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This Conference was the ninth national meeting Yale has held on school-college collaboration that strengthens teaching and learning in the nation's public schools. It was the second annual conference of the Yale National Initiative. Following are the remarks Initiative Director James Vivian made in welcoming participants to Yale.
"Welcome to Yale in New Haven. The Conference we held in this room in 1986 prompted the Education Editor of The New York Times, Fred Hechinger, to write that a new national movement of collaboration between school teachers and university faculty members had begun. After two decades of such collaboration around the country -- based on our work in New Haven since 1978, the experience of a National Demonstration Project from 1998-2001, and the research we have conducted throughout -- we are persuaded that Teachers Institutes patterned after the New Haven Institute can be rapidly established in other communities and that the Teachers Institute approach promotes precisely those dimensions of teacher quality that enhance student learning. These are among the reasons we have undertaken the Yale National Initiative to establish Institutes in most states.
"The purpose of the present Conference is to discuss what the Initiative has accomplished so far and to plan for the future of our work locally and nationally. Most of the 2006 National Fellows have returned to New Haven for the Conference, as have some of the 2005 National Fellows. School district officials, including five superintendents, have come with the Fellows from all six of the cities that are now planning or exploring the development of a new Teachers Institute. Your presence makes this meeting a splendid opportunity to deepen our work.
"Teachers become National Fellows to learn through experience about the Teachers Institute approach so that they can help their school districts investigate the advantages of that approach for their own curriculum and professional development policies and practices. In most cities National Fellows have now had the opportunity to meet with their superintendent and other district officials to explain the Teachers Institute approach and the promise it may hold for their community. The Conference enlarges and intensifies that conversation. Fellows and district officials can learn here from colleagues in other cities. I particularly hope, too, that each city team will take advantage of being in New Haven together for a day and a half to determine in very specific terms the steps you will be taking when you return home to develop a local Teachers Institute.
"A hallmark of the Institute approach is the way in which it combines teachers' further preparation in subjects in the humanities and the sciences with the practical application of what they have learned in school classrooms. The curriculum units local and National Fellows write focus the attention of each seminar on increasing the teachers', and thus the districts', capacity to improve student learning in the seminar subjects. This is why we begin the Conference this morning with a panel of six National Fellows, each one from a different city and a different national seminar, who will describe curriculum units they have prepared and, in many cases, have begun to teach.
"The break-out sessions later this morning address fundamental aspects of the Teachers Institute approach. The topics will be familiar to the National Fellows, though less so to some of the school district officials who are here. This will be a valuable opportunity for school teachers and university faculty who are experienced in the Institute approach to inform those here who are less acquainted with the approach with the meaning we invest in teacher leadership, collegiality, classroom application, and evaluation. During lunch, the leaders will report on the main messages from their sessions.
"This afternoon a panel, moderated by the Founding Director who developed the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute, and composed of the teacher Representatives from each city, will describe the progress they are making to explore or plan new Teachers Institutes. The National Fellows will then reconvene in their seminars, and school officials will caucus to discuss their understanding of the Teachers Institute approach and to explore the roles superintendents, assistant superintendents, heads of curriculum and instruction, and principals play in a Teachers Institute. The caucus will be led by a former school superintendent and a former principal.
"The reception and dinner at day's end afford our best opportunity for informal conversation across cities and across the roles as individuals we play. You are each other's program for the evening. Please sign up to select your dinner table. A brochure in your folder on the local Institute experience of the National Fellows and University faculty attending the Conference, will help you identify individuals with whom you may especially want to talk to over dinner.
"During the break-out sessions and at dinner we ask that each city Team distribute its members across the sessions or tables so that when you meet as teams tomorrow morning you can compare notes on all the Conference sessions and so that someone on your team is knowledgeable about what was said at each one.
"In our first session tomorrow morning, eight Yale faculty members who have led New Haven Institute seminars will comment briefly on, and answer questions about, national seminar possibilities for the coming year. Insofar as possible, we pattern our national work after that of a local Institute, and we therefore want to preserve in our national work the basic principle of organizing seminars to address subjects teachers request for their own further preparation and the development of curriculum units for their students.
"As Fellows, faculty, and school officials from each city, you then will meet as teams to discuss the implications of the Conference for your work locally, including the procedures you will follow in recommending teachers to become National Fellows next year. Each team will select a spokesperson to report on your meeting at lunch.
"Again, welcome to Yale. The fact that so many of you would take time from your demanding schedules to participate in this Conference is gratifying, and I hope that you will find the Conference worthwhile."
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