Let’s Assign the Teachers in the ATR Pool to Classrooms Now!! 1200 Teachers Should Have Permanent Assignments Teaching Kids Every Day.

Once upon a time the news side and the editorial side of newspapers were totally separate – now only fond memories. The NY Daily News has run two articles “reporting” on plans to dissolve the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, the articles (here and here) in reality are editorials masked as news articles panning the efforts.

Teachers have been excessed from schools for decades – schools lost funding, lost student enrollment and schools closed. The teachers were simply placed into others schools in the district, the system did not dissolve in chaos and confusion, the excessed teachers ranged from teachers in the system for a year to two to senior teachers.

As part of the 2005 union contract agreement teachers received substantial raises, and, the department changed the system – rather than assigning excessed teachers to other schools the department placed them in a “pool,” the teachers must seek their own jobs on the Open Market, the department’s internal job seeking site, and in the meantime are assigned to a different school each week. Joel Klein, the chancellor trashed teachers in the ATR pool and vigorously sought legislation to lay off, in effect fire, teachers in the ATR pool after a fixed amount of time.

Teachers in the ATR pool are observed by ATR field supervisors and rated as are all other teachers. No surprise, they fall on a bell-shaped curve – 2/3 range from C- to C+ … Unfortunately the new mayor and chancellor have “bought into” the canard that principals should have the right to hire ALL teachers. The 2.8% of teachers who received an unsatisfactory rating in June, 2013 were all hired by principals, the 30-40% of teachers who had their probation extended were hired by their principals, the 40% of teachers who leave before five years were hired by their principals, the 70% of teachers in high needs middle schools who leave after three years were hired by their own principals.(See “Who Stays, Who Leaves” Study)

Looks like principals don’t do such a good job of hiring…

1200 teachers = a hundred million dollars.

The department has been wasting a hundred million dollars not to improve the school system – the ATR system is a political ploy to rid the system of seniority and tenure, an attack on the union that costs the city 100 million a year – not only disgraceful, but cruel.

Among the 1200 teachers in the ATR pool are over 200 guidance counselors.

Why not assign them to suspension centers and transfer high schools to counsel at-risk kids?

How about assigning them to schools with high percentages of kids from shelters?

How about assigning teachers to schools with large percentages of high needs kids to work one-on-one? Actually tutoring kids…

With the wave of a pen 1200 educators could actually be working with kids.

If 1% or 5% or 10% are inadequate do what management is supposed to do … document, offer assistance, assign a mentor, and, take actions to dismiss the teacher, it’s called due process – the rule of law.

I was speaking with two elementary school teachers … they knew I was a “union activist,” they said to tell the powers that be that in next contract they want money and respect.

For a dozen years there has been a growing denigration of teachers, nice words and disrespectful actions. Teachers feel beaten down, unappreciated, and frustrated.

The abolition of the ATR Pool would start by saving 100 million; just as important it would symbolize a school leadership willing to roll back the ludicrous policies of the old guard.

When the department reorganized the GED programs and other parts of the alternative high school program (District 79) the department and the union negotiated expedited procedures for the placement of staff) … the same can be done for ATR teachers.

Let’s get started redesigning the school system for the benefit of the kids.


8 responses to “Let’s Assign the Teachers in the ATR Pool to Classrooms Now!! 1200 Teachers Should Have Permanent Assignments Teaching Kids Every Day.

  1. Amen!

    Let’s also start not penalizing schools for having experienced educators. Right now an experienced educator costs more than a beginner (surprised?).

    On a fixed budget, principals are actually incentivized to hire new staff and reject experienced faculty. No wonder the Bloomberg-Klein years have resulted in less learning and poorer scores and more cheating on the part of new faculty, inexperienced principals, and an administration eager to show how well they were doing.

    Let’s budget schools for the positions needed and let the staffing committee hire the person who they need, rather than the cheapest one they can find.


  2. Eric Nadelstern

    There simply is no public support for exempting teachers alone from everyone else who works in this country from having to find an employer willing to hire them. Suggesting otherwise does considerable damage to teacher professionalism.

    The UFT would better serve its members by negotiating a severance package for those teachers who can’t or won’t find a job in one of the 1700 schools in NYC.


  3. You really got it right this time; not that you don’t often get it right. The entire ATR initiative was a sham; not only a ploy to get rid senior teachers but of equal import, to introduce the premise of holding principals fully accountable for test scores: they no longer had an excuse such as being forced to hire “undesirable” and “expensive” teachers that tainted the talent pool, or as some referred to it – human capital – and that drained the school bank account. And that was never true to begin with. In yesteryear when a vacancy existed the principal usually had a choice of excessed teachers from which to hire. However, Joel Klein did such a good job stigmatizing the ATR members and marketing the principal as supreme leaders of hiring that the principals themselves bought in to this hook-line-and-sinker. The school leaders actually came to believe that this ATR group was a cause, in part, for their misfortunes in assessment. Talk about passing the buck and pointing the finger – Klein’s sales pitch was infectious and the principals were susceptible and fearful. The public and public school personnel need to be enlightened on this matter and then these displaced and mistreated educators should be brought back home. No need to subject them to interview after interview in order for them to take their rightful place on a school rooster and in school society. With their consent to a reasonable degree, a clear vacancy, and school committee input, assign the ATR’s to schools and let’s get back to business. I know that some school staff members may object – asserting that they have developed a very special culture that warrants selectivity: group interviews, observations, fraternal pledging, etc.. The past Tweed administrations have done an excellent job dividing and conquering; elevating some to elite status and diminishing the value of others who don’t march to their irritating and wrongheaded drum beats. Isn’t it time, as professionals, that we stop playing their game and recapture, strengthen and elevate our culture of collegiality and respect for our fellow workers.


    • I agree with you 100%. You’ve hit the nail on the head. The contract should include some provision to do away with the ATR by making it a priority to get these pedagogues back into the classroom. Also they should take the teacher’s salaries out of the budget and make that a central board obligation, so that principals don’t have to choose between experienced teachers or supplies and technology. I feel that that is a major stumbling block to doing away with the ATR


  4. Peter:

    I agree with you about the ATR issue. As David S states the “fair student funding ” formula penalizes principals from hiring experienced staff.

    Concerning Mr. Naldelstern’s comments. It is with greatly happiness as I watch all his destructive ideas are being slowly dismantled. You do notice how Eric ignores why we have an ATR pool in the first place and the disincentives placed in the way of the schools to hire them?

    Thank goodness Eric Nalderstern and his education reform buddies are no longer in a position to further damage the New York City schools, they have done enough damage already.


  5. There is simply no public support for hiring untrained and inexperienced people to be teachers and principals which were policies encouraged when YOU Eric, were near the top. If there are any speakers on the ‘yea’ side, they represent the poor taxpayer seeking to reduce their taxes. Too bad these folk don’t see the massive amounts of Gates, Walton, Broad, Bloomberg, etc. money invested in this obscene attempt to destroy teachers and the profession of public education. If those 0.1 per centers would pay the taxes they should, instead of investing in paid propaganda about ‘bad’ educators, the poor taxpayer argument would vanish.

    If you Eric, are arguing that schools should hire college grads desperate for a job-untrained, wet behind the ears kids (who promise to stay for only a few years)-instead of proven personnel with unblemished records, we know who holds your leash.

    In NYC, the record of the (now) prior administration records the devastation of your ideas, and the kids who passed thru during that time and were pushed through without enough education to face their future are your legacy. The pressure to pass (instead of educate) students, created by your administration, was the greatest travesty of educational practice ever seen in this City.


  6. I would like to add one more comment. Eric, did you not push the hiring of those terrible “Leadership Academy Principals”? Many of them not even tenured classroom teachers? Moreover, I like how you ignore the terrible policies and the demonetization of senior teachers under your watch.


  7. The ATR pool is not made up of miscreants – these are teachers who maintained a satisfactory rating. They are in the ATR pool through no fault of their own. They earned a right to their positions and are only ATRs because the Board of Education abrogated it obligation to help fix failing schools. Dismissing teachers without cause is a terrible waste of manpower, as is the ATR pool. Many are experienced, with experience comes higher pay – given that schools have fixed budget – it is cheaper to higher new and inexperienced teachers. Does anyone really believe that less experience makes you a better teacher than being a seasoned teacher? The time is overdue to put these folks back to work in front of children on a daily basis!


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