The ATR Pool

There is a huge Absent Teacher Reserve pool. For various reasons throughout the year, schools need to hire leave replacements. Vested teachers have lives, and often need to take breaks. The Department of Education must hire teachers from within this pool. The Absent Teacher Reserve pool has grown disproportionately large under Mike Bloomberg, largely due to Bloomberg’s large scale closing down of schools and a widespread divesting and subsequent diaspora of these teachers. Really good, professional teachers. 

ATRs have been displaced and largely have the mentality of freelance workers. Sometimes they get placed in gigs they really like. Other times, it’s not that great. It’s like anything else. It’s work. Sometimes their gigs last weeks, sometimes months, and then they have to pack it up and keep it moving.  

They are sometimes treated like second class citizens in their schools because there is a stigma that exists for some: that all these teachers are ineffective. Largely, that’s not the case. It’s just that the school’s numbers crunched out in different ways and earned letter scores of A, B, C, D, or F. 

Yeah, do you remember that? Those city-issued “grades” that made you feel good (or bad) about the school you were sending your kid to? There was no rhyme or reason for many of those closures. 
Schools that were highly rated one year tanked the next, and the statistics going into the letter grading system really amounted to fuzzy math. 

Listen I’m just calling it like I see it, people. I’m not here to condemn anybody. But that’s what the system is. Everyone wants to make a living. We’ve worked harder for less and less. Be grateful you have a job, right? And thank God we do. 

But what’s missing is solidarity. 

We used to have a strong union. It’s still strong in many ways. I’m glad to be a part of it. But mistakes were made and teachers were sold out. 

Plain and simple. Do I really need to explicate further? 

ATRs are the nomads of the Department of Education, the widespread refugees from all the displaced schools. Ask any ATR where they’re coming from and they’ll have a story of the way things were “before they shut it down”. Bigger schools got arbitrarily broken up and were replaced by smaller schools with auspicious-sounding names.

Educational fads and legislation come and go. Some of the more rigorous, highly bankrolled educational trends stick around longer, say for about five years. The conventional wisdom in the trenches is to try to be a good sport and pick up on the trends a little bit. Surely enough, after public interest has waned, a new group will come in. I’ve seen a lot of these consultants with entire zeitgeists come and go, bringing with them lots of paperwork and color coded expensive folders. Then they’re forgotten. 

ATRs are a valuable part – perhaps the most valuable part – of the DOE today. They’ve been through it, and they’re still coming back. 


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