Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools: Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

During the past year our country's public schools have received unprecedented national attention. Much of what has been said about the condition of public education has been highly critical, grimly portraying the quality of our 86,000 public schools. However, one encouraging result of this intensified scrutiny of our schools has been a renewed appreciation of ways in which communities can develop partnerships to improve their schools. In particular, the spotlight has been focused on the growing movement toward university-school collaboration. One of the highest educational priorities for the l980s and beyond, many analysts agree, is for schools and colleges to work together at the local level to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

Of all the ways schools and colleges might collaborate, there are no programs more important than those that concentrate on excellence in teaching. Many observers of our schools single out the present "crisis" in teaching as foremost among the problems of secondary schools. The reasons for the present concern about teaching in our schools are increasingly familiar: issues of prestige, power, pay, and preparation for teachers. Based upon my experience with the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, I believe that the means for addressing some, though not all, of these problems are in our hands and within our power. School-college collaboration, though certainly not a panacea for all that afflicts our schools, can improve teaching in our schools.

The interplay of our schools and colleges has, of course, been a theme in the history of American education. During the rise of universal secondary education and the growth of higher education in America, colleges have had a vested interest in the prior education of their students. Higher education has served to shape secondary school curricula through admissions requirements, and college faculty have written curricula and textbooks for use directly in schools. Schools have sought to know the content of college courses so that they might prepare their students for college studies. Some colleges have muted the distinction between secondary and higher education by the early enrollment of high school students in college offerings, sometimes for credit, either on campus or in schools. Probably most important, higher education has provided the initial preparation, and often continuing education, for the individuals who teach in our schools.

Over the past century some of the most influential analysts of our schools have emphasized the continuing engagement of teachers with the subjects they teach. In a series of widely-read essays published in l892, Joseph M. Rice argued that "teachers must constantly endeavor to grow both in professional and in general intellectual strength." Having observed schools in thirty-six cities, Rice concluded, "by far the most progress has been made in those cities where the teachers themselves are the most earnest students . . . [I]t is, after all, the teacher that makes the school." That same year, under President Charles W. Eliot, Harvard University instituted free courses for Cambridge teachers in new subjects in the sciences. The following year, writing for the Committee of Ten, Eliot asserted that the changes the Committee recommended depended on teachers more highly trained during their initial preparation and while in service. The Carnegie Report of l920 on The Professional Preparation of Teachers spoke of the importance of "regular periods of uninterrupted study" for teachers because "the present vitality of the school is directly involved." In l945 the authors of the Harvard Report, General Education in a Free Society, stated that "there is no educational reform so important as the improvement of teaching," and that the greatest of the schools' needs was "a more rounded, longer, more continuing education of teachers." In l963 James B. Conant's The Education of American Teachers recommended especially continuing study and in-service education for teachers.

Most recently, in the Carnegie Report on High School, Ernest L. Boyer called for greater emphasis on subject matter in the initial preparation of the teacher, and for "a planned continuing education program... [as] part of every teacher's professional life." As Boyer later wrote in commenting on the numerous education studies and reports issued in l983, "We are beginning to see that whatever is wrong with America's schools cannot be fixed without the help of those teachers already in the classrooms. Most of them will be there for years to come, and teachers must be viewed as part of the solution, not as part of the problem."

National demographic trends, even though they obscure significant state and regional differences, demonstrate the particular importance of Boyer's observation for the l980s. The decline in enrollment in public secondary schools, which began in the l970s, will continue into the early l990s. While the reduced demand for teachers resulting from falling enrollment was initially offset by an improved ratio of teachers to students, during the l980s this ratio will improve at a much slower rate. The proportion of teachers who leave the profession each year, which dropped to six percent in l973, will continue at this lower level. The total number of secondary school teachers will therefore continue to decline through the l980s; the average annual demand for these teachers will be thirty percent less than in the l970s. New college graduates, who represented nine percent of all school teachers in l971, constituted only two percent of teachers in l982. 1 {' '} In short, the secondary education of a generation of the nation's young people will be mainly in the hands of individuals presently teaching. To improve secondary education in the l980s we must therefore strengthen the teaching of those individuals already in, and now entering, the profession.

These national trends are pronounced in New Haven. In other ways, too, a profile of the New Haven Public Schools resembles that of many American secondary schools, especially those in urban areas: More than sixty percent of secondary students in the New Haven Public Schools come from families receiving some form of public assistance; eighty-three percent are either Black or Hispanic; forty-five percent of those entering the ninth grade do not graduate. Absenteeism and the high mobility of students among schools impair the ability of teachers to plan a logical sequence for learning in their courses. The turnover of teachers presently is only two percent, and about half of New Haven secondary teachers teach subjects in which they did not major in college or graduate school. Many report, not surprisingly, that teaching has become more stressful.

As early as l980 two national panels isssued their findings on the state of student learning in the humanities and the sciences: A joint National Science Foundation/Department of Education study spoke of "a trend toward virtual scientific and technological illiteracy," and the Commission on the Humanities concluded that "a dramatic improvement in the quality of education in our elementary and secondary schools is the highest educational priority in the l980s." The Commission called for curricula to teach children "to read well, to write clearly, and to think critically." They also found that "the need to interrelate the humanities, social sciences, science and technology has probably never been greater than today."

These problems are no less important to Yale than national problems in secondary education are to universities generally, and Yale's reasons for becoming involved transcend altruism or a sense of responsibility to the New Haven community. As Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti pointed out in an interview on the December 7, l980, David Susskind television program, "it is profoundly in our self-interest to have coherent, well-taught, well-thought-out curricula" in our local schools, and in secondary schools throughout the country. Yale acted upon such a view in l970, when the History Department began the History Education Project (HEP), which assisted a number of New Haven social studies teachers in developing improved curricula for courses in American history, world area studies, and urban studies.

The success of HEP led to discussions about organizing a more ambitious and demanding program which would include additional disciplines. This was a specific response to the general question, How can institutions located in center-city areas become constructively involved in addressing problems of the communities where they reside, and on which they depend? The way that Yale and New Haven answered this question, we believed, might be of value to universities and school systems elsewhere.

Teachers and administrators from the University and the Schools quickly reached a consensus: The relationship between the University and the Schools must be both prominent and permanent within any viable larger relationship between Yale and New Haven, and, of the many ways Yale might aid New Haven, none is more logical or defensible than a program that shares Yale's educational resources with the Schools. Because of changing student needs, changing objectives set by the school system and each level of government, and changing scholarship, school curricula undergo constant revision. Because of Yale's strength in the academic disciplines, all agreed that developing curricula, further preparing teachers in the subjects they teach, and assisting teachers to keep abreast of changes in their fields were the ways that Yale could most readily assist the Schools.

The intent was not to create new resources at Yale; rather, it was to make available in a planned way our existing strength, that is, to expand and institutionalize the work of University faculty members with their colleagues in the Schools. Even at this early stage, both Yale and the Schools sought a course of action that might have a substantial impact. The Superintendent of Schools and Board of Education asked that the expansion of the program begin with the addition of seminars in English, the subject in which they saw the greatest need. The objective was eventually to involve as many teachers as possible and to include a range of subjects that would span the humanities and sciences, so that the program might address the school curricula, and thus students' education, broadly. The Teachers Institute was established, then, in l978 as a joint program of Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools, designed to strengthen teaching and thereby to improve student learning in the humanities and the sciences in our community's middle and high schools.

From the outset, teachers have played a leading role in determining how Yale and the school system together can help them all meet their students' needs, not only the needs of students who later will enter college. The Institute seeks to involve all teachers who state an interest in one of our seminars and who can demonstrate the relation of their Institute work to courses they will teach in the coming year. The Institute does not, then, involve a special group of teachers who teach a special group of students; rather, it is an intensive effort to assist teachers throughout the school system, grades seven through twelve.

Each year about eighty New Haven school teachers become Fellows of the Institute to work with Yale faculty members on topics the teachers themselves have identified. Many of the University's most distinguished faculty members have given talks and led seminars in the program. Seminar topics have included geology, the environment, medical imaging, Greek civilization, architecture, the arts and material culture, the American family, and a variety of topics in literature, history, and culture. The materials that Fellows write are compiled into a volume for each seminar and distributed to all New Haven teachers who might use them. Teams of seminar members promote widespread use of these materials by presenting workshops for colleagues during the school year.

Culminating with the Fellows' preparation of new curricular materials that they and other teachers will use in the coming school year, the Institute's rigorous four-and-one-half month program includes talks, workshops, and seminars. The talks are intended to stimulate thinking and discussion and to point up interdisciplinary relationships in scholarship and teaching. Presenting Institute unit guidelines, the workshops explore the Fellows' own approaches to writing a curriculum unit and stress the audience for whom Fellows are writing: other teachers. The seminars have the related and equally important purposes of increasing Fellows' background and developing new curriculum materials on the seminar subjects. As a group, Fellows study the seminar subject generally by discussing common readings; individually, each Fellow selects a more limited aspect of the subject, and researches and develops it in depth for classroom use. Each seminar must balance these complementary, but in some ways distinct, activities.

In applying to the Institute, teachers describe topics they most want to develop; Yale faculty circulate seminar proposals related to these topics; and teachers who coordinate Institute activities in the schools, after canvassing their colleagues, ultimately select which seminars will be offered. In effect, New Haven teachers determine the subject matter for the program each year. A high proportion of teachers' requests have been in language and literature because English is the largest department in the schools; nineteen of the forty-three seminars the Institute has offered have been in this area. These seminars may be categorized as studies of a particular genre, interdisciplinary approaches to history and literature, thematic approaches to literature, and approaches for teaching writing. Teachers of languages other than English have frequently participated in our genre, thematic, and writing seminars, and two interdisciplinary offerings were organized specifically for Spanish and bilingual education teachers.

In an early seminar, Strategies for Teaching Literature, led by James A. Winn, Associate Professor of English, the members as a group discussed a variety of literary genres, while each Fellow individually researched and wrote on a particular genre. Other seminars have concentrated exclusively on a single genre. Readings in the Twentieth Century Short Story, led by James A. Snead, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature, considered the unique form of the short story, various styles, and questions of interpretation, especially those related to the teaching of literature. Thomas R. Whitaker, Professor and Chairman of English, twice led a seminar on Drama. In his first seminar, members addressed a range of pedagogical strategies involving drama: how dramatic improvisation might increase students' motivation for study of the language arts, how it may provide a context for exploring the situations of bilingual and Black students or of adolescents as a group, and how non-verbal performance can be a useful preparation for engaging a text. When Professor Whitaker led a second seminar on Drama, the Fellows explored the implications of assuming that, even in a classroom, a play is best read as a "score for performance." They engaged a variety of plays, sampled some theatre games and exercises, and shaped their group work so that it would encompass each of the curriculum units being prepared by the Fellows. Autobiography, led by Richard H. Brodhead, Associate Professor of English, considered the nature of autobiography both as a literary form and as a human act. Seminar members looked at some distinguished examples of autobiographical writing and discussed how the study of autobiography could provide the focus for a program in student writing.

In each of these genre seminars, there was an emphasis on how best to introduce middle and high school students to the genre, how to relate what students would study to their own experiences and how, simultaneously, to encourage various forms of student expression. As Professor Brodhead wrote:

"While our seminar was reading classic writings and discussing abstract questions about autobiography, our concern was always with what this study could yield for New Haven high- and middle-school students, and specifically with how it could help develop their powers of verbal expression. This concern is constantly reflected in the units, each of which uses autobiography as the basis for a program of student writing. Our idea, in making autobiography the matrix for writing assignments, is to connect the often troubled act of writing with a broad activity of communication that students are already competent at and comfortable in. But while they draw on this reservoir of existing communicational skills, the units do not promote casual or uncontrolled self-expression as an end in itself. Rather they aim to use autobiographical self-expression to make students more conscious of the nature and power of expression, as well as to promote the forms of self-discovery--that new knowledge of who we are, where we came from, what matters to us, and why--that the writing of autobiography can produce."

Institute seminars with an interdisciplinary approach have combined the studies of history, literature, and culture. Society and the Detective Novel, led by Robin W. Winks, Professor of History, examined the transfer of the American "Western novel" to the asphalt of the city, showing how detective, and to a lesser extent spy fiction reveals the nation's preoccupations. Drawing upon the visual arts as well as literature, An Interdisciplinary Approach to British Studies, also led by Professor Winks, explored recent trends and new interpretations in modern British history, and recent approaches to English literature. The "City" in American Literature and Culture, led by Alan Trachtenberg, Professor of American Studies and English, explored the usefulness of the category "city" or "urban" in the teaching of American cultural history. Drawing from readings in fiction, poetry, social theory and urban history, as well as their knowledge of their students' backgrounds and needs, seminar members attempted to reconcile the detached view of the scholar with the more practical, urgent view of the citizen. Twentieth Century American History and Literature, an early seminar, was divided into three sections, one on American domestic affairs, led by Professor Richard W. Fox, Assistant Professor of History, one on foreign policy, led by Henry A. Turner, Professor and Chairman of History, and a third, in English, concentrating on the feminine experience as revealed in various forms of literature, led by Cynthia E. Russett, Lecturer in English. In The Afro-American Culture of the Twentieth Century, led by Charles T. Davis, Professor of English and Chairman of Afro-American Studies, seminar members studied comparatively Black and white literary traditions and historical accounts of the experiences of Blacks and Italians in New Haven; examined origins of the Black migration from the South and of the Black ghetto in the northern city; and investigated qualities in Afro-American achievement that were distinctly black--always, however, with a concern for a debt to the host American culture.

Nicolas M. Shumway, Assistant Professor of Spanish, led two interdisciplinary seminars, intended primarily for teachers of Spanish, bilingual education, and social studies, on Hispanic society and culture in Latin America and the United States. Drawing on both literature and history, Professor Shumway's first seminar, Society and Literature in Latin America, examined subjects ranging from the Latin American colonial experience and cultural dependency theories, to the culture of poverty and the image of the Latin America dictator. Fellows researched such topics as Latin American geography and history, Puerto Rican folklore and music, and feminist criticism of Latin American poetry. Professor Shumway's second seminar, Hispanic Minorities in the United States, explored the origins, history, social and immigration patterns, and contemporary culture of Hispanic groups in the United States. Using texts drawn from both scholarly and literary sources, the seminar paid particular attention to the two largest Hispanic groups in the United States, Puerto Ricans and Chicanos. Seminar members compared the groups' experiences in order to gain a better perspective for understanding each group individually. Two seminars in literature took a thematic approach. Adolescence and Narrative Strategies for Teaching Fiction, led by Ross C. Murfin, Assistant Professor of English, examined ideas held by adolescent characters and how they react to, reflect, or oppose the surrounding culture. In the broadest sense, the seminar considered the relationship between adolescence and fiction: what fiction can reveal about adolescence; whether, in fact, novels with adolescent protagonists most often represent some other difficult human condition. The Stranger in Modern Fiction: A Portrait in Black and White, led by Michael G. Cooke, Professor of English, considered the the idea of human freedom in such contexts as family history, political and legal systems, financial need, social customs, nature, personal failure, and myth. The Oral Tradition, also led by Professor Cooke, explored the relationship between the oral tradition and the civilization in which it is developed in three literary environments: classical Greek poetry and drama, British poetry and German folktales, and Black American fiction.

The Institute has offered a series of four seminars on the teaching of writing. In the first of three seminars entitled Language and Writing, discussions were based largely on the members' own work-in-progress. The seminar leader, James A. Winn, Associate Professor of English, remarked, "No synthesis or consensus emerged from these sessions; indeed, many of the differences in theory and practice between the participants may now be more sharply defined and more deeply felt than they were. But I can state confidently as the seminar leader that the marks and dents of all that vigorous shop-talk are visible on every unit." The following year, led by Thomas R. Whitaker, Professor and Chairman of English, the seminar was intended for teachers who were preparing curricula dealing with some aspect of grammar, reading, speaking, or writing. When Professor Winn offered the seminar again the following year, common readings included material on rhetoric and linguistics, and Fellows were encouraged to design a curriculum unit substantially unlike anything they had done before. The fourth seminar in writing, Writing Across the Curriculum, led by Joseph W. Gordon, Assistant Professor of English, involved teachers from all disciplines, not only English. They investigated current research into the composition process and teaching methods that grew out of that research, and they drew up model assignments for getting students to write more often without a proportional increase in the teacher's work. As Professor Gordon wrote:

The seminar out of which these units developed engaged in spirited and extended disputes that, we hope, clarified the differences among us. There are units here that regard writing as a means, and others that regard it as an end in itself. There are units that advocate the use of drills, and others that instead use poetry and art to teach syntax and vocabulary. Some units suggest using haiku, others suggest writing postcards and letters, and one even speaks of the advantages of formal outlining. Some concentrate exclusively on techniques for developing the students' self-confidence and creativity. There are units here for teaching writing in the history and science class, as well as in English and foreign language classes. And a few units address students for whom English is a second language or who are classified as Developmentally Disabled. There are, in short, strategies here for almost any student in the middle or high school. Out of all this variety, we hope, the thoughtful and energetic teacher may discover, or just rediscover, a reason and a motive for "assigning more writing."

For all Fellows, whether in English or in other disciplines, working on writing and on the teaching of writing is a central purpose and activity of the Institute. Almost two-thirds of all Fellows have stated that the process of writing an Institute curriculum unit improved their own writing, and over three-fourths have reported that the experience improved their ability to teach writing effectively--whatever their field. In order to fulfill the requirements of the program, each Fellow must prepare a curriculum unit that is a mininum of fifteen pages containing four elements: a) objectives--a clear statement of what the unit seeks to achieve, b) strategies--a unified, coherent teaching plan for those objectives, c) classroom activities--three or more detailed examples of actual teaching methods of lesson plans, and d) resources--three annotated lists: a bibliography for teachers, a reading list for students, and a list of materials for classroom use. The discussion of objectives and strategies must be in prose and must constitute at least two-thirds of the completed unit.

What Fellows write, then, is not "curriculum" in the usual sense. They are not developing content and skill objectives for each course and grade level, nor are they preparing day-by-day lesson plans for their courses. Institute units also differ from traditional curricula in form; they are not composed mainly of lists and outlines of topics to be covered. Instead, teachers research and write in prose about some aspect of the seminar subject that they will use in their own teaching.

Fellows develop their curriculum units in six stages, each a month apart. Initially, in applying to the Institute, teachers describe the topic they wish to develop and its relation to school courses. At the second meeting of the seminar, each Fellow, having consulted with the seminar leader and other seminar members, presents a refined statement of his or her topic and a list of basic readings for research. Fellows then write, based on preliminary research, a two-to-four page prospectus that describes what each Fellow intends the final unit to contain and that provides all seminar members with an overview of their colleagues' work. The first draft, the next stage, contains the prose statement of each unit's objectives and strategies and is distributed and discussed in the seminars. A second draft includes rewriting of the objectives and strategies of the unit and a first writing of the unit's other elements. The completed unit is then due about three weeks after the seminar's final meeting. At each stage, Fellows receive written comments from the seminar leader as well as response from other teachers in the seminar, a part of the audience for whom Fellows are writing.

The Institute, in short, regards the preparation of curriculum units as a process, and this is widely understood and accepted by the Fellows. One participant wrote, "the process provided a comfortable format, a logical progression of reading, thinking, and writing." A veteran Fellow wrote:

"After five years' experience, I find the process for unit writing a very balanced, flowing process. The more experienced a unit writer I become, the more convinced I am of the necessity and wisdom of the stages of the writing process. The prospectus gives the Fellow the momentum to move from the reading to the writing stage, although it does not necessarily curtail the continued research; the first and second drafts give the author an opportunity to refine his presentation."

From a faculty member's point of view, Professor Brodhead wrote:

"The system of repeated drafts for the curriculum units was especially important in my seminar: I was very rigorous in my evaluation of the early drafts, and I was insistent that Fellows work at strengthening and clarifying what was weak and vague in those drafts; and I'd have to say that they without exception faced the challenges I set them, and moved, draft by draft, toward a much more significant, and much more fully-articulated, proposal. Touchingly, many of them said that it had been years since any one took their work seriously enough to criticize it; in any case, the way they use the seminar leader's comments as a means to a fuller grasp of their own thinking was enormously impressive to me."

Having characterized the operation of the Institute in English and foreign languages and some of the administrative detail that we in New Haven have found advantageous, I think it is important now to stress the principles on which the program is founded, because the principles, and not the exact form, are what we set forth for others to consider adopting, and adapting to their own setting. What we offer is not a blueprint to be followed in detail in building a similar program elsewhere; rather, we advance the underlying philosophy and resulting variety of our own experience.

Four principles, all implanted in the first Institute in l978, and each shaped over time by experience, guide the program and constitute much of its distinctiveness. They are: 1) our belief in the fundamental importance of the classroom teacher and of teacher-developed materials for effective learning; 2) our insistence that teachers of students at different levels interact as colleagues, addressing the common problems of teaching their disciplines; 3) our conviction that any effort to improve teaching must be "teacher-centered" and our consequent dependence on the Institute Coordinators, teachers in each school who meet weekly with the Director and who constitute an essential part of the program's leadership; and 4) our certainty that the University can assist in improving the public schools only if we make a significant and long-term commitment to do so.

The Institute differs from conventional modes of curricular development. 2 {' '} Classroom teachers, who best know their students' needs, work with Yale faculty members, who are leading scholars in their fields. The Institute does not develop curricula on certain topics only because they are important in terms of recent scholarship; rather, it brings this knowledge to the assistance of teachers in areas they identify as their main concerns. The Institute involves no "curriculum experts" in the usual sense, who would themselves develop new materials, train teachers in short-term workshops to use these materials, and then expect the materials significantly to improve classroom teaching. Instead, the Institute seeks to demonstrate that intensive and long-term collaboration between a university and its neighboring school system--between school teachers and university scholars--can produce curriculum materials of high quality pertinent to student needs, and can have a major influence on teaching and learning in the schools.

By writing a curriculum unit, teachers think formally about the ways in which what they are learning can be applied in their own teaching; we emphasize that the Institute experience must have direct bearing on their own classes. In the end, their units reflect both the direction provided by the Yale faculty members and the experience gained by each teacher in the classroom, his or her sense of what will work for students.

This balance between academic preparation and practical, classroom application--as well as the depth and duration of our local collaborative relationship--are the central features of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Our outside evaluator in l980, Professor Robert Kellogg, Dean of the College at the University of Virginia, points out:

That Yale does not have a school or a department of Education is in this instance a blessing. Without an intermediary buffer, softening, exaggerating, or explaining away the contrast of intellectual milieu between secondary education and higher education, the two groups of teachers (the Institute Fellows and the Yale faculty) are free to explore for themselves the extent to which they share values and assumptions about their subject and its role in the development of children's minds and characters.

The Institute is the only interschool and interdisciplinary forum enabling school teachers to work with each other and with Yale faculty. In referring to the collegial spirit of the program, we are speaking of a dynamic process that brings together individuals who teach very different students at different levels of their subjects, and who bring to the program a variety of perspectives and strongly held points of view. The tensions and disagreements that arise from these different perspectives are a source of vitality and innovation. Each challenges the preconceptions of the other with the result that University faculty understand something more about teaching at the secondary level while school teachers often reconsider their expectations of their students' ability to learn. With our emphasis on the authority of the secondary school teacher, the bond between Fellows and Yale faculty is one of mutual respect and a shared commitment to the best education for New Haven students.

The Institute is organized to foster this sense of collegiality. Fellows are not students paying tuition for regular, graduate-level courses. Instead, teachers are remunerated, each Fellow receiving an honorarium on successful completion of the program. As full members of the Yale community, Fellows are listed in the University Directory of faculty and staff; this has symbolic meaning in recognizing them as colleagues and practical value in making Yale resources readily accessible to them. Through the Institute, teachers gain access to human and physical resources throughout the University, not only to those specifically organized by the Institute.

Also, the seminars are conducted in an informal, flexible style--a tradition established by the first group of Yale faculty who taught in the program, and maintained by some continuity of faculty and faculty meetings with the Coordinators and Director. This makes the Institute utterly unlike the graduate-level courses in Education most of the Fellows have taken, and often unlike the graduate seminars most of the Yale faculty ordinarily teach.

In order to practice collegiality in the day-to-day workings of the Institute, we devised an administrative structure that would reflect the primacy of teachers. We did not wish the program to be something concocted by Yale and imposed upon the Fellows, nor did we wish to create different classes of Fellows by involving New Haven school administrators in administrative roles in the Institute. At the most practical level, we hoped to use peers to solve problems of absence or lateness, in order to avoid placing the Yale faculty in authoritarian roles. The Coordinators have provided a solution to all these potential difficulties. Again, Professor Kellogg's report puts the matter well:

In order that the "managerial" aspect of the school administration not be reflected in the operation of the Institute, a small group of teachers, the Institute Coordinators, serves to "represent" both the schools in the Institute and the Institute in the schools. The conception is ingenious, and the individuals who serve as Coordinators are, more than any other single element, crucial to the Institute's successful operation. The Coordinators I met were thoughtful and intelligent men and women who understood the purpose of the Institute and were effective representatives of the two institutions of which they were members.

Through the Coordinators, who collectively represent every middle and high school teacher in the humanities and in the sciences, teachers are directly involved in the cyclical planning, conduct, evaluation, and refinement of the program. Through them we have developed and maintained both rigorous expectations and an accommodating schedule so that there has been a high level of participation by New Haven teachers. Between l978 and l983 forty percent of New Haven secondary school teachers in the humanities and the sciences successfully completed at least one year of the Institute. The evaluation of the Coordinators by participating Fellows confirms their crucial role; one Fellow wrote, "as long as there are teacher Coordinators, the program will belong to all the participants." This proprietary feeling of teachers toward the Institute, the feeling that it is "teacher-centered," is essential to our success.

To participate in so demanding a program, teachers must believe that the Institute can assist them in their own teaching and that, by extension, it can eventually improve teaching and learning throughout the schools. Our evaluator in l98l, Ernest L. Boyer, wrote in his report:

The project has teacher-coordinators in each participating school who clearly are committed and who pass on their enthusiasm to colleagues. One of the most impressive features of my visit was the after school session I had with these Coordinators from the New Haven schools. Arriving after a fatiguing day, the teachers turned, with enthusiasm, to key issues. How can the Institute best help us meet our goals? How can we improve our work? ...The dedication and optimism of these teachers was impressive, almost touching....The significance of teacher leadership cannot be overstated.

Using common sense, we know that the impact of the Institute will be roughly proportional to the number of teachers who participate on a recurring basis. The impact of the Institute on teachers' preparation and curricula is cumulative; we must annually involve a large enough proportion of New Haven teachers to be credible in claiming that their participation can improve the public schools. Each curriculum unit a teacher writes represents only a fraction of all he or she teaches, and the very nature of the academic disciplines and their teaching is not static, but constantly changing. Should the Institute ever become so limited in scope or duration as to appear trivial, it would cease to attract a sizable percentage of New Haven teachers and would become ineffectual. In one of its principal recommendations the Commission on the Humanities concluded:

Because schools change slowly, we endorse models of school-college collaboration that emphasize long-term cooperation. We recommend that more colleges or universities and school districts adopt such programs for their mutual benefit, and that funding sources sustain programs and administrative costs on a continuing basis. Programs of school-college collaboration offer the best opportunity to strengthen instruction in the schools while providing intellectual renewal for teachers.

As our evaluator last year, Theodore R. Sizer noted, "Such renewal does not come quickly. It benefits from sustained contact, from supportive conditions, from simmering." It is therefore most encouraging that, after five years of developing the Teachers Institute as a model of university-school collaboration, Yale decided to seek a $4 million endowment to give the program a secure future.

Yale and New Haven together have supported a major share of the total cost of the Teachers Institute. A considerable portion of our remaining need has been met through strong and continuing support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We have been pleased also to receive support in the form of operating funds from numerous foundations and corporations--including more than fifty local businesses which see our efforts to improve the education of all young people in the area as a good form of community development. The present endowment campaign underscores our deep belief in the long-term significance of the Teachers Institute to the University and to our community's public schools. It also represents our determination to demonstrate that effective collaborative programs can be not only developed, but also sustained.

There is, in my view, no more important recommendation in the Carnegie Foundation Special Report on School and College than the one--contained also in the Carnegie Report on High School--that calls for universities and schools to develop genuine partnerships based on the needs of schools as determined by their principals and teachers. Both aspects of that recommendation are essential: not only that universities and schools work together, but especially that those of us in higher education encourage our colleagues in schools to show us the ways we can marshall our resources to address their needs.

Drawing on our experience with developing our own program and with assisting other institutions that wish to establish similar programs, I would offer the following guidelines for the successful implementation of the Carnegie recommendation.

  • First, "collaboration" is a term currently used to describe quite varied activities. I mean by the term something specific. Collaboration arises from a recognition of mutual interest between school and college--between city and college--that must become more widespread if we are to improve our public schools. To be authentic, a partnership should be a coequal relationship of colleagues, a volunteer association of individuals who choose to work together, of allies in league to improve our schools. An equal importance must be attached to what each partner brings to the relationship. The aim is to work together without everybody changing place.
  • Because institutional and other resources are never adequate, an early step in establishing a collaborative program is to assess the resources that can be made available to meet the needs of schools, and then to apply these resources in an intensive way where the need is greatest. Institutional support must come from both sides of the partnership; tangible and visible evidence of such commitment is essential.
  • We especially need to encourage partnerships between schools and universities that concentrate on teaching and on the continuing engagement of teachers with their fields. Cooperative efforts should insist on a direct application in school classrooms.
  • A tendency in establishing collaborative programs--indeed, in school reform efforts generally--is to be too ambitious. Programs will succeed only if they have well-defined and manageable goals; they should avoid making impossible claims.
  • Precisely because collaborative projects can achieve only limited, though important, results, participants must be confident that their efforts are worthwhile. An ongoing evaluation process is therefore integral to a program's design and should be used perennially to refine both goals and activities. Because collaborative programs are often, unfortunately, seen as non-traditional--because they may not be regarded as central to the mission of either partner--they have a special burden for providing good evidence of their results.
  • The most successful projects may well begin small, investing real authority in teacher leadership and developing organically based on the needs teachers identify. In that way, programs are not guided by preconceptions, but grow from their own local experience. Efforts at school improvement will not succeed without teacher leadership. In this country we have too long held teachers responsible for the condition of our schools without giving them responsibility--empowering them--to improve our schools.
  • For these reasons, and I cannot over-emphasize this point, for the benefits to be lasting, collaborative programs must be long-term.

Not all teachers are sanguine about the prospects for public secondary education. But the vision of our Institute, which many share, is that the problems confronting us are not intractable, and that working through the Institute teachers can improve the education and the lives of their students. By assigning greater prestige and power to school teaching and by engaging teachers in study and writing about their disciplines, the Teachers Institute implicitly questions whether teaching in school and teaching in college should be regarded as so very different. The educational levels and institutions in this country are not discrete and separable compartments, but parts of a whole educational process, for teacher and student alike. Continuing study and writing about a subject benefit school teachers no less than their university colleagues. In both cases, their students are the ultimate beneficiaries.


Portions of this essay are based on material in{' '} Teaching in America: The Common Ground , rev. ed., New York: College Board, 1984. Copyright © 1983 and 1984 by James R. Vivian.


For a discussion of state and regional differences, see C. Emily Feistritzer, The Condition of Teaching, A State by State Analysis (Princeton, New Jersey: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, l983). For further information on national trends, see especially Status of the American Public School Teacher l980-8l (National Education Association Research, l982); and the following publications of the National Center for Education Statistics: Projections of Education Statistics to l990-9l; The Condition of Education, l983 Edition; The Condition of Education, l984.


See especially Seymour B. Sarason, The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change (Boston: l97l), chapter 4, who discusses the contrary manner in which "new math" was developed and introduced in the classroom.

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