not do well? As educators we want all our students to do well. I was in a school where students did well naturally with no extra emphasis from staff. The school that I came from you had to do backflips to get students to pass. Staff that work in a school with lower performing students work so much more to the point it is draining and what will the ATRs receive at the end when placed in these lower performing schools? Developing or ineffective. The lower performing students are not wanted. Administrators try to counsel them out and tell the school counselors to do this as well. Everyone knows this is going on. Why? Ratings on the school and ratings of staff. These students need the help of our public schools and we are turning our backs on them and on the educators that try to help them. Something is not right here.

Anonymous said...

If the UFT does not step up and start protesting school administrations that target teachers, then ATRs, and all teachers, will be vulnerable. Principals are empowered to think like this partly because they face no pushback on anything. How many years was the principal from the "school of no" tolerated? How many principals have failed upwards?
I belonged to a small local. The ex-president was vocal and visible politically, but did not spend much time or effort on workplace grievances. The ex did not take care of the membership and is therefore an ex.
Good luck to you all.

Anonymous said...

Forbes has a disturbing article titled: Teacher Certification Makes Public School Education Worse, Not Better by Omri Ben-Shahar which believes teacher certification should be eliminated to improve primary and secondary education. Very disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Dear fellow principals, let's make sure there are no vacancies by 10/15. My budget can't afford a 100K ATR. No offense to you ATRs out there, I'd hire all of you if could. So Shad, keep my name of your ass, please. These new teachers can bearly wipe their butts and the kids are going to eat them alive. It's not fun for us.

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Anonymous said...

What is the issue? Principles have plenty of time to fully staff their schools! Just stop playing games with positions and budgets!

Anonymous said...

Not happening with this group of principals.

James Eterno said...

How about saying principals that lack principles? Too corny?

Anonymous said...

It's not corny at all James. It is a nice slogan.
DOE is finding ways to cut our jobs as a whole. This movement about not requiring certifications to teach opens up the position to anyone with a college degree or not??? The DOE has found ways to cut out school counselors, administrators for different disciplines, etc. It will keep getting worse with cuts. The union needs to communicate with its members what is being done about all these issues and how are standards being maintain within the schools.

Anonymous said...

Standards? What are those?

Anonymous said...

It's sad, but true. The worse thing is that if you say something about about any wrongdoing, then you are targeted. Crazy system. It's from the top down. At least the kids are getting HS diplomas whether they truly earned them or not.

Anonymous said...

The list of administrators in NYC that we are suppose to watch out for, check the site dtoe dot org.