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

  • A Conversation with Charles Blow and Randi Weingarten

    Join us for our May AFT Book Club session featuring AFT President Randi Weingarten and renowned author Charles M. Blow, discussing Blow's memoir Fire Shut Up In My Bones. Engage with Weingarten and Blow as they explore the multifaceted themes reflecting on the complexities of identity, trauma and resilience within the backdrop of a segregated Louisiana town. Blow's ability to weave his personal narrative with broader social critiques makes the memoir a compelling read for anyone interested in the intersections of personal experience and public advocacy.

  • AFT Book Club: Conversation with Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Randi Weingarten

    This groundbreaking new book club series is brought to you by the AFT, Share My Lesson and the Albert Shanker Institute. Tune in each month for an evening of inspiration, intellect and innovation—where the power of words takes center stage! Each month you will hear a fusion of words and wisdom as influential authors, scholars and activists engage in a riveting dialogue that promises to ignite your passion for literature and social change. 

  • PASSION MEETS PURPOSE: Promising Pathways Through Experiential Learning

    The Albert Shanker Institute, the AFT, and the Center for American Progress held a pioneering conference on experiential learning: PASSION MEETS PURPOSE: Promising Pathways Through Experiential Learning. The conference showcased the dynamic realm of experiential, hands-on learning, where students engage in immersive educational experiences that foster curiosity, exploration, inquiry, and profound comprehension. This conference highlighted various facets of experiential learning, ranging from career and technical education (CTE) to the arts, music, and action civics. Through student-centered approaches, participants delved into how experiential learning cultivates deeper understanding and equips students with the skills necessary for promising careers across diverse fields.
  • Reading Reform Across America Webinar

    Join this webinar on Sept. 19 at 6:30 PM ET with Share My Lesson and the Albert Shanker Institute to learn how to implement the latest reading reform goals to deepen literacy support.
  • The Intersection of Democracy and Public Education

    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.

  • Teaching About Tribal Sovereignty

    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.

  • Constitutional Voting Rights: Teaching the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments

    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.
  • Educating for Democratic Citizenship Conference

    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.

  • Segregation and School Funding: How Housing Discrimination Reproduces Unequal Opportunity

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • Loc-ing students out: Darryl George, the CROWN Act, and the Need to Combat Racial Discrimination in the Classroom

    Our guest author is Jasmine Payne-Patterson, a Senior State Policy Coordinator for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) at the Economic Policy Institute.

    For some students and workers, hair is a trivial wardrobe decision, while for many Black and Brown people, their hairstyle can be a consequential element of class participation and a job offer. School dress codes and “business appropriate” dress often put high stakes and severe restrictions on how Black and Brown people can express their culture and identity through their hair.

    Over the last several years, lawmakers in 24 states have sought to combat this problem by passing the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” (CROWN) Act. The CROWN Act is a law that protects against discrimination based on hairstyle and texture in schools, workplaces, and beyond by extending the definition of racial expression to include wearing braids, locs, twists, and other culturally significant hair styles.

    Yet the recent court case of Texas high school junior Darryl George reveals that even in states that have adopted versions of the CROWN Act, as Texas has, Black and Brown people can still face educational and career disadvantages for their hairstyles when discriminatory systems—in this case a school dress code—are validated by judicial interpretation that ignores the intent of the law.

  • From the Classroom to the Capitol: Teachers Can Make A Difference

    Our guest authors José Luis Vilson and Dan Kliber are accomplished National Board Certified Teachers and activists.

    The battle over the federal budget has dire consequences for schools across the country, particularly for those most in need of funding. Recently, some federal legislators have proposed extremely draconian cuts. The last education funding proposal from the U.S. House of Representatives would have slashed federal support for education by 30%, including an 80% reduction to Title I, which supports low-income schools. Had this proposal passed, public education as we know it could have been completely dismantled, putting over 200K teachers out of a job.

  • School District Fragmentation, Segregation, and Funding Equity in New Jersey

    District fragmentation is a very important but sometimes overlooked factor shaping school segregation, school funding equity, and the relationship between them. Put simply, fragmentation refers to the fact that, in some states, there are hundreds of small districts, while other states are divided into a smaller number of large districts. For example, at the extremes, there are 67 (countywide) districts serving Florida’s 3 million public school students, whereas New Jersey maintains around 600 districts for its 1.3 million students. 

  • How the Fairness of State Tax Codes Affects Public Education

    Our guest author is Carl Davis, Research Director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. He was the project lead on the newest edition of ITEP’s Who Pays? report, which provides the only comprehensive measure of the progressivity, or regressivity, of state tax systems.

    The vast majority of state and local tax systems are regressive, or upside-down, with the wealthy paying a far lower share of their income in taxes than low-and middle-income families. That is the topline finding of the latest edition of our flagship Who Pays? report, which measures the impact that state tax systems are having on families at every income level. Its findings go a long way toward explaining why so many states are failing to raise the amount of revenue needed to provide full and robust support for our public schools.

    As we explain in the report, states with more progressive tax systems also raise more revenue on average. States with regressive tax codes, on the other hand, typically raise less. The reason for this is simple. High-income families receive a huge share of overall income, so when states choose to tax that huge amount of income at lower rates than what everyone else pays, they’re inevitably going to struggle to raise adequate revenue overall.

  • Celebrate Family Engagement All Year Round

    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.