human capital

Hidden in the ATR pool, teachers trained for disappearing jobs

Chancellor Joel Klein likes to say that many of the teachers who’ve lost their jobs and remain on the city’s payroll aren’t trying to find new work. But a back-of-the-envelope analysis of teachers in the reserve pool shows that even if all of them doggedly pursued open positions, nearly a quarter are trained for jobs that are disappearing.

Most teachers in the absent teacher reserve — a pool of people cut from schools when they were closed or enrollment dwindled — are certified to teach core subjects that every school offers. But the most recent data shows that almost a quarter of teachers in the pool are only licensed to teach classes like swimming, jewelry-making, and accounting, among other subjects that are nearly extinct in the public schools.

The pool also includes music, dance, and art teachers for whom getting a new position will be difficult in a year when schools will have to lay off thousands of teachers.

As of November, there were 1,247 teachers in the pool, working as substitutes and collecting salaries that totaled $134 million. After announcing a deal to close the notorious rubber rooms for teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence, Chancellor Klein said last month he would turn his attentions to the ATR pool.

But the composition of the pool raises questions about Klein’s claim that its members ought to be fired because they don’t try to get new positions once they’ve lost their old ones. Teachers hold particular licenses, and they can only be hired for jobs in that license area. An elementary school special education teacher can only be offered an elementary school special education position, and if there aren’t any, that teacher is out of luck, no matter how much he or she wants to work.

The vast majority of reserve teachers do hold licenses that make them eligible for jobs that open up regularly. The most popular license among teachers in the pool is for elementary school classroom teaching. Dozens of others are eligible to teach in areas that traditionally have shortages, such as math, science, and bilingual education, although with this year’s layoffs, those shortages may not exist.

The legacy of large high school closures is apparent: The pool contains 17 accounting and business teachers, 12 typing teachers, and half a dozen electronics teachers. Two Creole language bilingual social studies teachers were clearly excessed from Tilden High School, a school that’s being phased-out and that offered the only Creole-English bilingual program in the city.

A set of data from last summer shows that in addition to the teachers, the pool also contained dozens of school support staff members. These employees provide essential counseling and administrative assistance but are but not required, making them especially vulnerable when budgets are cut. As of last June, there were are 72 high school guidance counselors in the pool, 14 librarians, 17 psychologists, 29 secretaries, and 38 school social workers.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.