Annual Report 1998 Table of Contents | Brochures and Reports

During 1998, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute made progress in what will now be its two complementary areas of activity: the local and the national. 

In New Haven it conducted a program of seven seminars for Fellows. It continued its expansion of Centers for Professional and Curricular Development in the schools (with seven Centers thus far and three more expected in the near future). It developed further the relationship of its resources to school curricula. And it pursued its fund-raising to ensure the continuation of its activity in New Haven and across the country in the longer term. 

Progress on the national level was most notably assisted by a four-year grant from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, and a supplementary three-year grant from the McCune Charitable Foundation, for the establishment of a National Demonstration Project. The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has now embarked on the process of working with four other Teachers Institutes for the next three years. This Project creates, in effect, a network of Teachers Institutes across the country that can serve as a model for university-school collaboration. The periodical On Common Ground may become the vehicle through which the progress and results of this National Demonstration Project may be disseminated, in order to encourage the establishment of yet more Teachers Institutes in other urban centers in this nation. 

The National Demonstration Project comes at a time when the educational problem for economically disadvantaged students is urgent and the solution of university-school collaboration is politically opportune. Indeed, the American public is now overwhelmingly convinced of the importance of improving the quality of teaching in public schools; and it is also convinced that all children, including the economically disadvantaged, should have teachers who are fully qualified. 

According to a landmark poll released by Recruiting New Teachers, Inc., and public opinion analyst Louis Harris, nine out of ten Americans now believe that the way to lift student achievement is to ensure the presence of well-qualified teachers. “Once the issue of student safety was addressed,” according to Future Teacher, “the public picked providing a qualified teacher in every classroom—not standards, tests, vouchers, privatization, or school uniforms—as the most important way to improve education.” The poll also found that more than half of the public (55 percent) now believe that the quality of teachers has “the greatest influence on student learning.” Teacher quality was chosen over a system of academic standards (30 percent) or requiring achievement tests in core academic subjects (14 percent). Indeed, 83 percent of Americans agree that “we should ensure that all children, including those who are economically disadvantaged, have teachers who are fully qualified, even if it means spending more money to achieve that.” 

An expanding league of Teachers Institutes from coast to coast would constitute a major step in this direction. The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute hopes that its National Demonstration Project can provide an exemplary beginning. As one of this year’s seminar leaders has said, “I have come increasingly to think that eventually this kind of relationship between universities and public school systems must become the norm, with universities becoming working partners in public education much more than they ever have been. It can’t happen soon enough.” 

In conclusion we quote some remarks made by William Ferris, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, when addressing the Yale Political Union on October 6, 1998. Surveying the accomplishments of the Endowment, he said: 

. . . .perhaps the most inspiring NEH-sponsored project at Yale focuses on teaching and intellectual exchange. It is the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. 
Charles Frankel, the Columbia University philosopher, once said that nothing more important had happened to American scholars than the government’s invitation to them through NEH “to think in a more public fashion” and “to teach with . . . their fellow citizens in mind.” That’s exactly what happened at the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. . . . 

The project has been an enormous success in bridging the gap between the ivory tower of the academy and the mean streets of the city. I can personally attest to the program’s value because I was one of the first Yale faculty members who took part in it in 1978–I encouraged teachers to use music, the blues, quilt-making and local folklore as teaching tools. . . . 

The Institute has also been a roaring financial success, and no longer needs federal dollars. After 16 years of NEH support—over $2.2 million—it acquired its own endowment and now helps other cities around the country emulate its model. 


The National Project comes at a time when the American public is convinced of the importance of improving the quality of teaching in public schools. 


“The project has been an enormous success in bridging the gap between the ivory tower of the academy and the mean streets of the city.” —William Ferris 

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