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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

“It’s Crazy Over Here!” (In which the refurbished ATR gets a glimpse of APPR in a struggling school)

An ATR looks behind the veneer of a school under a Quality Review. Note how the account resonates with NYC DOE Chancellor Farina's instructions to closely monitor (some would say harass) teachers at "troubled schools." The efforts to thin the ranks of veteran teachers brings to mind the issues discussed in the earlier post on the significance of the precariousness of pensions.

When I saw the number displayed on my new Galaxy S5 (yeah, I didn’t back up to Google and lost all my contacts), I knew it wasn’t going to be good.
It was worse.
It was a glimpse into every teacher’s worst nightmare.
You see, it was a colleague from the school I was excessed from. That school is now the worst school in the district. Dead last. Bottom of the barrel. And the teachers are paying dearly.
They had a ridiculously early Quality Review. The school was rated “developing”. The faculty was told that, since the school was “developing”, that the teachers must also be “developing” as well, and that observations would be conducted on the assumption that the observed teacher was “developing” unless the observations proved otherwise (and the administration is making sure that the observations don’t). Those who cannot prove otherwise will be “urged to move on”.
So how is this playing out in practice? Well, after listening to my friend, who is up for tenure AGAIN (she has been in the building for over FIVE YEARS and STILL no tenure despite all Satisfactory ratings), it is apparent that they are trying to “clean house” and get rid of as much of the current staff as possible.
Let’s start with the teachers who were “developing” last year. They are all being observed CONSTANTLY. Sometimes 2 – 3 times per day. And, lo and behold, they are ALL either “developing” or “ineffective” on these observations. Every. Single. One. Teachers who chose the informal observation format for evaluations are being given full period (or longer) FORMAL observations, with no pre-ob or post-ob conferences, even though the administrator is in the room for 45 – 75 minutes at a stretch. And one administrator will leave and another will come and observe the teacher AGAIN. Almost immediately. I would venture a guess that they are looking to take the teachers (all tenured, mind you) who were “ineffective” or “developing” and make sure that they rate the same way this year, so that they can begin the 3020a process and get them out at the end of this year. Given the poor scores and general lack of discipline in this school, one can rest assured that the test data will support any poor rating an administrator pre-selects to give a teacher. So, that will take care of a nice chunk of the tenured, senior faculty. Let’s see what’s happening with the other ones.
Non-tenured teachers are being threatened with discontinuance. Daily. Both directly and indirectly. There are at least three teachers I KNOW of who have been teaching in NYC for over five years and who STILL do not have tenure. They are doing their “tenure binders” every year, collecting data, work samples and “artifacts” over and over again, only to be extended every year because “your data is off” or “you missed five days last year and was late once”. Last year, not ONCE teacher was granted tenure. This year, most of the untenured teachers are being informally observed almost daily, with written, formal “actionable feedback” begin given constantly. The feedback is often contradictory and vague, but that doesn’t stop them from coming in the NEXT DAY and commenting that “past suggestions have not been implemented”. So, the paper trail is being laid out so that the teachers who have been in the building for YEARS, but without tenure, will likely be discontinued at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, discipline in the building in non-existent. Students curse, fight, assault, and harass the teachers and each other, and administration turns a blind eye or attributes the chaos to “poor lesson planning” or “lack of cultural relevance” if the teacher is white.
Sometimes, it’s good to be an ATR.
God help my colleagues.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

An ATR responds to the Post's anti-teacher opinion column

Subject: Today's Post Opinion

Dear Mr. Cunningham,
(Editorial-page editor) 

  Do you really believe that the educational crisis in our country stems from the abundance of incompetent teachers or is there another agenda you are fostering?
  It is really not a sensible premise when it is seriously analyzed.

  Teachers have a Masters Degree-plus, in their subject areas. They must go through three years of probation in which they are observed multiple times. How then can there be so many incompetent teachers?
Rather, the problem in education stems from a system that socially promotes rather than holds students to high standards and accountability.  It is also a cultural problem of entitlement instead of valuing achievement. 

 Standardized testing is an important assessment that has revealed the low levels of student performance. Many would like to bury their heads in the sand by ending standardized tests.  However, holding teachers accountable for student test performance is unacceptable as there are many factors that contribute that are out of teachers' control. Testing has always been an assessment tool of monitoring how well the student has learned but at the end of the day, it is the student's responsibility.  Did the student pay attention in class, do homework, study for exams? Was the student excessively absent? All these are critical factors in the learning process.

  Making teachers scapegoats for the failing system will only weaken our educational institutions further. We are going down the wrong path and heading for the cliff.

  The one issue that I agreed with in your editorial was your opposition to weakening the NYC Discipline Code.  The main deterrent to learning in our public schools is a lack of student discipline. Charter schools seem to understand this principle that an environment conducive to learning must be achieved for learning to take place.

  Your paper is also way off base on the ATR issue. These educators should be placed in vacancies (they are employed by the DOE not the individual school) and evaluated like other teachers. Instead, they are stigmatized and vilified for being in the ATR pool. The City wastes over 100 million a year by its policy, as well as maintaining a central ATR unit with 30 roving supervisors.

 There is so much "wrong thinking" concerning education. If you want to "fix" the system, one must have the courage to address the real problems. Maybe, you should consult with teachers for real insight. 
James Calantjis
Public School Educator

Saturday, March 28, 2015

An ATR's letter to Mulgrew on phony mandated interviews

A letter to UFT president Mulgrew, whose union represents also paraprofessionals, who get placed when excessed from a school, but cannot ensure the same for excessed teachers.  Remember that this president has been reported as using WNYC's phrase "unwanted teachers" referring to ATRs while on the station, when the fact is that ATRs have higher salaries which principals will avoid in favor of new recruits. Fair Student Funding creates this incentive to hire new teachers. This is why ATRs will very rarely stay in a position beyond June. Somehow Mulgrew cannot bring it to himself to utter these facts.

To: Michael Mulgrew
Cc: Amy Arundell; Michael Sill
Subject: Mandated Interviews


    I have just returned from my "mandated interview" at A. Phillip Randolph H.S.  I was told by the secretary that all of the interviews had been cancelled last week.  We were all given letters, by the principal, to this affect.  This is not what I am writing you about.  It is the blatant effort of Tweed to paint all ATRs aka, The Walking Dead, as unhireable and therefore need to be terminated.  
   To back up this statement, a rash of senior teachers, in the pool, in the outer boroughs are being hounded and setup by supervisors for "U" ratings.  I have also learned, in confidentiality, that we are being deliberately sent on interviews that are nonexistent, which is a violation of Art. 16, paragraphs 2 & 3 of our contract.  
    You need to fix this now. Not in 2 months or 2 years, but now.  We have dedicated our lives to the children of the City of New York and we deserve better than this.  We are tired of hearing that the union can't demand that we in the pool (ATR) not be terminated.  You are the president of the UFT.  If they don't want to budge then there should not have been a contract until the city did come around and negotiated a viable, honest and respectable solution to this madness.
   I hope to hear from you concerning this latest in a very long history of abuse of the senior teaching staff in the city and union.   

Monday, March 23, 2015

Why the stakes are high in veteran teacher terminations: 'Retirement' without quality pensions

Harper's Magazine had a sobering August, 2014 article, "The End of Retirement," in which Jessica Bruder reported on retirees that had inadequate pensions. She encountered roving "elderly migrant workers" who work at Amazon warehouses or on farms.

Many of the points from the Harper's Article: Many of these workers were actually former members of the middle class, with management jobs in corporate America. These new migrants often travel in RVs, moving from job to job. The work is often too taxing for people their age, people in their 70s or 80s. Corporate America's shift from traditional pensions to 401(k)s has meant that workers have lost in the long run.

Some of the main points were earlier published in U.S. News & World Report, "A Disturbing Look at the New Retirement."

ATRs, and other teachers threatened with termination-- This is your future if the DOE field supervisors or other administrators. 

Notice how many ATRs with between 20 and 25 satisfactory rating years in the system and are suddenly getting U ratings? Termination before 25 years will keep these teachers away from getting full pensions necessary for a quality retirement. The opportunity to "hold down runaway pensions" is likely what is driving the effort to terminate teachers, whether by observation of ATRs in substituting situations or by Danielson-style teacher evaluation. Tenure remains, but states have an opportunity to evade their pension obligations. 

And where is the UFT on this threat? As field supervisors inappropriately give unsatisfactory ratings in subbing performances, ATRs are feeling abandoned. ATRs felt sold out by the Contract on Educators. Now they feel betrayed, as members report hearing UFT president Mulgrew buying WNYC's rhetoric and calling ATRs "unwanted teachers" on NPR, when the reality is that their salaries prevent them from being hired

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When a crime is a crime it is when the crime is not righted

"[Making mayoral control permanent] would build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range reforms that are needed.” --NYC mayor Bill De Blasio

This system has made me an ATR or as we who were infected by the bloombust reforms call us The Walking Dead, know full well how "reforms" have worked. As to what another mayor will do when this one leaves is of no consolation to me or my brother and sister ATRs. We will have been long retired and unaffected by what the next mayor does or doesn't do to a system that is so far gone that it is a hair's breath from being declared terminal. I came into the system wanting to do nothing else but teach. Yet, the city that I was born, grew up and educated in has done everything that it can do to destroy that once love I had.
My legacy (HA!) is that of being abused and disrespected by the system that I was proud to work for, once, long ago.     --"Walker"

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"I don't care about ATRs. I don't deal with ATRS and this is not my problem."

In the DOE we're supposed to be respectful to each other, working collegially. Unfortunately, some feel free to dish it out on ATRs, taking an attitude we'd expect more from Leadership Academy grads.

So after checking with my district rep and with Amy Arundell, I confirmed that the teacher's choice forms do, in fact, go to the payroll secretary at our current school and that this fact was relayed in the Principals' Weekly mailing. 
So I once again took the envelope down to the payroll secretary and told her as much. She said, "I don't know what you want me to do with that. You're not on my list. But if you insist, I'll take it and just put it in a drawer here and keep it. But I'm not going to do anything with it." 
So I said, "But if it just sits in a drawer, I'm going to have money deducted from my check, right? " She said, "Probably". So I said that she needs to find out where my stuff is supposed to go so that doesn't happen. 
And she said, "Listen. I don't want you to tell me anything. I don't want anything explained to me. I don't know about ATRs. I don't want to know about ATRs. I don't care about ATRs. I don't deal with ATRs and this is not my problem. I'm not calling or emailing ANYWHERE because this is YOUR problem, not mine. I don't have to deal with ATRs, so don't tell me anything, because I'm not interested. I'd rather not even know your name." 
So I emailed Amy and my district rep with a CC to the principal and included her quotes. And I ended by saying that I hope she doesn't speak to parents like that, and that I find this unprofessional and degrading.