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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Observations in sub assignments, is this how Farina's DOE will "eliminate the ATR pool?"

ATRs are roundly frustrated with the very notion of teachers being plopped into classrooms they don't know and then experiencing high-stakes evaluations on their performance with students they do not know, in schools they do not know, with bell schedules they do not know. There is no known precedent, prior to this year, for teachers having their careers put at stake over high stakes evaluations with students they just met. The folly of ATRs rotating and getting observations in sub assignments only came about two years into Bloomberg's third term. Yet, chancellor Farina is definitely extending this questionably valid process.

The UFT has failed to speak up on this. Michael Mulgrew was directly asked about this during his appearance on WNYC on February 17th, but he didn't address the issue. The union's statements about teachers needing to get new wardrobes and get more professional development play into the media's and the DOE's line that ATRs are incapable. In October, 2011, the union publicized its agreement with a "pilot program" for rotating supervisors to evaluate rotating teachers in a handful of districts. This followed on other key events in the history of the ATR condition. 2005, the UFT sold a contract eliminating the seniority transfer. 2007, the union agreed to Fair Student Funding, opening the floodgates for principals rejecting ATRs for new teachers. June, 2011, the union's executive board agreed to rotation.

The union got shnookered with the line that this was a pilot program tried in a few select districts. With pilot programs the results of the pilot are shared. Where was the analysis of that first year? And did you notice? About observations in the first year, 2011-2012, Amy Arundell said that the only teachers getting U's at the end of the year got them for attendance issues. For the second year, 2012-2013, Arundell took great effort at the yearly boro level UFT ATR meetings to snuff out any discontent over the prospect of career-threatening U ratings. In the October, 2013 meetings Arundell called people that raised the issue “fear-mongerers”. By the end of this January, the pattern became clear: Roving ATR Field Supervisors are giving out Unsatisfactories at an unprecedented rate. One Queens supervisor is giving them out at a 50 percent rate. It is clear that they are at war with us. They couldn't get rid of LIFO. Note that the LIFO battle happened in mid-2011 and that by the fall the city meted out this rotate and observe program. They're pursuing the same tenure-breaking objective by this contract-breaking and all common sense-defying strategy. No education expert has stepped forward and has defended this approach of dropping teachers into alien situations and placed make or break expectations on them.

There are multiple contract violations in the course of these observations. The 2007-2009 Contract still applies to excessed teachers in rotation. Yet, some Field Supervisors are refusing to accept written requests for pre- or post-observation conferences. There are multiple reports of roving supervisors giving only part of a period to a conference. Thus, Articles 7A and 8J of the Contract are being violated. Common Core was launched after the 2007–2009 Contract was signed, yet in clear violation of the Contract, supervisors are mandating that lessons conform to the Common Core, a program so controversial that many in the legislature are having serious doubts. Some supervisors are going a step further and are mandating that teachers follow Danielson, yet this legally only applies to teachers in regular classroom assignments. In general, these observations appear to be arbitrary and capricious, violating the professionalism of educators. Because of the arbitrary and capricious issues these observations are in violation of Article 20 of the Contract.

And the uniform testimony is that supervisors are forcing ATRs to sign statements that they have received documents and that they have discussed certain questions such as “How many days are left in your CAR?” And what's up with pressing us into a discussion of the Family Medical Leave Act? Are they trying to get us to spend less time in the classroom?

Here is an excellent public letter summing up the issues at stake in the evaluations, followed by some ATR testimonies of the outrages of the ATR evaluation scam.

….Coming soon: ATRs turn the tables and write their quality reviews of the schools.

Dear Chancellor Farina,

    I thought I would inform you, in case you were not aware, about the ATR roving supervisors.

    The supervisors contact the ATRs and arrange to have them teach lessons in their subject areas in schools they happen to be in that week. The ATR, whose job it is to cover classes and implement the absent teacher's lesson plan, is thrust into a teaching environment, where he/she does not know the students or the school environment. In many cases they are asked to teach generic lessons and do not have access to classroom teaching resources. In essence, they are set up to fail, and at the mercy of the supervisors, who hold them and the lesson to unattainable standards.

    I think you can see how this practice certainly abuses the professionalism of teachers. They are being observed in an arbitrary and capricious manner without benefit of having a regular program or classes. They can not demonstrate effective classroom management, tone, differentiation of instruction or teaching rigor, in a one period lesson with students they do not know.

    ATRs should not be forced to conduct these high stakes lessons under these conditions. If the DOE wants to observe lessons, these teachers should be permanently placed in schools and in proper teaching environments.

   ATRs are valuable resources that are being wasted doing substitute work at high cost to city taxpayers. The DOE has hired 5000 teachers this school year while there are some 1200 ATRs. In addition, there is an ATR unit with several employees under Nicki Stanley at DOE central that adds to the cost, along with the expense of roving supervisors.

   I hope you will take a close look in to this matter and dismantle this ATR unit and roving supervisors, placing ATRs back into permanent classroom settings.

James Calantjis


I heard from one ATR that his supervisor came in and had him do a lesson (math) the same day using the regular teacher's lesson plan. She came back a couple of weeks later and gave the observation a satisfactory. He does not even know her name and she did not give him a copy of the observation.


It has come to my attention that the "observations" we are all undergoing are not actually valid and that the various networks are creating work in order to stay relevant.  Also, I was told all network contracts expire in July of this year and many are scrambling to find jobs - as APs,etc.  I don't know how much is actually true, but the following does make sense:

Our observations cannot be valid in that we are not privy to the academic backgrounds of the students we are "teaching" during the observation. Thus, we - AND our "supervisor" - are not aware of any IEP or learning accommodations and cannot accurately evaluate our lesson. For that matter, they cannot judge by previous grades or exams if we are teaching the "appropriate" materials. If we receive a U, we are then required to receive specific feedback and that is impossible for the same reasons. It also negates the observation process' requirement of being observed again to see if we have made the appropriate changes as specified and discussed with our AP.  These supervisors have 40-50 ATRs they are responsible for. Are they all researching the students they are observing us teach? Are they going to follow up with us? Arrange for us to see the same class and students to monitor our progress? Are they all prepared to professionally develop us if they find us lacking?  Really?

According to the person I spoke to this is all BS and busy work. Nothing so sinister as they are targeting us, or looking to find information out from us. It was also pointed out that if such were the case, we would all be undergoing the SAME procedures and that is clearly not the case. Some supervisors are requiring incorporation of common core, others are not. Some are making arrangements with the school beforehand so we can "feel comfortable" in the classroom, others are not. Some are staying the whole period, others or not. The very lack of consistency seems to point to the non-validity of these observations.

Again, don't know that it's true, but it does seem to make sense.  What exactly are the rules for ATRs and observations?  I don't think there are any.  Is there anything specific about us in the contract? Any provisions or guidelines or ANYTHING? If there isn't, then how can we be reprimanded - or evaluated - on something that doesn't exist and does not have any parameters for evaluation?


My friend got a U.
Then my friend was recommended for a vacancy by the same field supervisor.


I don't have an observation story (yet), being observed as a sub flies in the face of common sense. I don't know from what period to the next what I will be teaching, 90 percent of the time there are no lesson plans left, often I have been put in bilingual classes (I don't speak Spanish), I am been given hall and lunchroom duty. Are we supposed to carry around lessons for four subjects in nine different grades? As you know, the culture and expectations vary widely from school to school so it is very hard to prepare. I don't think ATRs are treated and differently than subs. The administration doesn't care what goes on as long as it's quiet and no one gets hurt. Pretty sad.


It appears that the roving supervisors are pouncing on teachers that are newly excessed. They observe them within the first few months of being excessed. I met a ten year veteran from a eastern Queens HS, a science teacher from a ten year plus veteran from western Queens HS and a fifteen year+ veteran from a southeast Queens HS, who had this experience. 


I was excessed in June this is my 10th year but only my first as an ATR and a field supervisor met with me over a month ago for a pre-observation conference. I have yet to receive a date or time when this observation will take place.


I was called by a science teacher last school year. The woman was given a class coverage for a bilingual class in math, neither of which were in her license area. She did the best she could do under the circumstances, in particular the language. The kids spoke only Spanish. 

So, she did the best she could do with gestures.

The Field Supervisor saw her after class. He told her that she had a "U" rating because she "didn't do her job." She asked him what her job was. His response was " teach the lesson as if you were the teacher." She was outraged. As anyone under these conditions would be. 

She told explained to him that she was at a huge disadvantage, as she was not bilingual and not a math teacher.

He walked back the rating to a "S". He said to her it's a very low "S".

I told her, after she told me the story, that an "S" was an "S". It didn't matter what he said. I told her that once she got the observation, she should sign it and fax it back immediately. She did, and she moved on.

The audacity of these horrible Field Supervisors just amazes me.

Fraternally yours, 

Clare D. Cortez, Teacher in the Traveling Pool since 2011

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 8 of yellow journalism war - Educator appeals to Mulgrew to speak up

Day 8 in the yellow journalism war on displaced teachers (ATRs) and the leaders of the UFT still have not spoken up.

An ATR writes an open letter to president Mulgrew, asking him to counter the aspersions.

Dear Mr. Mulgrew,
  It is disappointing that the UFT is not defending the professionalism of the ATRs from the disparaging aspersions by newspapers such as the Daily News and the Post, which affect public opinion.
  As you know, ATRs are not being hired by principals. Those that receive "provisional" positions for vacancies are dismissed after the semester and new, untenured teachers are hired. The principal saves on his budget by using the ATR during the semester and in hiring a new teacher afterwards.
  Therefore, it is no fault of the ATRs that they are not attaining permanent positions.They are experienced educators and valuable resources that should be in the classrooms. The UFT is partially to blame for negotiating the weekly rotations which have caused hardships and the "provisional" assignments for vacancies, which the DOE has perverted. 
  The UFT needs to speak out publicly defending ATRs and negotiate with the DOE to have ATRs placed in permanent positions before new hires. The DOE should revert back to the unit values for paying teacher salaries.
  On a related matter, it is shameful that the UFT is silent in allowing DOE roving supervisors to harass ATRs with teaching observations that clearly violate the contract and the professionalism of teachers.
Roving supervisors arrange a period in a subject to observe the ATR teaching a lesson, which has nothing to do with their responsibilities as ATRs. They are being observed in an arbitrary and capricious manner which could be grieved under Article 20. The ATRs are asked to teach content or generic lessons in  environments in which they do not know the schools or the students. or have access to resources. They are being "set up to fail" by being held accountable for unattainable standards by the supervisors. Article 7A requires that teachers have daily programs,subject classes with students,room assignments and also that a preference sheet be completed. in some cases Article 8J (pre and post observations) is being violated. For ATRs to be put in this position is clearly unprofessional and an abuse of their rights as teachers under the contract.
  The UFT should acknowledge these abuses and work to end their practices. In fact, The UFT should begin a law suit to negate all observations of ATRs by roving supervisors.
  In conclusion, I am hoping that the UFT will end its silence and publicly stand up for the ATRs, including Guidance Counselors and Social Workers,
James Calantjis

Monday, February 10, 2014

Day 5 in yellow journalism war vs. ACRs/ATRs & no word from the UFT

This is day five since the Daily News began its war against ACRs/ATRs, as discussed here and here. Blame really goes to the New York Times for starting this back in December. Not one UFT official has come to our defense. We applaud chapter leader Arthur Goldstein, who spoke out in our defense, Thursday and today and chapter leader Patrick Walsh, who defended us in his comments at Goldstein's blog.

Goldstein handily rebutted the News' arguments concerning U-rated teachers and formerly accused teachers. Then he wrote in closing, addressing the core point, that there is a lot of stereotyping of ATRs:

Here's my question---how is mentioning these selected cases any different from taking members of a religious or ethnic group, highlighting some accused of behaving in a sensational fashion, and then gently leading readers to the conclusion the entire group was unfit or undesirable?

Our past president Randi Weingarten did produce the 2005 contract which got us here, and she didn't fight the Fair Student Funding formula. But in 2008 she did speak publicly in defense of the pedagogical integrity of teachers in the ATR pool.

"These are good teachers, mostly from closing schools. But rather than create a win-win situation, the system - despite repeated requests - refused to deal with these issues."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

High School ATR gets scolded by a so-called colleague

 An ATR initiates a substitute lesson where there is none, and a colleague retaliates. As often happens, a traveling teacher is placed out of license age range and is placed in awkward circumstances.

I had an incident a few weeks ago where one of our own colleagues (a teacher) at an elementary school became very upset with me, claiming that I do not know how to talk to her first grade class. (I have a high school license.) I was covering the class as a push-in tech teacher (the technology teacher had called in sick). No absentee lesson plans were available.

I began giving the children a piece of paper to create a small timeline and our own colleague (a teacher) cuts me off and says "No, I rather you read this little magazine with them." The children were uninterested and began tossing the magazine in the air. I said to the children in front of their teacher (who was still in the classroom even though I was covering her class) "It is not a good idea to throw those in the air, and it would not be nice if I have to tell your principal that you are playing around with these magazines." At that point this teacher (a colleague) flips out on me, yelling "That's not the way you talk to children. This is not high school!" I was taken aback, like really, in front of these little kids you are yelling at me? She then states you could have brought a book and read to them. I said "Do you want me to read to them? No problem, I will read to them." The teacher then says OUT LOUD in an angry tone, "NO! Just go. Just go, I got this. You can go!"

I left the room a bit shaken and it was 7th period. I went to the teachers lounge and saw the dean and told him the story of my incident and asked him what he thought about what had just happened. He said perhaps she was upset because I mentioned the principal. He also said I should not worry about it. My ATR supervisor came to the school I was assigned to this week and I was handed a letter requesting a meeting with the principal at the school where the incident took place. The letter stated "bring a union rep because this can lead to disciplinary action".

I attended that meeting with the principal, AP and my ATR supervisor were all there trying to make me out to be a trouble-maker. The union chapter leader from their school was present and she was supportive. Long story short, nothing was proven, even though they said I abandoned my post. Principal said he has 90 days to decide if I get a letter in my file. My disappointment is mostly with the teacher who is supposed to be a colleague, yet went out of her way to try to bring trouble to an ATR who is in survival mode already. Thanks for hearing me out. I'm displaced and discouraged and highly disappointed in our own colleagues. I expect it from administration, but from teachers????