Workforce Development / CTE

  • The emergence of the global knowledge economy has placed new and challenging demands on American education. In order to prepare American students for 21st century jobs in this knowledge economy, and to deepen their engagement in the rigorous classwork that is called for, we need to ensure that our secondary and post-secondary educational institutions provide high-quality Career and Technical Education (CTE).

    This is no easy task. We must overcome the legacy of past vocational education programs, which too often tracked students from working  families and students of color into low-wage, unskilled jobs bereft of opportunities for economic and social improvement.  In this context, CTE must bring forward and update the most successful aspects of the vocational education tradition, which in its era prepared students for work in industrial and agricultural settings, and create a new, inclusive approach that prepares young people for the 21st century economy. Furthermore, we must correct the short-sighted, reactive elimination of all education for work and careers that developed in response to that legacy, with its edict that all high school should be purely academic and college preparatory. And we will need to do the hard work of bringing together multiple stakeholders -- government and civil society, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, business and labor, school, community and industry -- all in one common effort to develop and disseminate the high-quality Career and Technical Education that none of these constituencies can produce on its own.

  • The Future of American Labor: Initiatives for a New Era

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    Sponsored by the ALBERT SHANKER INSTITUTE,THE CENTURY FOUNDATION & THE HARRISON INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC LAW. Co-Sponsored by The American Prospect, Dissent, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor Georgetown University, the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Union activists and leaders, labor scholars and elected officials discussed the strategic lessons of the ‘Teacher Insurgency,’ the post-Janus work of public sector unions, the potential of sectoral bargaining, organizing among millennials and federal government legislative and policy initiatives on behalf of labor organizing. For more information and to watch the video, go here.

  • Fulfilling The Promise Of a Quality Education for All: 21st Century Career & Technical Education

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    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. Participants also considered a statement of recommendations on what needs to be done to develop and support quality CTE programs in U.S. education.

  • Experts Debate Role of Career and Technical Education

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    Education reform will fail a vast number of U.S. students unless the role of career and technical education (CTE, formerly called vocational education) is reconsidered, recast and placed in the mainstream of K-12 curriculum design. These were some of the conclusions of a small group of top federal and state policymakers, educators, business and labor leaders, practitioners, researchers and other workforce experts who took part in an informal conversation on Feb. 17, hosted by AFT president Randi Weingarten and sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute.

  • Bridging the Gap Between State Standards and Classroom Achievement: A Forum

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    Unless states step in to help turn standards into the tools that schools need, the promise of standards-based reform will be lost. That was the message of a March 2002 national forum for state educators, policymakers, teacher unionists, and business leaders on the challenges of curriculum and professional development to meaningful standards-based reform. The event was cosponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and Achieve, Inc.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Does College Matter? Of Course

    Our guest author today is Stanley Litow, adjunct professor at Duke and Columbia Universities. At Duke, he also serves as Innovator in Residence. He previously served as Deputy Schools Chancellor for New York City and is President Emeritus of the IBM Foundation and a member of the Albert Shanker Institute Board of Directors.

    Over the last 35 years, since the release of A Nation At Risk, the nation has focused on the need for school reform and used high school graduation rates as the single most important benchmark for measuring educational success. This is somewhat ironic, given that high school attendance in the U.S. was not made mandatory until the end of the Second World War. Before that, virtually every state had a requirement for school attendance from grade one through grade eight, but high school attendance, just like college attendance now, was strictly voluntary. Of course, in the first half of the 20th century, significant numbers of  well paying jobs in manufacturing and other areas of work only required an eighth grade education. Beginning in the 1970s and into 1984 and over the following three decades, the number of good jobs with competitive wages that were available to those who had only completed eighth grade began a precipitous decline. For many years, it has been clear that a high school diploma or higher is absolutely essential to achieving a pathway to a middle class life. America's response to the challenge of raising the percentage of high school graduates was far from perfect, but with exceptions, we have seen a steady increase in high school graduation rates in most though not all states. Beginning in the early years of the 21st Century, however, changes in the U.S. economy have made it crystal clear that high school diplomas, while still extremely important, are not enough to enable most Americans to achieve the “middle-class dream.”

    In this light, the recent report, "Building a Grad Nation," is an important read. It documents the progress that the nation has made in higher high school graduation rates—the overall high school graduation rate showed an increase from 79 percent in 2011 to close to 85 percent by 2017. This statistic represents an increase of 3.5 million U.S. students who graduated from high school instead of dropping out over the last 15 years.

  • In Memoriam: Eugenia Kemble

    It is with great sorrow that we report the death of Eugenia Kemble, the founding executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute, after a long battle with fallopian tube cancer. “Genie” Kemble helped to conceive of and launch the institute in 1998, with the support of the late Sandy Feldman, then president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Endowed by the AFT and named in honor of the AFT’s iconic former president, the Albert Shanker Institute was established as a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding research reports and fostering candid exchanges on policy options related to the issues of public education, labor, and democracy.

    A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Manila, Genie entered the teacher union movement as part of a cohort of young Socialist Party activists who were close to Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and deeply involved in the civil rights struggle. She began her career in 1967 as a reporter for the newspaper of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the AFT’s New York City local, and became a top aide to then UFT president Albert Shanker. She was a first-hand witness to the turbulent era during which Shanker served as UFT president, including the UFT strike for More Effective Schools in 1967, the harrowing Ocean Hill Brownsville strike over teachers’ due process rights in 1968, the remarkable UFT election victory to represent paraprofessionals in 1969, and the masterful bailout of a faltering New York City government through the loan of teacher pension funds in the mid-1970s.

  • The Early Origins Of The STEM Achievement Gap (And What Can Be Done To Help)

    Every year, like a drumbeat, more articles, studies and reports detail the reasons that a disproportionally low number of people of color are employed in the well paid science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions. One result has been a myriad of programs designing to attract, prepare, mentor, and retain secondary and college-age underrepresented students into the STEM fields. An interesting new study, however, suggests that solutions to this problem need to begin much earlier, prior to kindergarten in fact.

    First, it should be noted race or ethnicity, per se, are not really what’s at issue in terms of students’ relative success in the STEM fields, but rather the historic and persistent lack of opportunity afforded to certain segments of U.S. society, resulting in the overrepresentation of people of color among the ranks of the poor.  And further, it is not poverty in itself, but poverty's accompanying life conditions that help to explain performance gaps that begin at home and extend into schooling and beyond.

    In this case, the study’s authors, Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier and  Maczuga, argue that “the strongest contributors to science achievement gaps in the United States are general knowledge gaps that are already present at kindergarten entry. Therefore, interventions designed to address science achievement gaps in the United States may need to be implemented very early in children’s development (e.g., by or around school entry, if not earlier) so as to counteract the early onset of general knowledge gaps during the preschool and early elementary years.”

  • PISA And TIMSS: A Distinction Without A Difference?

    Our guest author today is William Schmidt, a University Distinguished Professor and co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University. He is also a member of the Shanker Institute board of directors.

    Every year or two, the mass media is full of stories on the latest iterations of one of the two major international large scale assessments, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). What perplexes many is that the results of these two tests -- both well-established and run by respectable, experienced organizations -- suggest different conclusions about the state of U.S. mathematics education. Generally speaking, U.S. students do better on the TIMSS and poorly on the PISA, relative to their peers in other nations. Depending on their personal preferences, policy advocates can simply choose whichever test result is convenient to press their argument, leaving the general public without clear guidance.

    Now, in one sense, the differences between the tests are more apparent than real. One reason why the U.S. ranks better on the TIMSS than the PISA is that the two tests sample students from different sets of countries. The PISA has many more wealthy countries, whose students tend to do better – hence, the U.S.’s lower ranking. It turns out that when looking at only the countries that participated in both the TIMSS and the PISA we find similar country rankings. There are also some differences in statistical sampling, but these are fairly minor.

  • Why Stop In Early Childhood? Two-Generation Strategies To Improve Educational Outcomes

    In education research, it is now widely accepted that ages 0 to 5 are crucial years for child development. In addition, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that children perform better behaviorally and academically in families with stable employment and rising incomes, families with stable employment and those where parents themselves are improving their own educational levels.

    Although it’s clear that increasing parents’ human capital protects and enhances the investments made in their children, "few programs have addressed the postsecondary education and training needs of low-income parents" (p. 2) through comprehensive, family-(child- and parent-) centered strategies.*

    I learned about some remarkable exceptions at a recent New America Foundation discussion on innovations in child care and early learning. Four providers from around the country were asked to describe their programs, all largely focused on helping parents achieve the kind of economic stability needed to support their children’s educational attainment.**

  • More Than One Way Of Winning

    Our guest author today is James R. Stone, professor and director of the National Research Center for Career & Technical Education at the University of Louisville.

    In recent years, a consensus has emerged among education researchers and policymakers that all students should graduate from high school both "college- and career-ready." President Obama has made this part of his education agenda. And numerous advocacy organizations have championed the notion. But what does the phrase actually mean?

    "College-ready" usually means not needing remedial courses once in college, and "career-ready" is usually equated with college-ready. High standards and expectations are the means recommended to prepare college-ready graduates. This means rigorous courses aligned with standards, and tests to ensure that students meet those standards. Presumably, career-readiness comes with the same requirements. The evidence contradicts the rhetoric, however. Paul Barton at ETS, Peter Cappelli at the Wharton School, and other labor market experts argue that being prepared for college is not the same as being prepared for a successful transition into the workforce.

    Perhaps we ought to consider an alternative framework that more clearly defines what college- and career-ready means.