The recent Department of Education announcement about assigning teachers from the ATR pool to schools on a more permanent basis has awakened the usual opposition from the "school reform" crowd.
Below is a Q&A designed to provide accurate information to those who have questions about the issue.
"Teachers in the ATR pool are a valuable resource for the system and provide needed services to schools." —UFT President Michael Mulgrew
How did the ATR pool come to be?
The ATR pool — a reserve pool of teachers working as substitutes but without permanent assignments — was a personnel policy devised by the Bloomberg administration that was poorly designed and never effectively implemented, particularly after the pool expanded in the wake of school closings during the Bloomberg years. As the school-closing mania has receded, the size of the pool has diminished.
How do teachers end up in the pool?
Most of the teachers in the pool are there because their schools or their programs closed; a minority have been the subject of some kind of disciplinary action, though that action may have led only to a brief suspension or a fine of a few hundred dollars. The overwhelming majority of teachers in the ATR pool have received positive evaluations (Effective, Highly Effective or, for those rated under the previous system, Satisfactory).
How does the program now work?
ATR teachers are in the schools every day. Some get longer assignments, but many rotate among schools on a monthly basis, filling in for teachers who are sick or on some kind of leave.
Do the ATRs cost principals money?
ATRs on rotating assignments save the school system the cost of hiring a substitute. The Department of Education has created a number of financial incentives for principals to encourage them to hire ATRs on a more permanent basis, but the fact is that an ATR's salary constitutes a tiny percentage of a building's total teacher payroll, which for even a small school can exceed $3 million annually.
How will the new program work?
A number of ATRs will be assigned (in license) to schools ONLY where the principal has been unable to fill an open position. Without the presence of such an ATR, students would be faced with occasional and expensive part-time substitutes or a group of ATR teachers rotating in and out every month.
Mr. Mulgrew told the New York Times, “What we’re trying to do is give a more stable educational environment for the students.”
An ATR in this type of provisional assignment will become part of the school's regular faculty the next year if the teacher is rated Effective or Highly Effective.
What if the ATR and the principal don't see eye-to-eye?
To quote from the recent agreement with the DOE : "...AT ANY TIME [caps added] after a provisional assignment is made a principal can request the removal of the ATR from this assignment and the ATR can be returned to the ATR pool..."
What is the role of the disciplinary process?
Under state law, tenured teachers are guaranteed due process, including a hearing before an independent arbitrator, if they have been accused of some kind of misbehavior. Many disciplinary case brought by the Department of Education are not serious enough to justify a teacher being terminated. Cases are often resolved, either by an agreement or by an arbitrator’s decision, with a fine or a suspension. Fines can be as little as $250, and suspensions as brief as one week. But even penalties like these can land a teacher in the ATR pool under current DOE practice.