The number of New York City teachers without a permanent assignment is at its lowest point in several years, solidifying the faith of city and union officials in an agreement on the teacher reserve pool implemented at the beginning of the school year.
According to data provided by the Department of Education, as of April 6 there were 831 teachers in what is known as the Absent Teacher Reserve -- commonly referred to as the A.T.R. -- where teachers are sent after losing a full-time job, often because of budget cuts or school closings. Last year in April, there were 1,139 teachers in the reserve pool.
In addition, data provided by the Education Department show that 83 percent of teachers who left the Absent Teacher Reserve pool between Oct. 4 and March 26 did so for a teaching job, either on a permanent or provisional basis.
Another nine percent left the pool to go on leave, on sabbatical or for a non-teaching reassignment. Eight percent are no longer teaching.
The Department of Education did not provide data to compare those percentages with previous years.
The reserve pool numbers have been under scrutiny this year, with the city, union officials, teachers and some critics watching closely to monitor fluctuations -- a test of a new system adopted this year. The system was agreed upon as part of a city budget plan negotiated last summer.
Under the new system, reserve teachers are now reassigned as substitutes or clerical workers to a new school in their district each week. The game of musical schools is supposed to allow teachers to meet a wider range of principals, essentially exposing them to a larger variety of job opportunities, said Barbara Morgan, an Education Department spokeswoman.
It's a significant departure from past years, when reserve teachers were reassigned to one or two schools for the entire school year. If they were not permanently placed in that school, they had to try their luck elsewhere at the end of the assignment.
Michael Mendel, secretary of the United Federation of Teachers, wrote in an e-mail message that the union has been pleased with the number of teachers finding new jobs.
“We are happy to see that the A.T.R. agreement has resulted in record numbers of teachers in the pool finding full-time positions, and more continuity in the classroom for New York City’s students,” he said.
Despite the apparent success of the new system, not everyone is enamored with the change. A post on Feb. 7 on NYC ATR, an anonymous blog that is frequently critical of both the city and the union’s stance on the reserve pool, took issue with the teachers' union's agreement to the system.
“At core, the notion that ATRs must wander the system, hat in hand, begging for a position is more of a free-market situation than a system that a union can be proud of,” read the post, which was authored by a blogger who goes by “ATR in Perm.”
Union and city officials maintain that the system has been beneficial to teachers.