Our proposal would establish eight new Teacher Professional Development Institutes throughout the Nation each year over the next five years based on the model which has been operating at Yale University for over 25 years. Every Teacher Institute would consist of a partnership between an institution of higher education and the local public school system in which a significant proportion of the students come from low-income households. These Institutes will strengthen the present teacher workforce by giving each participant an opportunity to gain more sophisticated content knowledge and a chance to develop curriculum units with other colleagues that can be directly applied in their classrooms. We know that teachers gain confidence and enthusiasm when they have a deeper understanding of the subject matter that they teach and this translates into higher expectations for their students and an increase in student achievement.
The Teacher Professional Development Institutes are based on the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute model that has been in existence since 1978. For over 25 years, the Institute has offered, six or seven 13-session seminars each year, led by Yale faculty, on topics that teachers have selected to enhance their mastery of the specific subject area that they teach. The subject selection process begins with representatives from the Institutes soliciting ideas from teachers throughout the school district for topics on which teachers feel they need to have additional preparation, topics that will assist them in preparing materials they need for their students, or topics that will assist them in addressing the standards that the school district requires. As a consensus emerges about desired seminar subjects, the Institute director identifies university faculty members with the appropriate expertise, interest and desire to lead the seminar. University faculty members, especially those who have led Institute seminars before, may sometimes suggest seminars they would like to lead, and these ideas are circulated by the representatives as well. The final decisions on which seminar topics are offered are ultimately made by the teachers who participate. In this way, the offerings are designed to respond to what teachers believe is needed and useful for both themselves and their students.
The cooperative nature of the Institute seminar planning process ensures its success: Institutes offer seminars and relevant materials on topics teachers have identified and feel are needed for their own preparation as well as what they know will motivate and engage their students. Teachers enthusiastically take part in rigorous seminars they have requested, and as part of the program, practice using the materials they have obtained and developed. This helps ensure that the experience not only increases their preparation in the subjects they are assigned to teach, but also their participation in an Institute seminar gives them immediate hands-on active learning materials that can be used in the classroom. In short, by allowing teachers to determine the seminar subjects and providing them the resources to develop relevant curricula for their classroom and their students, the Institutes empower teachers. Teachers know their students best and they know what should be done to improve schools and increase student learning. The Teacher Professional Development Institutes promote this philosophy.
From 1999–2002, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute promoted a National Demonstration Project to create comparable Institutes at four diverse sites with large concentrations of disadvantaged students. These demonstration projects are located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Houston, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Santa Ana, CA.
Follow-up evaluations have earned very positive results from the teacher participants in the Yale-New Haven Institute, as well as the four demonstration sites. The data strongly support the conclusion that virtually all teachers felt substantially strengthened in their mastery of content knowledge and they also developed increased expectations for what their students could achieve. In addition, because of their involvement in the course selection and curriculum development process, teacher participants have found these seminars to be especially relevant and useful in their classroom practices. Mr. President, 95 percent of all participating teachers reported that the seminars were useful. These Institutes have also served to foster teacher leadership, to develop supportive teacher networks, to heighten university faculty commitments to improving K–12 public education, and to foster more positive partnerships between school districts and institutions of higher education.
Many agree that teacher quality is the single most important school-related factor in determining student achievement. Effective teacher professional development programs that focus on subject and pedagogy knowledge are a proven method for enhancing the success of a teacher in the classroom.
Though a K–12 teacher shortage is forecast in the near-term and many new teachers will be entering our schools, those teachers who are presently on the job will do the majority of teaching in the classrooms in the very near future. For this reason, it is imperative to invest in methods to strengthen our present teaching workforce. Like many professions, the quality of our teachers could diminish if their professional development is neglected. Positive educational achievements occur when coursework in a teacher's specific content area is combined with pedagogy techniques. This is what the Teacher Professional Development Institutes Act strives to accomplish.
The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has already proven to be a successful model for teacher professional development as demonstrated by the high caliber curriculum unit plans that teacher participants have developed and placed on the web, and by the evaluations that support the conclusion that virtually all the teacher participants felt substantially strengthened in their mastery of content knowledge and their teaching skills. Our proposal would open this opportunity to many more urban teachers throughout the nation.
I urge my colleagues to act favorably on this measure. I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.