ATRs, the unrepresented -- no elected representatives in the UFT

"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.
"To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another."
Thomas Paine, First Principles of Government


Hello, ATRs are suing

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why does the DOE insist on putting ATRs in the position of usurping topics for students' classes?

Following on some other questions that we posed to the UFT, ATRs should also pose to these questions to the UFT this week at meetings:
Why is New York City DOE expecting ATRs to displace the subject agenda of the classes that they cover? Why is the UFT acting as the glove to the DOE's hand on this policy? It's a disservice to both students and teachers.

This week the UFT is holding informational meetings in which it tells ATRs what the DOE expects of them. In previous years the UFT told ATRs not to worry about the field supervisors, that the only ATRs getting U ratings are ATRs having attendance or conduct problems. However, in the 2014 to 2015 school year numerous ATRs got career threatening U ratings. As noted recently, because of the rash of the U-ratings that teachers suddenly received after two decades of unblemished services, some ATRs have begun pursuing lawsuits. The UFT, incredibly, has staunchly backed the expectation that ATRs be evaluated in subbing contexts. In a vastly under-recognized problem that the union is ignoring, many decent teachers are receiving U-ratings with students that they have just met. Read this Chaz blog post and this post too. Just how will the UFT defend its record if the Supreme Court's decision on the Friedrichs v. CTA case goes the wrong way for teachers' unions? "Be thankful you've got a job" doesn't cut it when the UFT is asleep at the switch on the issue of inappropriate field observer observations that become U-ratings for the year.


It is a good occasion then, to closely examine the awkward and contentious role that ATRs are put into as they impose their lessons that are often irrelevant and disruptive to students' daily class schedules.

For the general public and for ATRs new to the rotation process:
In normal school systems and in the NYC DOE before rotation of ATRs began in 2011, schools had teachers provide their assistant principals with timely lesson plans that fit in with the sequence of topics in the calendar of lessons that teachers had with classes.

However, since the DOE began rotating excessed teachers, it has expected ATRs to bring in lessons of their own into classrooms. So, in the Bloomberg and not really post-Bloomberg era, administrators and regular classroom teachers usually have no lesson for the ATRs. This means that not only are the students missing out on an education by the absence or their teacher, there is no appropriate lesson for the ATR substitute teacher to deliver to the students. The students' sequence of learning is disrupted.

Just what does the DOE expect for the ATR to do in this situation? The DOE official policy is that when neither the school administration, nor the absent teacher leaves a lesson the ATR should bring in their own lesson. And given that most ATRs are displaced specialists of some sort, an art teacher, an earth science teacher, an English teacher, a math teacher, a reading specialist, a social studies teacher, they have very specialized backgrounds and very specialized lessons. However, often the subject specialty does not match the subject that the ATR is covering.

Thus, the application of the DOE rules means that in art class the ATR following the DOE field supervisor mandates must intrude with their own lesson. This means that students enter their third period art studio class fully expecting to do some drawing. Yet, the English Language Arts teacher must deliver a Common Core lesson, engage the students and get some written work from the students. If the ATR does not impose her own lesson, she will risk running into trouble with her field supervisor. Not surprisingly, this introduces tension between the students and the teacher right off the bat. The students will say, "This makes no sense. This is an art class, not an English class. I'm not going to do this." The ATR that wants to stay on good graces with the field supervisor she will tell the students, "Just please do my lesson. I'm only following orders."

Just imagine the kind of conversation that this can lead to when the kids go home?
"How was school today? What did you do in art class?"
"We didn't do art. We had to read some English teacher's Common Core reading passage and work in groups on a graphic organizer."

Even if the period's subject matches the ATR's subject expertise this leads to conflicts. We are not in France, where every class across the city is on precise the same topic on September 29. Earth science ATRs can have a fine lesson, only to be told "we learned that last week!"

Isn't this a great disservice to students? The UFT claims to care about students and families. Then why does it aid and abet the hijacking of students' scheduled topics for the purpose of ATR's demo lessons in preparation for field supervisor fly-by observations?

Isn't this a disservice to teachers? Can't the UFT understand that teachers don't like disrupting students' schedule of lessons with irrelevant topics to students' scheduled topic for the period? This is no insignificant matter, particularly as many field supervisors are giving out career-endangering U-ratings.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why is the ATR pool still growing under deBlasio? Plus some questions ahead of the upcoming UFT ATR meetings

What's happening with the growing ATR pool?

It is unconfirmed that the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool has grown to as many as 4,000. What is driving the increasing number of excessed DOE staff? Despite the end of Bloomberg era closures, the growth of new schools and the growth of charters continues. As newer schools grow, taking more students, more classrooms, more teachers, existing schools lose students, lose space and lose staff. For those not in the know, the ATR pool includes guidance counselors (colloquially called ACRs, as they number in the hundreds), social workers, psychologists, librarians, besides strictly instructional staff. And by the way, the UFT has failed to unionize or demand that the DOE permanently hire various professionals such as part-time or itinerant nurses and guidance counselors. The UFT tolerates this privatized staffing, euphemistically called "service providers."

The DOE/UFT tell us that people are leaving the ATR pool. The DOE and the UFT both play the same numbers games, not giving us straight numbers about the ATR pool.

Members need to ask the UFT directly:

--How many people have been appointed from the pool, into schools?  That is, how many people have truly, permanently, left the ACR/ATR pool?
--How many people are filling a maternity or illness leave position?
--How many people are are in a position only for a semester or only for the current academic year?
--Given that the Fair School Funding formula, also known as the Fair Student Funding formula, has been the reason that principals themselves cite for not permanently placing or hiring staff out of the pool, why is the UFT not aggressively fighting the Fair School Funding formula?
--Why is the UFT not fighting for an amendment to the contract to bring seniority rights into hiring practices?
--Why is the UFT not fighting the well-known practice of DOE administrators to hire new staff over members of the Absent Teacher Reserve?

Does the UFT really want all ATRs to attend their meetings?
New excessing will occur in October, as class registers stabilize, after schools have accounted for student attendance patterns. According to the DOE's arcane excessing guidelines the excessing is concentrated in batches of staff in certain licenses, for example, a school can be found compelled to excess three teachers because of declined enrollment. As a result schools, can lose vital staff such as special education teachers, librarians or guidance counselors.

The timing of the meetings at the end of September and very early in October is not the best for the excessed staff. Many teachers and other DOE staff across the city will lose their positions in schools and will enter the ATR pool, yet they will not be introduced to the DOE's protocols for ATRs, as they would receive in the official UFT meetings for ATRs.

Here again are the official ATR meetings that the UFT has scheduled for the next two weeks:
Note that many of the meetings conflict with DOE staff obligations at schools. The 2014 contract introduced new obligations for teachers and other staff to stay late at schools. At most schools these dates fall on Mondays and Tuesdays. 

We hope that your year is off to a good start. As promised, we are contacting you to let you know that the UFT will be holding informational meetings for ATRs in the coming weeks. Whether you are new to the ATR pool or not, we want to make sure you have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.
Here are the dates and locations. Note the changed dates and times, since the announcements earlier this week, following complaints:

Queens

  • Date: originally, Monday, Sept. 28. Rescheduled to Wednesday, Sept. 30, due to complaints about Sept. 28 falling on Sukhot (the UFT has not shared this change thru mass email; details and of this change have spread by word of mouth)
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Queens borough office at 97-77 Queens Blvd. Directions »

Bronx

  • Date: Monday, Sept. 28, still, despite = Sukhot
  • Time: 4:30–6 p.m. Note the later start time, but not the later finishing time.
  • Location: UFT Bronx borough office at 2500 Halsey St. Directions »

Manhattan

  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 1
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway Directions »

Staten Island

  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 1
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Staten Island borough office at 4456 Amboy Road Directions »

Brooklyn

  • Date: Monday, Oct. 5, difficult for many teachers because 2014 contract compels teachers to stay late on two days, usually Monday and Tuesday; and at many schools faculty conferences (a late day, UFT brass, in case you didn't know) fall on the first Monday of the month
  • Time: 4:30–6 p.m. Later starting time, but original finishing time, asinthe Bronx meetings.
  • Location: UFT Brooklyn borough office at 335 Adams St. Directions »



Monday, September 21, 2015

Lawsuit material & official ATR meetings

When observations in rotations began in fall, 2011, the UFT was full of excuses. Observations in rotation were appropriate, they were in just a few districts and lastly, they were just part of a pilot program.

Now that these observations, are in full bloom, the U ratings are piling up. The teachers are observed out of grade license; they are observed out of subject license.  They are observed with students they have just met. The students know that they can misbehave, pay no attention, with no consequences to them. And now, with the all electronic devices access rights, teachers have an additional impediment handicapping their ability to maintain classroom management, an issue that then UFT secretary Michael Mendel said in fall 2011 was appropriate to judge ATRs on. 
For discussion of this absurdity, countenanced by the UFT, see this June's "Field Supervisors, the proverbial DOE Sandmen vs. ATRs."

As U ratings rain upon ATRs, the UFT's response? "We'll contest them when your 3020-a hearings come up."

Now, we hear that lawsuits are being planned. Is it any wonder?



Incidentally, amidst the chaos, the UFT is having its yearly borough-level meetings. Here is the 2015 schedule of official ATR meetings, in case you are not in the loop:


We hope that your year is off to a good start. As promised, we are contacting you to let you know that the UFT will be holding informational meetings for ATRs in the coming weeks. Whether you are new to the ATR pool or not, we want to make sure you have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.
Here are the dates and locations:

Queens

  • Date: Monday, Sept. 28
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Queens borough office at 97-77 Queens Blvd. Directions »

Bronx

  • Date: Monday, Sept. 28
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Bronx borough office at 2500 Halsey St. Directions »

Manhattan

  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 1
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway Directions »

Staten Island

  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 1
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Staten Island borough office at 4456 Amboy Road Directions »

Brooklyn

  • Date: Monday, Oct. 5
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Brooklyn borough office at 335 Adams St. Directions »