Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The ATR Pool…

In case you didn’t get enough “absent teacher reserve” action earlier this year The New Teacher Project has released updated data (pdf) that show the problem getting worse.  Essentially the ATR pool are teachers who cannot, for a variety of different reasons, find jobs in the New York City public schools after being “excessed” from their current position but are still paid, can earn tenure, etc…  Couple of thoughts:

First, TNTP head Tim Daly really is the Eric Murphy of the education human capital world.   Sincere in a world of politics, smoke and mirrors, very hardworking, and perfectly happy to stick his finger in a socket if it’s the right thing to do.   As the open letter (pdf) from Daly accompanying the report illustrates (pdf), he’s bending over backwards to be fair.   But in the process he muddies the issues a little bit.  

[Our report] also highlighted the problem of teachers who are unable or unwilling to find new full-time positions after being excessed from their original jobs, even after months or years in the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) and despite thousands of job openings and extensive job search support. We found that, as a group, excessed teachers who do not secure new positions are six times more likely than other city teachers to have a documented history of poor performance and are less likely to engage in an aggressive job search. Under the existing policy, excessed teachers in this situation are entitled to continue earning their full salary and benefits while serving in the ATR, and may do so

indefinitely – even without searching for a position. We estimated that, as of June 2008, New York City had paid a total of $81 million to support the 665 teachers who had remained in the ATR since their excess dates in 2006 and 2007.


Mutual Benefits made clear that the problem lies with the policy, not with the teachers.


But doesn’t that mean that the problem actually lies both with the policy and with some of the teachers?

Second, let’s hope that this time we get some authoritative accounting around the numbers from a third party source and not just on the one hand/on the other hand confusion.   There is data here, the city keeps records, and rather than the back and forth of last time NYC’s newspapers could help establish an actual fact base here that would move the debate along.

Finally, I still think that this just won’t sell at the Rotary Club when the public figures out what’s happening here.  Regardless of the reason, over time paying people who are not working is just not tenable as a public policy.  That’s why the TNTP ideas about how to separate people who simply can’t find jobs in a fair way are sensible and well worth debating.   And, especially this week, hopefully we won’t hear any pronouncements about how they just let you go cold in the private sector but rather some sensible ideas on how to protect the public interest and treat people fairly.  In that regard Daly is exactly right, the policy is broken because it accomplishes neither goal right now.

NYT coverage here.

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