Friday, January 13, 2017

A Breakthrough for ATRs?

It's kind of remarkable to read a piece like this that may perhaps give hope to members trapped in the purgatory we call the Absent Teacher Reserve. Randy Asher, principal of Brooklyn Tech actually has a job trying to shrink the Absent Teacher Reserve. What really caught my eye was this:

“Teachers are the heart and the soul of the program,” said Asher, 44, who’s assuming the newly created position of senior adviser for talent management. “They’re on the front lines and they’re with students every day. This is about making the right matches and finding the right people for schools.”

That's not your typical teachers suck and must be fired comment. While only time will tell, it sounds like this principal is looking to actually, you know, put teachers to work. That's always been the best way to resolve this issue. It also seems that Asher has actually hired people from the ATR. While that in itself doesn't guarantee results, it appears he doesn't suffer from the anti-ATR prejudice I often see in the papers.

Obviously, the very best solution to the problem of the ATR is to simply get everyone teaching again. That's not possible since the 2005 contract jettisoned placement based on seniority and made principals lords of all they surveyed. Nonetheless, with someone in charge who may really wish to put ATR teachers in classrooms again, we could see better results.

There is already an incentive for schools to hire ATR teachers, but it clearly must not have worked well enough. I also question the number of 981 ATR teachers since it doesn't include teachers who are provisionally placed. When you consider the fact that any school with provisionally placed teachers turned down the chance to have the city pay100% of their salaries this year, it's likely close to all of them will end up in the ATR at year's end. So 981 isn't an accurate representation at all.

I work in a school that hires ATR teachers. There are at least three former ATR teachers, permanently assigned, in my department alone. But I'm sure there are a lot of places where they don't stand a chance. I read and hear stories about biased administrators who won't give them a chance on a regular basis. And it's not just administrators. I hear about teachers, even chapter leaders, failing to give a fair shake to ATR teachers.

I worked at John Adams High School for about seven years. It's clear to me that, if I hadn't transferred out via an old UFT seniority plan, I'd probably be an ATR myself. It's important to note that this was totally a matter of chance. It's kind of like the whole nonsense about "failing schools." The only thing they have in common is high percentages of poverty, learning disabilities and ELLS. You may as well call schools failing and make teachers ATRs based on their zip codes.

Maybe I'm crazy to harbor any optimism whatsoever about Asher. Just because his words sound reasonable doesn't mean he is. I'm sure you don't have to be a genius to guide Brooklyn Tech into success, what with 100% of its students being selected based on a placement test. But I very much like that he credits us for what we actually do. I'd have expected someone in his position to be talking about firing people. He talks about placing people.

Let's hope he walks the walk.
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