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Third Annual Conference
October 26-27, 2007

  

This Conference was the tenth national meeting Yale has held on school-college collaboration that strengthens teaching and learning in the nation's public schools. It was the third 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, to conclude that a new national movement of collaboration between school teachers and university faculty members had begun. Two decades later -- based on our work in New Haven since 1978, on the experience of a National Demonstration Project and of new Institutes founded during that Project and established since, and on the research we have conducted throughout -- we are persuaded that Teachers Institutes animated by the approach we share can be rapidly established in other communities and our approach promotes precisely those dimensions of teacher quality that enhance student learning. These are among the reasons we have undertaken the Yale National Initiative as a long-term endeavor to establish Institutes in most states.

The purpose of the present Conference is to discuss what the Initiative and its participating cities have accomplished so far and to plan for the future of our work locally and nationally. Throughout, we will examine and learn from each other about the principles and practices of the Teachers Institute approach.

The 2007 National Fellows have returned for the Conference. School district officials, including six superintendents, have come with the Fellows from most of the communities that are now planning or exploring the development of a new Teachers Institute, and we are delighted that representatives from the San Francisco Unified School District are participating in a national meeting for the first time. College and university faculty and officials from eight of our eleven communities also are participating. Everyone's presence makes this meeting a splendid opportunity to expand and 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. In most cases National Fellows now have had the opportunity to meet with their superintendent and other district officials to explain the approach and the promise it holds for their community. The Conference enlarges and intensifies those conversations. Fellows, district officials, and college and university representatives can learn here from colleagues in other communities. I particularly hope, too, that each city team will take advantage of being in New Haven together to determine the steps you will be taking, when you return home, to develop or sustain a local Teachers Institute.

A hallmark of the Institute approach is the way 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. That is why we begin the Conference this morning with a panel of seven National Fellows, one from each of the national seminars we offered this year. They will describe curriculum units they 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 and to some of the rest of you. A number of you, though, will be hearing about these topics for the first time. The Conference affords a valuable opportunity for those of you who are experienced in the Institute approach to inform those who are less acquainted with the approach about the meaning we invest in teacher leadership, institutional partnership, collegiality, and classroom application; about the value we attach to diversity and dissemination; and about the ways we work in the humanities, the sciences, and mathematics. I urge the team from each community to distribute your members across the seven break-out sessions so that each one is of a similar size and so that your team can take part in most, if not all, of these roundtable discussions. Whatever break-out session you attend, during lunch the leaders will report to all of us 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 teachers and other representatives from four communities, will describe the progress they are making in planning or exploring new Teachers Institutes so that we can celebrate and learn from their accomplishment. The National Fellows will then reconvene in their seminars. Other delegates will participate in two caucuses, one for communities with established Institutes, another for communities planning or exploring an Institute. At the same time, there is a limited opportunity for a few of you to observe the national seminars, if you wish and sign up to do so.

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. Please sign up to select your dinner table. A section of the printed program on the local Institute experience of the National Fellows and college and university faculty attending the Conference, will help you identify individuals with whom you may especially want to talk over dinner or at other times.

As during the break-out sessions, at dinner we ask that each city Team distribute its members across the 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 well informed about what was said at each one.

In our first session tomorrow morning, six 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 Teachers 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 for the development of curriculum units for their students.

As Fellows, faculty, and school, college and university officials from each community, you then will meet as teams to discuss the implications of the Conference for your work locally, including the plans you will make for recommending teachers to become National Fellows next year. Each team will select a spokesperson to report at lunch on your meeting.

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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