Nov 24, 2008

TAGNYC Comments Delivered at the ATR RALLY November 24, 2008

The ATR agreement between the DOE and the UFT is a ruse, a defense to be used during the next round of contract talks that will justify the termination of ATRs as a “rational yielding to market forces.” Klein and Randi are laying a “reasonable” foundation for letting go of teachers who don’t past muster. A teacher today said to me about Randi “It’s in her purview to stop this.” Well, she is not willing to stop the destruction of teaching as a career so that has to be recognized once and for all. She and Klein came to this agreement so let us ask them a question not answered by this agreement: A question that does not erode any ETHICAL exercise of principal autonomy. What public criteria will be used by a principal to determine that an ATR does not ‘pass muster” and thus, is not competent to fill a position. What criteria will be used to, let’s say, determine that a newly minted teaching fellow or a Teach for America newbie will be better able to carry out the duties required by a particular position. If this agreement is to have any teeth, it must require that principals justify their reasoning for hiring decisions when an ATR career is at stake. Parents of students in NYC’s premier public schools, or in schools in Great Neck, Scarsdale, etc. would never countenance the substitution of a less qualified for a more qualified teacher. They would be up in arms. Indeed, most of these schools don’t want to hear from candidates with less than three years teaching experience. However, it has been decided that for a segment of our NYC student population the novice teacher is fine because after all, when you teach to the test and lower your standards you don’t need much professional training. TAGNYC asked Klein and his Panel last Monday “Why not just hire high school graduates?” I can remember when I was a teacher trainer in the Chancellor’s District- the SURR schools. We were at a campus wide social studies meeting in the old Eastern District H.S. I vividly recall the uproar- an absolute uproar- that ensued when the Superintendent’s social studies consultant told the teachers not to spend more than three days on the French Revolution. Teach the French Revolution, with its causes, happenings, and effects in 3 days! Today in our inner city schools they are probably mandated to give it one day. A different concept of education. The experienced teacher need not apply.

So a parent who wants their child to have a valid education has to ask “What is different in the schools today? Why is there such a turn around in teaching staff - teachers functioning as ATRS, teachers pushed into Reassignment Centers, teachers who retire because they can’t take the harassment of score-driven, business model principals, or the non-teaching they are supposed to sign onto.” These are questions parents must start asking because your children are being cheated royally. The New York Post writes that 83% of students going to the community colleges need remedial training.

Bloomberg, Klein, and those who enable them are widening the educational divide. We must organize to call attention to this latest societal assault on the minority poor and to demand that Randi do something.

Don’t turn teaching into community service. Let it remain a profession of competent educators.