Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Should We Be Recruiting Teachers on Craigslist Before Placing ATR Teachers?

I was pretty surprised to see this ad on Craigslist. Apparently you can be a city teacher and utter lack of experience is no obstacle. When I started in 1984, I got my job via a subway ad, and lack of experience was about all I brought to the table. But times were different then. No one wanted this job. The city conducted intergalactic searches for anyone willing to sit in one of the ancient wooden chairs that sat in front of thousands of classrooms. Now reformy folks everywhere complain the standard for teachers isn't high enough.

Nonetheless, though there's actually a glut of teachers on the market, we're still not only recruiting people cold on Craigslist, but subsidizing their Masters programs. I'm all for helping people with education costs, particularly in such a miserable economy, but our priority ought to be getting experienced teachers working with kids, where they belong.

The Absent Teacher Reserve is the very worst consequence of the short-sighted 2005 UFT contract. I wasn't very active in union politics before then. I'd written a few pieces in NY Teacher, and I started this blog hoping to counter some of the anti-teacher nonsense I'd read in the tabloids. In fact, I was thrilled when Edwize popped up, thinking it would further aid the cause. I made an agreement to write for Edwize, and was about to fold this blog when the 05 contract popped up.

I could not believe how bad it was. I was shocked the union could agree to this. Edwize writers suggested the ATR was just a temporary stopgap, and that soon all the teachers would get jobs. They said such things had been done before. They failed to anticipate fanatical ideologue Joel Klein would continue to hire new teachers even as ATR teachers wandered in the contract-sanctioned purgatory that kept them from classrooms.

I fully understand there are people who don't belong in classrooms. I also fully understand, unlike Campbell Brown, that many of them are there because administrators failed to do their jobs, and that they remain because they still don't want to do their jobs. There's no justification for arbitrarily and capriciously removing teachers, despite their fond desires.

All the ATR teachers I know are there either because of school closures, or because the charges against them were not sustained. In the few cases with which I'm intimately familiar, the teachers are not at fault at all. I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to help these teachers, and I've gotten very good support from UFT to help them. Our results are mixed, but it's not for lack of trying.

The problem, of course, is that we allowed the ATR to exist in the first place. For many principals, there's no premium on experience. Better to have an entire staff of newbies, and then you don't need to worry about that pesky contract. Anyone who makes a stink is fired, and that's that.

Actually, this benefits neither teachers nor the kids we serve.

We have a union president who will stand up and say he'll punch people in the face if they take away his Common Core. What we sorely need, though, is a leader who'll get upset when teachers are not allowed to teach. What's more fundamental than that?
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