This Conference was the eleventh national meeting Yale has held on school-college collaboration that strengthens teaching and learning in the nation's public schools. It was the fourth 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 first Conference we held in this room twenty-five years ago was the first national meeting of the Chief State School Officers and University presidents from their states. The Conference here 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 to "subvert the traditional separation between school and college." Yale's President at the time, Bart Giamatti, quipped that he had not before thought of himself as a "subversive." Two decades later –- based on our work in New Haven since 1978 and on the experience of founding new Institutes during a National Demonstration Project and since then -- we are persuaded
- that Teachers Institutes animated by the approach we share can be rapidly established in other communities
- that our approach promotes precisely those dimensions of teacher quality that enhance student learning
- that Teacher Institutes exemplify the characteristics of the highest quality teacher professional development, and
- that Institute participation encourages teachers to continue teaching in urban schools.
These four are among the reasons we undertook the Yale National Initiative as a long-term endeavor to establish Institutes in most states. We want the persuasive effectiveness of these Institutes eventually to influence public policy toward teacher professional development.
The purposes of the present Conference are to consider what the cities and counties participating in the Initiative have accomplished so far and to plan for the future of our work locally and nationally. Throughout, we will discuss and learn from each other about the principles and practices of the Teachers Institute approach.
The 2008 National Fellows, whose seminars met here in May and July, have returned for the Conference. School district officials, including superintendents, heads of professional development and of curriculum and instruction, and current and former presidents of local and state boards of education, have accompanied the Fellows from all the communities that are now planning or exploring the development of a new Teachers Institute. College and university faculty and administration from many 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 and to help their school districts investigate the advantages of that approach for their own curriculum and professional development. National Fellows now have had opportunities 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 also can learn here from colleagues in other communities. And each city team can 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 in school classrooms of what they have learned. The curriculum units local and National Fellows write focus the attention of each seminar on increasing the teachers', and thus their districts', capacity to improve student learning in the seminar subjects. That is why we begin the Conference this morning with a panel of ten National Fellows, at least one from each of the seven national seminars we offered this year. They will describe curriculum units they prepared and, in many cases, have begun to teach, even though it is early in the school year.
The break-out sessions later this morning address fundamental aspects of the Teachers Institute approach. Each session will be led by two or three experienced Institute participants who will open with remarks to frame and stimulate discussion. The topics will be familiar to the National Fellows and to some of the rest of you. Many of you, though, will be learning about these topics for the first time. Two thirds of you who are district and university representatives are attending your first Annual Conference. 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; about the importance of dissemination; and about the ways we work in the humanities, the social sciences, the sciences, and mathematics.
I urge the team from each community to distribute your members as evenly as possible across the seven break-out sessions so that each session is of a similar, manageable size (so that there is a seat for everyone) 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 of our newest Teachers Institute in Philadelphia and composed of teachers and other representatives from the four communities now planning a new Teachers Institute, will describe the progress they are making and the strategies they have found to be most effective 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 faculty members and another for school district officials to discuss their respective roles in developing and sustaining a local Teachers Institute, as well as the benefits of an Institute for both school systems and institutions of higher education. At the same time, there is a limited opportunity for a few of you to visit the national seminars, if you sign up and prefer doing that to attending your caucus.
The reception and dinner at day's end afford our best opportunity for informal conversation across communities and across the roles as individuals we play. Please sign up to select your dinner table. A section in 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 will be well-informed about what was said at each one.
In our first session tomorrow morning, Yale faculty members who have led New Haven Institute seminars will describe and answer questions about national seminar possibilities for the coming year. Insofar as we can, we pattern our national work after that of a local Teachers Institute, and we therefore want to present some options to preserve in our national work the basic principle of organizing seminars that address subjects teachers request for their own further preparation and for the development of curriculum units that will motivate and educate 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 have taken time from your demanding schedules to participate in this Conference is gratifying, and I hope that you will find the Conference worthwhile.