K-12 Education

  • 2016-2017 Conversations

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    Co-sponsored by the Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers.
  • Creating Safe & Supportive Schools II: Next Steps

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    The focus of this Good Schools seminar was to share effective policies and strategies to enhance school climate, mitigate behavior problems, and support improved performance, with special attention to supporting labor-management teams as they work to comply with new rules and guidelines on behavior management. The discussion bridged a wide range of topics, including: schools as caring communities; providing the social, emotional and medical supports that students need; the challenge of implicit bias; and alternative behavior and classroom management strategies

  • Education Research and Teachers Unions

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    AERA2016 Presidential Session, Washington, D.C. Panelists: Deborah Lowenberg Ball, Ellen Bernstein, Leo Casey, Susan Moore Johnson. Watch the panel video.
  • Conversation on Teacher Diversity

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    Co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Howard University School of Education,Teach For America, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Albert Shanker Institute, this panel discussed why teacher diversity is important and how it can be strengthened through recruitment, retention, and continued support for teachers of color. Watch the video and downloard the ASI report here.

  • Educating English Language Learners in an Age of Anti-Immigrant Scapegoating

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    Most students who immigrate to the United States enter our schools as English language learners (ELLs). These students face the challenge of simultaneously learning a new language and the same subject material as students for whom English is the native language, while struggling to adapt to a new, often alien culture. Few groups are more poorly served by our schools. The divisive, hateful rhetoric of racial, ethnic and religious bigotry that has been unleashed in the current presidential election campaign has increased the obstacles faced by these students, and left them shaken and unsure about their place in American society. What is the appropriate response of American educators to this critical situation? What must be done to provide English language learners with the quality education that addresses their specific needs? What pedagogical strategies best meet the needs of English Language Learners? What must be done to provide students with a pathway to citizenship and full incorporation into American society? How should educators confront expressions of prejudice and bigotry against immigrant students and other English language learners? Our panel will address these and other questions from different vantage points and experiences.

    Speakers include: Steven Choi, Executive Director, The New York Immigration Coalition and Joe Luft, Executive Director, Internationals Network for Public Schools, Inc. Watch the video.
  • Educating Tomorrow's Teachers: Are U.S. Education Department Regulations for Schools of Education a Help or a Hindrance?

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    Controversial new regulations for teacher education have been proposed by the U.S. Ed Dept. Although there are objections to the regulations, the controversy centers on the proposed measures of teaching performance -- student test scores, as seen through the prism of value-added measurements, and surveys. Are there better alternatives? Can they be replicated at scale? Given the need for teacher ed schools to prepare teachers to do well from day one, what is the best way to ensure that all teacher prep programs are of the highest quality? Wed., April 13, noon to 2:00 pm. Watch the video.

  • New Visions of Collective Bargaining in American Education

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    May 11, 2016. When the first collective bargaining agreements in American education were negotiated a half century ago, they were largely focused on wages, working conditions and due process. School district officials resisted the inclusion of educational issues as encroachments on “management prerogatives.” Meanwhile, the fledging teacher unions modelled themselves after progressive unions, such as the United Auto Workers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, using industrial-style contracts as a template for their own collective bargaining. But the democratic idea that teachers should have a collective voice in their educational workplace could not be contained within such limited parameters. For a generation, teacher unions have struggled, with increasing success, to expand collective bargaining into the professional sphere. Our panel will investigate some of the most promising efforts on that front around the country, as teacher unions find new ways to negotiate contracts for educational innovation and improvement and build new partnerships with community around that work. Watch the video.

  • 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.

  • The Freedom Schools of 1964

    In 2014, to honor the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the Shanker Institute began developing resources for teachers in today’s classrooms. These include lesson plans on the Freedom Schools (which will be posted on these pages in the spring of 2015), historical materials, and interviews with some of the teachers who made history.

  • Literacy Ladders

    This curated collection of essays for early childhood educators and others examines the research on increasing young children's language, knowledge, and reading comprehension.

  • March on Washington Lesson Plans

    2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 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.

  • Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching

    This publication by Linda Darling Hammond was written at the request of and with the input of participants in the Shanker Institute's Good Schools seminars. It discusses the evaluation models that make the most sense and ways to improve teacher preparation, make entry into the profession an educational and developmental experience, and upgrade career and professional development.

  • Call for Common Content

    A statement released by the nonpartisan Albert Shanker Institute and signed by dozens of educators, advocates, policymakers, researchers and scholars from across the educational and political spectrum, highlights one largely ignored factor needed to enable American students to achieve to high levels and become internationally competitive—the creation of voluntary model curricula that can be taught in the nation’s classrooms.

  • Five Things Not To Do When Schools Re-open

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest today is Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Education Policy at the Gonski Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    So much has been said already about teaching and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic that it is hard to say something new. More focus on social and emotional learning, student and teacher wellbeing, authentic assessments, distance learning with technology, relationships in schools and recess during school days. Fewer high-stakes standardized tests, less unproductive consequential accountability, more direct instruction in school, and less rote textbook learning. All these ideas were presented already before this crisis, but people see that the time is right to transform schools after the pandemic is gone. 

    Rather than add more to the already exhaustive list of ideas for schools post-pandemic, I want to suggest five things that we should not do when schools re-open. These five things are collected from my numerous conversations and debates during the past few months about the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for schools, teachers, students and parents. My basic assumption is that schools change slowly, even when pressured by external shocks like the pandemic. I think that the underlying emotion in this devastating turmoil, which by now has affected healthcare, education, economic systems, and the daily lives of billions of people, is fear. 

    Many are afraid losing their health, the lives of loved ones, their jobs, their dreams, and their futures. What most parents probably expect from schools now is safety and stability, not revolution or change. I like many others think that now is the time to reimagine schools. But I am afraid that making these dreams come true at scale will be very difficult. But if real change is to have any chance, I offer these five suggestions of what not to do. I have long believed that in education policymaking what we stop doing is as important as what we should do. In this playful spirit I offer the following ‘5 Don’ts.

  • Teaching During School Shutdowns Should Be A Team Sport

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest today is Susan Moore Johnson, the Jerome T. Murphy Research Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    When schools suddenly closed in March and moved to online instruction, I wondered how I would have responded if I'd still been a high school English teacher. I imagined having to prepare a series of engaging Ted Talks with follow-up Q&As. But having talked with many administrators and teachers, I’ve realized that good online schooling during the pandemic is a team sport not a solo performance. It calls for careful preparation and coordination among many players. Just as Covid-19 has revealed hidden shortcomings in our society, it has exposed the limitations of compartmentalized schools that continue to rise or fall on the skills, autonomy and self-reliance of individual teachers.

    As teachers faced the sudden reality of online teaching, they had many pressing questions: Are my students safe and confident or are they at risk, hungry, and fearful? Am I responsible for finding students who don’t show up online? What kind of schedule provides meaningful routines with necessary flexibility? How can I create social learning experiences for students who are isolated at home? What can I do to help students who fall behind? How can we meet the special learning needs of students who rely on one-to-one support? How can I fairly grade students’ progress when I can’t provide extra help to those who need it?  

    In many schools, teachers struggled with such questions alone. Without a reliable forum where they could explore and resolve urgent problems with others, individuals did their best. Some convened their classes occasionally for live meetings, so students to could see one another and talk about how things were going for them. Many prepared weekly work packets for parents to pick up at the school or they posted assignments online—typically math problems or reading comprehension questions—for students to complete and upload for grading. Some relied on web-based educational resources, including short lectures by presenters their students had never seen. Many teachers were dismayed to realize that their repertoire of instructional practices had been drastically reduced to a few barren components. Meanwhile students within the same school might have either engaging or tedious learning experiences, depending on who their teacher was.

  • Coronavirus Is A Risk To Education In America: A Comprehensive National Response Is Needed

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest today is Stanley Litow, Professor at Duke and Columbia Universities, where he teaches about the role of corporations in society, and the author of The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to RewardHe formerly led Corporate Social Responsibility at IBM, where he was twice selected as CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    The economic effects of the coronavirus are presenting increasingly difficult challenges for the nation. In the month of April, nearly 30 million Americans moved onto the unemployment rolls and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dipped by nearly five percent. All projections from labor economists indicate that these numbers will continue to go in the wrong direction during the months ahead. The U.S. economy is in its most serious decline since the Great Depression. From a policy perspective, our nation needs to place a high priority on making our nation healthy again, but it also needs to protect workers, small businesses and our economic future. Most economic news reports focus on U.S. industries that are likely to suffer the most, such as as the retail industry, restaurants, small businesses, airlines and the entertainment industry. While each of these sectors are indeed experiencing serious problems, and deserve intervention and support, an industry that is likely to suffer severe, long-term damage is often overlooked—that is, public education and specifically our nation's public schools and public colleges. They face a very difficult future and need our attention and our assistance.

    Why is education in America at risk? An interruption in schooling across all grade levels will likely result in a serious decline in student achievement, especially for those students who are the most disadvantaged. This is likely to result in increased drop out rates, a spike in special education, a decline in high school graduation rates, a decrease in college enrollment, lower college readiness rates and declining college completion rates. A large increase in mental health and social service needs should also be expected, which will have a negative impact on student learning and achievement. With increased need and declining resources, our schools, universities and teachers will be faced with a daunting challenge. The long term effect on students and on the nation could be devastating.

  • Have We Found Hector, Yet? A Love Letter To Educators In The Midst Of Crisis

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest today is Michelle Fine, a Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology, Women’s Studies, American Studies and Urban Education at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    Each evening we ask Caleb the same question; as the numbers of 6th and 7th graders responding to his online “office hours” increase by the day, we ask “Have you found Hector yet?”

    I am quarantined in Montclair, New Jersey, six adults and an infant; a home of heterogeneous teachers and activists. We are healthy and fortunate. We spend our days in Google Meets with 6th graders, community college students, working-class 4-year and doctoral students, most with deep roots in the working-class/immigrant/public housing community, and the news gets more and more grim. Each evening around the dinner table, the stories grow more painful; more students-grandparents-parents-loved ones-siblings are ill-dead-unemployed-hungry-worried about a grandmother in Ecuador or in a nursing home or in the next room in the Bronx. We don’t eat until we have each spoken “one good thing that happened today.” It’s harder now. In the month of March we saw people dying; in the month of April we witness institutions and the precious fibers of democracy – like public schools and universities and voting – placed on life support in budget slashing season.  

    And they still won’t release people from prison or detention centers.

  • Our Profession Requires Hope, Now And Ever Since

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our contributor today is José Luis Vilson, a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. He publishes regularly on his own site. Otherposts in the series are compiled here. 

    On most mornings, I tweet a good morning message intended to share my intentions for the day and the work ahead of me. People usually receive it well because they understand I’ve worked at a school that serves marginalized students in underserved communities for the better part of 15 years. On occasion, I have to remind the occasional tweeter how important this context is in the midst of my more optimistic tweets. In many people’s minds, rage and fury are necessary accouterments for activists where positivity and smiles look like tools of the apparat. To express any form of affirmative outlook is to betray the ideals of disruption to the status quo. 

    Yet, teaching in our most dire contexts necessitates hope, and this is no more evident than in what we’ve dubbed “remote learning.” In New York City, we’ve now entered two months of correspondence with peers and students through the Internet and called this process schooling. For years, we understood school as compulsory, inequitable, and vital to the very environment that created these conditions. More learning begets unlearning. More education presumably leads to more engaged citizens who would create a better world for their children than we did for ours. Many of us follow this principle in systems deeply antagonistic to these goals. 

    When our government asked the nation’s largest public-school system to flip our entire system, we did so dutifully. Yet most of us knew that such a transition would exacerbate the already entrenched inequities in our system.

  • Why School Climate Matters For Teachers And Students

    Our guest authors today are Mathew A. Kraft, associate professor of education and economics at Brown University, and Grace T. Falken, a research program associate at Brown’s Annenberg Institute. This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of The State Education Standard, the journal of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

    Over the past decade, education reformers have focused much of their attention on raising teacher quality. This makes sense, given the well-evidenced, large impacts teachers have on student outcomes and the wide variation in teacher effectiveness, even within the same school (Goldhaber 2015Jackson et al. 2014). Yet this focus on individual teachers has caused policymakers to lose sight of the importance of the organizational contexts in which teachers work and students learn. 

    The quality of a school’s teaching staff is greater than the sum of its parts. School environments can enable teachers to perform to their fullest potential or undercut their efforts to do so. 

    When we think of work environments, we often envision physical features: school facilities, instructional resources, and the surrounding neighborhood. State and district policies that shape curriculum standards, class size, and compensation also come to mind. These things matter, but so do school climate factors that are less easily observed or measured. Teachers’ day-to-day experiences are influenced most directly by the culture and interpersonal environment of their schools.

  • Educational Equity During A Pandemic

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our contributor today is Peter Levine, Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship at Tufts UniversityTisch College of Civic Life. He blogs regularly on his own site. Posts in the series will be compiled here.

    My wife and I have each spent many hours teaching by video this spring. While sitting in the same house, I meet online with college students who attend a selective private university; she meets with 5-to-9-year olds in an urban public school system, helping them learn to read. 

    Both of us think and worry about equity: how to treat all students fairly within our respective institutions and across the whole country (even the world). And both of us discuss these issues with our respective colleagues. I suspect that many other educators are similarly wrestling with the challenges of teaching equitably while schools are closed. 

    Before the pandemic, schools were already dramatically inequitable. In our state of Massachusetts, total expenditures per pupil vary from $14,000 to $31,000 among regular school districts. But the worst-funded Massachusetts district still allocates twice as much per student as Utah does. In Uganda, the government spends $2.12 per student per year on education (although many families spend more).

  • What's Next For Schools After Coronavirus? Here Are 5 Big Issues And Opportunities

    This is post is our first in a new blog series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our contributor today is Andy Hargreaves who is Research Professor at Boston College. This blog post originally appeared in The Conversation. Future posts in the series will be compiled here

    No schools, no exams, more online learning and parents in COVID-19 lockdown with their kids. What a mess!

    People are responding heroically. Some parents are working from home, others have lost their jobs and teachers are creating an entire new way of doing their jobs — not to mention the kids themselves, stuck inside without their friends. Somehow, we will get through this. When we do, how will things look when school starts again? 

    One of my university projects connects and supports the education leaders of six countries and two Canadian provinces to advance humanitarian values, including in their responses to COVID-19

    From communication with these leaders, and drawing on my project team’s expertise in educational leadership and large-scale change, here are five big and lasting issues and opportunities that we anticipate will surface once school starts again.

  • The Early Years Of The New York City Teachers Union

    New York Citys Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation (GVSHP) has published an appeal to grant protected landmark status to the “12-story Beaux Arts style office building” at 70 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The building was built in 1912 for George Arthur Plimpton, a publisher of education textbooks, a collector of rare books, a philanthropist and a peace activist. For many years, the GVSHP tells us, the building was a haven for radicals and liberals.” I immediately recognized the address as that of the offices of the New York City Teachers Union (TU) for two decades. There is an intriguing story behind that address and the Teachers Union, and it provides a revealing window into the political history of early teacher unionism.

    In the same year as 70 Fifth Avenue was built, Henry Linville and a small number of New York City teacher comrades launched a publication, The American Teacher, to report on the economic and professional status of the educator workforce and the politics of American public education. Linville was a biology teacher of some note with a Ph.D. from Harvard; one can still find copies of influential science textbooks he authored. He was a democratic socialist and pacifist who had a particularly close relationship with Norman Thomas, the longtime leader of the Socialist Party. The two worked together in an unsuccessful effort to oppose American involvement in World War I.

    In the early twentieth century, there was a great deal of trans-Atlantic cross-fertilization between British and American leftists, with London and New York as the two intellectual centers in this exchange of ideas. From the Womens Trade Union League and the settlement house movement to Fabian Society proposals for reform and the idea of labor party, from anti-imperialist support of Irish and Indian independence to militant suffragist tactics and campaigns for birth control, sex education and the decriminalization of gay sex, New Yorkers often drew inspiration from their British counterparts. The American Teacher followed the development of the National Union of Teachers in the United Kingdom, and New York teachers on the left increasingly looked to it as a model of what could be done in the United States.

  • The Crucial Role Of State Policy In The Impending School Budget Crisis

    Last week, we published a report on the probable implications of the coronavirus pandemic for K-12 education funding. My co-author Bruce Baker and I present a bunch of data on the impact of the 2007-09 "Great Recession" on education funding, as well as outcomes illustrating states' responses to the budget crisis caused by the recession. Using insights from these descriptive analyses, we offer a set of recommendations for minimizing the harm of the coronavirus recession on school budgets. 

    I won't go through our findings and recommendations individually; you can download the full report, or read the executive summary. I do want to discuss on one overarching theme of the recommendations, and it's very simple: any truly effective response to the impending budgetary crisis cannot consist solely of a federal assistance package. The way states fund public schools has to change, with a forward-thinking focus on faster recovery from this crisis as well as systems better equipped to handle future crises. Chess rather than checkers.

    To be clear, federal funding will be absolutely crucial in smoothing the large decreases in revenue that will occur. Without this federal help, there will likely be cuts to school budgets (and those of other public services) so severe that recovery in many states may be a matter of decades rather than years. Moreover, districts serving larger shares of disadvantaged students will bear a disproportionate amount of the harm. Accordingly, we recommend that federal funds be drawn out in two "phases" over a 5-7 year period, and that states be required to distribute them in a manner that targets assistance to those districts that need it the most. But this won't be enough.