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absent teacher reserve
draining the pool
June 14, 2018
New York City’s Absent Teacher Reserve could get pricier as teachers collect raises, bonuses
The controversial Absent Teacher Reserve is set to become even more expensive for New York City as educators in the pool build years…
Updated December 7, 2017
New York City sent just 41 unassigned teachers to schools after predicting up to 400 placements
The city placed 41 teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve in schools with openings this fall. Another 359 teachers were hired by schools.
October 12, 2017
Fariña: Low-performing ‘Renewal’ schools won’t be assigned educators from the Absent Teacher Reserve
Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the policy Thursday, when she also promised not to place teachers with disciplinary problems in any school.
September 25, 2017
With a new school year underway, hundreds of teaching positions remain unfilled in New York City
Hundreds of schools are missing teachers and support staff two weeks into the school year, with many of the openings in high-poverty districts and struggling…
view from inside
August 25, 2017
‘They talk about you like you’re furniture.’ Three teachers on what it’s like to be in the Absent Teacher Reserve.
Members of New York City’s pool of unassigned teachers say there’s a lot that people don’t understand about their situation.
By the numbers
August 18, 2017
NYC announces it will subsidize hiring from Absent Teacher Reserve — and sheds light on who is in the pool
The ATR is comprised of teachers who don’t have regular positions, either because their jobs were eliminated or because of disciplinary issues.
draining the pool
August 7, 2017
Five things we still don’t know about who is in New York City’s Absent Teacher Reserve
The truth is, we know very little about the teachers in the pool.
draining the pool
August 3, 2017
NYC’s plan to place teachers from its Absent Teacher Reserve pool could take a bite out of school budgets
The pool has historically been made up of teachers who are more senior than average, and therefore more expensive.
head to head
July 26, 2017
Protesters face off with member of New York City’s Absent Teacher Reserve outside the mayor’s gym
The Absent Teacher Reserve, a pool of teachers without permanent positions, is once again at the center of debate.
Funding the ATR
July 26, 2017
Absent Teacher Reserve cost New York City $151.6 million this past school year, far more than previously estimated
Using the IBO’s estimate, on average each ATR teacher received a total of $116,258 in salary and fringe benefits for the past school year.
draining the pool
July 20, 2017
New York City principals balk at plan to place teachers in their schools; some vow to get around it
Some principals say they’ll avoid any attempt to place teachers at their schools, even if that means obscuring open jobs from the city’s hiring systems.
draining the atr pool
July 10, 2017
New York City plans more aggressive steps to move hundreds of unassigned teachers out of Absent Teacher Reserve
The city's latest attempt to shrink the ATR pool may require principals to hire teachers.
draining the pool
October 13, 2016
New York City’s Absent Teacher Reserve is steadily decreasing, city says
The number stands at 1,304 this October, which is a decrease of about 150 teachers from this time last year.
draining the atr pool
February 19, 2016
City data shows number in Absent Teacher Reserve remains steady
At two points this year, the city’s pool of excessed teachers was about the same size as it was last year, according to data released by the education department Friday.
By the numbers
March 20, 2015
Most ATR teachers who left system since new contract took buyouts, retired
In his fight to fend off Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city is already cracking down on subpar teachers, pointing to 290 teacher exits.
draining the atr pool
December 6, 2014
Excessed teacher pool hits five-year low, but not because of more hiring
The number of excessed teachers who remained on the city’s payroll in September was smaller than it had been in five years, but that still left 1,676 teachers without full-time positions when the school year got underway.
a new appeal
June 2, 2014
Protections for "ineffective" rookie teachers under evaluation law to cost city millions
The city will pay untenured teachers after they are forced to leave the classroom because of “ineffective” ratings, according to next year’s budget estimates. It will cost $17.8 million and could cover hundreds of teachers.
May 6, 2014
Letter from Mulgrew to ATRs suggests teachers less likely to face expedited hearings than city signaled
New details from a memo sent from Mulgrew to absent teacher reserve members, and information provided by union officials, reveal that the excessed teachers would also have stronger job protections than were originally reported or acknowledged by officials.
May 5, 2014
UFT contract deal includes a "buyout" for out-of-work teachers
The city will pay jobless teachers to quit if they aren’t interested in working in schools, according to an internal Department of Education memo explaining the provisions of the new teachers union contract agreement.
on the table
April 18, 2014
What the teachers' contract talks are all about, part I: Back pay and excessed teachers
In the first part of our look into what's on the negotiating table as teachers and the city hammer out a contract, we look at big-picture priorities like retroactive pay and the controversial Absent Teacher Reserve.
April 16, 2014
E4E: Time limits needed for ATR pool teachers who can’t get hired
The teacher group Educators 4 Excellence wants “excessed” teachers who can’t find a full-time job in two April-to-August hiring seasons to be put on unpaid…
April 3, 2014
Advocates to Fariña: More specifics on forced placement, please
Advocates looking to keep the teachers in the city's Absent Teacher Reserve out of classrooms say Chancellor Fariña hasn't said enough about her plans for those teachers.
March 20, 2014
Fariña’s message on ATR pool: No forced placement
Speaking at a City Council hearing, Chancellor Carmen Fariña was unequivocal that the city would stick with its current policy of not forcing teachers to work in specific schools or principals to accept teachers they don’t want.
March 7, 2013
City to begin rotating assistant principals, against their protest
Dozens of assistant principals were told on Wednesday that they would be removed from the schools where they have worked since the beginning of the year and placed in other schools. The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which represents assistant principals, says the surprising news is sure to wreak havoc on schools just as they begin state testing, which assistant principals often coordinate. The rotation is part of the Department of Education’s strategy to reduce the number of educators who do not have permanent positions but who remain on the department's payroll. Teachers whose positions have been eliminated by budget cuts or school closures and do not land another position in the school system enter the Absent Teacher Reserve, which department officials have criticized as financially burdensome and a refuge for "teachers who either don't care to, or can't, find a job." The equivalent of the ATR pool for administrators is the "excess pool." Currently, there are 192 assistant principals and a small number of principals in the pool.
January 29, 2013
No across-the-board midyear budget cuts, but trimming begins
Schools won't have to cut their budgets this month, but they will have to start tightening their belts and won't be able to sock away any savings for next year. That's what Chancellor Dennis Walcott told principals in an email sent Monday evening, the first to name specific actions the Department of Education is taking to make up for $240 in state school aid sacrificed when the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations earlier this month. Mayor Bloomberg is set to offer details about his plans to close the midyear school budget gap at a press conference later today. But Walcott said the department would absorb enough of the cuts centrally that he would not have to impose cuts of a certain size on each school, as happened several times during the leanest years of the economic recession. Still, he announced several significant policy changes that could cost schools just the same. The department is doubling down on hiring restrictions, blocking schools from hiring substitute teachers, reducing aides' schedules, and seizing funds that principals had set aside in this year's budget for next year.
October 5, 2012
Comments of the week: Weighing the need for more counselors
Two news items sparked disagreements in our comments section over the role guidance counselors play in schools this week. First, we reported that the city would be rotating guidance counselors and social workers who lack permanent positions between multiple schools throughout the year. In past years, the nearly 300 counselors who are members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, (the pool of teachers who lack permanent jobs) stayed in one school for the length of a school year, or longer. But this year they will rotate from week to week to different schools, where they will perform administrative duties, but probably won't be working one-on-one with students. Then City Comptroller John Liu called for an increase in school counseling positions during a speech outlining his educational policy ideas that could help students prepare for college. Liu, a likely mayoral candidate, said city students so badly need help applying to college that it would be worth spending the money to hire 1,600 new guidance counselors—more than double the city's current fleet of 1,300. Commenters on the stories argued about the merits of both of these plans. Many, but not all, said hiring more guidance counselors would be an unequivocally good idea, particularly at a time when fewer schools have the budget to take on extra support staff. "Mikemadden" described guidance counselors as "the lifeblood" of their schools: The average person on the street cannot understand how valuable Guidance Counselors are to the students. Guidance Counselors provide social emotional support for kids in high needs. Guidance Counselors work with staff including Principal, Asst. Principals, teachers in planning out student success paths. Guidance Counselors provide all the programs for students, program changes, transcript reviews with students. college planning with students, family meetings with parents, attendance monitoring.....should I keep going...
October 4, 2012
For the first time, guidance counselors join ATR rotation system
Most teachers without permanent positions are looking forward to a greater chance of stability after the city and teachers union last month agreed to place them in long-term substitute slots before rotating them to different schools weekly, as happened last year. But the 300 guidance counselors and social workers in the Absent Teacher Reserve are gearing up to begin cycling from school to school for the first time. Last year, even as other members of the ATR pool, the group of educators whose positions have been eliminated, began the rotation system, the counselors were assigned to a single school so they could work with individual students for extended periods of time. But starting next week, they will be assigned to different schools each week, dramatically changing their roles and responsibilities. Instead of working with students one on one, the counselors will take on shorter-term tasks, city officials said. The tasks could include making classroom presentations on graduation requirements, conflict management, and the college or high school application process; organizing records; supporting the school's college counselors; and reviewing student schedules at the start of the semester. Coming at a time when many schools have trimmed support services because of budget cuts, the change has some educators and researchers raising their eyebrows.
September 21, 2012
Union: City's evaluation demands torpedoed ATR buyout option
For the last six months, teachers whose permanent positions were eliminated have known that the city might offer to pay them to leave the city's payroll. But they haven't known how much the option could yield, complicating their job-hunting calculus. Now, we know, sort of — a day after UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the Wall Street Journal that the option was "dead in the water." The option might have been $14,000, or $25,000, or 25 percent of a teacher's annual salary, or 20 percent, according to conflicting information the union and city released today. But both sides agreed that the deal stalled after the city made the buyout offer contingent on a different city proposal to give raises to top-rated teachers, a plan that the union had rejected back in January. In dueling press releases, city and union officials sparred over what terms they had discussed for the buyout. City officials said they had offered to pay $25,000 to teachers who had spent more than one year in the Absent Teacher Reserve if the teachers would resign from the Department of Education. But union officials said the city's numbers were misleading. The $25,000 option, they said, would only have applied to ATRs with enough education and experience to put them at the top of the city's salary scale. Other teachers who had spent more than a decade working in city schools would have netted much less, they said, because the city wanted to cap the offer at 20 percent of each teacher's annual salary. (The city said the cap was 25 percent of the annual salary.) One-fifth of the average salary of mid-career teachers in the ATR pool, union officials said, would have amounted to just a $14,000 payout. The city-union dispute over numbers reflected far more significant ideological differences over how to reward excellent teaching and urge weak teachers out of the system.
September 14, 2012
City bolstering ATR evaluation process, but challenges remain
A year after starting to rotate teachers without permanent positions into different empty slots weekly, the Department of Education has settled on a way to evaluate them. But the plan, hiring administrators to observe and coach the teachers in multiple placements, could be stymied if the department cannot find enough available evaluators who are up to the task. Last year, when the city launched the rotation system for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, it left up in the air the question of who would be responsible for evaluating them. Previously, ATRs were typically assigned to one school for the entire year, so principals could rate them as they did any other teacher on staff. For almost all of the roughly 830 teachers in the pool at the end of last year, district superintendents ended up issuing the annual ratings with input from potentially dozens of principals who supervised each teacher — in most cases, without conducting the formal observations that teachers are required to receive each year. But in Brooklyn, which had about 250 ATRs last year, the city took a different approach. It interviewed and selected five administrators who had also lost their positions to budget cuts or school closures to visit the teachers in their classrooms and give them feedback about their performance.
August 15, 2012
For some teachers, job hunt calculus includes possible buyout
Inside a Columbia University building, hundreds of teachers rubbed shoulders while chatting up recruiters from 80 schools. A late-summer city teacher recruitment fair bustled with newly-trained Teaching Fellows and experienced teachers still looking for jobs yesterday. But no one was lined up to talk to leaders from Food and Finance High School shortly after 4 p.m. The school has top marks from the Department of Education and a graduation rate that far exceeds the city average. But the fair was less than fruitful, recruiters said, because they only have one position available: a social studies job that is subject to city hiring restrictions. "All of these young candidates are coming in bright eyed, and yet there's a freeze on history," said Joseph Clausi, the high school's recruiter and an assistant principal. "They come here with these great resumes, and we can't even talk to them." His was among close to 80 schools attending the fair. Others, like Pelham Academy of Academics and Community Engagement, a Bronx middle school the Bronx Theater High School, and representatives from the New Visions Network of schools had lines snaking around the rows of booths set up in an auditorium at Columbia University. The city has been slowly lifting its three-year-old hiring restrictions, which have limited the numbers of new teachers who can compete for jobs with teachers currently in the city's system. But there is still a hiring freeze on some teaching areas and subjects, such as high school social studies and regular elementary school positions. The event was open only to city teachers hunting for new positions, as well as Teaching Fellows, Teach for America recruits, and teachers from outside the school system who had registered with the Department of Education. City officials told principals not to advertise the time or location, which were once posted on the internet but later removed.
August 1, 2012
Major payroll improprieties alleged at Fort Hamilton High School
The principal of Fort Hamilton High School is under investigation for underpaying more than a dozen new teachers, sources say. A scheme to underpay more than a dozen teachers at a Brooklyn high school has landed the school's longtime principal under investigation. The scheme, which investigators have been probing since this spring, could also put Fort Hamilton High School on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay to teachers so desperate for a position that they accepted one with low pay, no benefits, and little security. The Department of Education's Office of Special Investigations is in the process of investigating Jo Ann Chester, principal of the Bay Ridge school since 1999, a department spokeswoman confirmed. Sources close to the investigation say investigators have been digging into payroll practices at the 4,200-student high school since at least April. The school was already under investigation because of test scores that the city deemed suspicious. Last week, a grievance from a teacher who had been underpaid was sustained, entitling him to back pay, union officials confirmed. The scheme allowed Chester to circumvent three-year-old hiring restrictions and blocked the school from being assigned short-term substitutes from the Absent Teacher Reserve, the city's pool of teachers without permanent positions. It also saved the school hundreds of thousands of dollars.
June 1, 2012
"Blame em," Klein is urged about teachers union in latest emails
The latest internal Department of Education emails to come to light are mostly dark: The 228 pages released today contain large swaths of blacked-out text. But between redactions, a few messages stand out — including one in which charter operator Eva Moskowitz speedily outlines an agenda that became the driving focus of former Chancellor Joel Klein's last year in office. Urging Klein to be "SUPERAGGRESSIVE in [the] standard of excellence" for schools' academic performance, Moskowitz wrote, "If folks criticize you for having the bar way too high, you know you are inching closer to success." The emails were part of the yield from a massive Freedom of Information Law request filed by the United Federation of Teachers. The union wanted to see the communication exchanged between the city Department of Education and charter school supporters during a period when legislators were under pressure to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. That cap was raised in May 2010. Hundreds of emails between Klein and charter advocates were released last month, showing that Klein kept careful tabs on the legislative action and was quick to connect advocates with support.
May 17, 2012
In lieu of new evaluations, city looks to options in union contract
Chancellor Dennis Walcott speaks to business leaders at the Association for a Better New York breakfast. After years of trying to win new powers to fire under-performing teachers, the city is turning to rights it has had all along. Speaking to a coalition representing the city's business elite this morning, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the city would move to fire any teacher who receives "unsatisfactory" ratings for two years in a row. He also announced that the city would ask the UFT to allow buyouts for teachers who have been without permanent positions for more than a year. Both policies are already permitted under the law and the city's contract with the teachers union — a fact that drew ridicule from UFT President Michael Mulgrew. "It's theater of the absurd. It's getting old," he said. "I think they believe that everyone's a fool. They've made an announcement about something they already have the ability to do." Mulgrew noted that the union contract already allows Department of Education officials to do exactly what Walcott's two plans announced today would do—incentivize teachers without permanent jobs to take buyouts, and require schools to remove teachers who receive consecutive unsatisfactory ratings. He also said the buyout plan was proposed by the union several times over the past three years, but the city rebuffed it.
May 17, 2012
Walcott: City won't wait for evaluations to tackle teacher quality
Even without a new teacher evaluation system, New York City will ramp up efforts to weed out teachers who "don't deserve to teach," Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today. In an early-morning speech to the Association for a Better New York, a business and political group, Walcott said the city would adopt new policies to insulate students from teachers deemed "unsatisfactory" under the current evaluation system. Under the new policies, no student will be allowed to have a teacher rated unsatisfactory multiple years in a row, and the city will move to fire all teachers who receive two straight U ratings. "If we truly believe that every student deserves a great teacher, then we can’t accept a system where a student suffers with a poor-performing one for two straight years," Walcott said. "One year of learning loss is bad enough — but studies indicate that two years could be devastating." The policies would go into effect if the city and union do not agree on new teacher evaluations by September, when the new school year begins. Under the existing evaluation system, two consecutive U ratings can trigger termination proceedings but do not have to. Two "ineffective" ratings on teacher evaluations now required under state law would automatically trigger termination proceedings. Walcott also announced that the city would capitalize on a clause in its contract with the teachers union to offer a resignation incentive for teachers who have spent more than a year in the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers without permanent positions. Buyouts would have to be negotiated for each teacher, and Walcott promised that the incentives would be "generous." The move represents a shift in approach for the Bloomberg administration, which has previously sought the right to fire members of the ATR pool. Walcott's complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below. We'll have more on his proposals later today.
April 27, 2012
IBO: Charter school rent, ATR reform should be budget options
Slashing parent coordinators, charging rent to charter schools, and limiting time spent in the Absent Teacher Reserve are among the menu items that the city's budget watchdog said could save the city hundreds of millions of dollars. The Independent Budget Office released its annual list of options that it believes city government officials should consider as they head into their final negotiations before adopting a budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The Department of Education, an agency that eats up about one-third of the $67 billion citywide budget, was listed in 10 of the 72 recommendations. The IBO estimated that the city could raise $53 million in revenue by charging rent to charter schools and save $28 million if it slashed its summer school program. The ideas reflected policy positions from all corners of the ideological map. Some of the proposals can also be found on a list of contract demands the city made in 2010. But others are straight from the teachers union's wishlist.
December 20, 2011
At Irving, closure protest focuses on students who don’t attend
Supporters of Washington Irving High School protested the school's planned closure this morning. It was still dark this morning when Steve Morris rolled up in front of Washington Irving High School on his bike. Morris had been the school’s librarian until last summer, when the struggling school cut him from its staff roster and shuttered the library. Now he was on his way to the Brandeis High School building as a member of the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of position-less teachers who are shuffled to a different school each week. But first he wanted to offer silent support to his former students and colleagues who, along with parents and union officials, had filled Irving’s front steps to protest the Department of Education’s plan to close the school. “I’ll be the last librarian this school ever has,” Morris told me wistfully before pedaling north on Irving Place. Irving is one of 25 schools the city has proposed closing or shrinking this year. The century-old high school near Union Square got an F on its most recent progress report, down from C’s in the previous two years. In a series of spirited chats and statements, the protesters argued that the deck had long been stacked against the school.
December 12, 2011
City devises plans to evaluate teachers who lack principals
Three months into the start of the school year, the Department of Education is just figuring out how to rate more than a thousand itinerant teachers. Under the current teacher evaluation system in place in nearly all schools, principals rate teachers once a year as either "satisfactory," or "unsatisfactory." They are also supposed to offer advice to help teachers improve. But when the city and UFT struck a deal this summer to avert layoffs, they agreed to move members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers who do not have permanent positions, to a different school—with a different principal—each week. The agreement left open the question of who would observe and rate those teachers. In a year when the city and union are fighting fiercely over the particulars of new teacher evaluations, officials from the United Federation of Teachers told me they have left the decision of how ATRs will be rated up to the DOE. Now the city has decided that ATRs will receiving ratings from their district superintendent, officials said, with input from the principals of schools where they were sent to work over the course of the year. The city is also testing out other options.
October 31, 2011
After first month of weekly job rotations, 1 in 10 ATRs found jobs
In the last month, nearly 10 percent of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve have found new positions, according to data the Department of Education released today. Chart showing the exit paths of teachers from the ATR pool during October The hiring took place during a time when the department shuffled teachers in the ATR pool to new positions every week, under the terms of an agreement with the teachers union. The city and UFT say the agreement is meant to match more teachers with open positions. But at a union meeting for ATRs last month, some teachers speculated that the weekly assignments were intended to frustrate ATRs into resignation. Numbers from the first month have not borne out that theory. Of the teachers who left the pool, 172 found new positions, 11 took a leave from the DOE, and 18 exited the school system entirely. Altogether, nearly 750 teachers have exited the pool since mid-August, when the city said 1,940 teachers were without permanent positions. The new numbers show that the pool of teachers without permanent positions has settled at roughly the same size every year for three years, even though principals faced with shrinking budgets have cut jobs each summer. There are currently 1,200 teachers in the ATR pool, 77 fewer than last year at this time and 47 fewer than in November 2009.
October 7, 2011
City unveils algorithm that will assign ATR's to new weekly spots
The Department of Education is preparing for the high volume of new assignments it will have to make starting Tuesday, as Absent Teacher Reserve teachers are shifted to a new school every single week. Starting next week, the nearly 1,300 teachers in the ATR pool will report to a fresh school every Monday, an arrangement set in a deal between the city and teachers union to avert teacher layoffs. Teachers enter the pool when their positions are eliminated, usually because of budget cuts or school closures. While some teachers quickly find new positions in the city schools, others do not, and some stay in the pool for years without finding a new position. A computer algorithm and multiple DOE staffers are tasked with making matches between ATR members to their weekly school placements, DOE officials told reporters today in a telephone briefing. The officials said the process is a work in progress, acknowledging that it may require more time and energy from central office staff and principals than the previous ATR arrangement. Previously, ATR teachers held long-term assignments. The relatively comfortable stability was seen by some as a reason why longstanding members of the pool failed to find new positions. Union officials explained to skeptical teachers in the ATR pool earlier this week that the arrangement is meant to help them land permanent positions. DOE officials echoed that explanation. The placements should be seen as a tryout that could easily result in a full-time position, according to Larry Becker, the chief executive officer of the DOE's human resources division.
October 6, 2011
At union meeting, jobless teachers decry ATR deal "shell game"
Tensions ran high at the United Federation of Teachers Brooklyn office on Tuesday, as union officials volleyed questions, demands, and some cries of exasperation from nearly 100 teachers without permanent positions. The union office was hosting the second in a series of meetings for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve — the large pool of teachers whose jobs were eliminated when their schools closed or cut costs. The union is holding the meetings to explain changes to the way teachers in the ATR pool are deployed, based on an agreement struck this summer between the UFT and the Department of Education that stipulates that ATRs must travel to a different school each week. The first weekly assignments are set to start going out today. But union officials spent much of the meeting deflecting criticism from teachers who charged that the constant upheaval would not make use of their expertise and make them less likely to land permanent positions. Amy Arundell, a UFT special representative, told the roughly 100 teachers at the meeting that the point of moving teachers weekly is to position them for jobs that could open up at the schools where they are temporarily assigned. The previous arrangement, in which members of the ATR pool often stayed at one school for an entire year, allowed principals to use them as free labor, she said, without necessarily incentivizing them to offer the ATR teachers permanent jobs.
October 3, 2011
Union to detail ATR plan at meetings for position-less teachers
One month into the school year, the United Federation of Teachers is hosting a series of meetings for the teachers without permanent assignments in city schools who comprise the controversial Absent Teacher Reserve. Set for each borough over the next week, the meetings are meant to explain the deal the teachers union struck with the city this summer over the ATR pool to avoid teacher layoffs, according to Peter Kadushin, a UFT spokesman. Representatives from the union will also field feedback from teachers about the deal, which requires teachers in the ATR pool to be reassigned to different schools multiple times over the course of the year. In previous years, teachers whose positions had been eliminated were typically assigned to one school for the entire year. The first meeting was scheduled for today at the union's Bronx office — with meetings at UFT offices in other boroughs to follow. In the past, the union has held meetings for teachers in the ATR pool at its central office at the beginning of the school year, Kadushin said. Teachers in the ATR pool have been working in temporary jobs inside schools that were assigned by the DOE for the month of September. Next week, the teachers will begin rotating to substitute teaching positions throughout the school system on a weekly basis — assignments they expect to receive from the DOE later this week.
September 6, 2011
Comptroller's audit criticizes city's handling of ATR pool
Chart from Comptroller John Liu's audit of the Absent Teacher Reserve. The Department of Education could potentially be doing more to help teachers whose positions have been eliminated find new jobs. That's one conclusion of an audit conducted by Comptroller John Liu of the DOE's efforts to help members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers whose jobs were lost to budget cuts, enrollment changes, or school closures. The audit concluded that the vast majority of ATRs — 95 percent — are working full-time in teaching jobs, but that the department doesn't maintain data sufficient to conclude whether its efforts to help the teachers find permanent positions are paying off. "Without such information, we believe that DOE is significantly hindered in its ability to evaluate the success of its efforts in helping ATR teachers find permanent positions," the report concludes. The audit is not meant to dictate policy and is intended only to draw attention to what the report said was an information gap within the DOE on the ATR pool. But an unwritten conclusion also seems to be that the city is wasting money by hiring new teachers when ATRs are licensed to do the job.
August 23, 2011
Principals cut 2,000+ teaching jobs; city plans school layoffs
Budget cuts caused principals to cut thousands of positions this year, but the total number of teachers without permanent jobs rose only slightly, the Department of Education revealed today. The Bloomberg administration also announced plans to lay off nearly 800 school employees who do not belong to the teachers union, which negotiated a deal in June to avert layoffs. Most of those employees — 737 of 777 — belong to DC-37, which represents school aides and other auxiliary school personnel. The layoffs are set to start in October. When the city announced in July that schools would have to cut an average of 2.43 percent from their budgets, many principals complained that they had little fat to trim. They said they would have to turn to eliminating necessary positions and sending junior teachers to the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers whose positions were cut or lost as a result of school closures or enrollment changes. In the end, they sent 2,186 teachers to the ATR pool this summer. More than a thousand of those teachers have already left the pool, either by finding new positions or leaving the system. A DOE spokeswoman said many of the teachers were rehired by their original schools after funding became available to keep them there. That leaves 1,940 teachers in the ATR pool with just weeks before the start of the school year. Last year, the pool contained 1,779 teachers just before classes began. Though small, the growth in the size of the ATR pool still places added financial stress on the department.
June 24, 2011
No layoffs: Union agrees to concessions in budget deal
Plans to lay off 4,100 teachers were averted late Friday evening as part of a deal struck between the Bloomberg administration, the City Council and…
May 24, 2011
A glimpse into one ATR's life complicates the city's policy story
Guidance counselor Joe Nofal at work in East Flatbush. (Courtesy of Nofal) Like all of his colleagues, Joe Nofal begins his work day by 8:05 a.m., when staff members at the Brooklyn middle school hold a morning meeting. But Nofal technically isn't on the school’s staff. That's because Nofal sits in the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers whose jobs have been eliminated but who are still being paid by the Department of Education. The city assigns teachers in the reserve, known as ATRs, to work as long-term substitutes. But officials say they would rather take ATRs off the payroll altogether. Ex-Chancellor Joel Klein's last message to principals before he left the DOE took aim at ATRs: He asked for permission to lay off the reserve teachers, saying that the city was spending as much as $100 million a year to support teachers who "don't care to, or can't, find a job." Nofal’s daily life troubles Klein's characterization. Having worked as a guidance counselor for six years, Nofal both wants a job in a school and is working in one: The DOE assigned him to a middle school in East Flatbush, where he is one of three guidance counselors offering mandated counseling sessions to 40 students a week. He also sits on a team of teachers that assesses students before recommending them for special education services, has worked directly with parents, and once brought in a representative of the District Attorney’s office to speak about gang activity. Most of Nofal's day, like that of many guidance counselors, is spent responding to events as they arise. “A lot of the day is handling crisis situations," he said. "If a kid is having a hard time in the classroom, we’ll pull them out and speak with them." Nofal's work at his current school closely resembles what he did for four years as a guidance counselor at Brooklyn's P.S. 114, which cut his position last year: "I'm still in charge of mandated [for special education services] kids," he said. "I'm still helping in the classroom. It's basically the same."
December 23, 2010
On his way out, Klein pushes for end to ATR pool, last-in first-out
The final installment of Joel Klein's weekly memo to principals In a nostalgic final missive to city principals this week, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein suggested three things to do once he's gone. He urged lawmakers to end the last-in first-out process of teacher layoffs, pushed for an end to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, and underlined his belief in the importance of closing struggling schools. Klein's statement that "we have to eliminate the ATR pool" ratchets up the city's position on the pool of teachers — city teachers who lose their positions, don't find new ones, but stay on the city payroll anyway. Previously, the city has asked the union, in contract negotiations, to add a limit to the amount of time a teacher can spend in the reserve pool. That would make the pool smaller, but it would not cause it to disappear altogether. Describing the costs of keeping those teachers on the city payroll as exceeding $100 million a year, Klein argues: We cannot afford it, and it's wrong to keep paying this money. It amounts to supporting more than a thousand teachers who either don't care to, or can't, find a job, even though our school system hires literally thousands of teachers each year. That's money that could be spent on teachers that we desperately want and need. Klein also describes teacher layoffs as a sure thing. "I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid," he writes. The Bloomberg administration has a history of being bullish on layoffs in order to push for the end of the state law regulating how teachers lose their jobs. Klein reiterates that case in his letter: If we have layoffs, it's unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn't mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren't among the best, but this is not an area for "group think." We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn't. Klein also quoted his favorite T.S. Eliot poem, "Little Gidding," excerpting four cryptic lines that seem to summarize his "odyssey" as something more complex than a straight line of a progress: We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time. Other curious lines from the poem: ... Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfilment. ... Klein has sent a memo to principals every week for years. Read the full letter here and below.
October 19, 2010
A cheer, then a caution, as theater teacher hiring rules relax
Add theater to the list of subjects for which principals have been allowed to circumvent the city's longstanding teacher hiring freeze. The city allowed four principals to hire theater teachers from outside the school system last month, breaking from the hiring restrictions in place since May 2009 that limit most job searches to current city teachers. The Center for Arts Education, a group that advocates for more arts instruction in the city's public schools, released a statement cheering the city for opening hiring for theater teachers and calling on it to end the freeze for all arts teachers. The city has just 100 theater teachers, and 20 percent of schools have no arts teachers at all, according to CAE. But city officials said the hiring freeze hasn't been lifted in theater the way it has been in other subjects, such as Latin and English as a second language. Instead, the city simply granted exemptions to all of the schools looking for theater teachers in mid-September, according to Ann Forte, a Department of Education spokeswoman.
September 2, 2010
Teacher excess pool persists as start of school approaches
Rhetoric around the city's excessed teachers has cooled off since last year, but the issue hasn't disappeared. More than 1,700 teachers remain on the city's payroll without full-time teaching positions, officials said today. Teachers enter the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve pool when they lose their jobs to budget cuts or school closures. At the ATR pool's height this summer, nearly 3,000 teachers were in excess. Just over 40 percent of those teachers either found jobs, retired, resigned or went on leave, leaving 1,779 still without positions. That's roughly the same number who lacked teaching jobs at this time last year. DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte said that there are currently just over 1,200 vacancies in the city's schools, around 100 fewer open positions than there were just after the start of school last year. Principals are currently only allowed to hire teachers already on the city's payroll, except in certain areas like special education, science and some foreign languages. Earlier this summer, the city also relaxed its hiring restrictions for schools in the Bronx that were having trouble filling their open positions.
May 6, 2010
Hidden in the ATR pool, teachers trained for disappearing jobs
Chancellor Joel Klein likes to say that many of the teachers who've lost their jobs and remain on the city's payroll aren't trying to find new work. But a back-of-the-envelope analysis of teachers in the reserve pool shows that even if all of them doggedly pursued open positions, nearly a quarter are trained for jobs that are disappearing. Most teachers in the absent teacher reserve — a pool of people cut from schools when they were closed or enrollment dwindled — are certified to teach core subjects that every school offers. But the most recent data shows that almost a quarter of teachers in the pool are only licensed to teach classes like swimming, jewelry-making, and accounting, among other subjects that are nearly extinct in the public schools. The pool also includes music, dance, and art teachers for whom getting a new position will be difficult in a year when schools will have to lay off thousands of teachers.
April 16, 2010
End of rubber rooms a "big deal," but bigger issues remain
When he announced that he would close the city's infamous rubber rooms yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared, "To say that this is a big deal is an understatement." The agreement will shutter the reassignment centers where teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence wait idly for their cases to be heard, a process both the city and union have accused each other of dragging on interminably. But the deal, which was struck outside of formal contract negotiations, does little to resolve the most contentious issues the city and union have long fought over. Yesterday's rubber room agreement traded one largely-ignored time-line for hearing cases for a speedier one. Union and city officials pledged to strictly adhere to the faster schedule and clear out the backlog of cases by the end of the year. "We want a faster, fairer process," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said. "That's the way this process should work and that's what this agreement does." The deal does little to make it easier to fire teachers for incompetence, a major goal of the Bloomberg administration that the union bitterly opposes. Nor does it address a costlier problem: the pool of teachers who remain on the city's payroll after losing their positions to school budget cuts or school closings.
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