Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Names Four Sites For National Educational Partnerships

The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute announced today it has awarded $1.3 million in grants to enable four cities to replicate the Institute’s successful program for improving classroom teaching in public schools. As part of a national project underwritten by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, university and school partnerships will be created in Pittsburgh, PA; Houston, TX; Albuquerque, NM; and Santa Ana, CA. These partnerships will adapt, according to local circumstances, the successful professional development program Yale University started more than 20 years ago with the nearby New Haven public schools.

Studies have shown that the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s 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. The national project will establish institutes that are similar but not identical at the four sites.

“The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is an outstanding program, bringing together educators at all levels,” says Yale President Richard C. Levin. “We are delighted that the institute will be able to serve as a national model for similar university-school partnerships across the country.”

The new Teachers Institutes will bring the New Haven approach to 86 schools enrolling 90,375 students, in school districts that enroll 391,800 students. They will receive implementation grants that total more than $1.3 million.

Representatives from the four sites gathered at Yale on Jan. 8 and 9 to share their proposals and participate in workshops. James R. Vivian, the founder and director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, opened the session with these words: “We inaugurate today a league of Teachers Institutes, stretching from coast to coast, united in a common purpose, and driven by the concern we share for strengthening teaching and learning of the humanities and the sciences in the nation’s public schools.”

Commenting on the selection of the demonstration sites, DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund President M. Christine DeVita said, “We are eager to see local versions of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute take root in these four cities, so that students can benefit from improved teaching and learning in their schools.”

The new institutes aim to have a significant impact on school systems that serve students from low-income communities, but each is located in a city much larger than New Haven. Each, moreover, is a different kind of partnership and has determined its own scope, strategy, and goals.

The Pittsburgh Teachers Institute brings together two very different institutions of higher education, Chatham College and Carnegie-Mellon University, both of which have long been concerned with teacher preparation. It will work with a selection of 20 elementary, middle and high schools in the three regions of the Pittsburgh district.

It will offer four seminars in the humanities and sciences, two led by faculty members from Chatham College and two by faculty members from Carnegie-Mellon. The director, Dr. Helen Faison, was for many years a teacher and administrator in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and is now visiting professor of education at Chatham College. This partnership may expand in the future to include other institutions of higher education in Pittsburgh.

The Houston Teachers Institute, in the fourth largest city in the nation, will make available to teachers the resources of the University of Houston, which draws most of its own students from this urban area. Addressing the needs of a student body of great economic and ethnic diversity, the Houston Teachers Institute will work with a selection of 18 middle and high schools. Six seminars will be offered each year.

The University of Houston brings to this effort its experience with a successful program, “Common Ground,” partly modeled on the Yale-New Haven approach and devoted to expending the canon of literary texts in high school English course. The director, Dr. Paul Cooke, is a visiting professor of political science at the university. In the future, some seminar leaders may be drawn from other institutions of higher education in the city.

The Albuquerque Teachers Institute will enable the teachers of this largely Hispanic school district to work more closely with the faculty of the University of New Mexico, which already has a strong program in teacher preparation. The Teachers Institute will work with 22 middle and high schools that have high rates of attrition. It will offer four seminars that will link the Southwest and contemporary issues.

The university has given high priority to a request for additional funding from the New Mexico State Legislature. The co-directors of the Albuquerque Teachers Institute are Dr. Wanda Martin, who has led the university’s freshman writing program, and Dr. Laura Cameron, who has led its freshman mathematics program.

The University of California at Irvine-Santa Ana Teachers Institute brings together the university and the Santa Ana Unified School District. Outreach to the schools is of urgent importance in California, because of the recent abandonment of bilingual education and affirmative action admission to state universities. The UCI-Santa Ana Teachers Institute will work with 26 elementary, middle, and high schools in this largely Hispanic community. It will seek to address especially the needs of teachers whose students have a limited knowledge of English.

This institute plans to offer six seminars in the first year. Its director, Dr. Barbara Kuhn Al-Bayati, has been liaison officer in the Center for Educational Partnerships at the University of California at Irvine.

The four new Teachers Institutes will share with The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute the premise that teachers from universities and public schools are professional colleagues with a strong common interest in the subjects they teach and in effective communication with their students. As in New Haven, teachers at each site, in becoming fellows, also become members of a university community, with access to its facilities and resources. They will participate in long-term seminars on one of the topics that they have helped to determine and will write curriculum units that they will then use in their own classrooms and share with other teachers throughout their school system and, via the internet, with other teachers across the nation.

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Media Contact

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