Saturday, August 19, 2017


I am so sick and tired of the clearly biased press attacks on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool. There are current articles in each of New York City's daily print publications and yet another in the anti-public school, pro-charter school We read all four of them so you don't have to. We'll link to them if you really are a glutton for punishment.

We rated the articles based on the information they provided and also how well they give the ATR's side. In other words, are they objective? The ICEBLOG believes, as British folk rocker Billy Bragg said many years ago in It Says Here, "There are two sides to every story."

Here are some statistics on the ATR pool we learn from Friday's press reports:
  • There were 822 teachers assigned to the pool as of the end of the school year in June. We do not know if provisional teachers who had an assignment for a term or all of last school year but were not hired permanently were part of that calculation.
  • 25% were in the ATR pool for at least five years.
  • The vast majority of the ATR teachers are there because of school closing or program downsizing.
  • More ATRs are rated ineffective or unsatisfactory compared to other teachers. 
  • ATRs are more experienced compared to the average teacher and ATRs are paid much more than than new teachers.
  • Almost half of ATRs come from high schools. 
The Times' Kate Taylor in her story quotes two principals, a DOE, a former administrator who now heads a artificial turf education organization, a retired principal, the head of another artificial turf education organization, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and finally an ATR gets a one sentence quote on the unfairness of the ratings of ATRs.

This pathetic piece of clearly biased reporting gets a grade of D on the ICEBLOG objective journalism barometer. I have taught introductory journalism courses for three terms so I know a little about trying to look for objectivity.

As for the Daily News, our old friend Ben Chapman highlights the spotty records of the ATRs in his totally one sided piece. He quotes the Department of Education administrator in charge of the ATRs, Randy Asher, and some artificial turf organization head. No teacher or UFT leader even gets a hint of  a quote from Ben. 

The Daily News gets an F- on the ICEBLOG objectivity scale. It is a totally biased piece quoting only school administration and a public school critic but not bothering to quote a teacher. I'll try to be fair and say Ben might have tried but the editor could have edited it out.

Now off to, otherwise known as because of their pro charter slant on all things education. Christina Veiga is the not so intrepid journalist here. Christina cites a whole load of data and quotes DOE's Randy Asher and the leader of an artificial turf pro-charter schools group.

She takes a dig at the ATRs by saying:

Almost half the educators who are currently in the pool were also there two years ago. A quarter were in the ATR five years ago. That doesn’t mean that teachers have remained in the ATR for that entire time. They could have been hired for a time, and returned to the pool.

Still, the figures could be fuel for those who argue educators in the ATR either aren’t seriously looking for permanent jobs — or that the educators in the pool are simply undesirable hires.

ATRs won't bark on command and pass students who don't deserve to pass because we are veterans. We must be bad teachers.

Veiga goes on by saying:

Teachers in the ATR have argued that their higher salaries are one reason principals avoid hiring them — a concern that principals voiced in a recent Chalkbeat report.

“This is part of the injustice of the ATR placement,” said Scott Conti, principal of New Design High School in Manhattan. “Schools might not want them and they will cost schools more in the future, taking away from other budget priorities.”

Under the policy announced Friday, the education department will subsidize the cost of ATRs who are permanently hired, paying 50 percent of their salaries next school year and 25 percent the following school year. 

If you want to know the certification areas of ATRs, we learn from Veiga:

The largest share of teachers in the ATR — 27 percent — are licensed to teach in early childhood or elementary school grades. Another 11 percent are licensed social studies teachers, 9 percent are math teachers and 8 percent are English teachers. 

Veiga does say something on behalf of the ATRs in terms of ratings when she writes:

Some teachers in the ATR say evaluations can be unfair since teachers are often placed in classrooms outside of the subjects they are equipped to teach and because they are bounced between classrooms.

It is not quite a quote from an ATR but it is as close as we are likely to get from In the end, there is a principal, a DOE administrator and an artificial turf organization leader that are quoted.

Chalkbeat gets about a D+ on the ICEBLOG objective journalism scale because while their bias is clear, they do provide a great deal of information, some of which we can use to argue for the ATRs point of view.

Finally, we go to the NY Post. There is actually a fairly balanced piece done by Selim Algar. He starts off with the usual criticism of the ATRs and then he finds another artificial turf organization leader to quote but identifies the organization as a "pro charter group." This person says it's too hard to fire teachers because of UFT power Yawn, yawn, yawn and not true. Funny how they don't have to back up a statement with data but teachers have to.

Algar then surprisingly gives a real life ATR a chance to make the case for the teachers.

But others counter that most ATR teachers were not out-and-out fired for misconduct and deserved another shot inside a classroom if eventually cleared.

“A principal can get rid of a teacher because of a personal vendetta that has nothing to do with their performance,” a current ATR teacher told The Post.

"A lot of us are older teachers who just cost too much, and we get let go because of it. They want to tar us all and it's just not the reality of the situation."

The last person the Post quotes is UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

I give the Post a grade of B on the ICEBLOG objective journalism scale. I would like to see our side up higher in the piece and the emphasis a little different but that is probably the editors more than the writer. 

Kate Taylor, Ben Chapman, Christina Veiga, and Selim Algar my name is James Eterno. Ben knows me. I taught for 28 years at Jamaica High School and I was placed in excess when the school was unfairly closed based on data that Arthur Goldstein and I showed was faulty and we were never refuted by the DOE. I was relegated to the ATR pool and made the best of a difficult three months in 2014 when I had to rotate to different schools. How did Epoch Times manage to find ATR Francesco Portelos and me but the education reporters from three major publications and a pro-charter school website cannot find a group of ATRs to speak to you on or off the record that you can cite in your articles? Hard to believe.

I will be happy to talk to any of you about my experiences and I represent a huge group of teachers. The majority of New York City Public High School teachers who voted, choose me to be their Vice President in the 2016 UFT election. I'm not in office only because UFT election rules allow people from elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, non teachers and UFT retirees to all vote for the High School Vice President. I'm fairly confident saying I represent more real people than any of the artificial turf organizations you quote so often. My email address is right on this blog.

I saw ATRs unfairly being given poor ratings as they passed through Jamaica High School in 2013-14 as they were covering classes for a day and were cited for not having enough engagement with the students they didn't even know. I witnessed almost all of the teachers from our so called "school being closed for poor performance" get rated ineffective or developing in 2014 and then we miraculously all became satisfactory or effective teachers the next year when we were in different schools. I can say for sure my confidence in my ability to teach was shaken when I was a rotating ATR and when I first became a provisional teacher.

I have seen ATRs come and go at Middle College High School, where I was a provisional teacher for over two years and finally was appointed permanently at no cost to the school in January. One time a friend and I worked to help an ATR develop an ideal lesson and then the ATR was trashed by the ATR supervisor who must have been having a bad day. The regular teacher taught a similar lesson days earlier and was praised by the administration in our successful school.

How can a supervisor with a conscience rate ATRs unsatisfactory when ATRs might not even know the subject they are teaching and they certainly don't know the kids who are sitting in front of them or the school that they are just passing through for a month? It's not too difficult for even a weak UFT to defend these ATRs.

Education journalism today is about getting quotes from so called experts who know nothing about the classroom and ignoring the views of teachers. NYC Educator says he knows Charterbeat talked to an ATR for an hour? No quote however. What's wrong with this picture? Oh right, teachers don't contribute big money to privatize education and bust unions. Money talks. I won't hold my breath waiting for a call or an email and then a long quote.

Oh and where is the UFT's own publication, the New York Teacher to defend the ATRs?


Anonymous said...

CBS radio news this morning called the ATRs teachers who get paid for doing nothing and teachers who were disciplined. No mention that
most come from closed schools or downsized programs. No mention that most are veterans.


Anonymous said...

The UFT should be pushing for an end to Fair Student Funding. Otherwise nothing changes. Mulgrew is as embarrassing as Trump - but a lot dumber.

Anonymous said...

My cats have told me there has NEVER been an article in the UFT paper defending ATRs��
Why is that, Mulgrew?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mulgrew should be on the news informing how this ATR ordeal came about and why this is not good for educators, students and workers in general. Instead, silence..... Perhaps Mr. Mulgrew will surprise everyone soon.

Anonymous said...

Mulgrew will have to remove his nose from Carmen's ass first.

Anonymous said...
The UFT should be keeping stats on this in order to prove it to the courts because it is happening all over the city.

James Eterno said...

I was wrong saying none of the writers would reach out. Selim Algar emailed to tell me I spelled his name wrong and to start a dialogue. I apologize for mispelling his name and have corrected it. I will talk to him too.

The Post story was clearly superior to the other three and I give Algar full credit for emailing me. I guess I have to lower my grade for wrong spelling and raise his to B+!

Chaz said...


I strenuously disagree on your grade of B+ for the Post. I read the article and except for stating what one ATR said, it smacked of an anti-ATR bias throughout the article.

Nowhere did the article mention Fair Student Funding nor did the article mention how principals are encouraged to hire the cheapest and not the best teachers for their students. My grade was a solid "D".

Anonymous said...

The Fair Student Funding is the heart of the problem and should be staked through the heart like the living dead ATR vampires we are now considered to be. The UFT should be SCREAMING for its end, yet there is deafening silence. Why?

Anonymous said...

M - Making lots of cash off your ass
U - U all make me sick
L - Look for help elsewhere
G - Get lost
R- Ready for yout career change, yet?
E- Eat all you want if you're invited - you're not
W- Will be AFT president one day

James Eterno said...

Chaz, I guess I was always an easier grader than you. First of all, Rupert Murdoch's Post is one of the most hostile anti-teacher papers of a strongly anti-teacher press. If the journalist manages to get in a paragraph with an ATR and identifies an artificial turf group as pro charter that is big. In addition, the reporter reached out to me, a person who is an obvious critic of the press's reporting on this subject. All of that counts for something. Times, Daily News and Charterbeat didn't do any of that. Maybe I'm marking on a curve because it is the Post.

Maybe we need a third rater to reconcile our scores.

James Eterno said...

Just read The Post piece again and it leans against us but it follows journalistic standards of telling both sides of an issue. Our side actually gets two people quoted with Mulgrew and the ATR and only one person who is against us is quoted. The person opposed to us is identified from a pro charter group. It is cool that Algar sneaks that in.

Algar gets a decent grade in my journalism class, particularly when you consider who he writes for and their ultra right wing, anti union bias. I would expect the Times to delve into Fair Student Funding more than the Post, which is not known for its in depth stories.

Ending Fair Student Funding would diminish the problem, but not end it. The Principal at Middle College was reluctant to hire me even at zero cost because I went to the head of the seniority list at the school. The ATR situation is a smack in the face at seniority as I said a couple of weeks back. Why do you think the press is spilling so much ink to keep the issue alive?

Bronx ATR said...

I just read the article and found it fair. (Sue Edelman is the best writer at the Post, a superstar in my opinion.) Mr. Algar s C+ could have been much higher if he asked the right questions from the right people. Why should deformers have their opinions on ATRs published? Why aren't students asked who'd they'd prefer to have them teach, an experienced teacher or someone who's inexperienced - or does it matter to them? What about their parents? What about groups that are fighting to lower class size - the ATR pool and its use could be very valuable. Finally all schools have individualized budgets a.k.a. Fair Student Funding and its hurting everyone - schools, students, teachers, resources, class size - it runs the gamut. Not a word - and everyone hates it. The grunt at the end from Mulgrew was the journalistic equivalent of passing gas and lowered the grade to a C+.

Anonymous said...

Our unions are part of the conspiracy against veteran teachers. In Newark, school seniority was eliminated and it only exists district wide. I have never understood why ATR and EWPS pools were created. Time and time again, recommendations of a RIF were defeated using the excuse that excellent less experienced teachers would be let go to save incompetent seasoned teachers. Instead, every tool of targeted harassment is implemented against older teachers as the unions stand by idly. The latest development in this movement is the progression from five week wonder TFAs to specially certified charter school teachers. A high diploma, or a GED will be the next iteration.

Abigail Shure

James Eterno said...

We have a B from me, changed to B+ after the writer got in touch with me and because I made the mistake of spelling his name wrong three times. D from Chaz and now a C+ from Bronx ATR. You are the official third rater. I'm ok with Mulgrew getting that last word and we are ahead two to one in quotes in this story. I'm ok with that. We are never going to get out of the Post a pro ATR article. How would that get by an editor? I mark the Post on a curve. Sue Edelman doesn't need the curve. You are right she is excellent.

Interesting that nobody disagrees with the other grades. All bad.

Anonymous said...

The UFT needs to be more aggressive against the age discrimination. The UFT representatives at the union are veterans themselves.

Anonymous said...

What about an underground railroad for ATR's? You know people to go to in buildings that will help ATR's with supplies, information, keys, a friendly ear.

Anonymous said...

That should be the schools chapter leader

Anonymous said...

School chapter leaders (the majority) look out for themselves and their own protection from the union. Many want the position to protect themselves, not to advocate for their members. Perspective: In the past, once a chapter leader got wind of what the administration was planning to do or was doing, the chapter leader would resolve the issue. Now, you get singled out, have to bring it up and you get looked at unfavorably. Chapter leaders are not doing their jobs inside the schools. Many have no clue what to do.

When there is a school principal that goes after chapter leaders, hint, hint - the school is oppressive and does not want an active union. Chapter leaders, educators and administrators should be able to communicate without the fear of retaliation. It's called freedom of speech. We all know that we have to do what the administration asks of us, but educators should be able to express themselves. Administrators these days are not leaders, they are BULLIES. The very act that students are taught not to do to eachother, administrators do to their own staff and many times to the students and parents within the school community.

As children and students we have been taught that bullying and other acts are unacceptable. As adults, this is occurring within the educational system. It truly is sad.

Union members need to gather together in a peaceful protest against bullying/harassment behavior from administrators to bring local and national attention to this matter. It can be even bigger, educators across the country can do it on the same day. It will send a loud message and discourage the young from entering the education profession. Would not want the young in my family to enter this profession anymore. You raise your children to have certain values and the to send them off to the world to have a shmuck mistreat them, HELL NO!

James Eterno said...

You are so right about the bullying in many schools 9:09. UFT'S answer in too many cases when bullying from administration begins is to encourage teachers to transfer. Carmen Farina got most of the teachers to transfer when she was principal.

This leads back to the question: Is it the Union leadership's fault we don't fight back? Or, is it the passive UFT membership? I would argue that it is the leadership that brought about the membership passivity but now it is up to the membership to rise up and say no more.

The problem as I see it is that too many of us are in decent situations so we are reluctant to rise up in defense of our colleagues who are treated like garbage.

All of us need to know that we are one change of principal away from being the next staff under attack. It could be you, me or anyone else who is subject to this bullying.

Leadership is responsible for educating all of us about the abusive working conditions so many of the membership are facing.

Anonymous said...

@9:45AM - James, it's the responsibility of the union leadership and members to collectively bring this disgusting phenomenon to light and that it will not be tolerated in an atmosphere where the educational institution should be respected. There has been a brutal attack against educators and you are 100% correct to state that we are all one principal away from being the next staff under attack. But, let's examine even when the belief is that your principal/assistant principal is fine. Speak up and see what happens. Many fear their administrators even if everything 'apparently' seems to be fine.

The venom of past city leaders penetrated the NYC public schools and it will be up to the union leadership and members to collectively oppose this treatment. The poison lingers.

ed notes online said...

Kate Taylor from the Times reached out to me shortly before deadline and I sent out a call to some ATRS who wanted to contact her. It was clear that all she wanted was a quote from an ATR to appear balanced rather than do a story on the plight of the ATR which I had hoped she would be doing despite her past reporting. No dice.

James Eterno said...

Kate has not reached out to me Norm. Her article is as biased as they come.

Anonymous said...

Not on ATRs, but it is a pro-public education piece.

Anonymous said...

Assignments are in sesis

Anonymous said...

@2:27PM - Thank you, but not for everyone as yet as of this time.

waitingforsupport said...

I agree with 9:09am. I wish there was a way to do an expose in the schools like was done by Geraldo Rivera and the mental
institutions. We should simply show him the list of horrible principals and hopefully a mole i.e. undercover teacher/secretary/custodian can go in to observe the travesty that is now called teaching.

waitingforsupport said...

Con't and report on what many of us know once you speak up or refuse to change grades--you will be targeted and bullied into ATRdom