Yale Hosts Conference on Supporting Teachers in High-Poverty Public Schools

Nave, Sterling Memorial Library

Presidents and other representatives of colleges and universities from twenty-four states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia will gather in New Haven on October 30 to discuss the urgency of supporting and retaining teachers in high-poverty, high-minority public schools. The conference fulfills a commitment Yale University made at the December 2014 White House Summit on College Opportunity.

Speakers and panelists will include U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell and officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation.

For the Summit last December, Yale University, through the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute®, recommitted to increasing the preparation and effectiveness of teachers in public schools that enroll a significant proportion of students from low-income families. Toward the goal of ensuring an equitable distribution of effective teachers, Yale pledged to convene a national conference on the role of Teachers Institutes in supporting and retaining teachers in high-need schools. During the summer of 2015, Yale President Peter Salovey invited presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities from across the United States to attend.

The conference, which President Salovey will host, begins with case studies presented by Teachers Institutes in Delaware and Pennsylvania, followed by a conversation with the U.S. Under Secretary of Education, moderated by education policy expert Thomas Toch. Speakers on the case study panels include Delaware Secretary of Education Steven H. Godowsky and Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr.

Through Teachers Institutes college and university faculty members in the Humanities and in STEM fields work as professional colleagues with teachers to deepen the teachers’ knowledge of core academic subjects and of strategies for teaching those subjects. This assists the teachers in engaging and educating their own students in the subjects of seminars they themselves have requested.

The Invitational Conference runs concurrent with the Annual Conference of the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools®. Those invited will have an opportunity to learn about the work from numerous Yale faculty members and some sixty public school teachers, their superintendents, and other officials from the nineteen school districts in eight states and the District of Columbia that are currently participating in the Initiative.

In break-out sessions, National Fellows and Yale faculty members who have led National Initiative seminars will lead discussions based on their experiences in seminar and in school. Teachers will describe the teaching of and student response to curriculum units they developed in these seminars, and Yale faculty members will explain how leading the seminars differs, in approach and benefit, from their regular teaching. Two other break-outs focus on the timely topics of teacher leadership and student engagement.

The eleventh Annual Conference is the latest in a series of meetings Yale has held since 1983 to disseminate the Teachers Institute approach and to collaborate with school and university colleagues from around the United States.

At the Conference, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is releasing a Special Issue of its periodical On Common Ground® with a cover article by Yale President Peter Salovey, a feature by Chairman William Adams of the National Endowment for the Humanities, summaries of a longitudinal analysis of data on teacher participation in New Haven and a report on teacher retention, as well as articles by Yale faculty members who have led national seminars and teachers who have participated in those seminars.

The Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools is a long-term endeavor to influence public policy on teacher professional development, in part by establishing exemplary Teachers Institutes for high-need schools in states around the country. Following the approach developed in New Haven and implemented in other cities, it builds upon the success of a four-year National Demonstration Project.

Teachers Institutes are educational partnerships between universities and school districts designed to strengthen teaching and learning in a community’s high-need public schools. Evaluations have shown that the Institute approach exemplifies the characteristics of high-quality teacher professional development, enhances teacher quality in the ways known to improve student achievement, and encourages participants to remain in teaching in their high-need schools.