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Field supervisors are the wrong administrators to observe teachers

April 18, 2016 pm30 9:47 pm

If you were going to rate a restaurant, but you were in a far away land and didn’t know the culture, the cuisine, the expectations of the customers, the habits, the menu… you could not produce a rating that made any sense. Even if you wanted to.

And if you were going to rate a teacher, but you were in a school very different from yours, with different pedagogical expectations, and different school culture, in a content area you did not know, with standards newly adopted, and students you don’t know… you could not produce a rating that makes sense. Even if you wanted to.

Whereas there exists a class of supervisors – ATR Field Supervisors – who are disconnected from students, from content, from school-specific pedagogy, from school-specific culture and who thereby are unable to engage in the rich conversations envisioned both in the Danielson Framework and Teaching for the 21stCentury

The latter is the position that the DoE has put “ATR Field Supervisors” in. They “supervise” our involuntarily itinerant members (ATRs). Some Field Supervisors are malevolent. But even the ones who want to be fair, how could they possibly be?

And so it is the duty of the union to step in. Observations require conversations, and these supervisors can’t have them, which means are members are cheated. The conversations must be informed by investment in the school, students, and even the pedagogue. But these supervisors are not thus invested.

Today my caucus, New Action, proposed asking the DoE to stop this ridiculous practice, and to reassign the Field Supervisors to somewhere they might actually be useful. The motion was tabled, but, I believe, to refine details, not to derail it.

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The treatment of ATRs has become a symbol of the fight to right the course in the UFT. Probationers at the beginning of their careers and ATRs well into their careers are often our most vulnerable members. We deserve to be judged by how well we stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

The whole system should be challenged. It is absurd, and it is cruel. But taking the system head on does not preclude trying to improve conditions in small ways.

I am proud to have been the author of the Dignity for All Teachers resolution back in 2011. Friends of mine, colleagues, who advocate for ATRs pooh-poohed how weak the resolution was. But in fact, the leadership HAS implemented the first resolution, and partially the next two:

RESOLVED the United Federation of Teachers will direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to reach out to members of the Absent Teacher Reserve who are assigned to their schools, to welcome them, and to support them; and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT demand that the DOE create a protocol for Principals so that UFT members going into a school for the first time will be treated professionally and given the information for that particular school necessary to perform their duties; and be it further

RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers will continue to educate Chapter Leaders about the rights of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, and direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to continue to proactively protect those rights, and to intervene if those rights are being infringed upon by administration, as the ATR may be justifiably reluctant or fearful of speaking up; and be it further

These are not huge steps – but it is far better that they are taken then not taken.

When I think of systemic challenges, my mind goes to some of what ICE has done, and especially to the relentless exposé found on Chaz’ blog. I think of today’s resolution as falling somewhere between “small change” and “systemic challenge.”

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A year and a half ago my caucus, New Action, agreed to do some limited work with the Portelos club (I was opposed every step of the way). We agreed to just two items – one of those was a joint “ATR Resolution.” Despite promises, this gang produced hot air, and nothing else.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2016 pm30 9:58 pm 9:58 pm

    Who are the Portelos club?

  2. vlorbik permalink
    April 18, 2016 pm30 10:26 pm 10:26 pm

    your first couple of paragraphs here are…
    in my opinion… pretty strong. and, not
    that it matters, i’m on the record over several
    years as an interested reader of your math-
    -ed stuff *and* your NYC “math ed” stuff.


    when the quoted material begins, i’m mostly gone.
    when it makes *no sense whatever*… even in its
    context as given.

    check please.

    who are you writing *for*, again?

  3. April 18, 2016 pm30 10:31 pm 10:31 pm

    My problem is frequency. When I was writing a lot, union stuff and math stuff coexisted. There was a steady stream of both. Since I don’t quit writing, I need to figure out how to get back to at least half of my previous level.

    I’ll turn back to math ed tomorrow. But one off posts are not enough.

  4. Disgusted permalink
    April 19, 2016 pm30 2:04 pm 2:04 pm

    I still am not introduced to a chapter leader and we are treated as subs and called subs. It is demeaning.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    April 21, 2016 pm30 9:05 pm 9:05 pm

    Not only are these ATR supervisors usually people who are out of touch with schools, or F status retired people, but they feel or are told to that they can only keep their jobs if they ruin our careers. To me, the greatest crime of this is the financial waste of hiring retired people to do these observations, while a number of principals are being paid full time wages….who have no schools for them to manage. They are ‘extra’ unassigned principals who like the ATRs, ‘wander the earth’ and ‘assist’ schools or other principals. This appears to be an unannounced situation, and I don’t see parents demanding a list of how many of these principals are going to different locations….but are not ATR principals. They are simply ‘extra’ staff who are paid full time salaries. Why aren’t they made to do these observations instead of F status fools who exist only to demean ATRs ?


  1. Resolution “For Appropriate Supervision” | JD2718

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