K-12 Education

  • The Social Side of Education: How Social Aspects of Schools & School Systems Shape Teaching & Learning

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    The notion that teaching and learning are social endeavors may seem obvious. Yet, the implications of that statement for research, policy and practice are less so. This conference foregrounds recent evidence showing that social aspects of schools and school systems deeply influence school improvement. The conference will also encourage in-depth debate on the practical implications of this evidence. Watch the videos here.

  • Quality Teaching: Individual and Social Approaches

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    This two-panel conversation focused on theresults of the annual “PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools,” and their implications for policy and practice, taking on the question of how government, schools of education, school districts and schools can promote, nurture and support quality teaching. Watch the video.

  • Positive Alternatives to Suspending And Expelling Misbehaving Students in Early Childhood Education

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    Recent research and news reports show that even very young children--and particularly young children of color--can be subject to harsh and overly punitive school disciplinary practices. At the same time, the need for schools to be safe and orderly places to teach and to learn remains a top priority in poll after poll of parents and the public.These are the issues our speakers will discuss.

  • Ten Years After the Deluge: The State of Public Education in New Orleans

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    The first panel from 12:00-2:00 pm will focus on "New Orleans After the Deluge: What Happens To A Community Dispossessed," taking up the broader questions of the post-Katrina economic and political changes in New Orleans and how they shaped developments in its public schools. The second panel from 2:15-4:00 will focus on "Public Education in New Orleans: What Is The State of New Orleans Schools After A Decade of Market Reforms?," and will address the specific question of the current state of the city’s public schools.

  • Teaching Voting Rights

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    Using the C3 framework developed for teaching social studies and civics with the Common Core, this workshop will investigate the use of inquiry lessons to teach the theme of voting rights. This panel is part of the AFT's TEACH conference. Watch the panel.

  • Best Research to What Works Luncheon Series: Transcripts

    This forum series was designed to highlight best research on key educational issues, then to link these findings to the practical steps that schools can take to improve student achievement. Held periodically from 2002 to 2007, these events brought together a select group of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss crucial issues about which research and practice appear to diverge.

  • Education for Democracy

    Education for Democracy, a signatory statement released by the institute in conjunction with the beginning of a new school year, the second anniversary of th

  • History Research Paper Study

    The Concord Review approached the Albert Shanker Institute for support for a study of the state of the history research paper in United States high schools. The result is this 2002 study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.

  • Bridging the Gap Between Standards and Achievement

    Harvard professor Richard Elmore reviews the research and argues that education reforms that are based on standards and accountability will fail unless policymakers also adopt a strategy to ensure that educators have the knowledge and skill they need to help students succeed.

  • Building a New Structure for School Leadership

    In this major research analysis, Richard Elmore explores the problems with the structure and leadership of public education, while explaining the dangers of public funding for private schools. He urges educators to study the schools whose leaders and best practice are succeeding in meeting high standards, including through the use of collaboration and distributed leadership. 

  • Hart Research Poll of Teachers and Principals

    These early polls show that nation's teachers and principals strongly support higher academic standards, while at the same time harboring serious questions about adequacy of implementation and an overemphasis on testing.

  • The Teaching Gap

    The Institute provided a grant to support the writing of this important book by James Stigler and James Hiebert, which explores the school system's failure to support a culture of professional development for teachers. It compares what's lacking in teacher training in this country with what's working in Japan, where teachers spend time working together to improve their skills.

  • The Inequities Of AP And SAT Exams Amid Covid-19

    Last week, The College Board announced plans to develop at-home AP Exams while the May SAT will be postponed until until further notice. In contrast, President Trump announced on March 20th that the U.S. Department of Education will not require state standardized testing in public schools for students in elementary through high school. Now that the federal government has relaxed state testing for the 2019-2020 school year, it is time to rethink the standardized test structure for college admissions-focused tests, such as AP Exams, the SAT, and the ACT. Eliminating or postponing these tests must be done through a lens of equity and resource allocation. 

    While innovation in instruction and learning is happening daily, the transition to virtual learning also has the potential to exacerbate two existing inequities and opportunity gaps that surround standardized testing, particularly those resulting from the SAT, ACT, and AP exams. The first inequity is lack of access to internet based learning platforms. Unfortunately, the transition to online learning has already proven the glaring reality of the digital divide and illuminated barriers to educational opportunity in terms of access to broadband for students who are not equipped with Wi-fi at home. Libraries and community centers that would have been a resource for students to access Wi-fi for test preparation, are now closed. If AP Exams and SAT testing are moved online, not all students will have consistent internet access to the virtual lessons that can help prepare them for the tests, let alone access to the tests themselves in a web-based format. 

    The second existing inequity, made more evident in the transition to online learning, is the issue of access to effective test-prep. Standardized tests such as the SAT and AP exams are gatekeeping tests that have long made clear the presence of opportunity gaps and unequal resources, including access to extensive test preparation programs, tutors, and quality academic coursework. SAT performance is more of an indicator of a student’s socio-economic status and zip code than an indicator of future college success. When The College Board announced that they would consider a move to online operations at the end of the spring term, backlash from students and teachers was swift. Criticism focused on potential inequities that standardized testing from home would perpetuate, including concerns about unequal access to quality digital learning to prepare for testing.

  • Education Must Be Part Of Our Coronavirus Response

    Our guest author 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 Reward. He formerly led Corporate Social Responsibility at IBM, where he was twice selected as CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.

    Americans are doing their best to cope with coronavirus and the disruption and healthcare emergency it has caused in all of our lives. We are in the midst of a crisis we have not experienced over many generations. The impact on our economy will be cataclysmic, affecting all Americans in all states and territories. Millions of jobs are at risk, along with savings and retirements. But as horrific as this event is (and it is clearly not over), a coordinated response and massive spending from local, state, and federal governments can help to mitigate the disaster and speed recovery. Whether it takes months or years, we will experience a recovery. And while the economic disruption will last for a very long time, the educational disruption is likely to last much longer. A generation of America's children have seen their educations thrown into chaos and we will need a response equal to, and perhaps greater than, what our governments are now doing.

    With little time for preparation or planning, just months before the end of the school year, schools across the nation were abruptly forced to close. While some parents are attempting to continue their children's learning opportunities at home, the vast majority of American children are receiving little to no educational support. School districts across the nation have also started to deliver some hastily produced classes online, but families at the bottom of the economic system often have no access to technology or internet access, making the challenge almost impossible. In addition, most other educational entities have been closed: public libraries, museums, after-school programs, and not-for-profit social services agencies, etc., leaving impoverished families with few viable options, even for public access to online schooling. 

    When our schools reopen, as they ultimately will, and the economic and health crises have begun to improve, our schools will still need a focused, sustained, and elevated national response, and it must have the support of all Americans and every segment of society. The 2020-21 school year will be a test for our nation.

  • A Champion Of Democracy: Clifford B. Janey (1946–2020)

    Our guest author today is Rick Kahlenberg, Director of K-12 Equity and Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation and member of the Shanker Institute Board of Directors. This piece originally appeared on TCF's website, and has been reprinted with the author's permission.

    More than any other school superintendent I have ever met, Clifford B. Janey believed in democracy. While it might be easier to run a school system in a top-down, autocratic fashion, he knew that doing so would send a terrible message to the students who were closely watching how the adults around them behaved. Dr. Janey, who died earlier this month, was the superintendent of schools in Rochester, New York (1995–2002), Washington, D.C. (2004–2007), and Newark, New Jersey (2008–2011); and everywhere he went, he made sure that democracy was at the center of the education that children experienced. 

    Embodying Inclusivity and Equity 

    I came to know Cliff when we served together on the board of the Albert Shanker Institute, a progressive think tank associated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Like Al Shanker, the president of the AFT from 1974 to 1997, Cliff could hardly have a conversation about education without talking about democratic values. In that sense, he was the mirror opposite of his successor in Washington, D.C., Michelle Rhee, who was often autocratic, and who and famously invited a camera crew to film her firing a school official.

  • Interpreting School Finance Measures

    Last week we released the second edition of our annual report, "The Adequacy and Fairness of State School Finance Systems," which presents key findings from the School Finance Indicators Database (SFID). The SFID, released by the Shanker Institute and Rutgers Graduate School of Education (with my colleagues and co-authors Bruce Baker and Mark Weber), is a free collection of sophisticated finance measures that are designed to be accessible to the public. At the SFID website, you can read the summary of our findings, download the full report and datasets, or use our online data visualization tools.

    The long and short of the report is that states vary pretty extensively, but most fund their schools either non-progressively (rich and poor districts receive roughly the same amount of revenue) or regressively (rich districts actually receive more revenue), and that, in the vast majority of states, funding levels are inadequate in all but the most affluent districts (in many cases due to a lack of effort).

    One of the difficulties in producing this annual report is that the our "core" measures upon which we focus (effort, adequacy, and progressivity) are state-level, and it's not easy to get attention for your research report when you basically have 51 different sets of results. One option is assigning states grades, like a school report card. Often, this is perfectly defensible and useful. We decided against it, not only because assigning grades would entail many arbitrary decisions (e.g., where to set the thresholds), but also because assigning grades or ratings would risk obscuring some of the most useful conclusions from our data. Let's take a quick look at an example of how this works.

  • In Memoriam: Clifford B. Janey

    It is with great sadness that we report the death of Clifford Janey, a member of the Albert Shanker Institute’s Board of Directors for 13 years. He was 73 at the time of his death earlier this month.

    Dr. Janey served as a Senior Research Scholar at Boston University, School of Education. Previously, he was a Senior Weismann Fellow at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. From 2008 to 2011, he served as the state district superintendent for Newark Public Schools in NJ. From 2004 to 2007, he served as superintendent of schools for the District of Columbia. And from 1995 to 2002, he served as superintendent of schools in Rochester, NY.

  • Making The Case For Multidisciplinary Sex Ed

    Assuming you lived in a state that provided access to sex education, which of your courses would deliver this information? Most sex education is taught in biology or physical health classes with one or two lesson units between middle and high school. One compelling argument that I have found recently is a case to teach sex education in a multidisciplinary approach spanning several years of a student’s education in both social studies and physical science courses. Doing so could drive down teen pregnancy, empower youth about their own sexual health, and change the narratives and misinformation teens receive about sexuality. 

    Leaders in sex education have begun to incorporate lessons on health as early as preschool. Early childhood sexuality education standards from The Future of Sex Ed include discussions on parts of the body, touching, and relationships with family members and friends. Middle school curriculum covers gender, puberty, relationships, and sexual orientation. High school students then receive content on sexual health, contraception, consent, and gender and sexuality. Sustained, age appropriate lessons are crucial to developing healthy teens, and it’s time to rethink the traditional academic delivery of content. 

    Maryland, for instance, has implemented a sustained approach to teaching sexuality education throughout middle and high school.  A recent article in the Washington Post explains one health educator’s approach to presenting seventh graders with information about consent. Courtney Marcoux uses contemporary analogies to connect with her 7th grade students, but this is not the first time they have been exposed to the term “consent.” As of July 1, 2018, students in Montgomery County, MD are exposed to lessons on consent in 5th, 7th, and 10th grade. This is because the state passed legislation requiring these discussions in middle and high school. In response to the #MeToo movement, the bill ultimately aims to teach consent in sex education classes as a tactic to reduce sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses.

  • The Past Is Prologue To The Future

    Our guest author 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 Reward. He formerly led Corporate Social Responsibility at IBM, where he was twice selected as CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.

    It was thirty years ago this month that Joseph Fernandez began his tenure as the New York City Public Schools’ Chancellor. Born and raised in New York, Fernandez led the public school system in Miami prior to assuming leadership of New York City’s schools, the nation’s largest school system. Even before becoming Chancellor in NYC, Fernandez had already been acknowledged a premier leader of a large city school system.  Over nearly four years under Fernandez's leadership in NYC, the schools accomplished a great deal despite significant challenges.  In fact at the end of his first six months on the job, Joseph Berger wrote a story in the New York Times that claimed that Fernandez had “enjoyed a string of triumphs as he maneuvered to gain control of [the school] system.”

    Among his many reforms, Fernandez championed the creation of dozens of new, innovative small schools across NYC, many of which ultimately spread across the nation. Decades later, the evaluation results of these innovative schools performed by MDRC as part of a set of longitudinal studies have documented significant gains in achievement.  His successors, who have disagreed sharply about many other things, have all continued to support and sustain the NYC small schools effort.  Fernandez also championed the first diversity curriculum in any US school district. That reform, Children of the Rainbow, attempted to assist early childhood and elementary educators in addressing the challenge of providing equity and excellence for students whose families might be nontraditional, including a book in its appendix titled "Heather Has Two Mommies." In the midst of the AIDS crisis, he began a structured way of providing students in New York City high schools with access to condoms, helping to provide health safety and security for students.

  • The Structure Of School Segregation In The D.C. Metro Area

    A few weeks ago, the Shanker Institute published an analysis of segregation by race and ethnicity in D.C. metro area schools (including D.C. proper, Alexandria City, Arlington and Fairfax County in Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland). 

    The report, written with my co-author Bilan Jama, presents multiple measures to characterize segregation within each of these six districts and across the entire metro area, but it also focuses on segregation between districts. This is a very important distinction for understanding segregation, particularly in large metropolitan areas. Put simply, students may be systematically sorted into schools within each district (e.g., white students may be concentrated in some schools while African American students are concentrated into others), but they might also be sorted between districts (e.g., some districts may serve mostly black, white, Asian or Latino students, while others serve very few such students). Both of these factors affect the racial and ethnic composition of schools, and so both contribute to or attenuate segregation in the metro area as a whole.

    The D.C. metro area is an excellent context for this kind of analysis because it is so racially and ethnically diverse, with relatively strong representation of white (26.5 percent), black (34.7), Hispanic (27.2), and Asian students (11.6). This diversity is the “raw material” for truly diverse schools. Unfortunately, we found this not to be the case, and the underlying reasons why are interesting.

  • Trouble In The Neighborhood

    Our guest author today is Randy Garton, former Director of Research and Operations at the Albert Shanker Institute. He retired in 2015.

    I recently went with my oldest son, a young adult on the autism spectrum, to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a movie featuring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. It is a grown-up movie, inspired by real events. It tells the story of a reporter (played by Matthew Rhys), who is assigned to do a profile of Rogers. 

    The reporter, Tom Junod, is depicted as a cynical, angry, but honest man who endeavors to find the “real” Mr. Rogers — who he supposes is much different from the kindly figure seen on TV.  Instead, he discovers that Rogers is a complex, kind, thoughtful and brilliant artist. He was certainly not a saint, but a decent man who tried to live his life by the values he taught on the show and, by and large, succeeded. 

    The acting was top notch. As expected, Hanks was great in the role and was the perfect guy for the part. Junod’s  wife was played by an African-American actress, adding an extra layer of complexity. I don’t know whether or not the wife of the real journalist was Black, but it struck me as important in the film. She was depicted as very strong and smart. Junod was portrayed as a man in pain due to his father’s actions at the time of his mother’s death. He didn’t know how to deal with those feelings, and Mr. Rogers helped.

    I believe that many people left that movie wanting to be a better person. I certainly did.