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Attack Of The New Teacher Project

TimdalyWatch out, lazy school districts and obstructionist teachers unions!  Here comes the New Teacher Project.  They may have lost Michelle Rhee when she went to DC, but they apparently haven't lost their energy. 

That came clear earlier this week when TNTP released a report denouncing a New York City contract provision that is expensive and potentially undercuts principals' ability to choose their own teachers. 

On the HotSeat, fresh-faced TNTP president Tim Daly describes what life after Rhee is like, why the organization went public with its scathing report, what TNTP did -- and didn't -- do to help the city and the teachers come to agreement, and why so few ed reform organizations take such a public step.

Click below for the full interview.

You guys have written bunches of reports in the past -- why did this one become such a big deal?

TD: Possibly because it intersects with so many of the live wires in education right now: teacher hiring, tenure, compensation, seniority rights, evaluation, dismissal. It touches on a lot of tough issues. And of course the money involved--$81 million by June—is eye-opening.

Has anything like this ever happened before in response to your work, in terms of public reaction?

TD: Our studies tend to attract a fair amount of attention, so this isn’t really so different; for example, when we released our study of Chicago’s staffing policies last year, the local media and Chicago education community responded much in the same way that their counterparts in New York are now. The difference is in the intensity of the union’s reaction, which obviously we do not control.

Do other cities have excess pools like NYC?

TD:  Yes, though they may function differently. For example, teachers who are excessed in Chicago are also placed in a reserve pool, but unlike in New   York, they only have 10 months to find a new position, and after that they are dismissed from the district entirely.

What’s the solution for the excessed NYC teachers?

TD: We’ve proposed that teachers in the reserve pool in New York City have a full year to look for jobs, after which point they would be placed on unpaid leave, with the ability to return when they do find a position. Given that 90 percent of the excessed teachers we studied were able to find a job at a new school within six months, it’s hard to argue that this is not a reasonable solution.

Did you feel any pressure to make a bold statement to make sure TNTP didn't fall off the radar when Michell Rhee left?

TD:  No, we just said what needed to be said.

How has Rhee’s departure affected TNTP -- how have people reacted?

TD: Ariela Rozman, our CEO, has done a tremendous job building off the foundation Michelle left behind. I think people appreciate that we are tackling the big problems in education with the same determination and commitment to disadvantaged kids that Michelle did. They’re excited to see the organization evolving.

Were you in the room with Klein and Weingarten's people during negotiations, or staffing Klein's people from outside the room?

TD: We attended two meetings between the NYCDOE and the UFT in late 2007 to brief them on the data. We hoped that they would be able to resolve the situation without getting caught up in the usual politics, but we did not mediate those discussions in any way, as has been suggested. We were there only to present the facts.

Why did TNTP decide to step out of the shadows and get so publicly involved with the NYC situation?

TD: We worried that the city would return to the past practice of forcing them on schools. Such practices disproportionately affect schools serving low-income students, which tend to have the highest rates of teacher turnover and the most openings into which teachers can be slotted. In that sense, this is really a civil rights issue.

What's it feel like to be called names by the future head of the AFT?

TD: It at least shows that our paper has caught her attention and engaged her in the discussion. That’s a good first step.

People seem uncertain about whether Randi Wingarten is a traditional leader or a real progressive -- what's your take?

TD: Time will tell, as will how she responds to challenges like the one we have identified.

Any regrets about going public?

TD:  None.

Will the publicity prevent you from working effectively in other districts?

TD:  That’s the risk we take in speaking out. But we know that our findings and recommendations are well-considered and reflective of the data at hand. We have no agenda other than to ensure that all students receive the quality education that we as a society have promised them, and the best way to do that is to make certain that they are taught by the best possible teachers.

Why don't more organizations leap into the fray like TNTP is doing?

TD:  Weren’t you just asking about being called names?


NB:  HotSeat interviews are conducted via email and edited for length and readability.

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I am a NYC 2nd grade teacher who has recently been excessed, after 2 years in a school I love, and a school that wants me. If it were at all possible they would keep me, and get rid of some of the tenured ineffective teachers who do not even want to teach anymore, but they like collecting their paychecks. I put my entire heart and soul into my teaching, I am dedicated, responsible, and go the extra mile. With the budget cuts troughout the entire city, I do not even see how I can possibly find a position, if every school is reducing their budget and excessing their teachers.

I already did my job search, worked hard to secure a position, interviewed with various schools, and found the perfect match for me. Why should I be held responsible to find another position, especially when there are not enough positions to fill due to budget cuts. I feel some of the decision makers need to come to my class and learn math. It is virtually impossible to successfully place all the excessed teachers if every school is cutting back their budgets.

It makes me feel sad for NYC students, because ultimately they are the ones who will suffer. Qualified, talented, dedicated teachers will simply look for jobs elsewhere such as Westchester county and NJ. What a shame and stupidity from our city.

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