When the city begins placing teachers without permanent positions in schools next week, there’s one place it won’t send them: low-performing schools in its “Renewal” turnaround program.
New York City schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said on Thursday that the education department will not assign teachers from the controversial Absent Teacher Reserve to any of the 78 schools in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s high-profile Renewal program, which is intended to revamp struggling schools. The announcement seems to address some critics’ concern that those high-needs schools would be saddled with teachers that other principals had declined to hire.
Fariña also announced that no teachers in the reserve with a record of disciplinary problems will be placed in any schools.
“We are not putting people who have a record of not behaving in any school,” she told reporters during an unrelated press conference. “We are also very clearly asking everybody to be vetted by the principal.”
An education department spokesman later added that the department has “full discretion” to decide where to send teachers in the reserve, and that decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis.
The reserve, commonly known as the ATR, is a pool of educators who don’t hold permanent positions because they face disciplinary or legal issues, or because their school declined in enrollment or closed.
Educators in the reserve typically serve as roving substitutes. But education department officials recently announced they would begin filling school positions that are vacant as of Oct. 15 with educators from the group — potentially even over the objections of principals. The assignments will last through the school year, and would become permanent if the teacher earns a positive evaluation.
Critics say the city’s plan will put sub-par teachers in the neediest schools, since those are also typically the hardest to staff.
Two weeks after the school year began, a Chalkbeat review of school vacancies revealed that four out of five school districts with the most postings were in the Bronx. At the same time, according to city figures, teachers from the reserve are typically rated less effective than the full body of teachers: Only 74 percent of teachers in the ATR received positive ratings in 2015-16, compared to 93 percent of all city teachers.
While the city tried to reassure parents and advocates that it will use “discretion” when placing teachers from the reserve, the chancellor’s comments went a step further. In an email, the department spokesman, Will Mantell, wrote that the chancellor’s comments were “further clarifications” of the city’s policy.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that there are “very good teachers” within the ATR. He has pledged to cut the pool in half from more than 800 educators, which costs the city more than $150 million a year.
“We believe that there is now a real process in place to find the right placement for someone in that ATR pool, with principals who are ready to take the talented folks,” de Blasio said. “And if they find in some cases someone is not up to the challenge, they’re ready to act on that and we can work to move that person out of the system.”
This is not the first time the city has made a special exception for schools in de Blasio’s signature school-improvement program. The education department also reduced the number of hard-to-serve latecomer students that it sent Renewal schools, and gave them extra time to meet performance goals.