K-12 Education

  • The Evidence on the "Florida Formula" for Education Reform

    A review of the high quality evidence on the "Florida Formula for education success," a package of policies put in place during the late 1990s and 2000s, which focus generally on test-based accountability, competition, and choice.

  • Video: Let's Talk

    This 5-minute video, a part of the Institute’s Let’s Talk initiative, explains how children’s knowledge and language develop in tandem, forming the foundation for all subsequent learning, and what parents and caregivers can do to help.

  • Let’s Talk Foundations: Oral Language Development I

    Oral language—listening and talking—is the primary means by which young children learn about and interact with the world. This training module for early childhood educators offers simple but powerful ideas to support young children build the skills, knowledge, vocabulary, and attitudes that can help prepare them for future academic learning across the content areas. Here, we offer excerpted materials for a workshop on supporting English language learners.

  • Let's Talk PD: Early Literacy Development

    This module for early childhood educators presents an overview of research on the foundations for literacy and how they may be enhanced in early childhood, including applied information to help guide instructional improvement. The materials are designed to be presented as an intensive one-day seminar or can be broken into separate workshops covering the areas of print and book awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge and early word recognition, and written expression and curriculum integration. This excerpt includes materials for a professional development workshop on phonological awareness.

  • Social Side of Education Resources

    Relationships, trust, collaboration and social capital are key to educational improvement. Learn more about the social side perspective through these resources.

  • Let’s Talk PD: Early Mathematics Development

    This training module for early childhood educators provides an overview of the research and standards on age-appropriate mathematics development, including practical takeaway materials to help assist in instructional. The most important early childhood mathematical foundations are addressed, including numerical sense and problem solving, building math vocabulary, using math manipulatives, and curriculum integration. The materials may be presented as a very intensive one-day session or broken into separate workshops. This excerpt contains materials for a workshop on curriculum integration.

  • Let’s Talk PD: Early Science Development

    This module for early childhood educators provides research-based information on early science development in the three key areas of physical science, life science, and earth science, along with applied information for improving instruction in each area. These materials can be implemented as an intensive, day-long professional development seminar or broken up into a series of workshops. This excerpt contains materials for a workshop on life science.

  • The Albert Shanker Institute Research Grant Program

    The Shanker Institute awards small seed grants to emerging scholars doing promising work in our focus areas of education, labor and international democracy.

  • How Relationships Matter In Educational Improvement

    This short video explains some shortcomings of mainstream education reform and offers an alternative framework to advance educational progress. Educational improvement is as much about the capacities of individuals as it is about their relationships and the broader social context.

  • Resources on Testing and School Accountability

    Standardized tests play a dominant role in school accountability systems in the U.S. These resources focus on how testing data can be used and interpreted in an accountability context.

  • At the Intersection of the Future of Work and Education

    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 fourth of these essays.

    In his article “At the Intersection of the Future of Work and Education,” David Edwards argues that what is truly needed is strong public education. The operation of school systems during the pandemic deepened long-standing problems of financing, segregation, inequality, and discrimination inside and between countries. Distance learning was a quantum leap in the use of artificial intelligence and other technology, depriving learners of social relationships. By consulting teachers and teachers unions on educational policy, the well-known problems of the education system can be combated, and triumphed against.

    Read the full article.

  • How Much Has Education Spending Increased Over Time?

    Our guest author today is Mark Weber, Special Analyst for Education Policy at the New Jersey Policy Perspective and a lecturer in education policy at Rutgers University.

    The issue of how much the U.S. spends on K-12 public schools rightfully receives a lot of attention. More often than not, these discussions rely on simple data, such as average per-pupil spending over time across the entire nation. I would argue that the variation in spending, both within and between states, is so enormous as to render national comparisons potentially misleading, and also that the more consequential question is not just how much states and districts spend, but whether their spending levels are commensurate with their costs.

    That said, overall spending trends are clearly important, and so let’s take a quick look at how much K-12 spending has increased in the U.S. over the past 25-30 years, using data from the School Finance Indicators Database (SFID). The SFID is an important resource for those who study and write about school finance, and so our brief examination of the spending trend also provides an opportunity for transparency: the stakeholders, policymakers, and journalists who rely on our work should know more about how we collect and prepare the data we use. “How much does the U.S. spend on schools?” may seem like a simple question, but proper measurement tends to complicate things.

  • Smart Education Technology: How It Might Transform Teaching (and Learning)

    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 third of these essays.

    In “Smart Education Technology: How It Might Transform Teaching (and Learning),” Stephan Vincent-Lancrin takes us on a journey showcasing the transformative potential already being implemented in the classroom, while also taking a deep dive into how teachers can and will be affected by smart technology.

  • I Don’t Like History... But I Love Civics

    In the second post of the Shanker Institute's Constitution Day 2022 Blog Series, guest author James Dawson, a UFT Teacher Center Instructional Coach at Paul L. Dunbar Middle School in the Bronx and Shanker Civics Fellow, contends that by infusing the concept of civic readiness into lessons, we are able to impart civic knowledge while encouraging civic engagement.

    When I first started coaching my school's social studies team, I was excited and naive. Excited by the chance to share my enthusiasm for (and, if I flatter myself, my considerable knowledge of) history Old World and New, ancient and modern. I was surprised to discover that my retention of the latter was considerably less than I had envisaged; I was surprised and dismayed that only a few students shared my enthusiasm. The narratives of the human experience that had drawn me to my history classes, my teachers’ descriptions of the earthier and less celebrated sides of well-known historical figures, their ponderings on the “could-have-beens” that would changed the course of the river of time, enthralled me.

  • Painting a Portrait of Professional Learning for the Science of Reading

    Assumptions about homogeneity are baked into schools and schooling; grade levels are sorted by student age, classrooms by numbers of desks, and sets of standards specifying what to teach and when students will reach proficiency. While most people understand and would agree that students’ needs and rate of learning vary greatly, we seem to forget this when it comes to adult learning. Based upon this, we emphasize not all teachers need the same learning experiences and environments to develop expertise.

    Teachers differ in the nature of their personal and professional experiences, in the assets and dispositions they bring to the job, in the role they play in their particular schools, and in their specific goals as educators. Thus, the professional learning opportunities available to them should not be one size fits all. This is easier said than done. Differentiating professional learning in any domain is complex, and reading is no exception. It is easier to book a speaker and order some materials than it is to design opportunities for professional learning that meet each educator where they are. Yet, for Science of Reading (SOR) based reforms to be implemented in ways that make a difference for students, coherent, contextualized, and engaging professional development on the SOR is crucial.  

    As a wave of reading reform, legislation related to the SOR represents an attempt to focus instruction on the explicit teaching of foundational skills, based on research that affirms the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics in beginning reading. Many SOR reforms aim to boost the knowledge and skills of individual teachers, with less attention to the ecosystem of schooling where these teachers are embedded, or to how leaders and teachers collaborate to improve instruction. SOR reforms often mandate that districts adopt new curricula and teachers teach with these materials. But implementing SoR reforms is complex, as it simultaneously involves individual learning and organizational change. Therefore, as we have described here, here, and in this podcast, it is crucial to align professional development, curriculum, and leadership – the three pillars of the reading infrastructure. These pillars enable instructional improvement by creating organizational conditions for systemic change. In this post, we concentrate on the professional development pillar.  

  • A More United America: Teaching Democratic Principles and Protected Freedoms

    by Kelly Booz

    On the last day of the Constitutional Convention on Sept. 17, 1787, Elizabeth Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, doctor, what have we got—a republic or a monarchy?" to which Franklin replied: "A republic, if you can keep it."

    America is built on the foundation of democracy. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution spells out the democratic principles we seek to achieve for "We the People.” The Constitution was written, the preamble says, “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

    Now, 235 years later, as we celebrate Constitution Day on Sept. 17, 2022, our Constitution is considered the longest-serving Constitution in the world. The U.S. Constitution and the freedoms granted within it belong to all of us, as long as we can keep it.

  • Future of Work Series

    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. Each week for nine weeks the Shanker Blog featured one of these essays.  See the entire series below.

  • Reimagining Teacher Mentoring Programs: A Key to Solving the Teacher Shortage

    It is officially that time again. The time when teachers start returning to their classrooms for another school year. For an estimated 310,000 teachers (Perry-Graves, 2022), this will be their first time in the classroom, and back to school also means meeting their assigned mentor. Most districts use a formal mentoring program in which districts place new teachers with veteran colleagues. While many believe that mentors are only responsible for providing feedback on their mentee’s classroom instruction, the mentor’s role is much more complex. A good mentor can be an essential resource for helping novice teachers navigate the hidden curriculum of their new workspace, find a sustainable work/life balance, juggle the countless demands of the profession, and rely upon a consistent sounding board for what is sure to be a rollercoaster of a year.

    As a former teacher, I was lucky enough to have an active and caring mentor during my first year of teaching, and was able to model those relationships as I moved from mentee to mentor later in my career. My mentor and my mentees were all good matches for my personality, and we were able to establish strong relationships through shared goals and reciprocal trust. But I know my experience might be an outlier, as the effectiveness of mentoring programs is often questioned. Given these concerns, I have identified several interconnected areas that need further consideration to improve the mentoring experience for novice teachers.

  • Tennessee Trains Thousands of Secondary Teachers in Reading Science

    Guest Author Barbara R. Davidson, President of StandardsWork, Inc. and Executive Director of the Knowledge Matters Campaign, looks at how to address and elevate the literacy needs of secondary students.

    For all the welcome attention being paid to the Science of Reading, and literacy in general, there has been little focus in public policy on how to address the learning needs of secondary students who, for whatever combination of reasons, have failed to learn to read in elementary school.

    Earlier this year, the “What Works Clearinghouse,” an arm of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES), made steps to elevate the narrative about secondary literacy when it issued a practice guide entitled, Providing Reading Interventions for Students in Grades 4-9.

  • What the Science of Reading Misses

    Time just published the latest high profile story on the Science of Reading – adding to the list of major news outlets (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist) that have covered this topic in the years following Emily Hanford’s seminal reporting.

    Many of these stories go like this: U.S. students underperform in reading; a literacy crisis plagues the country. Why? Despite the consensus among experts and researchers, reading continues to be taught in ways that are inconsistent with the science because teachers don’t know (or weren’t taught) this body of knowledge during their training.

    This narrative has (understandably) created alarm and put literacy front and center, spurring a public conversation and related wave of legislation to address the state of reading instruction and achievement across the nation. However, this narrative is not one hundred percent accurate; rather, it neglects a few key elements that I worry need to be understood and addressed to achieve and sustain real progress.