Thursday, August 09, 2018

Class Size and the ATR

In New York City, if the last numbers I heard are accurate, we have 800 unassigned teachers. Now those numbers are from last year. They don't include teachers newly unassigned, and they don't include teachers who were temporarily assigned for last year only. The number could be far different in September. Just for the sake of argument, though, let's call it 800.

One single teacher can teach up to 170 students under our current contract. That's too many already, but in a whole lot of schools teachers are teaching even more than that. That's because, under our contract, when there are oversized classes they don't always have to be resolved. There could be a "plan of action" on the part of the city, and if some arbitrator likes it, well, that's the plan.

Here's the thing, though--the only "plan of action" that solves the problem is bringing the class size down. And once we do that, we still have the highest class sizes in the state. We should be focusing on bringing current class sizes down, something we haven't bothered with in over half a century. I'm forever amused by UFT leaders saying we sacrificed money to win class size limits, because if they were even born, they were in diapers when that happened.

Let's get back to here and now. Let's give our 800 ATR members a small break, and say they only have 150 students each. 800 times 150 is 120,000. If ever class in NYC is oversized by two, and we give them to ATR members, we could fix sixty thousand oversized classes. Personally, I doubt we have that many, but if anyone knows better, feel free to correct me.

Now it isn't altogether that simple, of course. ATR teachers are all over five boroughs, and it's highly unlikely that whatever they teach is exactly what students in oversized classes need. Not only that, but if you're an ATR in Queens, the city can't simply send you to Staten Island. We have agreements, and not even Donald Trump can have Whatever He Wants, Whenever He Wants.

So if I'm a Queens ATR, you can't send me to Staten Island. You could, however, ask me if I want to go to Staten Island. The worst I could do is say no. I work in a generally desirable school. Sure, we may get a Boy Wonder supervisor now and then. We might even get a Girl Wonder. But I once watched a principal tell a young teacher to be careful, because there were a hundred people who wanted his job. I'm sure the principal was right. So maybe someone would travel to come to us. I know a lot of people who do, and I'm one of them.

Let's say that doesn't work. Just because I like my school, you don't have to. Maybe my school sucks and I'm delusional. Who knows, really? Wherever you are, kids need you. It's beyond ridiculous that the city won't put you to work because some principal might get his feelings hurt. If you're a Queens teacher, you should go to a Queens school. If that means an actual reduction in class sizes, well, so be it. Why is there a single oversized class when we have an Absent Teacher Reserve? Why are there classes of 34 and 50, the highest in the state, when there is an Absent Teacher Reserve?

Let's put the ATR to work tomorrow, and stop worrying about the scare stories from Families for Excellent Schools, or their well-reported rallies of nine people. Let's give jobs to our teachers, and teachers to our students. This is what you call a win-win. If I'm an ATR and I suck as badly as stories in the tabloids suggest, let some principal slide off his imperial keester and prove it.

Otherwise, let's make sure there are enough classes for teachers to teach and students to attend.

Am I naive? Are there further complications I haven't anticipated? If that's the case, it's on DOE and UFT to sit down and figure out solutions. These are two huge problems that can be used against one another to cancel each other out. If it's not a total solution, it has to be at least a partial one.

If it isn't, I'd like to know why.
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