Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Redefined out of teaching

I met this morning with a Chicago teacher who was fired in the recent round of mass teacher firings. Five minutes into the meeting, it became clear to me that her firing has nothing to do with improving schools.

Like many others caught up in the so-called Race To The Top, she is an experienced teacher with National Board Certification. She wasn't fired for cause or for poor evaluations. Rather, a letter in the mail notified her simply, that she had been "honorably discharged." She fell victim to the latest trick being used by CEO Huberman and the board to circumvent and ultimately destroy its collective bargaining contract with the CTU. It's called redefinition.

Instead of actually firing teachers, the board does an end run around the contract by simply closing out or redefining their positions. This enables them, or the school principal, to replace veteran or tenured teachers with younger, lower-paid, often non-certified teachers, or teachers teaching out of their field. Lately it's been used to satisfy the district's contractual agreement with Teach For America. In this case, a new principal was most likely pressured by superiors to "clean house" and pick their own staff.

For this award winning teacher, it means being torn away from her students and from the profession she loves so dearly and to which she has committed her life and her talents. It also means being unemployed in the middle of this great recession, with a family to support and loss of medical care. The main losers are  the students in this mainly Mexican immigrant inner-city neighborhood, the ones who need teachers like her the most and who now have to deal with more instability in their lives.

So much for all the talk about education being a civil rights issue.

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