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The ATR Deal: An Acknowledgement that Teacher Price Incentives Aren't All They're Cracked Up to Be?

Following up on a long discussion last spring about teachers displaced from their schools and not rehired - teachers who are part of New York City's "Absent Teacher Reserve:" the city and the union have reached a deal. Principals will not have to pay more for hiring more experienced teachers (for eight years), and will also receive a cash incentive, equal to half of a starting teacher's salary, for hiring a teacher from the ATR.

In effect, this deal undoes a central - and in my opinion, unfortunate - component of weighted student funding, through which it costs principals more to hire an experienced teacher than an inexperienced one. Without a doubt, experienced teachers have been remaining in the pool longer than their less experienced counterparts. What the union and the DOE have debated is whether this is a cost issue or a quality issue. Some figures from the original New Teacher Project report: Because of seniority rules, 44% of teachers excessed in 2006 had 0-3 years experience, while 22% of teachers in this pool had 13+ years of experience. Of the 235 teachers who remained unplaced as of December 2007, only 25% of these teachers had 0-3 years of experience, while 42% had 13+ years of experience. (See graph below.)

Now we'll have a strong test of the claim that these are "bad teachers" that no principal wants to hire. But beyond the ATR issue, it's worth thinking about how the deal - and principals' reactions to it - may affect the future of teacher price incentives in New York City and beyond. Sure, experienced teachers should be more evenly distributed across schools, but I've never seen any evidence that making principals pay more for them is going to achieve that outcome. In the worst case scenario, we end up with a tragedy of the commons dilemma in which individual principals, each acting in their own short-term interest, end up turning experienced teachers away from their schools, and the collective impact is to push them out of the district altogether.


Given the DoE's history, it is possible to argue that pushing senior teachers aside was the main goal of their implementation of weighted student funding (in NYC, FSF).

Several years in advance, the DoE changed accounting for teacher pay, from budgeting for each school a certain number of teachers (per unit) to a bizarre system where each school's average teacher salary was calculated, and then that school was funded for exactly the number of teachers it had, at the average rate for that school.

This was well in advance of Open Market Transfers or FSF. They planned, years in advance, to provide disincentive to hiring senior teachers. They jumped through budgeting hell to get this in place, years in advance.

I think that treating this as unintended is overly generous. It was intentional, and the bad publicity backfired.

We don't get many wins these days, so we might as well count the DoE retreat as a victory.


I don't understand this, I mean, why there's so much controversy over the ATR. Not being in the NYC system, even I realize that new teachers are seemingly being viewed as the true saviors of the educational system, more so now than ever before. Now (or up until now) principals had a financial incentive to hire new teachers-- they were cheap, and helped the bottom line. They may have enthusiasm, but they don't have the skills that veterans have.

The whole idea of a cash payment to hire an ATR teacher? Are you kidding me? If I were an ATR teacher and a principal had to take, in effect what amounted to a bribe to hire me? Man, I'd feel like the last kid "pity picked" for kickball.


Given the FSF system, why won't principals still have incentives to get rid of experienced teachers? Just because they are giving incentives to other principals to rehire them?

In fact, the whole system seems contradictory and at cross purposes.

I was trying to figure out what the UFT gave up in return for this. Looks like the only real concession is that teachers hired from the ATR after Nov. 1st are on provisional basis -- and can be dismissed for any reason and returned to the ATR. At some point I have to believe that Klein will push for termination after x number of months or years in the ATR without finding a position -- especially given the new hiring incentives.


As long as there is a fair process that was pursued in good faith, what would be the problem with terminating the leftovers?

I'm not naive,and I suspect that Jonathan and Leonie are also correct.

It is always tougher to unpoison the well than it would have been to not poison it in the first place. Good faith bargaining is not just an ideal. Its actually more practical in the long run. I hope Rhee can learn that lesson.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • john thompson: Corey, As long as there is a fair process that read more
  • Corey: I was trying to figure out what the UFT gave read more
  • Leonie Haimson: Given the FSF system, why won't principals still have incentives read more
  • Dr. Homeslice: 'Ette: I don't understand this, I mean, why there's so read more
  • Jonathan: Given the DoE's history, it is possible to argue that read more




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