Democracy Web is a unique collection of online resources designed to help high school and college teachers illustrate key principles of democratic governance in a “compare and contrast” format that challenges students to think critically across cultural, historical and national contexts. The site’s key elements include country studies, an interactive map and a well-respected categorical rating system that offers an overview of the basic architecture of democracy and a framework for analysis.
March on Washington Lesson Plans
The year 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most historic moments in United States history – the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the march, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history.
The Institute worked to make a special contribution to this commemoration by publishing lesson plans and materials that K-12 teachers across the country can use in their classrooms to teach about this historic event.
Fulfilling The Promise Of a Quality Education for All: 21st Century Career & Technical Education
This New York City conference (co-sponsored with the UFT) was designed to allow participants to share their expertise in CTE policy, practice, and research, as well as to deepen their understanding of how quality CTE can serve to expand the educational and career horizons of all students.
The Teacher Insurgency: A Conversation with Leo Casey and Randi Weingarten
In The Teacher Insurgency, Leo Casey addresses how the unexpected wave of recent teacher strikes has had a dramatic impact on American public education, teacher unions, and the larger labor movement.
Saving Our Democracy
"Saving Our Democracy,” sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute with former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, and Suzanne Nossel and AFT President Randi Weingarten.
Where Teachers Thrive: Organizing Schools for Success - Lessons for Educators in a Covid-19 World
Dr. Susan Moore Johnson discussed her new book Where Teachers Thrive and its lessons for educators in a Covid-19 world.
Andy Hargreaves Book Discussion
Virtual book discussion of "Moving: A Memoir of Education and Social Mobility" with author Andy Hargreaves.
Safely Re-Opening America's Schools
The question of how schools can be reopened in ways that protect the health and safety of students, teachers and other adult staff is not only a challenging one, but one which is dynamic and changing.
Higher Education Funding: The Impact of Coronavirus
This webinar looked at how we arrived here and the possible alternatives to austerity, in which already damaged economies will be further hurt by collapsing public sectors.
Panel on Coronavirus Pandemic and K-12 Education Funding
In this newly released report, The Coronavirus Pandemic and K-12 Education Funding, we describe the effects of previous recessions, particularly the Great Recession, on K-12 education finance.
"Slaying Goliath" Discussion and Reception with Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten
In “Slaying Goliath…,” Diane Ravitch writes an impassioned, inspiring look at the ways in which parents, teachers, activists--citizens--are successfully fighting back to defeat the forces that are privatizing America's public schools.
2019 and 2020 Conversations
Artificial Intelligence in Education: Is There A Silver Lining in the Dystopian Storm Clouds?
Artificial Intelligence in Education: Is There A Silver Lining in the Dystopian Storm Clouds?
Who Will Stand Up for Public Education?
Our guest author is Karin Chenoweth the founder of Democracy and Education an organization dedicated to providing information and support to school board candidates who are standing up to the extremist threat.
With all the attention on federal and state campaigns in November 2022, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that right-wing extremists had set their sights on winning school board elections.
School board elections tend to be an afterthought among both voters and those most involved in electoral politics. Civic-minded community members running without party affiliation—sometimes without opposition—traditionally have made for rather staid elections. Voters walking determinedly into the polls fully informed about presidential and congressional races can be stopped in their tracks with the question, “Do you know who you’re voting for school board?” They often haven’t thought about it.
And yet, with more than 88,000 school board members in more than 13,000 school districts, there are more elected school board members than any other category of elected official. Often intimately involved in their communities while working many hours for little or no pay, school board members are in many ways the face of small-d democracy in their communities.
Is ESSER Money Being Spent or Not?
Our guest author today is Jess Gartner, CEO and Founder of Allovue, an education finance technology company.
As part of a series of federal pandemic-relief stimulus packages, K-12 schools received three rounds of funds through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I, II, and III), totaling nearly $200 billion. Almost immediately, headlines across the nation probed how (or if) schools were spending these dollars. Nearly three years after the initial round of funding ($13 billion) was granted by the CARES Act in March 2020, questions linger about the pace and necessity of spending. Why is it so hard to get a straight answer?
For two years, the prevailing theme in the headlines had been that school districts were sitting on stacks of cash, whereas more recent (and far less breathless) stories say the money is now on track to be spent. Why all the confusion? The complex multi-year process of receiving, planning, spending, and reporting ESSER dollars is more complicated and drawn out than a single soundbyte can convey (I’ve tried!). Let’s take a quick look at a few key issues to bear in mind when thinking (or reading) about ESSER funds, and then a couple of conclusions as to what’s really going on.
School Vouchers: There Is No Upside
Our guest author today is Josh Cowen, Professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University.
What if I told you there is a policy idea in education that, when implemented to its full extent, caused some of the largest academic drops ever measured in the research record?
What if I told you that 40 percent of schools funded under that policy closed their doors afterward, and that kids in those schools fled them at about a rate of 20 percent per year?
What if I told you that some the largest financial backers of that idea also put their money behind election denial and voter suppression—groups still claiming Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Would you believe what those groups told you about their ideas for improving schools?
What if I told you that idea exists, that it’s called school vouchers, and despite all of the evidence against it the idea persists and is even expanding?
Country, Family, Schoolmates, and Gender Affect Reading Test Scores
Our guest author is Professor Ming Ming Chiu, Chair Professor of Analytics and Diversity, Special Education and Counseling Department and Director, Analytics\Assessment Research Centre, Education University of Hong Kong
A child's reading skills depends not only on her motivation, ability, and reading instruction, but also on her context—her country, family, schoolmates, and their interactions with her gender, according to large-scale international studies of over a million students in 63 countries across two decades using advanced statistics (including multilevel analysis of plausible values). Children with greater motivation to read than others, spend more time learning to read and do more reading, so they typically have stronger reading skills. Also, children with greater intelligence (IQ) learn to read more readily. Although some children learn to read on their own, most children receive direct reading instruction at home or at school (especially that each letter corresponds to a sound in languages with alphabets like English [alphabetic principle]) while constructing integrated meaning from the sequences of words.
Furthermore, the environment around a child also affects her reading skills, including her country's income, income inequality, and cultural values; her family's money, education, cultural knowledge, and social networks; her schoolmates' information sharing, evaluations, motivations, and norms; and their interactions with gender, such as favoritism, learning opportunities, and social interactions.
Towards the end of the summer of 2022, citing a recently-published article, Chester Finn wondered whether we have seen the end or a new beginning for standards-based reform. The theorized mechanism behind standards-based reform is that alignment across three key areas: academic standards, curriculum, and student assessments will drive student achievement. A hallmark of the accountability policy era, standards-based reform links assessment and materials, while paying less attention to the role of leadership to frame and implement the adoption of standards and curricular materials, the role of curriculum in organizing and sequencing instruction, or the role of professional development in ensuring access to information and support for enacting standards-based instruction. Many standards-based reforms presuppose that schools are equally primed for change and that change will be meaningful if accomplished. The gains from 30 years of implementing standards-based reforms have been lackluster. Many wonder whether standards-based reform is not only a failed experiment, but one we could have predicted would fail.
Happy Holidays from the Shanker Institute
We have enjoyed working alongside you again this year, providing you with insightful commentary on critical topics of the day, including pressing public education, labor movement, and democracy issues. To provide time for our colleagues to step away from work, rest, and recharge, the Albert Shanker Institute will be pausing new blog entries until January 2023. We look forward to working with you to make progress in 2023.
If you can, we encourage you to support AFT’s effort to provide generators to Ukrainian schools and community centers. Use this link: https://www.aft.org/aft-disaster-relief-fund and choose “Ukraine” in the dropdown menu
Also, in keeping with our goal to give back this holiday season, our gift to you is to highlight a few adoptable pets from one of the nonprofits our staff members support. This year particularly, shelters and rescues are reaching capacity with record breaking numbers of adoptable pets. Here are a few of the beautiful cats available for adoption from the Montgomery County Partners for Animal Well-being (MCPAW). (See all MCPAW's adoptable cats and MCPAW's adoption application.)
Heartwarming or Heartbreaking: Reflections on Abbott Elementary and Our Underfunded Schools
It took me about eight minutes into the pilot of Abbott Elementary, before I let out a sigh. For those who have not seen it, Abbott Elementary is a “mockumentary” that follows a group of passionate educators, all with vastly different experience levels, coming together to teach at an elementary school in Philadelphia. My sigh was coming from a place of relief—finally, someone had captured the duality of how heartwarming and heartbreaking being a teacher could be. The frustration, the tension, the passion, and the warmth was all there, neatly wrapped in about 22 minutes per episode. Now, Abbott Elementary is being nominated (and winning!) award after award, but to many former and current teachers, it is so much more than that. Personally, the show feels like my chance to explain what I did—to explain why I loved what I did but also to explain why ultimately, I had to leave the teaching field.
Some scenes felt so close to my own experiences, I wondered if the creator and star of the show, Quinta Brunson, had quietly but closely been watching my teaching journey. She had to have been there; she captured my experience too well to have not been with me through the astronomical highs and the gut-wrenching lows. From the anticipation and optimism of the first day, to my first moment of true clarity and understanding after a difficult yet urgent meeting with a parent, to the moments of connection with students. It is clear that despite having never taught, Brunson understood and continues to understand, the sheer joy that comes from being a teacher. But she also captured the disappointment, the feelings of failure, and the never-ending frustration of having to navigate problems that you did not create—all on top of the fact that when you finally get to go home, you live the lifestyle that comes with low pay and low respect. After watching and reflecting, I realized that perhaps my experience as a burnt-out teacher in an underfunded school was not as unique as I thought it was.
Teaching Kids What It Means To Be An American
Richard D. Kahlenberg is a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, where he is working on a project to strengthen American identity through public education. He is the author or editor of 17 books, including Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race and Democracy, and a Shanker Institute board member.
Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, many of us shared our gratitude for the results of the recent election, setting aside partisan considerations, because the outcome provided strong evidence that large numbers of American voters care deeply about the health of our democracy.
While the pundits warned that people were focused only on economic issues (which are important, to be sure), it turned out that “preserving democracy” was a salient theme for many Americans as well.
Candidates who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election – a falsehood that was used by rioters on January 6 to try to disrupt the peaceful transition of power – lost in large numbers. The defeats by election deniers were particularly notable in high-profile elections in the Great Lakes states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
In Memoriam: Michael Maccoby
It is with sadness that the Albert Shanker Institute acknowledges the passing of longtime board member, Michael Maccoby. He was 89. Michael was a talented expert on leadership, an accomplished author, and sought-after consultant and advisor. On the Shanker Institute Board of Directors, Michael was a leader and thoughtful contributor. We will miss him.
In a January 2018 blog post for the Shanker Institute, “For a More Just and Prosperous America,” Mr. Maccoby closed, “We need leaders who transform fear into productive activity, bring us closer together, and spark hope by working to implement a vision of a more just and prosperous America.” The Albert Shanker Institute remains grateful that Michael Maccoby devoted his life to studying, elevating, and being that kind of leader.
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.
The Uses and Misues of Value-Added in Teacher Evaluations: Three PerspectivesNationally-recognized experts, Linda Darling Hammond, Douglas Harris and Thomas Kane will present and discuss concrete proposals for how to incorporate test-based performance measures into new teacher evaluations