To honor the life and legacy of the late president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nonprofit Albert Shanker Institute was established in 1998.
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.
Committed to basic principles, open to new ideas, and addressing the inter-related issues of work, education, and democracy—that is the vision, the mission, and the method of the Albert Shanker Institute.
Over the next year, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Shanker Institute's founding, we will be publishing highlights of Institute's achievements.
Support for "The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World's Teachers for Improving Education"
The Institute provided a grant to support this important book by James Stigler and James Hiebert, which explores the school system's failure to support a culture of professional development for teachers. It compares what's lacking in teacher training in this country with what's working in Japan, where teachers spend time working together to improve their skills.
Hart Research Poll of Teachers and Principals
Despite the greater demands being made on their schools, two Albert Shanker Institute-supported polls find that teachers and principals strongly support efforts to hold students to rigorous academic standards and see standards-based reform resulting in beneficial changes at their schools.
Professional Workers, Unions, and Associations: Affinities and Antipathies
This paper prepared for ASI by Richard Hurd, director of labor studies at Cornell University, explores the changing nature of professional work, examines the attitudes of professionals toward work and unionization, and analyzes the possibility of convergence between the roles and operations of unions and professional associations. It also offers thoughtful advice to those who seek to organize professional, technical, and paraprofessional workers.
Building a New Structure for School Leadership
In this major research analysis, Richard Elmore explores the problems with the structure and leadership of public education, while explaining the dangers of public funding for private schools. He urges educators to study the schools whose leaders and best practice are succeeding in meeting high standards, including through the use of collaboration and distributed leadership.
French Early Care and Education Study Tour
The Shanker Institute organized a trip to learn about France's Early Care and Education System so participants could get an intensive look at the French preschool system, which has gained international attention for being universal and of high quality. While participation is voluntary, almost 100% of children in France have entered preschool by the age of three. The trip was organized around three themes : 1) skills and curriculum content behind the programs; 2) staff training and qualifications; and 3) the impact of programs on poor and minority students.
Seminars on Workforce Development
According to a Financial Times article (“The futile war for talent,” June 6, 2001), most corporations would be better off if they concentrated on identifying and developing the talents of their current workforce, and unions have a vested interest in helping members increase both the value and the quality of their work. Two discussions hosted by the Albert Shanker Institute explored the convergence of these interests. The first seminar for trade union leaders and researchers from the U.S. and several European countries discussed union experiences with professional development as a service to members, a tool for organizing and a basis for improved labor-management relations. The second smaller meeting of U.S. business representatives and U.S. and European labor leaders discussed institute polling data on the attitudes and aspirations of professional and technical workers and to explore workforce development and other possible areas for improved cooperation.
Bridging the Gap Between Standards and Achievement
In this publication, published by the Albert Shanker Institute in conjunction with a professional development forum for state leaders cosponsored with Achieve, Inc., Harvard professor Richard Elmore argues that education reforms that are based on standards and accountability will fail unless policymakers also adopt a strategy to ensure that educators have the knowledge and skill they need to help students succeed.
Support for a History Research Paper Study
The Albert Shanker Institute provided support for a study of the state of the history research paper in United States high schools which was conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut and published in the Concord Review.
Best Research to What Works Luncheon Series
This series of luncheon forums was designed to highlight best research on key educational issues, then to link these findings to the practical steps that schools can take to improve student achievement. Held on a periodic basis, these events brought together a select group of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss crucial issues about which research and practice appear to diverge. The topics in 2002 were 1) Early Language & Literacy Development and 2) Strategies to Improve Student Behavior and Support Student Achievement.
Educating Democracy: State Standards to Ensure a Civic Core
This 2003 study, authored by the late historian Paul Gagnon, evaluates the extent to which state history, civics, and social studies standards across the nation serve to help teachers in their efforts to prepare an informed citizenry.
Education for Democracy
Education for Democracy, a signatory statement released by the institute in conjunction with the beginning of a new school year, the second anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, is a new statement calling for improvement in the teaching of democracy.
Bayard Rustin Film Premiere
The Institute jointly hosted the Washington premiere of "Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin" at the National Press Club, with the AFL-CIO, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Freedom House, the Rustin Fund, the International Rescue Committee, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Social Democrats, U.S.A., AFT President Sandra Feldman, and U.S. Representatives John Lewis and Eleanor Holmes Norton. A longtime friend and ally of Al Shanker's, Rustin, a gay socialist, pacifist, civil rights leader, international democracy activist, and master strategist is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. This documentary film was aired nationwide by PBS on Martin Luther King Day, and was featured in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
Unions and Workforce Development Discussion
This discussion on the revitalization of the labor movement with John Monks, general secretary of Britain's Trades Union Congress (TUC), was co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the New Economy Information Service. An audience, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and a score of other union leaders and labor academics, listened as Monks described worker training initiatives by several TUC unions that have helped increase labor strength and membership in the UK. “In the long term,” said Monks, “skills and training are the future.” Morty Bahr, former president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and former member of the ASI board of directors, introduced Monks and related his remarks to the U.S. context.
Seminar on Education to Build Democracy
The Albert Shanker Institute hosted a forum on international civic education. An invited group of academics, program developers, and leaders from the AFT, the U.S. State Dept., USAID, the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, the AFL-CIO, and private industry attended the Washington, DC, meeting, to discuss effective program design, content, and strategy for civic education and democracy promotion abroad. The meeting provided those who are involved—funders, researchers, and practitioners—with a chance to share their knowledge and experience. According to participants, the seminar was unprecedented in its promotion of open interaction among the many diverse elements of the civic education community.
Learning Partnerships: Strengthening American Jobs in the Global Economy
In April 2004, the Task Force on Workforce Development, a group of labor, business and policy experts co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and New Economy Information Service, issued a report entitled "Learning Partnerships: Strengthening American Jobs in the Global Economy." The report called for far-reaching changes in the way our country manages its work-force skills and training efforts. The report argued that, as technological change and global competition buffet our labor markets, the U.S. needs to do more to help incumbent workers prepare for new, high-skilled employment opportunities and labor unions must focus on their traditional role in training and credentialing workers.
Early Childhood Assessments: Problems & Possibilities
This forum with leading experts discussed questions raised about the appropriateness, validity, and utility of assessments with very young children. Panelists delved into the accuracy of the data being gathered, what purposes it can legitimately be used for, and what the research can tell us about how to design assessments for preschool children that are reasonable, reliable, valid, and useful for teachers and policymakers.
Lane Kirkland: Champion of American Labor
The Institute provided support for this biography by Arch Puddington, which traces Kirkland’s life from modest origins to his rise to the top position in the trade union movement. It looks at Kirkland’s clashes with the Reagan Administration, his efforts to expand labor’s political influence, his success in affiliating large independent unions to the AFL-CIO, his response to the challenges of deindustrialization and globalization, as well as Kirkland’s central role in mobilizing international labor support for Poland’s Solidarity union and the critical part he played in the creation of the modern democracy movement.
Unionism and Democracy: The Experience, the Legacy, The Future
The Institute received a grant from the ILGWU Heritage Fund in to help sponsor this three-day seminar aimed at educating new AFT leaders on the rationale and history behind labor’s support for democracy and worker rights in the world. The program included a keynote on The Future of the AFT’s and Labor’s Role in Promoting Democracy, and sessions on Globalization, Workers Rights, Democracy and the Labor Movement; Tools and Strategies of U.S. and International Union Democracy Advocates: Points and Counterpoints; There are “Unions” and Democratic Unions -- an Historic and Contemporary Quandary over which Labor Institutions warrant Contact; The Sorry State of Civic and Democracy Education in the U.S; The Essential Role of Unions and their Leaders in Developing Civil Society and Democracy Itself; and Democracy: It’s Union Work.
Reading Disabilities, Reading Difficulties & School-Based Interventions that Work
Two experts, Sally Shaywitz, Professor of Pediatrics and Child Study at the Yale University School of Medicine, and Co-director of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention and Joseph Torgesen, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, and Director of the Center for the Study of Reading and Reading Disabilities discussed programs to improve beginning reading instruction, including strategies to identify struggling readers as early as possible.
Improving the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics
The Shanker Institute held a forum with James Hiebert, the Robert J. Barkley Professor of Education at the University of Delaware and Deborah Loewenberg Ball, the William H. Payne Collegiate, Professor of Education and Director of Teacher Education at the University of Michigan who provided an overview on recent research about what mathematics teachers need to know and be able to do to improve the performance of all students.
Democracy and Worker Rights: A Discussion of Labor's Approach to China
The Institute sponsored a lively discussion among representatives from nine AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions on the U.S. labor movement’s differing approaches to the increasing economic dominance of an ongoing worker rights repression in mainland China. After opening remarks by AFT and Shanker Institute President McElroy, participants heard from two prominent China experts, Andrew Nathan (Columbia University) and James Mann (School for Advanced International Studies).
Performance-Based Pay in Public Education
The Institute sponsored a forum with Edward Lawler, the director of the Center for Effective Organizations, and distinguished professor of business at the University of
Southern California Marshall School of Business and Lewis Solmon, president of the Teacher Advancement Program Foundation, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Milken Family Foundation, on programs to encourage excellent teaching by linking teachers’ pay to their performance or to the performance of their schools or students. Specifically they focused on the empirical evidence on the effects of performance-based pay plans, and what research and experience tell us about the factors that make the implementation of some plans more or less successful.
The Challenge for Democracy in the Middle East: The Art of the Possible
The Institute sponsored a conference on the challenge of developing practical international programs to implement the traditional commitment of the labor movement to democracy and democratic institutions in the core Middle East region. It challenged participants to help conceive innovative, practical program approaches for the Middle East region.This conference was followed by a union leadership study trip to the Middle East to investigate the role of education unions and other unions in promoting democracy and peace. The delegation met with teachers and other unionists from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as with country and regional representatives of the Solidarity Center, the National Democratic Institute, and U.S. Embassies.
Good Schools I: Unions, Teaching Quality and Student Achievement
This is the first in a series of two-day seminars, designed to help build a network of union leaders, district superintendents, and researchers to work collaboratively on improving public education through a focus on teaching. The topics covered in this seminar included: Why Teachers and Education Need a Union Voice; The Union’s Role in Ensuring That Teaching Quality Matches Student Needs; What Does the Research Say About Teaching Quality?; Staffing for Extra Need — Hard-to-Staff Schools and Positions — Union Policies, Union Effects; Promoting and Recognizing Teacher Excellence: Pay for Performance, Mentoring and Induction, Peer Review and Intervention, Providing Quality Curriculum and Aligned Professional Development; From Where the Superintendent Sits; From Where the Local Leader Sits
A Cry for Justice: The Voices of Chinese Workers
This important publication tells the stories of workers, in their own words, as they protest for a redress of greivances — usually in defiance of their employers, government authorities, the official union, and threats of violence and imprisonment. From the Oilfields of Daqing, the Ferroally workers of Liaoyang, the Heavenly King Textile workers of Xianyang, the Gold Peak Battery factory workers of Huizhou, coal miners from Wanbao, teachers from Suizhou and ex-soldiers who work in factories around the country run by the People’s Liberation Army, the accounts are all based on extraordinary first-hand interviews conducted by Han Dongfang, China ’s leading labor rights advocate and Shanker Board member, with workers across China . Han joined the demonstrations in Tiananman Square in 1989 as a leader of the Beijing Autonomous Workers Federation and was then jailed for almost two years, in his capacity as a correspondent and presenter for Radio Free Asia. The source data for this publication was compiled by China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong based non-governmental organization that promotes labor rights in mainland China .
Labor Law Reform in China: What Are The Implications for Worker Rights? For Political Liberalization?
The Shanker Institute sponsored a seminar in Washington, D.C. focused on the implications and impact of recently enacted labor law reform in China. The purpose of the program was to bring together China experts for a real discussion on whether or not the new labor law, which took effect on January 1, 2008, will actually give workers more voice and improve their lives. The presenters and seminar participants included more than 50 trade unionists, academics, attorneys, worker rights activists, and others deeply involved in programs dealing with China . They discussed the new law in terms of the potential impact on ongoing grassroots legal advocacy for individual workers.
Good School II: Developing the Teaching Corps We Need
This seminar series is part of the Institute's effort to build a network of union leaders, district superintendents, and researchers to work collaboratively on improving public education through a focus on teaching. This second Good Schools Seminar focused on the following topics: 1) Engaging Teachers in the Improvement Agenda: Context Counts with sessions on Teacher Working Conditions and Student Learning, and Teachers Need to Know What Student Curriculum They Are Expected to Teach; 2) Developing the Teaching Corps with sessions on What Does The Research Say About New Teacher Supports?, and Peer Assistance and Review: Pitfalls and Promise; and 3) Grounding Professional Development in the Work of Schools and Specific Student Learning
Creating Jobs: Delivering Education and Skills; Expanding Labor’s Role
This meeting focused on three priorities: (1) the need for a seamless web of providers from high schools to community colleges and universities to unions and employers; (2) technology and how teaching is delivered; and (3) access to learning in multiple settings. The "Postmeeting Statement," which was signed by most attendees including the International Association of Machinists and the American Federation of Teachers, ultimately resulted in the AFL-CIO Executive Council issuing a resolution based on this document.
Good Schools III: Teacher Pay and Staffing: What Works, What Doesn't
This third Good Schools Seminar discussed the evidence and policy on compensation and staffing policies for teachers in the U.S. There were three main parts. The first concentrated on The Context for the Improvement of Teaching: A Revisit, with sessions on “Standards, Accountability, and the Achievement Gap: Lessons From History” and “Creating A Positive School Culture: Linking School and Community Supports.” The second part looked at Research on the Use of Incentive Pay for Improving Individual and System Performance. The final part of the seminar look at Improving Teaching Quality in Hard to Staff Schools.
Preschool Curriculum: What's in it for Students and Teachers
Preschool Curriculum is an accessible research synthesis of how and how much young children learn in the academic domains of oral language, literacy, mathematics, and science.