Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Receives $2.5 Million To Form University-School Partnerships Nationally

The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has announced the launch of a national initiative to strengthen classroom teaching in U.S. public schools. Underwritten by a $2.5 million grant from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, the effort seeks to duplicate in other cities the successful professional development program Yale University started 20 years ago in partnership with the nearby New Haven public school system.

As a first step, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute selected five universities to receive $20,000 planning grants. Each will work with local public schools to develop a demonstration project, based on the Yale model, to help teachers prepare innovative curriculum for their students. The grant recipients are: Carnegie Mellon University/Chatham College; the University of California, Irvine; the University of California, Santa Cruz; the University of Houston; and the University of New Mexico. All five universities will be eligible for three-year implementation grants ranging from $300,000 to $500,000, which will be awarded in December.

The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute was established in 1978 to improve teaching in schools in New Haven’s low-income communities. Studies have shown that over the past two decades the Institute’s professional development programs have increased teachers’ preparation in the subjects they teach, heightened expectations of their students, raised morale, increased the rate of teacher retention and enhanced student performance.

“As a grant-making organization focused on improving education opportunities for young people P especially for those growing up in low-income communities P key to our work is finding ways to share exemplary programs and ideas with other places that have similar needs,” said M. Christine DeVita, president of the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. “This project is an opportunity to see if the lessons developed over the years by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute can be successfully used by other school districts to make improvements in teaching.”

The DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund fosters fundamental improvement in the quality of educational and career development opportunities for school-age youth and encourages access to these improved services, especially for young people in low-income communities.

The Institute’s founding director James R. Vivian said, “The support the Fund has awarded for the Institute’s national demonstration project will guarantee that the fruits of our experience are not limited to New Haven, and that the seeds they contain are planted and cultivated in other cities across the country.” He added, “The Fund has made a strategic and timely grant to ensure that educational partnerships of this type will play a leading role in strengthening teaching and learning in urban public schools.”

The Institute is based on the premise that teachers from Yale and New Haven are professional colleagues with strong common interest in teaching and learning their subjects, said Vivian. Each year, teachers poll their colleagues to determine topics for spring and summer seminars. The Institute then identifies Yale faculty members who are experts in the proposed topics to serve as seminar leaders. On admission to the program, teachers become Fellows of the Institute and members of the Yale community, with access to university facilities and resources. Fellows attend five-month seminars on the topic of their choice and pursue individual projects that culminate in the creation of curricular material.

About 80 teachers are currently participating in seven seminars on topics ranging from “American Political Thought” to “Contemporary Astronomy and Space Science.” Over the years, 435 teachers have become Institute Fellows, including approximately 35 percent of all current New Haven middle and high school teachers.

Yale University president Richard C. Levin said, “The Institute is truly one of Yale’s jewels and an impressive example for other cities and universities around the country.”

Here’s what other leaders in public policy and education have said about the launch of the national initiative:

U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.): “The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s innovative effort to promote and foster the educational partnership between Yale University and the New Haven Public School system is the beginning of a potential revolution in American education P a revolution spurred by a desire to better education American children…. We all talk a great deal about improving our public schools, but in New Haven it is more than talk.”

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.): “This is just the kind of innovative partnership we must develop and replicate if we hope to rescue these urban schools and provide the children who attend them with the education they deserve.”

Gerald N. Tirozzi, assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, United States Department of Education: “The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has been a beacon of hope for what is possible when a significant partner and an enlightened school district commit to working closely and cooperatively together to enhance teaching and to improve the teaching-learning process. States and school districts across the country should pause and look carefully at the universities and schools that have discovered the power of partnership as a means for implementing meaningful reform.”

For the full text of the above quotations and others, please see press release #18, July 31, 1998.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325