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The first Annual Conference of the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools was held on October 28-29 in New Haven. This is the latest in a series of meetings Yale has held since 1983 to disseminate the approach of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute and to collaborate with school and university colleagues from around the United States.
The Conference focused on the ways in which the Teachers Institute approach is promoting teacher quality that results in enhanced student learning in ten of the nation's urban public school systems.
Like each of the earlier conferences, this one was shaped around the interests of the participants. Most of the 2005 National Fellows and many of the college and university faculty members who attended the Intensive Session in July attended the conference. Other New Haven teachers and Yale faculty members who have participated in the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute contributed their experience during the meeting.
The overall purpose was for participants to report on and plan for the Initiative's work locally and nationally. A panel of National Fellows spoke about the teaching of the curriculum units they developed in this year's National Seminars. Teacher Representatives of each city that is planning or exploring a Teachers Institute reported on the progress they have made locally since July. Break-out sessions addressed various aspects of the Teachers Institute approach from the writing of curriculum units to evaluating the results of Institute participation for teachers, their students and schools. The National Seminars reconvened so that Fellows and Seminar leaders could discuss how the Seminar subjects are being introduced in school classrooms.
Yale faculty members presented and discussed subjects of National Seminars they are prepared to lead in 2006. In small groups participants explored the plans they are beginning to make to develop local Teachers Institutes. Throughout, participants had extensive opportunities to talk informally with one another and to examine displays of materials National Fellows brought from their local classrooms.
As one result of the conference, the teachers on the National Steering Committee and those who represent cities planning Teachers Institutes decided on the schedule and subjects for the National Seminars the Initiative will offer in 2006.
As early as 1983 the Institute organized a national conference of Chief State School Officers and college and university presidents on "Excellence in Teaching: A Common Goal." By coming to New Haven from thirty-eight states, American Somoa, the Northern Mariannas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the participants made it an unprecedented meeting of elementary and secondary and higher education.
In 1986 the Institute organized a national conference of teachers and administrators from schools and colleges on "Strengthening Teaching through Collaboration." Writing about the meeting in a column in The New York Times entitled "Promoting Subversion," Fred M. Hechinger said: "Largely unnoticed by the public, a new movement of collaboration between high school teachers and college professors has begun to stretch across the country, 'subverting' the traditional separation between school and college."
In 1991 the Institute hosted a national conference, "School-College Collaboration: Preparing Teachers and Curricula for Public Schools." The conference represented the culmination of several important projects in different areas of the Institute's work, including the publication of Teaching in New Haven: The Common Challenge and a "Progress Report on Surveys Administered to New Haven Teachers, 1982-1990," which presents a multifaceted account of the results of the Institute.
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