Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Placing the ATRs

It's actually a good thing that someone's thinking about having ATR teachers, you know, teach. Now I'm not suggesting that having them teach twelve years ago wasn't a good idea either. I found it incredible that we gave up seniority transfers to place so many of our brothers and sisters in limbo. I do know, at the time, that UFT leadership thought it would be a temporary situation. On the now-defunct UFT blog, Edwize, I think it was UFT's "City Sue" who contended that it had been done before.

Evidently no one counted on Joel Klein hiring new teachers while thousands of current ones wandered around in purgatory. But he did indeed, and so did his successors, while ATRs carried the Scarlet Letter in one form or another, shunned by principals and fellow UFT members, vilified by the papers, and with chances of placement that were less than optimal.

So they say now, if positions aren't filled by October, ATR teachers will fill those positions. They will likely do this by "mutual consent," which, in NYC means the actual teachers get no say in it whatsoever. Usually it means the principal decides, but in this case it evidently means Big Shot Educrats decide, and the only way the principal gets rid of these teachers is by rating them below effective.

This is problematic, of course, because principals could very well be prejudiced against incoming ATRs they had no voice in placing. Now theoretically, everyone is treated fairly now that we use a rubric to judge, because there can be no variation in human judgment once you use a rubric. On this astral plane, however, I have seen Boy Wonder supervisors write up things that did not happen and fail to observe things that did. There are plenty of Boy Wonder supervisors out there listening only to the voices in their heads, and if principal's voices enter the mix, that could potentially be even worse for ATR teachers.

I'm not saying all principals or APs are like that, but some are, and anyone who's been reading about CPE 1 or Townsend Harris this year knows some are even worse. I have to add that this is not true everywhere, and in fact four members of my own department are former ATR teachers.

But there are yet other considerations. In a whole lot of schools, teachers have "emergency" coverages and teach six classes. The pay can be very good, and having five of these classes still costs less than hiring certain teachers. So what if, for example, in my school there were 70 such classes? Would that mean there were five openings to be filled by ATR teachers? Or would it mean there were zero openings and 70 teachers were running around juggling six classes?

And what about class sizes? Oversized classes are becoming part of my DNA. If there are thirty oversized classes in my building, or yours, why on earth can't we hire an ATR or two so as to reduce them? A lot of principals might say, "Oh, that teacher might not be good enough."

I have to say, Mr. Principal, placing 35 students in a classroom isn't good enough. We have the highest class sizes in the State of New York, and violating our already too-high class sizes is simply unconscionable. Instead of making a thousand teachers wander around like Bedouins, we ought to place them and give them the same chance we'd give any working teacher.

Once we start doing that, we won't need to have this discussion anymore. While there is one opening, while there is one oversized class, there should not be one ATR, ever.
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