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Teacher Salaries, ATRs, and Closing Schools: A Preview

I've got NYC's school-level teacher salary data fired up, and will write a few posts using these data next week. Here's a preview. New York City is slated to close 14 schools this year, though many will not close immediately, but will phase out over the coming years. Per the whole "Absent Teacher Reserve" (ATR) debate (here, here, here, and here), how many teachers are employed at these schools, and what are their average salaries?

These schools employ a total of 822 teachers, and a number of these schools have relatively high average salaries. Given current budgeting rules, through which schools are allocated dollars rather than positions, what's the chance a principal will, all else equal, hire an excessed teacher from Franklin K. Lane who makes $80,000 when he can hire a teacher with 3 years experience for about $46,000? (See the teacher salary scale here.)

If you've got questions that you'd like to see answered using the teacher salary data, please leave me ideas below.


It would be helpful to see the progress report grades, quality review reports and state's list of failing schools alongside the average teacher salaries.

With a larger data set, checking for correlation between school size and teacher pay? Or school age and teacher pay?

(I don't do stats, but it looks like a positive size/pay correlation in the small set of closing schools)

Edw'ette: where you say "Under Fair Student Funding . . . But FSF didn't come online until 2007, and thus can't account for this pattern."

I thought it came online in the spring of 2007, which would then have certainly influenced the hiring from the end of the spring semester, through the summer, and onwards, no? Please can you help me understand this.
There is an underlying point here that cannot be separated from the discussion: The principals could ALWAYS see or find out how long you've been in the system, which not always meant your salary, but how old you are, and how often and perhaps WHY you changed schools. They also had access to hidden networking in all districts which made it a very un-level playing field for an excessed teacher.

Senior teachers -- who are the most likely staff members to want to teach with a degree of autonomy recognized in the contract but overlooked by UFT and DoE alike, and who include many union activists (chapter leaders, etc.) who have gone up against a principal or even a superintendent when they abuse the contract -- all of these people are "known" at the district level. I suspect there is even a real list of them.

Principals ask around when they hire people who are in the system long enough to have reputations. The newer teachers not only don't have reputations, they don't have tenure. They are the ultimate inanimate body for any principal: silent, fearful, and contract-ignorant.

As ch. leader a couple of times in my career, I successfully grieved overcrowding in one of my schools for two whole grades. At that same school, the superintendent's office itself tried to get me to change the UFT personnel on the C-30 committee -- how do you like that one? Just after being excessed from there (I wonder why), I loudly protested at some off-site music PD that the city was actively replacing music positions with band-aid programs where freelance artists come to the school to teach kids once a week -- this was being condoned as a good thing, and we music and dance teachers should just LOVE seeing our positions given away to outside contractors; as they escorted me out of that auditorium, the entire audience of teachers, hesitantly at first, but ever-increasing, broke into a loud applause.

In another school, the principal committed fraud over my signature as chapter leader. New Visions's answer to this: "I think you and he should not be in the same school." So much for fair play.

Teachers with years in the system -- and I won't use the term "senior" anymore, because the average years in the system is coming way down as the transience level goes way up -- have a lot more stacked against them than bigger salaries.

And it is VERY MUCH PART OF this same discussion about what to do with ATRs.

Oops, my last comment was really for your earlier blog, which I was reading while going through all the "here, here, here, and here" links.
I meant to post it on:


I was curious to see if the criteria used to replace these schools with charters were uniform and how many millions was the doe was hoping to save in the process. Charter school salaries anyone?

I think the argument that principals will always choose the less expensive teacher over the more experienced teacher is absolutely false. I work as an AP and oversee the hiring committee at a small school. We always choose the most competent teacher who we think is the best fit for our school based on resumes, references, and interviews. We do this for several reasons.

First, and this is the least important as far as I'm concerned, we're being evaluated based on student performance, so obviously we have a personal stake in how the kids do. We therefore have a significant incentive to hire the best teachers to improve student learning.

Second, and this is the most important, WE CARE ABOUT THE KIDS a heck of a lot more than the budgetary bottom line (and hey, it's not like if there's leftover money in the budget we can spend it on a cruise or a new car). There is nothing I'd rather spend our budget funds on than a great teacher.

Third, great teachers make everyone's life and job easier. (At one point, we had a teacher (with 10 years experience and tenure) who had no classroom management skills. We reduced his class down to 12 kids -- in high school -- which of course meant other teachers (including novices) had more kids in their classes. He still couldn't handle his class.

Fourth, we happen to be a high-need school and because of how money is allocated through fair student funding, we actually have the money in our budget to pay for more experienced teachers if that's what we want to do. The real challenge is getting experienced educators to apply to work in our high-need school. The vast majority of applicants are relatively young teachers and teaching fellows. And fortunately, we've still found some terrific teachers that way. But it's not exactly breaking news that there's a real disparity in teaching experience and quality between high-need and low-need schools.

That said, I am a firm believer that experience does not always the best teacher make. And I may say some things here that some people don't like -- but some of the very worst schools in the city (including some that are being shut down) became virtual dumping grounds for teachers that other principals didn't want working in their schools. Maybe those teachers were once phenoms and had gotten burnt out. Maybe they were never great. But in the past (and still today, but less frequently because of open market I think), principals would routinely offer to S-rate incompetent teachers in exchange for their agreement to go work in another school. In the era of seniority bumping, they could bump others out -- but once that was taken away they would end up in excess or in the highest-need, lowest-performing schools (because that was where openings existed).

Some experienced teachers are absolute treasures -- they are priceless. When my son was in kindergarten, I was on maternity leave and took advantage of the rare opportunity (since I normally work a school schedule) to go on lots of field trips with his class and to volunteer weekly when my mom could babysit our newborn. My son's kindergarten teacher fell into the first category. She had every student (including quite a few English language learners) reading well-ahead of grade expectations by June. She was bright and engaging. She exposed the children to a rich, well-rounded curriculum. She was strict, but warm. Next door, there was a teacher roughly the same age and experience who was an absolute nightmare. You could hear her screaming (literally screaming) at her class of 17 five-year-olds ALL DAY LONG. We went on several joint field trips with that class, and it was clear with each passing month that the kids in my son's class were gaining more ground on the kids in that other class. If my son had been in that class, I would've quit my job, pulled him out, and homeschooled him.

As a member of the hiring committee at my school, I would hire anyone of the quality of my son's KG teacher without giving budget a second thought. There would be no more valuable way to spend those funds than on a teacher of such talent who could not only serve as an instructor, but also as a mentor to our younger teachers. The second teacher -- I wouldn't want her in my school if she worked for free. She would be a liability.

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Recent Comments

  • educator: I think the argument that principals will always choose the read more
  • gp: Jonathan: I was curious to see if the criteria used read more
  • woodlass: Oops, my last comment was really for your earlier blog, read more
  • woodlass: Edw'ette: where you say "Under Fair Student Funding . . read more
  • Jonathan: With a larger data set, checking for correlation between school read more




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