I am pleased to welcome colleagues from seventeen school districts and eight universities in ten states and the District of Columbia to the Intensive Session of the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools®. The Initiative is a long-term endeavor to influence public policy on teacher professional development, in part by establishing exemplary Teachers Institutes in states around the country.

Participants in the Intensive Session include the Yale National Fellows and university faculty members who have led or may lead local Teachers Institute seminars. Three-quarters of the National Fellows are from school districts that are planning or exploring the establishment of a new Teachers Institute for their location. Other National Fellows come from existing Teachers Institutes and are Institute Fellows and teacher Representatives locally. Overall, half of the National Fellows are participating here for the first time.

The schedule for National Fellows combines experience in, with discussion of, the Articles of Understanding that define, and the Procedures that implement, the innovative Teachers Institute approach. It also provides time for Fellows’ reading and writing. Each National Fellow is participating in a seminar that began during the Organizational Session on May 1-2. Fellows will attend ten two-hour, daily sessions of their seminars and will meet individually with their seminar leader at least twice. By July 15 each Fellow will submit a first draft of a curriculum unit, and a draft of a synopsis of that unit, that will educate his or her own students about the seminar subject. A National Fellow is serving as the Coordinator of each seminar. The Coordinators support other National Fellows in the seminar and assist them in learning about the role that seminar Coordinators play within a local Teachers Institute.

The visiting university faculty members will review the Teachers Institute Theory of Change and, in particular, the Articles on faculty roles within an Institute, and on the type of school-university partnership an Institute represents. They will observe two different national seminars and will meet with national seminar leaders about what they have observed and with other experienced seminar leaders about the seminar and curriculum unit writing process.

National seminar leaders will give informal talks, providing an overview or an example of a topic their seminar is addressing. All participants will take part in workshops on developing curriculum units. National Fellows also will attend workshops on the Teachers Institute approach.

Teams of all the participants from each location will meet together at least once during the Session and will meet after the Session with the Director of the Yale National Initiative. They are encouraged to meet as a team additional times to consider the bearing of their experience on their work at home.

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 ways known to improve student achievement, and encourages participants to remain in teaching in their schools. New Institutes can be established in locations with different population compositions and educational needs and resources than exist in New Haven. Those following the model closely have the best prospects for being sustained over the long term.

We hope that your participation in the Intensive Session will help sustain existing Institutes, assist with the planning of new Teachers Institutes, and inform professional development policies and practices in all the communities represented.

James R. Vivian
New Haven

Yale National Initiative®, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute®, and League of Teachers Institutes® are registered trademarks of Yale University.