• UK Election: A Lesson for the U.S.

    Our guest author is Stan Litow, professor, Columbia University; vice president emeritus, IBM's Global Corporate Citizenship Program; president emeritus, IBM International Foundation and a member of the Albert Shanker Institute Board of Directors.

    What a month of news! While July is ending with a renewed concern about political violence and a different presidential match-up than the one it started with, before July ends, I’d like to bring us back to a lesson across the Atlantic I’d like to make sure we learn.

    Looking back, for many the joy of this year's July 4th celebration was muted, largely because of a continued controversy after the U.S. Presidential debate.  July 4th in the UK saw game-changing election results, where the newly elected Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his party achieved an unprecedented victory. In his victory speech Prime Minister Starmer sincerely sought to unite and not divide his nation, moving his party more toward the center, praising his predecessor and making it clear he intended to bring the nation together by ending divisive rhetoric and seeking agreement behind an agenda that would benefit not some, but all, and supporting the vital role public service and government action can play. Sounds like the sentiments embedded in the U.S. Constitution.

  • New Hampshire’s Divisive Concepts Law Was Ruled Unconstitutional, Sending a Message to the Nation

    Our guest author is Deb Howes, President of AFT-NH. A version of the article originally appeared in the Concord Monitor on June 14, 2024.

    A funny thing happened on New Hampshire’s way to threatening to fire teachers for teaching so-called divisive concepts involving gender, race, history and identity. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled late in May that the law was so unconstitutionally vague that teachers would be “incentivized to steer well clear of anything that could be construed as violating” the law, thus inhibiting them from doing their best work—exactly the kind of work public school students deserve to help them learn and succeed—and forcing students “to bear the costs” of the law’s ambiguity.

    The federal judge’s ruling sends a strong message to other states, such as Florida, Georgia, Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and South Dakota, that have passed variations of diversity, equity and inclusion laws restricting instruction on aspects of American history, sexual orientation, gender identity, race or racism. 

  • A Nation’s ‘Teachable Moment’: What We Need to Learn from Trump’s Trials and Reactions

    Educators treasure something we call “teachable moments”—those occasions when a high-profile event captures our students’ attention, interest and imagination. As experienced and accomplished classroom teachers of civics, social studies and English language arts, the three of us would look forward to such moments, as they provided unique opportunities to engage students in in-depth learning on important subjects.

    The May 31 criminal conviction of former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, is certainly a “teachable moment,” and not only for students, but for all Americans. It is the first time in our history that an individual who held the highest elected office in our republic has been found guilty of committing a felony—not once, but 34 times, and by a jury of his peers.

    What should educators teach students about this trial and conviction? What should Americans conclude about these events?

  • What Two Civil Rights Heroes Can Teach Today's Left

    Guest author and Shanker Institute Board Member Richard Kahlenberg reviews Climbing the Rough Side of the Mountain: The Extraordinary Story of Love, Civil Rights, and Labor Activism, the memoir of civil and labor rights leaders Norman and Velma Hill.

    If you’re worried about threats to liberal democracy in America, emanating primarily from Donald Trump but also from parts of the progressive left, a new memoir published by two veteran civil rights activists provides a refreshing reminder that a better path remains open. Climbing the Rough Side of the Mountain: The Extraordinary Story of Love, Civil Rights, and Labor Activism, by Norman and Velma Hill, two black civil rights leaders, provides a fascinating account of their years working closely with Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin to make their country live up to its ideals.

  • 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.”