A year after starting to rotate teachers without permanent positions into different empty slots weekly, the Department of Education has settled on a way to evaluate them.
But the plan, hiring administrators to observe and coach the teachers in multiple placements, could be stymied if the department cannot find enough available evaluators who are up to the task.
Last year, when the city launched the rotation system for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, it left up in the air the question of who would be responsible for evaluating them. Previously, ATRs were typically assigned to one school for the entire year, so principals could rate them as they did any other teacher on staff.
For almost all of the roughly 830 teachers in the pool at the end of last year, district superintendents ended up issuing the annual ratings with input from potentially dozens of principals who supervised each teacher — in most cases, without conducting the formal observations that teachers are required to receive each year.
But in Brooklyn, which had about 250 ATRs last year, the city took a different approach. It interviewed and selected five administrators who had also lost their positions to budget cuts or school closures to visit the teachers in their classrooms and give them feedback about their performance.
The final installment of Joel Klein's weekly memo to principals
In a nostalgic final missive to city principals this week, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein suggested three things to do once he's gone.
He urged lawmakers to end the last-in first-out process of teacher layoffs, pushed for an end to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, and underlined his belief in the importance of closing struggling schools.
Klein's statement that "we have to eliminate the ATR pool" ratchets up the city's position on the pool of teachers — city teachers who lose their positions, don't find new ones, but stay on the city payroll anyway. Previously, the city has asked the union, in contract negotiations, to add a limit to the amount of time a teacher can spend in the reserve pool. That would make the pool smaller, but it would not cause it to disappear altogether.
Describing the costs of keeping those teachers on the city payroll as exceeding $100 million a year, Klein argues:
We cannot afford it, and it's wrong to keep paying this money. It amounts to supporting more than a thousand teachers who either don't care to, or can't, find a job, even though our school system hires literally thousands of teachers each year. That's money that could be spent on teachers that we desperately want and need.
Klein also describes teacher layoffs as a sure thing. "I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid," he writes.
The Bloomberg administration has a history of being bullish on layoffs in order to push for the end of the state law regulating how teachers lose their jobs. Klein reiterates that case in his letter:
If we have layoffs, it's unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn't mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren't among the best, but this is not an area for "group think." We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn't.
Klein also quoted his favorite T.S. Eliot poem, "Little Gidding," excerpting four cryptic lines that seem to summarize his "odyssey" as something more complex than a straight line of a progress:
We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.
Other curious lines from the poem:
... Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. ...
Klein has sent a memo to principals every week for years. Read the full letter here and below.
Principals union president Ernest Logan is raising questions about Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's threat to take money away from principals who don't fill their vacancies by Oct. 30.
The point of Klein's threat, made in an e-mail to principals yesterday and first reported by the Web site Insideschools, is to get principals who might be trying to outlast the hiring freeze to pick up "excessed" teachers from the ATR pool. Those teachers, who currently number more than 1,500, are drawing full salaries even though they don't have permanent positions in schools. Their salaries are "a fiscal liability we cannot sustain in this budget climate," Klein said in his letter.
But principals can't hire teachers who aren't eligible for their vacancies or who don't apply for jobs, Logan emphasized in a response today to Klein's hiring deadline. "We would like to know more about what the DoE will do if appropriate licensing matches are not made or if excessed teachers fail to show up at the recruitment fairs," he said.
The Department of Education is requiring teachers in the ATR pool to attend borough-based hiring fairs next week, according to an e-mail obtained by union activist Norm Scott. Ann Forte, a DOE spokeswoman, confirmed that the fairs are compulsory for ATRs.
A Teaching Fellows ad in the subway in March 2007. Photo via ##http://nyc2dailyphoto.blogspot.com/2007/03/what-is-your-first-grade-teachers-name.html##NYC Daily Photo##.
I've reported before that the Department of Education has hundreds of teachers without permanent positions and that it took a judge to stop the department from firing dozens of new teachers last month.
So I was surprised recently to see recruitment ads in the subway for the DOE's Teaching Fellows program, which places recent college graduates and career-changing professionals in high-need classrooms throughout the city. (Similarly startled by the ads, Pissed Off Teacher is, well, pissed off about them.)
In fact, the DOE has scaled back advertising for the Teaching Fellows program by more than a third since last year.
This year, the department spent $140,000 to advertise the program in subway cars and $75,000 to promote the program online, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte told me. In contrast, she said, the program's advertising budget last year came out to between $300,000 and $400,000, and had spent even more in previous years when it bought advertising in print publications.