Mayor-Elect de Blasio, “The ATR Pool is Insanity,” (A Hopeful Scenario)

Mayor-elect de Blasio speaking to a high level Department of Education official,

“Let me get this straight, when you close a school you dump the staff into what is called the ATR pool, the teachers are not assigned to another school, they rotate weekly from school to school and do whatever the principal assigns them, there are over 200 guidance counselors who also rotate and you have just added assistant principals to the rotation system. You have a team of field supervisors who observe and evaluate the folks in the ATR pool, the vast percent are rated satisfactory, and this system is costing, me, costing the city over $100 million a year.”

Department official, “Yes, you’re basically correct, let me explain the underlying reason for this policy.”

de Blasio, “Not not, do you have any evidence that this system improves students’ academic achievement or social and emotional well-being, by evidence I mean a peer-reviewed study?”

Department official, “No, but this policy is a core belief of our administration, can I explain further?”

de Blasio, “No, by core belief you mean dogma unsubstantiated by evidence, it is a politically driven policy, you believe that principals should select all teachers in their schools and are willing to divert $100 million to support an unproven political agenda.”

Department official, “There’s much more to it, I’d like to explain.”

de Blasio, “You already have explained,” and makes an aside to an aide as he walks away, “This is total insanity.”

– – – – – – – –

Over 1,000 teachers rotate weekly from school to school, the department argues it increases the chances of a teacher being permanently absorbed by a school, yet, the department allows “exceptions from the freeze” routinely. ATR field supervisors observe teachers in the pool teaching lessons and find the vast majority “satisfactory.”

Over 200 guidance counselors are in the pool. They could be providing college counseling, working with students in suspension centers, running family counseling sessions for parents and their children, instead, they rotate from school to school having little or no impact. Why are there so many guidance counselors in the ATR pool? Faced with the pressure to raise scores on standardized tests or graduation rates principals use funds for intensive remediation, test prep to jack up scores, and excess non-teaching personnel, namely, guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Kathleen Cashin and Bruce Cooper, professors at Fordham University, in Education Week, ask,

What do children do in school when they are treated like objects to be shaped, controlled, and rewarded—or punished—for what they said or did, learned, or failed to learn?

How can these children grow, be human, be happy, and become good adults? And how can teachers thrive and survive if they, too, are not treated with dignity, and humanity, by their students, colleagues, and administrators?

How can students engage in the learning process if they feel isolated, a condition that affects many students and teachers alike? For teachers are often working in isolation. And students, when they stare at computers all day, are hardly interacting with teachers or peers.

We argue for the reinstatement of the socioemotional dimensions of education—what was once called, in the educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom’s words, “the affective domain,” where teachers built into a lesson and the curriculum the human feelings, needs, and aspirations of their students, along with the cognitive demands of the learning experience.

The current system is so driven to increase test scores, so driven by ideology, that they ignore a vast realm of neuroscience research. Research that irrevocably links socioemotional well-being to success as adults; not only success in the academic realm but success in the world of work.

Check out this brief video from the Harvard Child Development Center:

The “insanity” of the ATR pool not only is a waste of department resources, over $100 million a year, it moves in the wrong direction. You cannot separate the cognitive from the non-cognitive domains, allowing principals to cut psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors because they think it is beneficial to fund an intensive test prep program is simply wrong.

Department dogma: give principals wide discretion and hold them accountable.

The reality: the department allows principals to make bad decisions, decisions that are antithetical to the goals of producing adults with the skills to successfully pursue college and career and the world of work.

Cashin and Cooper at Fordham and Jack Shonkoff at Harvard are not only correct, they are basing their views on peer-reviewed research, not unproven dogma.

The Science of Adversity and Resilience program at the Harvard Child Center has conducted a wide range of neuroscience research:

• Toxic stress and its impacts on lifelong health;
• Brain plasticity and critical/sensitive periods of development;
• Causal mechanisms that explain the origins of disparities in learning, behavior, and health that are associated with adversity-related socioeconomic status, maltreatment, and/or minority group status;
• Scientifically informed interventions and measurement strategies designed to improve the life prospects of disadvantaged children; and
• Factors that contribute to resilience in individuals and communities.

In spite of reams of rich research the department ignores science and depends on the work of a management professor at UCLA, William Ouchi (See summary here)

For twelve years the department has been speeding toward the light at the end of the tunnel, we all see that the light is an oncoming locomotive, all except the department.

One of Mayor-elect de Blasio’s first actions, an important symbolic action, should be to end the ATR pool and assign teachers and guidance counselors and assistant principals to full time positions in schools working directly with children. Gee, what a radical concept!


23 responses to “Mayor-Elect de Blasio, “The ATR Pool is Insanity,” (A Hopeful Scenario)

  1. Bravo!!! Insanity is the right word -( reminds me of some insanity going on in DC lately). It’s time to speak truth to power, and in everyday language and stop whomever from saying nonsense with quick retorts as you described.


  2. Eric Nadelstern

    I would propose the following research study: See how many principals think that randomly assigning staff from the ATR pool is a good idea.


    • Brooklyn Teacher 1925

      Eric, get a grip. Stop putting teachers in the ATR pool, through closings and poor principal decisions, and “…randomly assigning staff from the ATR pool…” will not happen. To your point, remember, we bargained out seniority transfers. All of your comments remind me of Fox News watchers who refuse to see any other side of an argument except their party’s side.


    • @ Eric Nadelstern- Let’s be clear on this; you believe asking a group of folks their opinion would constitute a “research study”!?


  3. Why don’t both of you above look into why teachers get thrown into the Rubber Rooms and how principals lie to make it happen.


  4. Mr Koppell and Mr Nadelstern, feel free to contact me anytime. There is a lot I can show you.


  5. Asking principals what they think is not research into how the ATR pool affects students. It is just another way of creating spin to support a “core belief.” I suspect that we will hear a lot of defense of the “core beliefs” of the Bloomberg/Klein administrations from those who were part of it. I also suspect that none of those defenses will point to unassailable research by independent researchers that show the policies helped students.


  6. To no fault of their own, teachers, many of which earn $550 a day, act as substitutes at best and paper clip sorters at worst while substitutes could do the same job for $150 a day. A scandal? Ridiculous? Yes! The high schools with the highest amount of senior teachers were targeted for closing. Smart? Only if you think that, in the long tail end of a recession that people who worked for peanuts for the best years of their lives will give up a sustainable retirement because they have been made uncomfortable by an administration fixated on reducing pensions and salaries while ignoring the cost to our students.


  7. rachel de aragon

    , Tragic; as is insanity itself. Tragic becase the one reseached and well understood ‘idea’ in education that cuts across all demographics is that lowering the ratio of students to teachers improves outcomes. This idea is agreed to by parents, teachers and students, and principals! Hmm. This ‘idea’ makes everyones job easier! The City pays for arrests, incarcerations of students who do such routine infractions as write on the wall. The City pays for the administrative costs of opening and shutting schools like dresser drawers– but The City always claims that there is no money to pay for these extra teachers. Hmmm. .


    • Brooklyn Teacher 1925

      In addition, research shows (and this blog has mentioned numerous times) that teachers meeting to share best practices is what works best. Why not collectively bargain that class sizes cap at 24 across all grades? And create an additional period per day called “PD”, where teachers could do inter-visitations, conference, attend workshops, and see demo lessons? However, no one ever asks teachers their opinions…


  8. Back in the day, when a school closed teachers were simply laid off or excessed. I spent the first seven years of my teaching career bouncing around the NYC school system until I was finally appointed and earned tenure. Now, with all the school closures many teachers are displaced. 50% of them can be hired by the newly reorganized schools in their old buildings, but with the constant budget cuts it is the teachers on the lower end of the salary scale who are favored by principals, not those more experienced. Not only are there a lot of teachers floating around who could be assigned, lowering class size, but studies show that the most successful schools are those who value experienced teachers. New York is being penny wise and pound foolish. At least the displaced teachers do not have to lose their salaries and health benefits because of the poor choices on the part of those at Tweed who are running the system.


  9. Eric:

    There you go again. It was under your watch that the ATR fiasco happened. Now thanks to your “fair student formula”, principals are forced to hire the cheapest not the best teachers.

    Children first? Not under your watch its not.


  10. This article is a huge blessing. Finally, getting a mayor who cares and has common sense…Diblasio knows bloomterds game and its over baby….Love you Diblasio


  11. Mikey bloomterd is so full of sh** its coming out of his ears. Bloomterd has destroyed peoples lives all over NYC and this article is another example of how ridiculous some of bloomterds policies are. THe fact that he has teachers, guidance counselors and APs moving from school to school every week is a crime in itself and hopefully the ATR crisis will end along with the sight of bloomterd….


  12. The UFT is as much responsible for the ATR insanity as the DOE. They haven’t lifted a finger to get ATRs put back into the classroom or guidance counselors for that matter. The UFT has done nothing to protect senior teachers who have been blatantly discriminated against by the DOE. What percentage of senior teachers currently make up the ATR pool? The UFT should not be allowed to weasel out of their role in creating the worst working conditions for teachers and learning conditions for students in 8 years.


  13. It’s October 8. Why hasn’t John King resigned for imposing a wildly destructive, outrageously unfair, hugely burdensome and convoluted evaluation system? Why hasn’t Mulgrew resigned for backing it for political reasons?


  14. Carole Silverstein.

    One of my former students with straight A’s, academic awards, science institutes at Columbia U. Over the years,he has shown himself to be a superior person,excellent student,etc. He has overcome family problems and was raised by a grand aunt who saw his potential. When it came time for selecting a college his guidance counselor was new to the job. She had many tasks to do without having assistance from a senior colleague. They all left when the HS was being closed and redesigned. She tried but my former student fell by the wayside. He should have received admission status to our finest private colleges with a four year financial pkg. all paid for. Instead, he has to pay back all his loan money and work. He wants to be a neurosurgeon. I am sure that the State U, he is attending will give him that opportunity. But…..not bad for a skinny smart and very respectful kid from the So.Bx.,D,12.


  15. Brooklyn Teacher 1925

    DeBlasio…if you read this…please cap class size at 24. Please add a PD period to each day and lose the 37 minute waste of time. Please remove “fair funding” so senior teachers are valued. Please adjust our salaries according to cost of living in the most expensive city in the nation. Please listen to any other reasonable idea that educators have to help make the schools for the impoverished children of NYC the best they can be.


  16. I am presently an ATR Social Worker who is also being sent to a different
    school every week. This makes even less sense than sending teachers to
    a different school each week.
    I just read everyone’s comments and agree with quite a bit of it.
    The comments constantly referred to teachers and guidance counselors.
    I just wanted to make it clear that there are many social workers that are going through the exact same process. Please think of us and refer to us
    as also being a part of this crazy system.


  17. Does he mean “insanity”, as in “these ATRs should be fired because they are useless”, or “insanity” as in “these senior teachers that have proven themselves should be back in regular appointments, and get rid of Fair Student Funding”? It was not clear.


  18. Lets hope we all get back to helping children. The Bloomberg Administration was not educationally inclined to handle a big system. Hopefully, we all get back soon, so the money is being used for something good. I have been a guidance counselor for 14 years, and every school I go to, I can only find outside agencies getting paid doing our work!! The system is paying as as well. It just doesn’t make sense to hire outside help when you have staff waiting to be placed. Lives have been placed into the street, families destroyed, homes on foreclosure, children not educated, and teachers, counselors, social workers and school psychologists, are just tossed out, being treated like some type of strangers, no respect, and just cold hearted out to get you squad…I am saddened, and outraged over the corrupt system that was PLACED..Deblasio, I voted for you, lets get the system back to its core values!!


  19. another shout out for joel klein the devil himself…just take a look at this devilish looking freakazoid who somehow was put in charge of the nyc school system by non other than mikey bloomshit himself….now that bloomshit is out we are all waiting like birds on a fence to see when bloomshit falls over flat on his face you phoney terd lying deceitful piece of an excuse of a human being


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