The ATR Kerfuffle: Why Eliminating the ATR Pool Is Essential Before We Consider Bringing About Substantive Changes in Teacher Evaluation and Compensation.

 As of Friday, 1757 teachers who had been cut from closing or shrinking schools didn’t have a classroom to report to tomorrow – despite 1500 open positions at schools.
An additional 137 assistant principals – whose salaries collectively are more than $14 million – were in the same situation.
The pool of teachers, who work solely as on call substitutes, has cost the Department of Education $200 million in the past three years.
NY Post, September 8, 2009
The Chancellor proudly asserts that he converted the school system from a seniority driven hiring system to a principal based system … no teacher is assigned to a school without the approval of the principal … at what cost?
The problem is the Chancellor has created a canard, a straw man, a school system that never existed.
Prior to 2002, the beginning of the Klein stewardship 700 of the 1200 schools had opted for the School Based Option (SBO) Personnel and Transfer Staffing Plan, a committee of teachers, lead by the principal made all hiring decisions.
The remaining schools fell under the UFT Contract Seniority Transfer Plan. Half of all “vacancies” were listed for transfer, the remaining positions fell within the discretion of the principal. Vacancies were narrowly defined, retirements, resignations and terminations, most vacancies did not fall under the definition, most were created by leaves, commonly child care leaves.
The school districts (at the high school level the individual schools) chose which half of the vacancies to post. It was commonplace to list the bi-lingual Mandarin position, not the Common Branches. By my unscientific count fewer than 10% of the vacancies were filled by seniority transfers.
My former district hired about 100 new teachers a year, about ten were seniority transfers, in a highly desirable district. In many “undesirable” districts/schools there were no seniority transfers. The Chancellor constantly pointed to unsatisfactory teachers who fled from school to school using the Seniority Transfer Plan … the problem … he couldn’t point to any examples!!
This is year one of years of budget reductions, the stimulus dollars will end in another year and we are many years away from a fully recovered economy. Wasting, to use the NY Post’s numbers, $200 million is an immoral abuse of power to further ideological ends.
We must end the ATR system now!!!
Some suggestions from a long time observer of the scene.
1. The UFT and the DOE negotiated a “buy-out” clause in the current Contract, the details of which have never been agreed upon.  The “buy-out” should be made available to pedagogical employees over 50 years of age with more than 20 years of service. The clause calls for binding arbitration if an agreement cannot be reached – the parties should proceed with discussions, and, if necessary, an expedited arbitration.
2. All ATRs will be permanently assigned to schools within license, (see caveats below) as regular classroom teachers, no school with fewer than 500 students will receive more than one ATR, others will be assigned to schools taking into account the size of the school.
3. In year one the cost of the ATR will be absorbed by Central, in year 2 fifty per cent will be absorbed by Central. In year 3 and subsequent years all costs will be born by individual schools.
4. If the ATR has been in the pool prior to September 1, 2008 a special procedure shall be utilized.
     * A committee of five, two assigned by the DOE, two assigned by the UFT and one jointly agreed upon shall interview the teacher and determine whether the teacher is “qualified” or “unqualified.” If the ATR is found “unqualified” they may opt to participate in a demonstration lesson, or, where appropriate according to title, a display of their skills. If found “qualified” they will be assigned pursuant to # 2 above.
     * If an ATR is determined to be “unqualified” they will be required to participate in the Peer Intervention Plus program.
5. Commencing in the next school year all excess pedagogical employees  will be required to attend hiring fairs and will be required to participate in the interview process. If the excessee fails to be permanently hired after one school year they will be required to participate in the procedures in # 4 above.
Additionally the Fair Student Funding (aka Weighted Student Funding) system must be revised. Yes, dollars should follow kids and the funding formula should be transparent, but, and a really big but,
* School that would have lost funding under FSF have been “held harmless,” schools that would have gained funds received the additional funding. “Hold harmless” should be phased out over an extended period of time.
* Teachers carry their full salary, making higher salary teachers more expensive, and undesirable. There is not a scintilla of evidence that this system impacts student achievement. Other school systems that have implemented FSF count teachers equally, not using actual salary. Equalize the playing field – a teacher is a teacher.
In the last few weeks the Department hired a well regarded research institution to continue the Value-Added Teacher Data Initiative, and the Department and the UFT jointly agreed to sponsor a Gates funded study of teacher classroom impact – video taping of lessons, interviews, etc. assessing the impact of teacher behaviors/strategies on pupil achievement (see here for a different, but interesting program using video to assess lesson effectiveness/impact).
If we are to move forward, to take a collaborative look at teacher evaluation and compensation the “board has to be cleared.” The union cannot be expected to investigate, to take a fresh look at traditional core values, that may be abhorrent to some members, when the Department insists on policies that appear punitive to virtually the entire teaching force.

3 responses to “The ATR Kerfuffle: Why Eliminating the ATR Pool Is Essential Before We Consider Bringing About Substantive Changes in Teacher Evaluation and Compensation.

  1. At the heart of this is Fair School Funding. This is a politically driven formula – I have calculated that a poor ELL kid gets 80% more funds — does it cost 80% MORE to educate this child if the teacher standing in the front of the room is earning the same contract salary?

    FSF is a device to make senior teachers prohibitively expensive. The old system of calculating the cost of a teacher based on a system wide average is far superior and fair. Incentives should not be given to drive senior teachers out, but to retain them.

    The Bloomberg vision for the schools is for teachers to be disposable, young recruits who put 2, 3, 4 years like they were in the army and then move on to their “real” profession. They work cheap, and pensions are not an issue.


  2. As a result of years of holding schools harmless for real teacher salaries by charging all schools the system’s average salary; coupled with the UFT Seniority Transfer Plan, in which the most senior teachers found their way to schools serving middle class students predominantly; schools in the poorest neighborhoods continue to subsidize those in well-to-do areas by as much as thousands of dollars per student, per year. Fair student funding is the best strategy for ending this inequitous practice and finally create a level playing field for our neediest youngsters.


  3. And what of the ATR? How much money is being spent here? Imagine what could have been done with the $200 million spent on the ATR. The Chancellor should be ahamed of this mess that he created.


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