nice work if you can get it

Lost in the school closing debate: what happens to the teachers

In the debate over whether to close 19 schools this year, the city and its opponents have mulled possible effects on student achievement, attendance, and the drop-out rate. But one thing that remains unclear is what will happen to the approximately 1,000 teachers working in these schools.

Teachers who work at shuttered schools lose their positions, but — because of a deliberate line in the labor contract — they do not fall off the city payroll, even if they don’t find a new position at another city school. In the past few years, the contract line has meant a ballooning set of teachers receiving regular paychecks even though they don’t hold regular jobs. Between 2006 and April 2009, these members of the Absent Teacher Reserve cost the DOE approximately $193 million. This year, conservative estimates put the cost at $90 million.

In 2008, a report by The New Teacher Project, a New York-based research group, said the hiring process was “hard-wired for failure.” The report also found that 70 percent of excessed teachers from closing schools in 2007 were immediately hired at other schools.

But the situation next year could look worse.

The 1,000 teachers who leave those schools over the next four years will join 1,200 reserve pool members who are already looking for work. In September of 2008, there were 637 in the pool. The competition will be fiercer while the number of job openings could shrink as a result of education aid cuts from the state.

Neither the teachers union nor the Department of Education has, or would provide, projected numbers on how many teachers are expected to wind up in the reserve pool next year. Releasing how many teachers are likely to remain on the city’s payroll without permanent jobs could make both organizations uncomfortable. For the city, the information could strengthen the financial arguments against closing the schools. For the union, it could increase the pressure to stop paying teachers who have gone years without being able to find new jobs.

After a meeting last month during which the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close 19 schools, Chancellor Joel Klein said he didn’t think the closures would significantly inflate the reserve pool. “I don’t think it’ll climb radically,” he said.

The addition of teachers from closing schools to the reserve pool may not be radical, but it’s likely to have a greater impact this year than in years past.

The majority of teachers in the 19 schools slated for closure next year are working in high schools, which will phase out over four years, meaning that about a quarter of them will lose their jobs each year.

If the current climate resembled that of June 2007, most of these teachers would likely find new jobs by September of the following school year and fewer than 100 would be in the reserve pool. But in 2010, the story is likely to be different.

Teachers excessed from closing schools could benefit from a hiring freeze that forces principals to hire from within the system, rather than from the graduate classes of teaching colleges. But what little help this might offer could be counteracted by a contraction in the number of available jobs. Bloomberg is threatening to cut 2,500 teaching positions if the union doesn’t agree to lower pay raises and Governor Paterson is pushing about $600 million in cuts that the city said could reduce the teaching force by 8,500.

A diagram from the New Teacher Project report shows three differently sized closing schools and what happened to the teachers who left them in the summer of 2007.


that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.