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
Classroom projects such as learning about global cultural perspectives as a way to build compassion, planning a community garden to promote healthy eating, combating bullying, learning American Sign Language and building a health and wellness library are some of the 15 winning projects in the Citizen Power Challenge. The challenge, funded by the Aspen Institute’s Pluribus Project, is sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the Albert Shanker Institute and First Book. More information and list of winners.
List of the 2016-2017 Conversations. Please note that due to the election, the first Conversation will be held the third Wednesday in November. There will be no December Conversation. The Conversations will resume in January, February, March, April and May.
Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Insitute and the American Federation of Teachers, this monthly conversation series is designed to engender lively and informative discussions on important educational issues. We invite speakers with diverse perspectives, including views other than those of the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers. What is important is that these participants are committed to genuine engagement with each other. Watch the past conversations and register for upcoming conversations.
A research project documenting the characteristics and assignment of students who enter New York City's high school choice process for the first time.
The highest rate of vocabulary development (and corresponding acquisition of background knowledge) occurs during the preschool years. This makes preschool a crucial time for effective, content-rich instruction. Accordingly, the Institute has developed a series of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned modules, which are designed to strengthen the ability of early childhood educators to impart rich, academic content in fun, developmentally appropriate ways. The modules cover the academic domains of oral language development, early literacy, early science, and early mathematics.
This conference, sponsored by the New York Citywide CTE Advisory Council, the United Federation of Teachers, and the NYC Department of Education, with support from the CTE Technical Assistance Center of New York State, the American Federation of Teachers, the Albert Shanker Institute, and the Association for Career and Technical Education. was a special addition to the annual professional development day for New York City CTE teachers.
The Social Side is a lens that brings insight into a critical oversight in educational reform and its policies: Teaching and learning are not solo accomplishments but social endeavors -- they are best achieved, through trusting relationships and teamwork, instead of competition and individual prowess.
The University of Wisconsin and the Albert Shanker Institute are jointly developing the Educator Day Reconstruction Method, which provides a new and flexible way of measuring teachers' work and the broader context where it unfolds. The Educator DRM can be adapted to meet a district's information needs and can be used to complement existing data sources. We view this customization process as something to be accomplished collaboratively, with districts and stakeholders.
This seminar series is part of an effort to build a network of union leaders, district superintendents, and researchers to work collaboratively on improving public education through a focus on teaching. It emerges from the Albert Shanker Institute’s role as sponsor of provocative discussions about education and public policy reform.
Call It What You Will-- Experiential Learning, Project-Based Learning, Hands-On Learning, Learning-By-Doing--It Works!
Join us for a day-long conference in Washington, D.C. to unite around the teaching and learning experiences that engage students in our community for meaningful learning.
Details coming soon!
The Shanker Institute and Education International are both celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2023. Both organizations share a common origin, Albert Shanker cofounded EI and was the inspiration for the ASI. To recognize the common origin and priorities of each organization, strengthening public education and committed to democracy, this Panel Discussion & Anniversary Celebration of the Albert Shanker Institute (25 Years) and Education International (30 Years) was held ahead of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession to take advantage of both organizations’ leaders being in Washington, DC at the same time.
This session is part of the series: A More United America: Teaching Democratic Principles and Protected Freedoms.
Available for 1.5-hour of PD credit. A certificate of completion will be available for download at the end of your session that you can submit for your school's or district's approval. Watch on Demand.
The Shanker Institute, the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University and Share My Lesson held a virtual three-day conference on Educating for Democratic Citizenship. Participants will be eligible for professional development recertification credit for these on-demand webinars.
Watch the discussion about the historical and contemporary relationship between racial segregation and K-12 school funding based on the Institute's new report.
Countering Misinformation in the Classroom: A Media Literacy Discussion with Randi Weingarten and NewsGuard
In this Q & A style session, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Steven Brill discussed the misinformation trends NewsGuard’s analysts are encountering in the field, and the tactics educators can employ in their classrooms to counter these trends.
Watch a discussion highlighting the importance of a reading infrastructure to create the conditions for effective, science-based reading instruction.
Conversation with Stan Litow, author of Breaking Barriers, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Our guest author is Sarah Johnson, a practicing public school educator in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has taught in elementary classrooms, coached new teachers as a Peer Assistance and Review consulting teacher, served as an Academic Content Coach, led professional development on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and helped launch the Parent Teacher Home Visit project in Saint Paul Public Schools.
It’s October. For some that means apple orchards, leaf viewing, and pumpkin spice. For educators, it also brings Parent Teacher conferences . . and a dread of all the candy and unbridled enthusiasm for that last day of the month, but that’s a different blog. Over the years I’ve seen educators approach conferences with a variety of perspectives and approaches: some excited to update families on the new learning, some worried about how families might respond to a concern, and some exhausted from the preparation and longs days. Thankfully, it’s quite rare that some take Ted Lasso’s view, shared when he met Rebecca’s mom, “Boy, I love meeting people’s moms. It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.”
During my 29 years as an educator in various roles in Saint Paul Public Schools, the approach I have learned is that meaningful family partnerships* are integral to student success. Cory Jones, one of the founding teachers of Parent Teacher Home Visits explains it like this, “With a great curriculum, with a great teacher, if you leave out the home the results for that individual student will be lower.” He’s right, families and schools need to be on the same team. This October, I’d like to encourage educators to take this parent-teacher season and challenge themselves to create opportunities for meaningful family engagement year-round. If you’re an educator leading a system instead of leading a classroom, then I challenge you to find ways of supporting and structuring these opportunities year-round as well.
Our guest author is Jeanne Jeup, co-founder and CEO of the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education and a former first-grade teacher.
Change starts at the top with legislation, a constant force shaping how teachers teach and students learn. Navigating the intricate path from the inception of legislation to its effective implementation within classrooms is a multifaceted and demanding endeavor. By nurturing collaboration among educators, administrators, and policymakers, a trickle-down effect is created that can successfully bridge the immense gap between policy and practice. The majority of states that enacted reading legislation in the past four years recognize the role of science and evidence in reading reform.
The legislative landscape in reading education is complex and multifaceted. Due to the combined efforts of educators, parents, and state leaders, there has been a movement toward science-based reading instruction. This push brought about an onslaught of legislation to address the persistent reading deficits of all American students, namely those living in poverty and those from black, brown, and indigenous communities who are disproportionately affected.
The journey of reading education legislation begins with policymakers and educational experts collaborating to draft bills and set expectations. Well-intentioned from the start, the challenge lies in ensuring that these laws, once passed, are effectively communicated and implemented throughout the education system at large. As these policies filter down through the layers of the education system, from the state level to the district level and finally to the classroom, interpretation and implementation can vary significantly. Without an educator on the local classroom level who can communicate and take ownership of the changes, legislation becomes just words on a page without being put into practice. This leads to a disconnect between the intent of the legislation and its real-world application through clear and actionable implementation solutions.
On National Voter Registration Day, our special guest author is Rhode Island Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore.
Preparing our next generation of civic leaders, engaged voters, and informed citizens starts in the classroom. In Rhode Island, young people are eligible to pre-register to vote as early as age sixteen. We know that when voters are engaged early, they’re more likely to vote consistently throughout their life. As a former educator, I feel it is essential that we lay the foundation to support students and young people, encouraging them to become civically engaged – as voters, advocates, community members, and even elected officials themselves. As we recognize National Voter Registration Month, we must think about how we set our next generation of voters up for success, including inspiring and encouraging them to register to vote.
I was sworn in on January 3, 2023 as Rhode Island’s thirtieth Secretary of State, but my election as Secretary of State wasn’t my first step into politics. I first ran for elected office in 2012, serving the residents of my hometown of East Providence, Rhode Island as a State Representative for a decade. My role as a part-time legislator, coupled with my career as a civics and history teacher, afforded me the opportunity to advocate for my students both inside and outside of the school environment.
Perhaps one of my proudest moments as a Representative was the passage of the Civic Literacy Act, a bill I sponsored that emphasizes “action civics,” requiring students to demonstrate proficiency in civics education through a project-based, immersive curriculum before high school graduation. Another bill I was proud to sponsor that recently became law in Rhode Island allows 17-year-olds who will turn eighteen by a general election to vote in the primary that determines the general election’s candidates. Better civic education as well as increased access to the ballot box are key to encouraging young people to become lifelong voters.
My classroom and legislative experiences made clear to me what was needed in order to ensure that students have the tools they need to succeed as citizens and participants in civic life. There’s no doubt that the policy-making and legislative process can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never been invited to be part of the process before. As a teacher, I encouraged my students to take the concepts and lessons we learned in the classroom and apply them to the real world. In one of my last years in the House of Representatives, my East Providence High School students researched, discussed, and debated an issue of importance to them, compensation for individuals who had been wrongfully convicted, eventually helping to inform a bill that I was able to co-sponsor. That bill was signed into law by the governor – a great outcome. But another positive outcome was that my students got to see that the State House wasn’t only for legislators, and they could truly make a difference by being civically engaged.
On International Literacy Day, we publish a guest post by educator, researcher, and author Callie Lowenstein who shares her incredible perspective of the in-depth thinking teachers offer to their practice and how sincerely teachers want to meet the needs of students.
One thing about teachers: we want to get our instruction right.
After decades of mixed messages and misinformation in our professional development (PD), teacher training programs, and curricular materials, many classroom educators are eager to get on top of the science, to ensure that our efforts and hours, our lesson planning and detailed feedback and materials prep and book purchases and deep care for our students, are not being wasted.
Indeed, after a major balanced-literacy leader published an unapologetic deflection of the science of reading movement last year, a group of teachers from across the country wrote our own open letter, collecting over 650 teacher signatures in a matter of days, attesting to the ways we, teachers, wished we had done better by our students.
As authors Susan B. Neuman, Esther Quintero, and Kayla Reist so expertly and carefully highlighted in the Shanker Institute’s Reading Reform Across America report, it’s not just us.
As director of the Albert Shanker Institute, the think tank endowed by the American Federation of Teachers, I had the privilege of leading the development and release of the ASI’s new report released in late July, Reading Reform Across America. It’s a survey of reading legislation adopted over the course of four years by states across the country, with good and bad news. The report was met with immediate interest, and attention.
To the good, states are finally noting that the research underlying strong reading instruction is not typically matched by the curriculum and instruction in most schools, and they are taking legislative action. Also, despite fears that much of the legislation might only call narrowly for phonics, most states called for the full range of instruction noted as essential in the renowned 2000 National Reading Panel report.
On the downside, the legislation is generally too narrow. In almost every state, there is scant attention to the importance of background knowledge, oral language, and even writing, now understood to be vital to strong reading comprehension and overall literacy.
We recently released a report examining reading laws enacted by states in the past four years. One finding that has generated interest is the fact that these laws pay almost no attention to the role of background/content knowledge in reading. Specifically, 6 out of 46 states that passed reading legislation between 2019 and 2022 mention background/content knowledge in their laws; of these, only 4—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—include a more substantive (if brief) mention.
Florida’s law, for example, requires the state’s department of education to “develop and provide access to sequenced, content-rich curriculum programming, instructional practices, and resources that help elementary schools use state-adopted instructional materials to increase students' background knowledge and literacy skills.” But language like this is almost non-existent in the corpus of over 220 reading bills we examined. Why does this omission matter?
There's widespread agreement within the reading community regarding the association between knowledge and reading comprehension: the more you know, the more you understand when you read, and the more you gain from reading. Furthermore, there's a growing body of evidence (also here and here) suggesting that this association is causal. Thus, building knowledge, particularly through a content-rich curriculum, is expected to enhance general reading comprehension. While this is a encouraging finding, shouldn't we value knowledge for its own inherent worth? Beyond its essential role in comprehension, why else might knowledge matter?
Over the past year, the Albert Shanker Institute has been examining four years worth of literacy legislation — stay tuned for our report, which will be released soon. In discussing our findings with colleagues and friends, we often find ourselves starting from scratch, filling gaps, and debunking misconceptions. This post aims to address one question we frequently encounter.
What is the science of reading?
While organizations such as the Reading League have put out useful materials about what the science of reading is, we aim to keep it simple here. Essentially, the science of reading is synonymous with academic research on reading. It refers to the vast body of knowledge that scholars have accumulated over decades about how people learn to read. Thus, the phrase is a shorthand for work of hundreds of scholars in countless studies. This body of knowledge includes things that are known with certainty, those that we are just beginning to understand, and everything in between. Like any scientific field, reading science is dynamic and evolving. It is not settled.
Our guest author is Wilfred Chirinos, an associate on the Policy and Advocacy Team at Generation Citizen.
In the recent past, commentators such as David Leonhardt in his New York Times article ‘A Crisis Coming’: The Twin Threats to American Democracy," have spoken to some of the greatest threats against our democracy at this moment, including the heightened sense of partisanship with calls for a “national divorce”1; the ilk of authoritarianism on the edges of the ideological spectrum, and amplified through the coverage of our political discourse; and the rapid development of social media and AI technology in what some have labeled a “post-truth” era.2 These concerns are rightfully identified as looming threats to democracy. Taken together, they suggest that we stand at a pivotal moment in American history. While some contend that these issues are intractable, reports collected by the Center for American Progress and my experience within civics education suggest that revitalizing our democracy can begin with civic learning in our classrooms.
As said by AFT President Randi Weingarten, “Experiential learning engages students through problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork, and learning by doing. We need to help kids engage with the world, with ideas, and with each other….”3 Through experiential learning, we can encourage students to engage creatively in their education to develop life-long skills. Experiential learning catalyzes their journey of becoming engaged citizens with the tools to interact meaningfully with the world around them.
At Generation Citizen, students are provided with an experiential learning opportunity through our action civics programs. Students are taught to engage with their community by identifying relevant problems, researching issues that they select, and presenting evidence-based policy solutions to stakeholders and decision-makers. The goal of this process is to instill a spirit of civic duty and engagement while enhancing their practical civic knowledge. Students learn about the history and structure of their local governments while connecting with these institutions, which often feel far removed. As they engage these institutions, they themselves are changed in the process and can influence the public policy process in significant ways, that reverberate far beyond the classroom.
Most discussions of school funding focus on “how much.” There is a good reason for this: the end goal of any finance system is for all school districts to have enough to meet their students’ needs. Yet achieving this goal is as much about how money is allocated as it is about how much is raised (or spent) overall.
On average, about 45 percent of all K-12 revenue comes from state sources (e.g., sales and income tax), about 45 percent comes from local sources (mostly property tax), and the remaining 10 or so percent is federal aid. Yet these three revenue “streams” are typically handed out to districts in very different ways, and states vary widely in terms of their state/local “splits.” As a result, two states serving similar student populations might spend the same amount per pupil but exhibit vastly different adequacy and equity outcomes depending on the source of those funds and how they are allocated.
In a couple of recent Shanker Institute reports (here and here), we’ve been looking into this “revenue side” of the school finance equation, with a focus on finding better ways to collect and distribute all three sources of K-12 revenue (federal, state, and local), without necessarily increasing the overall amount of funding.
Our guest author is Erin E.H. Austin, a National Board Certified French teacher in Fort Collins, CO, and the 2023 CCFLT Teacher of the Year. She is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Original World Language Resources and Going Global in the World Language Classroom (Routledge, forthcoming). Follow her on Twitter @Erin-EH-Austin.
“We as a country have minimized the teaching profession so much that we are okay with teachers needing a second job to survive. I am not okay with it, our teachers deserve better and at @usedgov we are working to make better happen.”
The quote above is from an April 6, 2023, tweet by U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. Similar tweets, media statements, and advocacy have been ramping up for months, spanning the Department of Education, Secretary Cardona, and other education-invested adults around the country. Teachers are no exception to this advocacy work, though for many teachers, it has, indeed, been a life-long pursuit falling largely on deaf ears.
Statistics that support the need for increased teacher pay abound. The National Education Association reported in 2019 that almost one in five teachers holds a second job at some point during the year, though the percentage of teachers who do have a second job is often dependent on age. Typically, the younger/newer the teacher, the more likely they are to have a second job. EdWeek reported similar numbers in 2022. The Teacher Salary Project surveyed 1,200 teachers in 2021 and found that 82% of the teachers surveyed held a second job either at the time of the survey or in previously during their teaching career.
This short presentation explains some shortcomings of mainstream education reform and offers an alternative framework to advance educational progress.
The Emergence of the "Precariat": What Does the Loss of Stable, Well-Compensated Employment Mean for Education?The emergence of the global knowledge economy has revolutionized the nature of work in America – for the worse. Unionized, well-paying private sector jobs that were once a ladder to the middle class have been decimated.
The vocabulary gap between rich and poor children develops very early and it is about more than just words. In fact, words are the tip of the iceberg. So what lies underneath? Find out by watching this three-minute video.
This panel will examine the terrain of teacher compensation from a number of different perspectives, offering their recommendations on what a good compensation
If a master designer had created American education as we know it, he would have to be a Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the poor and giving to the rich. American students with all of the advantages of wealth are disproportionately taught by the best prepared, most experienced and most accomplished teachers, while students living in poverty with the greatest educational needs are disproportionately taught by novice teachers who were poorly prepared and who receive inadequate support.
Twelve years after the passage of No Child Left Behind and five years into Race to the Top, America finds itself in a ‘test and punish’ system of school accountability that poorly serves the nation and its students.
The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners; it is no exaggeration to call our national approach to criminal justice “mass incarceration.” And our prison cells are disproportionately filled with poor men of color, especially African-American men. Mass incarceration is one of the paramount civil rights and economic justice issues of our day.
Given states’ difficulties in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) thoughtfully, many early childhood educators have begun to worry about what the NAEYC refers to as “a downward pressure of increased academic focus and more narrowed instructional approaches.” But, as the NAEYC’s statement on the CCSS also observed, that “threat also provides an opportunity” for early education to exert more positive, “upward pressure” on the K–12 system.
The conversation focused on federal and state policy on student assessment, with an eye to identifying policies that would promote best assessment practices.
One of the primary purposes of public education is to foster an engaged and well-educated citizenry: For a democracy to function, the "people" who rule must be prepared to take on the duties and the rights of citizens.