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Striking teachers and supporters at Whitney Young High School in Chicago.
Chicago teachers and supporters during last fall's strike
Let's hear from a couple of Chicago teachers. First, Michelle Gunderson explains what malicious reassignment is and why it matters:
It is a conversation educators dread. An administrator calls you for a “chat”. “By the way,” they say, “Instead of teaching 8th grade next year, it best suits our needs for you to teach kindergarten.”

Every educator knows what this means. While the teacher in the scenario still has a job and is teaching a certified subject – kindergarten and eighth grade are two different planets.

This is a tactic that can be labeled as “malicious re-assignment.” It is used to give a not so gentle signal to a veteran teacher that it is time to leave. We see it happen on several occasions. First, when a principal or administrator believes someone’s teaching methods are “too old-fashioned” and their years of experience and craft knowledge are not valued. Another is when an educator is considered too expensive and the administration would like to them to retire early. Or last, when a tenured teacher becomes too vocal about union or social justice issues. It’s an attempt to silence.

But malicious reassignment isn't all Chicago teachers are dealing with. More than 1,000 have been laid off there in recent weeks:
One example is Xian Barrett, a history and law teacher at Gage Park High School on the city’s South Side, who received a layoff notice on Friday. In 2009 Barrett was chosen as a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow by the U.S. Department of Education. As the education department’s website notes, Barrett founded a citywide youth-led social justice organization called Chicago Youth Initiating Change, brought students to New Orleans for service learning trips and organized sister-city events with Japanese schools. The website describes his teaching philosophy: “Before the students lose interest in your instruction, ask them what they are passionate about and work with that—their learning belongs to them." [...]

Barrett is among those who see the layoffs and school closings as part of a larger plan to reduce the size and power of the teachers union and to replace regular public schools with non-union charter schools. He was an early member of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), the group that won leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010 union elections and became a thorn in Emanuel’s side after he took office in May 2011.

But even more, Barrett sees the administration’s moves as an attack on the students who have demanded their voices be heard in the debate over the future of education in Chicago.

And more:

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Chicago Kossacks.

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