K-12 Education

  • Efforts to help strengthen and improve public education are central to the Albert Shanker Institute’s mission. This work is pursued by promoting discussions, supporting publications and sponsoring research on new and workable approaches to ensuring that all public schools are good schools. As explained by Al Shanker below, these efforts are grounded in the belief that a vibrant public school system is crucial to the health and survival of the nation:

    "...I believe that public education is the glue that has held this country together. Critics now say that the common school never really existed, that it’s time to abandon this ideal in favor of schools that are designed to appeal to groups based on ethnicity, race, religion, class, or common interests of various kinds. But schools like these would foster divisions in our society; they would be like setting a time bomb.

    "A Martian who happened to be visiting Earth soon after the United States was founded would not have given this country much chance of surviving. He would have predicted that this new nation, whose inhabitants were of different races, who spoke different languages, and who followed different religions, wouldn’t remain one nation for long. They would end up fighting and killing each other. Then, what was left of each group would set up its own country, just as has happened many other times and in many other places. But that didn’t happen. Instead, we became a wealthy and powerful nation—the freest the world has ever known. Millions of people from around the world have risked their lives to come here, and they continue to do so today.

    "Public schools played a big role in holding our nation together. They brought together children of different races, languages, religions and cultures and gave them a common language and a sense of common purpose. We have not outgrown our need for this; far from it. Today, Americans come from more different countries and speak more different languages than ever before. Whenever the problems connected with school reform seem especially tough, I think about this. I think about what public education gave me—a kid who couldn’t even speak English when I entered first grade. I think about what it has given me and can give to countless numbers of other kids like me. And I know that keeping public education together is worth whatever effort it takes."

    Albert Shanker, 1997

  • What Do You Know About Tribal Sovereignty?

    This guest blog, by National Board-Certified educator Julie Hutcheson-Downwind, walks readers through an understanding of the role and history of tribal sovereignty that should be common knowledge for all Americans. Additionally, Ms. Hutcheson-Downwind concludes with an example of what this can and should mean for our students. The Albert Shanker Institute, whose offices reside in the ancestral land of the Anacostans (also documented as Nacotchtank), and the neighboring Piscataway and Pamunkey peoples, is committed to strengthening our collective understanding of and respect for historic and contemporary tribal sovereignty.

  • Whose Knowledge Matters in Literacy Instruction?

    Our guest author today is Dr. Courtney Hattan. Dr. Hattan is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Literacy Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University.

    Knowledge is inarguably crucial for reading comprehension. What students know, including their academic knowledge and personal experiences, will influence what they understand and remember from texts. Therefore, recent efforts that call for building students’ knowledge base during elementary literacy instruction are important. Attention to knowledge-building enriches the conversation about reading science and helps bridge the research-to-practice gap. However, what’s missing from some of these conversations is a consideration of whose knowledge matters and what perspectives should be centered in the texts that students read.

    In 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop stated that students need to read texts that serve as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. Windows expose students to new ways of thinking and seeing the world, while the sliding glass doors provide opportunities for students to be immersed in those new worlds and perspectives. Mirrors allow students to see their language practices, histories, and values represented in the characters and experiences that are communicated through texts. Providing students with multiple perspectives allows them to consider various points of view, grapple with potentially conflicting information, and draw conclusions about what they believe to be true.  

    I would therefore encourage educators to consider whose knowledge is valued in school settings. Are students only exposed to books that are designed to maintain dominant authorities or power structures? Or are they also exposed to the voices of people who come from historically minoritized communities? These questions are especially important in light of a recent study by Rigell and colleagues, which found that one knowledge-building curriculum centers whiteness in its text selections and instructional supports. Given the value of providing all students with both windows and mirrors, educators would do well to interrogate the texts and curricula they put in front of students. This can help ensure that all students have opportunities to read texts that amplify the experiences, joy, and valued knowledge of people who come from historically minoritized communities. We can shift the canon of texts and ideas that are typically shared with students.

  • Creating an Innovation Ecosystem that Works for Working People

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute. In the ninth of these essays, guest authors Amanda Ballantyne et al explore how labor unions help workers navigate economic turmoil and play a crucial role in shaping sweeping societal and workplace technological changes.

    The digital transformation of the economy is disrupting workplaces, daily life and the social fabric. Workers face new challenges from advanced robotics, big data, artificial intelligence, and social media that exacerbate economic and racial inequality. Big business and Big Tech companies, supercharged by taxpayer-funded research, are imposing these changes on workers without their consent or input. This has minted a host of tech billionaires, but workers have not gotten a fair share of the economic benefits. Labor unions have long helped workers navigate economic turmoil and have a crucial role to play in shaping the technological changes that are sweeping society and the workplace.
    Read the full article.

  • Collective Bargaining and Digitalization: A Global Survey of Union Use of Collective Bargaining to Increase Worker Control over Digitalization

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute. In the eighth of these essays, guest authors Eckhard Voss and Daniel Bertossa discuss the future of collective bargaining in the face of increasing digitalization.

    In “Collective Bargaining and Digitalization: A Global Survey of Union Use of Collective Bargaining to Increase Worker Control over Digitalization,” WMP consultant Eckhard Voss and PSI expert Daniel Bertossa discuss what the future of collective bargaining looks like in the face of increasing levels of digitalization. Through an in-depth evaluation of seven key areas affected by digitalization, the authors discuss the deficits in collective bargaining, before approaching the herculean task of confronting them.

  • From Circletime to Civics: Involve our Youngest Learners in Civic Engagement

    Early childhood classrooms are a surprising yet ideal site for introducing meaningful civic engagement. Schools, particularly preschools, are often the first institutions where children must work alongside others, beyond the members of their families and their immediate circles. With the somewhat shocking change that entering a school environment brings, there is also the opportunity to introduce and practice good civic skills. Think about it, at the blocks center, children begin to develop their negotiating and compromising skills for a limited set of resources. At dramatic play, children navigate competing interests, advocate for themselves and their ideas, and navigate big emotions as they are experienced when they don't get their way. Do these skills sound like they should be applicable outside the classroom? I hope they do, because they are the foundational skills for engaging in civil discourse and participating in the democratic process. This is more than just voting on what to name the classroom pet fish—democracy, in its purest and most beautiful form, is woven deep within the seemingly mundane play interactions children engage in and teacher-supported instruction. Too often, we observe children developing these skills without giving the experience the acknowledgment it deserves: lived experiences that cultivate civic capabilities and a developmentally appropriate understanding of equity. These skills, and the acknowledgment of these skills, are more critical now than ever.

  • Reshaping the Digitization in Public Services

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the seventh of these essays.

    Digitalization is already a sweeping force throughout private and public spaces, and public services are on the forefront of this new frontier. Unfortunately, this has not been an easy process, with rights being violated and harm being caused. In “Reshaping the Digitization in Public Services,” Christina Colclough, founder of the Why Not Lab, discusses the measures needed to protect human rights and put in place safeguards to ensure digitization proceeds in a manner that benefits everyone.

  • National Civics Day: Civics in the Classroom

    Today is National Civics Day. For the last year the Albert Shanker Institute has been working with a team of accomplished educators to create high quality civics and democracy lessons, written with state standards in mind, to share with educators via our partnership with ShareMyLesson. While an unproductive debate about what to teach our students simmers across the country, these lessons serve as an example of how seriously teachers take their responsibility to create healthy teaching and learning environments and lessons where students are introduced to founding documents, like the US Constitution, and the honest history of our country in ways that foster critical thinking. Today we wrap up our 2022 Constitution Day blog series with one example of how these lessons are framed to give readers a glimpse of the work our educators do in their classrooms to meet the academic expectations of students. For more lessons and examples, please visit our Educating for Democratic Citizenship Community on ShareMyLesson.
    -- Editor

  • The Long Shadow of Racial Housing Discrimination

    Earlier this year, we published a report on the relationship between housing discrimination/segregation and school funding disparities. I would encourage you to check it out. But I’d like to discuss the substance of the report from a somewhat broader perspective.

    Our analysis, while it includes a lot of national results, consists largely of “case studies” of seven metro areas. In order to interpret and understand our results, we relied heavily on the work of scholars who had focused on those areas.1 And that included a great deal of specific history that one might not see in (otherwise excellent and very important) large scale segregation analyses. These histories illustrate how, in every metro area, the effort to keep white and non-white families living in different neighborhoods was a deliberate plan.

    Multiple institutions, public and private, all played a part. That means city governments, the federal government, courts, the real estate industry, the finance industry, and homeowner associations. And the plan adapted to changing circumstances. When segregative tools became obsolete or illegal, new tools were developed to keep building on past efforts. A few of these tools are still in use today.

  • The Future of Work in Education: Teachers’ Professional Commitment in a Changing World

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the sixth of these essays.

    Teacher shortages are an issue not just in the United States; across the planet, the issue is getting to the forefront of debate as the profession itself is under threat. In “Teachers’ Professional Commitment in a Changing World,” by Ee Ling Low et al. of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, this issue is confronted head on. The authors take great efforts to both identify the factors that drive teacher commitment, and to identify how these factors can be implemented to drive positive outcomes for teachers for the duration of their careers.

    Read the full article.
  • Jasmine’s Day: An AI Education Story

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the fifth of these essays.