• Tackling Chronic Absenteeism Is a Crucial Investment in the Future

    Our guest authors are Kate Suchomel, the Lead Development & Communications Officer, and Jim Davnie, Executive Director, of the Minnesota Alliance With Youth.

    This week, Minnesota Alliance With Youth had the opportunity to engage in conversations at the White House around addressing the issue of chronic absenteeism in our schools. At the “Every Day Counts Summit: Addressing Chronic Absenteeism and Increasing Student Engagement," Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, along with state Governors and local leaders, highlighted the many efforts to increase student attendance and engagement and help students come to school every day.

    The Alliance was invited to participate and share successes from our AmeriCorps Promise Fellow collaboration with the Check & Connect Student Engagement program in Minneapolis middle and high schools- a long standing collaboration that has resulted in significant attendance gains for Minneapolis students (the results of which are highlighted as a district-level example in the new Digital Backpack of Resources to Address Chronic Absenteeism in Your Community released by the National Partnership for Student Success).

    Chronic absenteeism has become a critical issue for K-12 schools across the country, and Minnesota is struggling with exceptionally elevated rates in recent years. Statewide data from the U.S. Department of Education indicates a dramatic increase in the percentage of Minnesota schools with high or extreme chronic absenteeism, rising from 34% in 2017/18 to a staggering 71% during the 2021/22 school year.

  • How Do Vouchers Defund Public Schools? Four Warnings and One Big Takeaway

    Our guest author is Josh Cowen, Professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University. His new book, The Privateers: How Billionaires Created a Culture War and Sold School Vouchers is forthcoming at Harvard Education Press.

    Over the past two years, school voucher systems and other related schemes that divert taxpayer revenue toward private K-12 tuition have passed state legislatures at unprecedented rates. Although these recent bills became law only, for the most part, in red states, their supporters include a handful of Democrats in other parts of the country as well. And all of this comes despite a decade of evidence that vouchers have led to some of the steepest declines in student achievement on record.

    Regardless of which side of an otherwise ideological or political divide voucher advocates hail from, a common talking point for both is that voucher-like systems leave public school funding unaffected. 

    Such claims rely on a variety of funding strategies that include drawing resources to pay for vouchers from states’ general fund commitments outside of their school aid budgets, and the use of tax credits to make expenditures rather than direct appropriation. 

  • Teacher Appreciation: The Center for Research on Expanding Educational Opportunity (CREEO) Connects Equity and Justice to Education Policy and Practice

    Our guest author is Melika Jalili, program manager at the Center for Research on Expanding Educational Opportunity (CREEO), UC Berkeley.

    Whether it is a focus on the teacher shortage, a discussion of our public schools, or Teacher Appreciation Week, it seems everyone agrees that teachers deserve more respect and recognition. Making that recognition meaningful, by supporting educators to be the teachers they have always dreamed they could be, should be a priority for all of us.

    Cue in, Dr. Travis J. Bristol, Associate Professor at the UC Berkeley School of Education, who announced the exciting launch of the Center for Research on Expanding Educational Opportunity (CREEO) at UC Berkeley last month.

  • Reading Science: Staying the Course Amidst the Noise

    Critical perspectives on the Science of Reading (SoR) have always been present and are justifiably part of the ongoing discourse. At the Shanker Institute, we have been constructively critical, maintaining that reading reforms are not a silver bullet and that aspects of SoR, such as the role of knowledge-building and of infrastructure in reading improvement, need to be better understood and integrated into our discourse, policies, and practices. These contributions can strengthen the movement, bringing us closer to better teaching and learning. However, I worry that other forms of criticism may ultimately divert us from these goals and lead us astray.

    At the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the largest research conference in the field of education, I witnessed the spread of serious misinformation about reading research and related reforms. In this post, I aim to address four particularly troubling ideas I encountered. For each, I will not only provide factual corrections but also contextual clarifications, highlighting any bits of truth or valid criticisms that may exist within these misconceptions.

  • Warning Signs: How the Fight for Our Schools is the Fight for Our Lives

    Our guest author is Kristin Penner, a Senior Research Analyst at the African American Policy Forum (AAPF).

    Public education has always been a driver of democracy and anti-racism — that’s why segregationists fought so hard against Brown v. Board of Education and integration in the Civil Rights Era and why the "war on woke" is pursuing a segregation of ideas through bans of books, ideas, and anti-racist instruction. Attacks on democracy and the attacks on racially inclusive and LGBTQ-inclusive teaching, books, and scholarship unfolding across the country today are fruits of the same poisonous tree. The “war on woke” seeks to silence what can be said, what stories we are allowed to know, and whose histories we may share. The so-called “war on woke” is using the power of law and regulations to bully thoughtful educators away from honest teaching of accurate curricula. It aims to erase the very possibility of an inclusive story of our country. It has been highly successful. And we are all at risk. The threat to our ability to teach a fuller history is a threat to our democracy itself. This is not a drill. Our freedom to live in a fully realized multiracial democracy depends on our freedom to learn the full story of who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.

  • Rick Hess’ Uber Driver Speaks Out

    Our guest author is Leo Casey, Shanker Institute executive director emeritus.

     I was out pounding the streets the other day, and a ride for Rick Hess at the American Enterprise Institute popped up on my driver’s app. Geez, I thought to myself, not him again. But I have to put food on the table and clothes on the back of my kids, so I headed over to AEI.

    Ten minutes late, Rick jumps into my car, and starts in. “I want to ask you about…” I interrupted him: “Rick, before we get into what you want to talk about, I want to ask you a question first.”

  • Loc-ing students out: Darryl George, the CROWN Act, and the Need to Combat Racial Discrimination in the Classroom

    Our guest author is Jasmine Payne-Patterson, a Senior State Policy Coordinator for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) at the Economic Policy Institute.

    For some students and workers, hair is a trivial wardrobe decision, while for many Black and Brown people, their hairstyle can be a consequential element of class participation and a job offer. School dress codes and “business appropriate” dress often put high stakes and severe restrictions on how Black and Brown people can express their culture and identity through their hair.

    Over the last several years, lawmakers in 24 states have sought to combat this problem by passing the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” (CROWN) Act. The CROWN Act is a law that protects against discrimination based on hairstyle and texture in schools, workplaces, and beyond by extending the definition of racial expression to include wearing braids, locs, twists, and other culturally significant hair styles.

    Yet the recent court case of Texas high school junior Darryl George reveals that even in states that have adopted versions of the CROWN Act, as Texas has, Black and Brown people can still face educational and career disadvantages for their hairstyles when discriminatory systems—in this case a school dress code—are validated by judicial interpretation that ignores the intent of the law.

  • From the Classroom to the Capitol: Teachers Can Make A Difference

    Our guest authors José Luis Vilson and Dan Kliber are accomplished National Board Certified Teachers and activists.

    The battle over the federal budget has dire consequences for schools across the country, particularly for those most in need of funding. Recently, some federal legislators have proposed extremely draconian cuts. The last education funding proposal from the U.S. House of Representatives would have slashed federal support for education by 30%, including an 80% reduction to Title I, which supports low-income schools. Had this proposal passed, public education as we know it could have been completely dismantled, putting over 200K teachers out of a job.

  • School District Fragmentation, Segregation, and Funding Equity in New Jersey

    District fragmentation is a very important but sometimes overlooked factor shaping school segregation, school funding equity, and the relationship between them. Put simply, fragmentation refers to the fact that, in some states, there are hundreds of small districts, while other states are divided into a smaller number of large districts. For example, at the extremes, there are 67 (countywide) districts serving Florida’s 3 million public school students, whereas New Jersey maintains around 600 districts for its 1.3 million students. 

  • Bob Edwards: Beloved Radio Host and Labor Leader (1947-2024)

    Our guest author is Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, author of "Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race and Democracy" and a member of the Albert Shanker Institute Board of Directors.

    I was saddened to read of the death of Bob Edwards, who for 24 years hosted NPR’s Morning Edition with a mix of gravitas and wit.  For people of a certain age, he was, said NPR’s Susan Stamberg, “the voice we woke up to.”  The obituaries noted that when, in 2004, he was fired at age 57, just shy of his 25th anniversary at NPR, listeners erupted in outage.

    I got to know Edwards very casually when we overlapped as board members of the Albert Shanker Institute, and he shared his views on the role of labor in a democratic society.  NPR listeners loved Bob Edwards for his fundamental decency and respect for people of all backgrounds.  Those values were at one with his belief in the importance of a strong American labor movement.