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.
The United Federation of Teachers and New York City leaders on May 1 announced a historic proposed nine-year contract that they said demonstrates the extraordinary progress possible in public schools when a city works in partnership with its educators.
At a City Hall press conference, UFT President Michael Mulgrew called the proposed agreement the “contract for education.”
Mulgrew said that the agreement, which must be ratified by the membership, gives educators the opportunity to do their jobs the way they always wanted to do them. “The solution to great education exists in each and every school right now,” he said. “We just needed to create a platform and an environment that allows them to do what they have dedicated their lives to do, which is helping children learn.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the negotiations represented “a rare opportunity to re-imagine what our schools should look like.”
Under the deal, the more than 100,000 teachers, guidance counselors, nurses and other UFT members in the schools would get an 18 percent pay increase that includes two retroactive increases of 4 percent that have already been paid to other city unions. They will receive a 1 percent pay increase every May for three years beginning in May 2013. In May 2016, they will receive a 1.5 percent raise, followed by 2.5 percent in May 2017 and 3 percent in May 2018. Members would also receive a $1,000 bonus upon ratification.
The proposed agreement covers the period from Nov. 1, 2009 to Oct. 31, 2018.
The city and the UFT have identified a menu of potential significant ways to cut costs on health care while maintaining benefits for city employees. These measures, such as more efficient purchasing of health care services, must be approved by the Municipal Labor Committee.
The tentative agreement addresses two critical priorities for UFT educators: addressing the problems with the teacher evaluation system and reducing unnecessary paperwork.
Teacher evaluations will become simpler and fairer. Evaluations will now be focused on eight of the 22 components of the Danielson Framework for Teaching. The system for rating teachers in non-tested subjects will be fairer. Teacher artifacts will be eliminated from the evaluation process. And, moving forward, fellow educators — rather than third parties — will review the work of a teacher rated ineffective.
Up to 200 schools with a track record of collaboration may be granted flexibility with DOE rules and the UFT contract in order to try new school strategies.
“We have hundreds of great schools all over this city,” Mulgrew said. “We’re telling them it’s okay to experiment, to do things differently.”
The agreement gives educators at each school options to reconfigure their workday — without adding a minute — to create time for meeting with parents, engaging in professional development and doing other professional work.
“It’s not about adding time, but how do you use the time that you have more effectively?” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
New teacher leadership positions paying between $7,500 and $20,000 more per year will give teachers the opportunity to share effective classroom strategies with colleagues.
Fariña said she was most excited about the contract’s emphasis on peer-to-peer professional development and the flexibility that will allow schools and teachers to innovate.
The agreement also fosters parent involvement by carving out time in the work day for educators to engage with parents and increasing the number of parent-teacher conferences.
“In this agreement, parents are treated as the crucial partners they need to be,” de Blasio said.
Mulgrew and city leaders said the contract signals the start of a new era in public education in the nation’s largest city.
After the union’s last contract expired on Oct. 31, 2009, then-Mayor Bloomberg insisted on a pay freeze for teachers and later tried to lay off thousands of educators. Negotiations for a new contract never got off the ground.
"The last five years engendered such frustration — a logjam that seemed so often intractable and so wrong and so unnecessary, with so much rancor, and one that I know the members of the UFT deeply wanted to move past," the mayor said.
“The teachers and educators in New York City have gone a long time without getting any proper respect,” Mulgrew said. No more, he said. “Teachers now have a fair deal.”
Over the life of this nine-year pact, which runs through October 2018, UFT members will receive an 18 percent raise, full retroactivity as well as a $1,000 signing bonus upon ratification. Health benefits and pensions are preserved at the same levels.
Teacher Evaluation and Paperwork
This agreement addresses members’ two critical priorities: fixing the teacher evaluation system and reducing unnecessary paperwork.
It makes teacher evaluations simpler and fairer. The union won major changes, including a focus on eight instead of 22 Danielson components and a better system for rating teachers in non-tested subjects. We succeeded in eliminating time-consuming teaching artifacts. Moving forward, fellow educators — rather than consultants or other third parties — will serve as the “validators” brought in the next year to review the work of a teacher rated ineffective.
New rules will significantly reduce unnecessary and duplicative paperwork, both written and electronic.
Time and tools
Finally, the agreement gives educators more time to carry out their professional responsibilities without adding any new time to the work day. The 150 minutes of extended time can be reconfigured in a variety of ways to build in more time for professional work, professional development and parent engagement.
The proposed agreement also obligates the DOE to provide educators in core subjects with appropriate curriculum, something which we have long fought for.
Teacher leadership and voice
New teacher leadership positions, with extra pay, will foster idea-sharing by allowing exemplary teachers to remain teachers while extending their reach to help others.
Under the tentative deal, collaborative school communities will have new opportunities to innovate outside the confines of the UFT contract and DOE regulations. A new program known as Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) will give educators in participating schools greater voice in decision-making and a chance to experiment with new strategies.
Advocates looking to keep the teachers in the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve out of classrooms say Chancellor Fariña hasn’t said enough about her plans for those teachers.
Testifying before the City Council two weeks ago, Fariña said that there will be “no forced placement” of teachers in the ATR pool, which is made up of teachers without permanent jobs. (Most teachers in the ATR pool joined when their positions were eliminated because of budget cuts, changes at their schools, or school closures.) She was responding to reports that the city was considering a reversal of its current hiring practices, which require a mutual sign-off from the principal and the teacher.
Today, the heads of StudentsFirstNY and TNTP say they want further assurances that the city is not considering any limitations on who principals can hire. That includes being required to hire only from the ATR pool—an arrangement they say could still be described as “mutual consent hiring” but in practice would be closer to forced placement.
“This appears to be a game of semantics,” said Jenny Sedlis, the head of StudentsFirstNY.
The city said it was anything but.
“We’ve been clear that we believe in mutual consent hiring and that we oppose forced placement of teachers in the reserve into schools,” Department of Education spokesman Devon Puglia said.
The timing of the criticism indicates that the details of the city’s plans for the Absent Teacher Reserve will continue to receive heavy scrutiny as the city negotiates a new contract with the teachers union. Both StudentsFirst and TNTP have long criticized job protections currently enshrined in the teachers union contract.
The back-and-forth also illustrates how even basic facts about the ATR pool are contested or unclear. The city said recently that the pool includes 1,200 teachers, though a spokesman for the UFT said that number was no more than 1,000 today.