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  • Teachers Matter, But So Do Words

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 14, 2010

    The following quote comes from the Obama Administration’s education "blueprint," which is its plan for reauthorizing ESEA, placing a heavy emphasis, among many other things, on overhauling teacher human capital policies:

    Of all the work that occurs at every level of our education system, the interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success.
    Specific wordings vary, but if you follow education even casually, you hear some version of this argument with incredible frequency. In fact, most Americans are hearing it – I’d be surprised if many days pass when some approximation of it isn’t made in a newspaper, magazine, or high-traffic blog. It is the shorthand justification – the talking point, if you will – for the current efforts to base teachers’ hiring, firing, evaluation, and compensation on students’ test scores and other "performance” measures.
  • What's Next For China's Workers

    by Randall Garton on July 14, 2010

    China's workers burst into the world headlines again recently (see here, here, here, and here, for example)—taking to the streets to protest wages and working conditions, and exciting speculation about the possible political, social, and economic implications. Strikes and protests by Chinese workers are increasingly common. The Economist, citing an official Chinese publication, reported that "labor disputes in Guangdong in the first quarter of 2009 had risen by nearly 42 percent over the same period in 2008...." (These are government numbers, so the real numbers are likely to be even higher.)

  • What Is "Charterness," Exactly?

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 14, 2010

    ** Also posted here on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet in the Washington Post.

    Two weeks ago, researchers from Mathematica dropped a bomb on the education policy community. It didn’t go off.

    The report (prepared for the Institute for Education Sciences, a division of the USDOE) includes students in 36 charter schools throughout 15 states. The central conclusion: the vast majority of charter students does no better or worse than their regular public counterparts in math and reading scores (or on most of the other 35 outcomes examined). On the other hand, charter parents and students are more satisfied with their schools, and charters are more effective boosting scores of lower-income students.

  • Getting Serious About Education Advice For Workers

    by Eugenia Kemble on July 14, 2010

    Have we come to the “end of history” on the decades-long debate over whether skills training and further education beyond high school are the best ticket to a good job and a middle class life? And, if they are, do those who choose to navigate their educational way to a satisfying and well-paying job know what kind of ticket they need? Attention to both issues is escalating, and not only inside the Washington beltway.

    On June 14, the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University released a block-buster. Its Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018, argued that by 2018 our economy will fall short of needed workforce qualifications “by at least 3 million postsecondary degrees, Associates or better," and in addition, “will need at least 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates." This is the situation without the compounding issue of a 10% “official” unemployment rate in an apparently unending recession. Tony Carnevale, a principal author of the study, in reflecting on its implications for workforce training, noted “Our problem is, our country lacks a guidance system."


    by Eugenia Kemble on July 14, 2010

    The purpose of this blog is to provide commentary on the issues that we deal with at the Shanker Institute: education, labor, and international democracy.

    This is a content-focused blog. You will not find pictures, sound bytes, videos, or superfluous rhetoric. You will find research, discussions of complex topics, and a balanced presentation of ideas. We will try our best to be thorough and thoughtful, but accessible, as was modeled by Al Shanker.

    Although most posts will be written by Shanker Institute staff, we will be providing regular posts from our board members and other experts that we know. Reader comments are welcome and encouraged.

    We hope you find our first posts (below) useful, and that you check back often for more. Please also take a moment to visit the Shanker Institute website, where you can learn more about our other activities and research.

    Eugenia Kemble, Executive Director

  • One Person, 2.5 Votes

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 14, 2010

    According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the U.S. is ranked 139th in voter turnout out of the roughly 170 democracies in the world. To whatever degree participation is a measure of how well a democracy functions, the United States' is among the worst.


    by Shanker Institute Staff on July 1, 2010

    The Albert Shanker Institute is a nonprofit organization established in 1998 to honor the life and legacy of the late president of the American Federation of Teachers.

    The organization’s by-laws commit it to four fundamental principles —vibrant democracy, quality public education, a voice for working people in decisions affecting their jobs and their lives, and free and open debate about all of these issues.—that is the vision, the mission, and the method of the Albert Shanker Institute.

    The institute brings together influential leaders and thinkers from business, labor, government, and education from across the political spectrum. It sponsors research, promotes discussions, and seeks new and workable approaches to the issues that will shape the future of democracy, education, and unionism. Many of these conversations are off-the-record, encouraging lively, honest debate and new understandings.

    These efforts are directed by and accountable to a diverse and distinguished board of directors representing the richness of Al Shanker’s commitments and concerns. The organization maintains a small permanent staff, a modest program budget, little overhead, and as much agility as possible.

    Committed to basic principles, open to new ideas, and addressing the inter-related issues of work, education, and democracy.



    Albert Shanker Institute 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20001

    Phone: 202/879-4401 Fax: 202/879-4403




    Leo Casey

    Executive Director

    Leo Casey is the Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers which focuses of issues of public education, unionism and democracy promotion. Before he assumed his current position at the Institute, Casey served as Vice President from Academic High Schools for the United Federation of Teachers, New York City’s 200,000 person strong teacher union. He is the son of two New York City public school teachers. Casey attended Antioch College in Ohio, the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania and the University of Toronto in Canada, where he earned a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy.

    After a stint in political organizing, Casey began his teaching career in 1984 at Clara Barton High School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. There he taught classes in Civics, American History, African-American Studies, Ethical Issues in Medicine and Political Science for fifteen years. For ten years in a row, his classes –  entirely students of color, largely immigrant and largely female – won the New York City championship of the national We The People civics competition, winning the New York State championship four times and placing fourth in the nation twice. He was recognized in the Congressional Record for the achievements of his classes in the competition.

    Casey’s union activism at Clara Barton began in 1987, when he led an effort to have the school building closed to clean up major asbestos contamination caused by the Department of Education’s renovations. He served as UFT Chapter Leader at Clara Barton for ten years. He has a long history of union involvement, including work as a United Farm Worker’s organizer and participation in the first unionization drive of graduate teaching assistants in Canada.

    In 1999, Casey became a full-time UFT Special Representative for High Schools. He was elected Vice President from Academic High Schools in October 2007. As Vice President he taught a class in Global Studies every day at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan.

    Casey has served as Vice President of the Graduate Student Union at the University of Toronto and on the executive of the Ontario Federation of Students. He was editor in chief of the Antioch Record, and National Field Director of Democratic Socialists of America. He was a fellow of the Teachers’ Network Leadership Institute. He served as the New York State Teacher Reviewer for the National Standards for Civics and Government Project.

    Casey has won several awards for his teaching, and was named national Social Studies Teacher of the Year for the American Teacher Awards in 1992. Casey led the design team for the UFT’s Secondary Charter School, and led the UFT’s work with charter schools, including charter organizing, while he served as UFT Vice President. He has worked with teacher unions and teachers in Russia, Tanzania and China on the development of civics education. Casey has written extensively on civics, education, unionism and politics, and is a frequent contributor to the UFT blog, Edwize.

    Burnie Bond

    Director of Programs

    Edith Burnett (Burnie) Bond is director of programs at the nonpartisan, nonprofit Albert Shanker Institute, where she works on a range of projects related to the institute’s key issue areas of educational excellence and equity, unions as advocates for quality, and the support of democracy and democratic institutions, both at home and abroad. Previously, she served as assistant director of the American Federation of Teachers’ Educational Issues Department. In that capacity, she monitored educational research on programs and teaching strategies to raise student achievement—especially for "at-risk" students in low-performing schools. She also worked on several related issues, including improving beginning reading instruction, research on and implementation of school turnaround strategies, standards-based reform, Title I, multicultural education, and efforts to improve the reliability and utility of educational research. She is a former staff assistant in the Office of AFT President Albert Shanker, where she served as coordinator of the AFT’s Education for Democracy Project, a program to promote a rigorous history and civics curriculum, and was formerly the director of research and publications for the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, where she worked on international trade and labor rights issues. She also served on the 1992 Clinton Transition Team at the United States Information Agency.

    Randall Garton

    Director of Research and Operations

    Randall Garton is Director of Research and Operations for the Albert Shanker Institute. Prior to coming to the Institute in 2001, he was Deputy for Program Operations at the Solidarity Center, the international program arm of the AFL-CIO, where he was responsible for operational aspects of programs on nearly every continent. During the course of a 24-year career at the AFL-CIO, Mr. Garton also directly monitored, administered and implemented programs in East and Southeast Asia and south central and south eastern Europe, and participated in regional and global conferences of the International Labor Organization and global union federations. He began his career as a newspaper reporter and holds a B.A. from Michigan State University, a J.D. from the Catholic University of America, and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

    Matthew Di Carlo

    Senior Fellow    

    Matthew Di Carlo is a senior research fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute in Washington, D.C. His current research focuses mostly on education policy, including value-added, charter schools, and teacher compensation. He has also published work on labor markets, social stratification/inequality, work and occupations, and political attitudes/behavior. Matt has a B.A. from Fordham University (1998), and a Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University (2008).

    Esther Quintero

    Senior Research Fellow

    Esther Quintero is a research associate at the Albert Shanker Institute. She focuses on higher education, women in STEM, and early childhood. Esther has worked on and is interested in discrimination in employment, gender stereotypes, social inequality, and the application of social science research methods to security and intelligence. She has a B.A. in History from the University of Seville (1997), and earned her Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University in 2008.




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