Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wall Street Journal on ATRs: Deconstructing the Inherent Bias

The ATR Issue Heats Up as astro-turf Ed Deformer groups (E4E, Students First, TNTP) Attack on all fronts. 
Educators 4 Excellence-New York, an advocacy group of more than 8,000 teachers... Leslie Brody, WSJ
WTF-- E4E is a group that has practically zero representation in NYC schools despite massive amounts of funding and full-time organizers, yet is given credence in this article. I bet MORE, a true grassroots group, has more visibility. 'Nuff said about the impartiality of the WSJ piece on ATRs, which also quotes astroturf groups like Students First (Jenny Sedlis, Eva's former pit bull?)

Now here is an important point:
The ATR issue is non-negotiable in terms of a time limit.  Case closed.  We already won this with the awful 2005 arbitration panel.  This has been settled and the ed deformers keep bringing it up as a way to do an end run around tenure. Most ATRs get hired provisionally because principals don't want to keep people who become senior in their school after their one provisional year.  Lots of excessed people.  Most are hired provisionally from year to year.  Some are placed permanently (usually less senior) while some have rotated for three years and been ATRs for longer..... Chapter Leader at a closing school
Yes boys and girls. We have a contract that keeps ATRs in perpetuity. We gave up valuable real estate in 2005. As my pal says, "Case closed." Yet as he says, the ed deformers, having gotten their pound of flesh a decade ago, want even more. There is more on this point and the info will probably appear on the blogs soon.

I know ATRs are unhappy and want some resolution. Do does the DOE. So does the UFT.

There are solutions but not one that includes a time limit being pushed by the ed deformers is acceptable and the UFT has not varied from that position. I know I was one of the people thinking they would sell out, I am moving to James Eterno's position that they will not sell out on time limits, no matter how much pressure put on. (A lesson for the UFT was Chicago, where ATR time limits were major organizing tools for CORE -- MORE in NYC would be in a similar position -- but I am not rooting for time limits to help as an organizing tool.)

When the WSJ's Leslie Brody contacted me about getting the word out to ATRs that she was doing an article on them I wrote her that I was always suspicious of the press, but especially of a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication. Though they always claim there is a firewall between editorial and reporting, I don't believe that.

They start off with a bias and what they want is some quotes from ATRs to try to show impartiality.

While warning them about this, I did notify my listserves. ATR Dave Levin did talk to her and is quoted, though he told me the more pertinent things he said were not included... "of course she didn't use the good stuff and I'm not surprised she picked out the juicy quote but it's OK. I explained to her that the groups like student first were not student first."

In my correspondence with Leslie, when I brought up that salary was an issue, Leslie was misinformed in claiming the DOE picked up the salary. I sent her response to Chaz for clarification. Chaz refused to talk to her but wrote a piece on ATRs and sent it to her (The Reason Why ATRs Should Be Put Back Into The Classroom. It Helps Student Academic Achievement). Chaz pointed to the Fair Student Funding formula as a major culprit and he clarified the point on picking up the salary.
There is a deliberate misconception that the DOE picks up part of the ATR salary if a school selects an ATR to fill a leave replacement or vacancy.  The DOE only picks up the difference in salary between the ATR and the salary of the teacher the ATR is replacing for the first year only!   If the school decides to pick up the ATR for the second year the ATR's salary must be included in the average teacher salary of the school and comes out of the school's budget.  Therefore, very few, if any, ATRs are picked up the second year since it will cost the school money.
Note not one word on this important issue in the article. But plenty of quotes from the ed deform astro-turfers.

And there is the most egregious partisan issue -- the refusal to fully identify who these groups represent - including the owner of the WSJ. They are all funded by the same sources and have echoed every single partisan note of the ed deform platform. TNTP which also makes money from pushing new teachers has a dog in the race -- get rid of ATRs and they get a lot of business.

Note that Leslie did not ask for a quote from ICE or MORE, grassroots groups independent from the UFT line.

Here is the article below the jump - or click here.

As negotiations drag on over a new contract for the city's teachers, one sticky issue involves how to handle teachers who lost permanent jobs during cutbacks but keep getting full paychecks as they bounce around schools for brief stints, filling in for absent staff.
Hundreds spend years in limbo. A city Department of Education analysis in July said the group's size fluctuates but totaled 1,186 teachers last spring and cost at least $105 million last year in salaries and benefits—after counting the savings from not hiring regular substitutes.
Critics say paying these teachers to rotate through schools, often by the week, can amount to an expensive form of baby sitting. Many in the pool say their talents are being wasted as short-term substitutes, and they deserve more respect and permanent responsibilities.
Representatives for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers confirmed that how to treat the group, called the Absent Teacher Reserve, is under discussion as they hammer out a contract to replace one that expired in 2009. They declined to comment further. Other major issues include back pay and raises.
Educators 4 Excellence-New York, an advocacy group of more than 8,000 teachers, plans to release a policy brief Wednesday recommending that teachers in the pool get two April-to-August hiring seasons to find jobs. The brief argues that if they don't get hired within that period, they should be put on unpaid leave.
"Two hiring cycles strikes a balance between providing a fair opportunity for teachers to find a new teaching position and at the same time provides schools and the system the autonomy they need," said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director.
Last summer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration expressed less patience.
According to testimony at a fact-finding panel for the contract negotiations, the education department proposed taking these teachers off the payroll if they couldn't find permanent jobs within four months, with the clock ticking at the start of the academic year. The department estimated that change would save more than $63 million a year.
But others say time limits would unfairly penalize dedicated, seasoned staffers left stranded by school closings, cutbacks and program changes.
"The teachers in the ATR pool are an important resource for the school system, a resource that the Bloomberg administration constantly misused to serve its own ideological ends," said union President Michael Mulgrew in an email. "Despite the administration's repeated vilification of these teachers, they have saved the system millions of dollars by serving as full-time subs while they looked for permanent positions."
David Levin, a 13-year teacher in his fourth year in the pool in the Bronx, said it isn't his fault principals usually prefer to hire cheaper "newbies." He makes $80,987 a year.
Mr. Levin said the system should be fixed somehow—perhaps by deploying these teachers as mentors or extra help in difficult classrooms. It is hard for substitute teachers to keep students under control because there is little time to learn their names and behavior, he said. In one class, rowdy teenagers turned off the lights and started throwing chairs. "I don't know the students, the culture or the school," he said. "The kids act out."
Pasqual Pelosi, a language arts teacher in the Bronx pool who makes $75,937 a year, said his 12 years of experience were being squandered. He said at times he thinks shuttling teachers to different schools weekly is designed to wear them down so they quit in disgust.
"There's plenty of frustration," he said.
Among the frustrations over his career, Mr. Pelosi acknowledged facing several accusations, including an instance of alleged corporal punishment.
"Any teacher who has been around for as long as I have is bound to have had some sort of allegations lodged," he said, adding that was especially true for a "disciplinarian" such as himself. "Nothing has been proven against me," he said.
The pool swelled after 2005, when a compromise by Mr. Bloomberg and the union ended a practice called "forced placement" that let tenured teachers who lost positions use seniority rights to get jobs at other district schools, even if principals didn't pick them. The pool aimed to give displaced teachers security while hunting for principals who wanted them. Many found new spots quickly.
Some faced serious obstacles. According to the city's July testimony, 27% of those in the pool last spring had gone through disciplinary proceedings that didn't lead to termination. Further, 59% of those in the pool had lingered there for two or more years.
New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina has said she doesn't want to bring back forced placement. But earlier this month, two advocacy groups that have sought more rigorous teacher evaluations—StudentsFirstNY and TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project)—expressed concern that contract changes might pressure principals with openings to hire first from the pool. They said principals need freedom to pick candidates they deem the best for children.
Parents "should trust that each year their child will have an effective teacher and shouldn't have to fear that an ineffective one will be forced into the classroom," said Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.
Advocates also argued that children in high-poverty areas with high teacher turnover would suffer most if principals had to hire from the pool.
Daniel Weisberg, executive vice president of TNTP, said teachers in the pool long term were likely unable or unwilling to find work: "There are so many vacancies that if you have any sort of ability to show you're worthwhile, you get hired."
The union's Mr. Mulgrew said nearly three-quarters of the teachers in the pool get permanent jobs within three years. "Our studies show that the most important single factor is money," he said. "The least experienced (and thus cheaper) teachers are the first to be selected."
Write to Leslie Brody at

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