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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Beth Fertig

WNYC's Beth Fertig recently wrote an article about the supposed benefits of the DOE's new policy of deploying ATR teachers on a week-to-week basis.  A teacher named "Excessed" has shared with NYCATR her letter to Ms. Fertig, in which she questions that most pernicious form of "information": statistics. 

December 30, 2011

Dear WNYC, 
This letter is in regard to Beth Fertig's story of November 14, 2011, entitled, "New Policy on Substitutes Leads to More in Permanent Slots." The story addressed the New York City Department of Education's new policy of weekly rotating assignments for the teachers of the Absent Teacher Reserve. 
The story reports that a spokesperson for the DOE, Barbara Morgan, stated, “Our agreement with the U.F.T. to change the A.T.R. rotation has resulted in more teachers being hired by schools than during this same time frame in past years..." 
What I would like to know is this: of the teachers from the "Absent Teacher Reserve" who were hired by schools during the time frame to which Ms. Morgan was referring, what percentage were hired by the first assigned school of the year, where the ATR was placed for a full month's time, and where the principal might have had the opportunity to actually get to know and observe the ATR; what percentage were hired as a result of an interview at a school to which the ATR had not been placed at all; and what percentage were hired by one of the schools to which the ATR had been rotated for only a week's time, and where there was likely to be little, if any, contact with the principal? Ms. Morgan's statement seems to imply that the increase in hiring was due to the weekly rotations, but I find this very hard to believe. 
The figures quoted in the article, and the spokesperson's statement, are just a smokescreen. There is no real justification for the DOE's current policy of constant rotations for a large group of teachers. These teachers could be of better service to administrators and students if each were placed in a single school for the year, either through being hired by the school or by being paid by the central office as excessed teachers, which is what was done in the past few years. I believe that most teachers, parents, and school administrators would agree with me about this.  
As an aside, although the print version of Ms. Fertig's article uses the term "excess teacher" to refer to members of the "Absent Teacher Reserve," the DOE's actual term, as seen on their official Web site, is "excessed teacher." As an ATR myself, I prefer the DOE's term. It refers to the fact that the DOE chose to place and keep teachers whose jobs were eliminated "in excess" rather than to place them as permanent hires in schools where openings existed in their respective license areas. 
Thank you for your attention to this issue. I apologize for sending this anonymously, but I do not wish to be interviewed or mentioned in a news story. I do respectfully ask, however, that you look into an answer to my question. 
Yours truly, 
"Excessed" (an avid WNYC listener)

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  1. she won't look into the "truth"

  2. It's kind of remarkable the outrageous errors you see, on a regular basis, in journalism when you actually know the subject. It's frightening when you consider how much you rely on the press for other info. I know I'm more careful than that in my job as a lowly teacher.

  3. Doesn't she work with Brian Lehrer? He has become increasingly conservative.

  4. we are all becoming increasingly conservative when it comes to teachers unions. they blew it. and the need to be scrapped and rethought.