Chalkbeat has a terrible habit of reprinting press releases and passing them off as news and this is no exception in this story on a recent E4E report on the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) in New York City. And the report has problems. Here are just four.
1. There are a lot of problems with the ATR system, but E4E just rehashed old data and didn’t do any research for their report. Since 2009, the DOE has offered resources and workshops to excessed teachers on career topics via the Teacher Hiring Support Center (http://www.thscnyc.org/home.do).* The UFT also offers workshops regularly. Whether people use them or find them good is up for discussion, but E4E didn’t even bother to check if they existed and passed it off as an original policy recommendation. Lazy.
2. I think it is a non-starting point to discuss a time-limit for ATR placement because you do get into issues of age discrimination that unfortunately occur. E4E has to see that. While also not good for the teachers, I am not sure that a time-limit policy would be a good end run for the DOE based on that and potential legal problems that would follow for years. However, while there are hundreds of teachers who apply through Open Market and really do try to find a school that works for them once they are excessed… there are hundreds who never do anything during the hiring season to secure an interview. Perhaps there needs to be a time-limit policy for that population. Activity and participation is easy to track through DOE systems.
3. Guidance Counselors. The ATR is filled with hundreds of them and there are no positions for them to fill. This needs a separate study as to why this keeps happening every year- too much hiring due to poor workforce planning- and ideas that could be budgetarily efficient and helpful to counselors and students while they are in the ATR. For example, with so many counselors in the ATR, why aren’t we enhancing college counseling services at specific high schools? It might make sense to create new types of positions for counselors caught in this, while figuring out how to hire better.
3. Finally, I would look at the number of teachers who are in the ATR in outdated licenses and certifications, where positions have not been posted in years, such as stenography. That is estimated at 10% of all teachers, or $10 million of the budget. While I sympathize with anyone losing a job, it doesn’t make sense to continue to pay for teachers who are no longer qualified to teach.
These problems will only get figured out by being pragmatic, creative, and delving deep into the data.
* I helped start the THSC when I was Director of Teacher Recruitment for the NYC public schools from 2007-2010.