Monday, October 31, 2011

Class in a Box

The ATR agreement, negotiated last year by the UFT and the DOE, has proven to be a money-saving bonanza for city high schools. For example, it appears schools no longer need to invest their precious budget dollars on art teachers. In fact, one high school now simply gives a box of assignments that can be handed out to kids by any ATR teacher--art, English, science, or whatever.

The teacher distributes the assignment, and the kids do it. Or they don't. Or they copy it from a kid who does do it. Or whatever. When they're finished, the assignment goes into the magic box. From there, all that happens is someone, somewhere, checks off a name, and Voila!  Instant art credit!

Think of the possibilities. Why should this process be limited to art? We could "teach" math, science, foreign languages, or whatever this same way. Why screen kids for AP classes? We could just put out the box, have them fill out the papers, right, wrong, whatever, and ZAP! Our kids now have college credit. And there'll be none of this nonsense about whether or not they're college ready. They'll already have the credit.

In fact, there's really no need for any teachers whatsoever under this system. We could simply pay anyone 8 bucks an hour to pass out the papers and dump them in the box. Think of the money this could save Mayor Bloomberg and his buds in taxes. Governor One Percent will be thrilled, and the Koch brothers will have even more money with which to decimate that pesky middle class.

Is this the goal of the "reformers?" Judging from the agreement that sends ATR teachers from school to school, from week to week, it's tough to dispute. It would be one thing if the ATR teachers were simply covering for absent teachers. But the fact that a system like this even exists indicates that vacancies are meant to remain vacant. Ask ATR teachers just how many kids they've met who haven't had a regular teacher since September.  Then ask the principals who've allowed the vacancies why they haven't hired ATR teachers.

After all, under this system, they get a full five days to watch them teach subjects they've probably not certified in before committing to retain and pay them for a full year. Or, after draconian budget cuts, they could save tens of thousands of dollars by leaving the positions vacant and hoping for the best. Who would be cynical enough to think many principals have opted for the latter, simply because many principals have opted for the latter?

I suppose the answer is---anyone who's watched this system in action. This is most certainly not a product of anyone who puts, "Children First, Always." Heads would roll, justifiably, if such nonsense were practiced in nearby suburbs. But Mayor4Life bought that law change and third term fair and square, has staked out his absolute power at the PEP, and can do pretty much whatever the hell he wants until and unless mayoral control is repealed.
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