Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Another Day, Another ATR Hatchet Job

The NY Post today has yet another assault on the Absent Teacher Reserve. Naturally, all blame is cast on the United Federation of Teachers and those who find themselves stuck in the ATR. No blame whatsoever is assigned to Michael Bloomberg, Patron Saint of Reforminess, who had an equal hand in creating this monstrosity.

Like reformy Chalkbeat, cited in the editorial, the Post bemoans the salaries of teachers without regular assignments, and also goes on to complain when the teachers are actually assigned. The clear implication is that teachers should be fired without due process. That's a slippery slope because we are all ATRs.

It's important to note that any teacher can be brought up on charges at any time, and that even if the charges are nonsense it's likely some minor one will be sustained. Maybe you used your phone in the school, or did something equally inconsequential. That's enough to fine you a few thousand bucks and place you into the ATR. Then you're doomed, if the Post gets its way.

Note also that the Post harps on salary. Teachers make too much money and it's best, evidently,  to fire them and save it. That's an odd argument for a piece purporting to be concerned about children. Do you want your children to grow up and be fired because their salaries are too high? It's not hard to infer the Post is fine with that. Those of us who actually care about children want decent working conditions for them.

...the ATR crowd averages 18 years of tenure — which means their salaries are too high for many principals’ budgets.
Yup, it's the money. I'm not sure how the Post expects to recruit the quality teacher it claims to want for less. NYC has tried that for decades and it's resulted in various intergalactic teacher searches. I myself got this job as a result of a subway ad. The utter lack of respect for experience in teachers shows how little the Post appreciates education, as well as a cynical lack of expectation that with age comes wisdom.

Another issue this brings up is so-called fair student funding. The fact is principals were not always tasked with worrying about teacher salaries in their budgets. This needs to change, and I hope UFT leadership moves toward making that happen. Doubtless the Post, which seems to hate the idea of teachers being compensated for their work, would cry bloody murder.

The Post offers absolutely no evidence for their main premise, that children will suffer as a result of being taught by ATRs. Make no mistake, this is a stereotype, promoted and reinforced by reformy Chalkbeat and others. If there are some ATRs who shouldn't be teaching, there is a process to remove them. Precisely zero of these ATR teachers have been removed by this process. The Post may or may not know this, but I do, and now you do.

Bernard Gassaway, former Boys and Girls HS principal, tweeted one test of that: “If ATRs are truly qualified top teachers, then place them at the highest performing schools where vacancies exist. No exceptions!”

It's interesting that the Post uses an argument from the leader of a school that, by Bloomberg standards, failed for many years. Also interesting is the fact that Gassaway himself took no responsibility for it, instead blaming the city. Then there's the strawman argument that UFT says ATRs are "top teachers." I have no idea whether or not that's true, and I'd argue, rather than stereotyping ATR teachers for better or worse, we should judge them individually.

All I'm saying is, by the DOE's own standards, no ATR teachers have been deemed unfit. Therefore firing them is beyond the pale. This is particularly true because Gassaway and the Post gleefully spread stereotypes about them. Not only that, but the DOE actually has a Scarlet Letter thing on the records of many, warning principals not to hire them even if they want to.

If the Post likes arguments like Gassaway's, I have one for them. Why not have the charter schools, which they say perform miracles, take all the low-performing, impoverished, non-English speaking and learning disabled students and work their magic? I mean, since we all suck and they're so wonderful, why not? On this actual astral plane, a whole lot of charters weed out students they find difficult, dump them back into public schools, and then pretend they don't exist. It's no coincidence that some Moskowitz Academy got caught with a "got to go" list.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of arguments that pit us against kids. I go into work every day to help New York City schoolchlldren. The Post represents the interests of privatizers hoping to profit off of them. The Post cried for years that ATR teachers weren't placed. Then when there's finally a program to place them, they cry even louder.

What the Post really wants is to see people fired without justification. It wants the erosion of due process. And with that, who will stand up for things that really help children, like reasonable class sizes and decent facilities? The Post? Reformy Chalkbeat?

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