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.
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.
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.
Strike for the Common Good Book Discussion with editor Rebecca Givans and Joe McCartin, Georgetown University. Monday, January 25, 2021, 5:00 pm ET.
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,” 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.
Dr. Susan Moore Johnson discussed her new book Where Teachers Thrive and its lessons for educators in a Covid-19 world.
Virtual book discussion of "Moving: A Memoir of Education and Social Mobility" with author Andy Hargreaves.
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.
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.
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.
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
Our guest author today is Mark Weber, a member of the research team for the School Finance Indicators Database project. He is also the Special Analyst for Education Policy at the New Jersey Policy Perspective, and a Lecturer at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.
It’s become an article of faith on the political right: teachers unions forced schools to go remote during the pandemic. But what if that’s not true? What if there’s actually more to the story?
In a new working paper, Bruce Baker and I consider another possibility: Schools that are inadequately funded were more likely to go remote in the 2020-2021 school year, the first full year after the pandemic hit. While we wouldn’t say that funding inadequacy was the sole cause of remote schooling, we do document a relationship between the two that calls into question the idea that unionization was the only or even primary reason for the loss of live schooling.
Teacher evaluation reform during the late 2000s and 2010s was one of the fastest and widespread education policy changes in recent history. Thanks mostly to Race to the Top and ESEA “waivers,” over a period of about 10 years, the vast majority of the nation’s school districts installed new teacher evaluations. These new systems were quite different from their predecessors in terms of design, with 3-5 (rather than dichotomous) rating categories incorporating multiple measures (including some based on student testing results). And, in many states, there were varying degrees of rewards and/or consequences tied to the ratings (Steinberg and Donaldson 2016).
A recent working paper offers what is to date the most sweeping assessment of the impact of teacher evaluation reform on student outcomes, with data from 44 states and D.C. As usual, I would encourage you to read the whole paper (here's an earlier ungated version released in late 2021). It is terrific work by a great team of researchers (Joshua Bleiberg, Eric Brunner, Erika Harbatkin, Matthew Kraft, and Matthew Springer), and I’m going to describe the findings only superficially. We’ll get into a little more detail below, but the long and short of it is that evaluation reform had no statistically detectable aggregate effect on student test scores or attainment (i.e., graduation or college enrollment).
This timely analysis, in combination with the research on evaluations over the past few years, provides an opportunity to look back on this enormous reform effort, and whether and how states and districts might move forward.
On March 28, 2023, Shanker Institute Board President Randi Weingarten delivered a major speech, In Defense of Public Education. Today, with permission, we reprint the speech as prepared.
I. THE PROMISE AND PURPOSE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION
Today, we once again grieve for families shattered by senseless gun violence. Please join me in a moment of silence for the lives lost at the Covenant School in Nashville, and for all victims of gun violence.
Today we renew our call for commonsense gun safety legislation including a ban on assault weapons. This is an epidemic that our great nation must solve.
There’s a saying: You don’t have to love everything about someone to love them. I’m sure my wife doesn’t love everything about me, but she loves me. (I, on the other hand, love everything about her.) Nothing is perfect. Banks aren’t. Congress isn’t. And neither are our public schools—not even our most well-resourced and highest-performing schools. Those of us involved in public schools work hard to strengthen them to be the best they can be. But only public schools have as their mission providing opportunity for all students. And by virtually any measure—conversations, polls, studies and elections—parents and the public overwhelmingly like public schools, value them, need them, support them—and countless Americans love them.
Public schools are more than physical structures. They are the manifestation of our civic values and ideals: The ideal that education is so important for individuals and for society that a free education must be available to all. That all young people should have opportunities to prepare for life, college, career and citizenship. That, in a pluralistic society such as the United States, people with different beliefs and backgrounds must learn to bridge differences. And that, as the founders believed, an educated citizenry is essential to protect our democracy from demagogues.
The attention to great women in history every March is both inspiring and motivating. Being reminded of the work of Frances Perkins, learning from the leadership of Delores Huerta, discovering another extraordinary fact about Harriet Tubman—all the opportunities to celebrate these women make March feel like it comes in and goes out with a roar.
As this Women’s History Month is coming to a close I have been reflecting much closer to home, by thinking about the incredible women I have had the opportunity to work alongside, or work for, in my career. From my first teaching job where I worked for an indomitable principal and alongside talented and dedicated colleagues, which set the tone for my entire career in education, to my current work where I work for and alongside another group of talented and dedicated individuals to strengthen public education, worker voice, and democracy.
Working alongside colleagues who share a mission to contribute to the common good feels like an opportunity to take women’s history off the page and live in the midst of the work to improve people’s lives that has been building up and out for generations. It has become a priority for me to learn what motivates the people I am privileged to work alongside and so, one day when we were launching a project to strengthen civics and democracy education, I asked my colleague, Burnie Bond, where her confidence in leading civics work comes from.
Burnie has been dedicated to the labor movement, public education, and democracy work for her entire career. She is a former staff assistant in the Office of AFT President Albert Shanker, where she served as coordinator of the AFT’s Education for Democracy Project, a program to promote a rigorous history and civics curriculum, and was formerly the director of research and publications for the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, where she worked on international trade and labor rights issues. She also served on the 1992 Clinton Transition Team at the United States Information Agency. So, when I asked her what story or experience was foundational to her commitment, I was expecting an anecdote from one of the powerful roles she had in her career.
The Shanker Institute turns 25 years old this month!
The Shanker Institute was formed in 1998 to honor the life and legacy of AFT President Al Shanker. 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.
From the beginning the Institute has brought together influential leaders and thinkers from business, labor, government, and education from across the political spectrum. ASI continues to sponsor research, promotes discussions, and seek new and workable approaches to the issues that shape the future of democracy, education, and unionism.
As a former classroom teacher, I can vividly remember my first interaction with an instructional coach. It was during my third year of teaching and the county assigned one coach to work with more than twenty teachers to help increase student engagement. The coach observed our classrooms once a semester and then led a one-hour group debriefing session. Needless to say, this particular instructional coach appeared over-extended, and it led to a somewhat negative perception of the whole process.
Five years later, I met and worked closely with a mathematics instructional coach in my graduate program. This coach worked with elementary teachers in a specific building and was one of the most dedicated educators I have ever encountered.
After two extremely different experiences, I started to ponder the effectiveness of the coaching practice, and it seems as if I am not alone in my inquiry.
Our guest author is Shari Obrenski, President of the Cleveland Teachers Union. She served as an American History and Government teacher at Jane Addams Business Careers Center in the Cleveland Municipal School District for 22 years prior to becoming President of the CTU.
Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” I think most of us aspire to be a source of light in what can be a difficult and dark world. Whether we are showing a small kindness, such as opening a door for a stranger, or doing something much larger, like giving food or shelter to someone in need, bringing light to darkness is something we are taught from a very early age.
We also struggle throughout the course of our lives to choose light over darkness, both individually and collectively. We have seen this age-old struggle surface once again, almost exactly a year ago when Russia invaded the Ukraine. This conflict has brought darkness, both physical and emotional, to the people of Ukraine as war is waged right outside their doors.
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.
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.
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?
Nationally-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