Kenzo Shibata taught high-school English in Chicago’s public-school system for nearly a decade and pioneered digital labor organizing as part of the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike. “People don’t see that concrete organizing is the difference between a successful digital campaign and another piece of cyberjunk floating around the Internet,” he says. Here, he recommends some gems in print.

Chicago, 1880–2000

by Dorothy Shipps
Buy this book

The city of Chicago is often described as the public-policy lab of the nation. Ideas are hatched, tested on residents, and then shipped out to a city near you. Anyone following the corporate education-reform movement should keep an eye on what happens here.

Shipps covers more than a century’s worth of school shake-ups, led mostly by business groups—none of which led to any substantive improvements for children educated in Chicago schools.

A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education

by José Vilson
Buy this book

I recommend this memoir whenever someone asks me what urban teaching is really like. Vilson, who is a key leader of #Educolor—a rising movement of educators looking critically at race in education—uses hip-hop, poetry and some extremely humbling anecdotes to describe the dramatic highs and lows of teaching in New York City.

A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

by Dana Goldstein
Buy this book

The Teacher Wars, much like the Shipps book, doesn’t take a side in its depiction of nearly two centuries of education reform. For someone very opinionated about the issues (e.g., me), this can make for a frustrating read at times, but Goldstein manages to cram in volumes of untold history that provide crucial background to the fights today between teachers and self-styled reformers.

The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing

edited by Jesse Hagopian
Buy this book

When reading about education reform (coded language for privatization), it is easy to fall into a deep, dark pit of despair. The privatizers who look to close public schools and open charters, while making money hand over fist for their friends in the testing industry, seem to win most battles. More Than a Score collects narratives from teachers, parents, students, academics and elected union leaders describing the growing grassroots resistance to testing gone mad. Editor Hagopian was a teacher leader in the successful Seattle MAP Test Boycott of 2013.

Chicago Teachers Against Austerity

by Micah Uetricht
Buy this book

Uetricht’s first book, part of the Verso/Jacobin magazine imprint, dives into one of the most intense periods of my own life—the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike. The book doesn’t go into granular detail about events before and after the historic strike. Instead, this pamphlet-sized book offers brilliant political analysis, providing context for the nine days when Chicago teachers took on neoliberalism and the unequal school system it would create.

Read more from our special education issue

The Editors: “Our Public Education System Needs Transformation, Not ‘Reform’

Dana Goldstein: “The Tough Lessons of the 1968 Teacher Strikes

Michelle Fine and Michael Fabricant: “What It Takes to Unite Teachers Unions and Communities of Color

Daniel Denvir: “How to Destroy a Public School System

Pedro Noguera: “Why Don’t We Have Real Data on Charter Schools?

Diane Ravitch: “The Secret to Eva Moskowitz’s ‘Success’

Gordon Lafer: “What Happens When Your Teacher Is a Robot?

Lee Fang: “Venture Capitalists Are Poised to ‘Disrupt’ Everything About the Education Market(web-only)