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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ATRs Headed To Year-Long Positions and Danielson Ratings

The only thing that I think anyone can say right now about the ATR situation is that the NYC Department of Education is finally seeing the mess they have made.

And what a mess it is.

By the way, for all those readers who don't know me, I have been an advocate for employees of the Department for 14 years, and I am not an Attorney, but work with 4-5 attorneys as a paralegal. I fight for a person's lawfully given rights which, as we all know, are denied by the Department constantly. What I would like to make clear is that when I say an ATR is a "substitute", I do NOT mean anything degrading by this, so I apologize for any miscommunication. I'm at a loss at what title to call ATRs, who have been put into an impossible situation. I just want to make clear that any reference to a "substitute" for a person who is an ATR just means I am looking for a better title, but I'm on your side, always have been and always will be.

For many years, teachers who worked at a school that was closed, became "excessed", and became Absent Teacher Reservists (my name for ATRs), "absent" meaning not in a permanent position. This nomad status lent itself to a myriad of problems, especially in the area of evaluations. How does a "tenured substitute" teacher know the students well enough for anyone to say the students have learned something, if the substitute is in the classroom for a day, a week, a couple of weeks? Impossible. Yet, a peer validator, field supervisor or other agent of make-it-up evaluators come in, observe and rate as if there was a standard for S/U that applied to these tenured substitutes.

There is no contract to cover rating tenured substitutes. The UFT has a contract for Substitute teachers, but these are people who can be fired, not hired again, etc. That is their rating, if they are not good in the classroom or Guidance Office.

These tenured teachers, ATRs, cannot be fired suddenly and are not covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement which covers Substitute Teachers, because although most of the excessed-by-school-closing-employees (not only teachers, but other staff such as Assistant Principals, Guidance Counselors, etc) and others with the title ATR are substitutes, they have tenure.

You'd think that the easy solution would be to create a contract that had appropriate evaluation and rating standards for "tenured glorified " substitutes -like, for example, you cannot rate the performance of a substitute tenured employee if they have not been teaching the class you want to observe for at least a month - or two.

However, there are only two limited options, a buyout and the 2017 ATR Agreement, both shockingly negotiated without an ATR Chapter or ATR Representatives in existence. I don't get it.

So, the NYC DOE are going to try to give year-long jobs left vacant after October 15 to ATRs. In my opinion, this will be a problem, when the only positions left open at that time are the ones that no  one wants. No one will be happy. At most, a small percentage may be, but certainly not when all the year-longs are given year-end ratings under the HEDI rating scale used in Danielson.

I betcha a tiny amount of ATRs - if any at all - will be rated Effective/Highly Effective.

Then the s___t will hit the fan.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, The NYC Public Voice

New York City plans more aggressive steps to move hundreds of unassigned teachers out of Absent Teacher Reserve

Schools that still have vacancies by October will be sent staffers from the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve, a move that may shrink the costly pool but could also rankle principals.
The policy, first reported by the New York Daily News and confirmed by the education department Monday, marks the city’s latest attempt to reach its goal of cutting the pool in half from its current 822 teachers.
The Absent Teacher Reserve is a group of teachers collecting salaries and benefits without holding full-time positions. Teachers can be placed into the ATR either because their jobs were eliminated or for disciplinary reasons.
Under the new policy, principals have until around October 15 — six months from when hiring begins — to fill their vacancies. After that, city officials say they will make placements from the ATR, even potentially over principals’ objections.
“We will work to find the right fit, and hear and work through concerns that they might have,” education department spokesman Will Mantell said. “But ultimately, we do have discretion to place an educator in a vacancy that exists, and it kind of makes sense.”
The placements will be for one year, rather than a monthly rotation. Mantell said that would allow teachers to participate in training and receive guidance from principals. Teachers who score “Highly Effective” or “Effective” on the observation portion of their evaluation when there is a remaining vacancy will be permanently hired.
Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa promised in 2014 that she would not endorse “forced placement of staff” as a strategy for shrinking the pool. Though the new policy may require principals to take on teachers, Mantell said it is not an example of forced placement because it only applied to vacancies and will not allow ATR teachers to bump existing teachers from their jobs.
Still, the change could prove unpopular with principals. Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, principals were given more power to run their schools and make hiring decisions. The de Blasio administration has, to a certain extent, reined in this power — which has drawn some criticism.
The ATR pool swelled under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who aggressively closed struggling schools, and cost the city an estimated $105 million in 2013. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to shrink the pool in half.
Measuring the ATR pool can be tricky, since it represents only a snapshot in time and fluctuates throughout the year. Still, city officials argue that, in the aggregate, it has steadily decreased under de Blasio.

The city has undertaken a number of initiatives toward that end, including hiring the former principal of Brooklyn Technical High School to lead efforts to shrink the pool, offering $50,000 severance payments and subsidizing the salaries of teachers hired from the ATR.
Still, at the end of the 2016-17 school year, 822 teachers remained in the pool, according to numbers provided by the education department. This new policy will mark a more aggressive approach to reducing that number. In addition to the placements, teachers in the pool can now be hired across school district lines within their borough.
In an emailed statement, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew praised the plan.
“These changes reflect the UFT’s conviction that members of the ATR pool provide needed services to schools and that their work should be respected,” Mulgrew said in an emailed statement.
But critics argue that if principals had wanted to hire these teachers, they would have already done so. The result, they say, will put poor quality teachers into New York’s neediest classrooms.
“It is shockingly irresponsible for the city to force place hundreds of teachers of dubious quality into the classrooms of our most vulnerable students,” said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis in a statement. “There are reasons why no principal has chosen to hire them and this policy is bad for kids, plain and simple.”


City schools will soon be stuck with lots of bad teachers
Selim Algar, NY POST, July 11, 2017
Some 400 unassigned — and in many cases bungling — teachers will be foisted on principals across the city under a controversial new plan by the Department of Education.
The move is designed to radically shrink the Absent Teacher Reserve — an expensive pool of roughly 800 instructors without permanent posts due to downsizings, incompetence or misconduct.
A department spokesman said Monday that they hope to place between 300 and 400 current ATR teachers in schools that still have job vacancies after Oct. 15.
Some principals, who in the past were able to fill all positions from the open market of available instructors throughout the school year, balked at the plan.
“In the end, you want to be the one making the personnel decisions for your school,” said one Staten Island principal.
If an ATR teacher earns either an effective or highly effective rating after one year at their new school, they will be rewarded with a permanent position, according to the DOE.

Randy Asher
DOE senior adviser Randy Asher, a former principal who was brought on to cull the ATR, said the “common-sense” approach would be to “reduce the number of educators in the ATR pool.”
Critics have blasted the costly ATR arrangement for years, arguing that it’s difficult to fire bad teachers and that many continue to draw paychecks without actually having to do much work.
“Students deserve teachers who are selected by their principals from a pool of qualified candidates, not ones who are forced onto schools unwillingly,” said Jenny Sedlis, executive director of the pro-charter advocacy group StudentsFirstNY.
But the DOE stressed that ATRs who are given new positions will be qualified.
“This new policy will put teachers back in classrooms, and by moving towards full-year rather than monthly rotations, schools will have time to evaluate teachers from the ATR pool and see if they’re the right fit,” said Robert Gentile, principal at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services, in a statement provided by the DOE.
Critics said the move will put teachers who were unable to retain their posts elsewhere back into the classroom.
“Putting hundreds of bad teachers back into classrooms they’ve been kicked out of rubber stamps one of the UFT’s highest priorities, leaving New York City’s children to suffer the consequences,” said charter backer Families for Excellent Schools.