A close-up look at NYC education policy, politics,and the people who have been, are now, or will be affected by these actions and programs. ATR CONNECT assists individuals who suddenly find themselves in the ATR ("Absent Teacher Reserve") pool and are the "new" rubber roomers, people who have been re-assigned from their life and career. A "Rubber Room" is not a place, but a process.
After intense negotiations, the UFT and the city’s Department of Education reached a groundbreaking agreement on July 15 that will spare 33 city schools on the state’s “persistently lowest achieving” list from possible closure while securing additional state funding to provide resources to help them improve. [Read the agreement here.]
Under the agreement, which President Michael Mulgrew described to the schools’ chapter leaders in an email that day, the schools will implement either the “restart” or “transformation” models for school improvement at the start of the new school year in September. Those two models are the least punitive of the four federally approved school intervention models, which also include “turnaround” and “closure.”
The agreement means that none of these 33 schools will face immediate closure and that the staff in each school will stay intact, Mulgrew explained to the chapter leaders, noting that under the harsher “turnaround” model 50 percent of the schools’ staffs would have been excessed. The union contract remains in effect.
It also means that educators in these schools may have a meaningful chance to help students that have been simply left behind by the DOE’s policy of closing schools in recent years. “This agreement helps lay the groundwork,” said Mulgrew in a joint press release with the DOE. “Now we have to focus on providing the resources these struggling schools need to make a real difference in the lives of their students.”
Negotiations with the DOE on the transformation model broke down earlier this spring when the DOE refused to require that a principal meet with a teacher who requests a meeting after a negative evaluation on an informal observation (even though they admitted that this is a best practice). In the end, the best practice was implemented and the DOE has written to principals telling them that such a meeting is required.
The DOE will receive up to $2 million per year per school over the next three years — or as much as $65 million annually — in federal School Improvement Grants, a U.S. Department of Education program that provides funding to help transform struggling schools nationwide, to support the schools.
Each of the 33 schools will participate in a teacher evaluation system that is aligned with the state’s new teacher evaluation law and is based on a four-category rating system of highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective, instead of the current system that simply gives teachers a rating of satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The new evaluation system will go into effect for all teachers once local negotiations have concluded.
The 33 schools will have the opportunity to hire “master” or “turnaround” teachers, depending on the schools’ individual funding situations and the choices of their principals. Master teachers earn 30 percent above their base salary and are expected to serve as mentors for other teachers in their schools, working an additional 100 hours per year. Turnaround teachers earn an additional 15 percent and must open their classrooms to other teachers to learn best practices, working an additional 30 hours per year. To remain eligible for either position, teachers must maintain a rating of “highly effective.”
The UFT has long advocated for a career ladder for teachers, and these two positions are a start in the direction of creating a true career ladder, Mulgrew noted.