Ending The ATR Pool As We Know It

by New York City Department of Education

Starting in the last administration, in 2005, the NYC Department of Education has had an Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool. The ATR pool is a group of educators who don’t have a permanent position at one school, usually because of school closure or lower-than-expected enrollment. These ATR teachers have always been in classrooms throughout the year, but either rotating from school to school on monthly basis or covering long-term vacancies.

For too long, there has not been a strategy to manage this resource.

Since 2014, we’ve changed the way we think about — and address — the ATR pool and, we’ve decreased the number of teachers in the pool by 27 percent. As of the end of the last school year, the number was 822, down from 1,131.

With the common sense reforms laid out below, we will cut the current pool in half by 2019:

  • As always, principals can hire and fill open positions at their school through mid-October. This means principals have about 6 months to fully staff their schools with educators, including those from the ATR. Now, if principals do not fill open positions by October 15 — in other words, if they have a class without a permanent teacher one and a half months into the school year — we will match a teacher from the ATR with the correct license to that school for the year. Qualified ATR teachers will benefit from the same year-long training, evaluations and role in the school as other teachers. And if they receive a positive evaluation, the school will keep them on. It’s as simple as this: we’re holding teachers accountable.
  • This summer, we are also offering a voluntary severance incentive for teachers in the ATR pool to resign or retire. They’ll receive either $50,000 in severance, or $35,000 and six months of health benefits, which will produce significant savings in the long run.
  • During the 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years, teachers in the ATR pool may cross community school district lines within their borough to be assigned to schools with vacancies. This expands opportunities for schools to recruit a range of teachers who meet their needs from the ATR pool, and for teachers in the ATR pool to find positions.

In a system with 77,000 teachers, there is natural transition and fluctuation as teachers move from one assignment to another and student populations shift. Over the course of this administration, we’ve helped more than 1900 educators, including 300 from ATR pool, out of the profession.

Let us be crystal clear: we don’t accept the ATR pool as it was, and we need to drive these resources back to schools. These reforms are changing the game for the ATR pool and the drastic decline will continue.