Partnerships and the Community

Participants
James R. Vivian, Director, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Alyce P. Hall, Director, Cities in Schools, NYC
Daniel M. Merenda, Executive Director,National School Volunteer Programs
Moderator: James Gaddy, Superintendent,New Rochelle City School District

VIVIAN:

Collaboration between college and university faculty members and school teachers is essential for strengthening teaching and learning in tile nation s schools and is therefore indispensable to education reform in this country.

I would therefore like to speak briefly about the principles of our program in New Haven, its history and concept, and its significance to Yale University. There are four principles that have guided our program since its inception ten years ago: First, our belief in the fundamental importance of teaching to learning in schools and our consequent emphasis on the classroom application of our collaborative work. Second, our insistence that teachers of students at different levels interact as colleagues by addressing the common problems of teaching their disciplines. Third, our conviction that teacher leadership is inseparable from successful education reform. Fourth, our certainty that collaborative programs will be truly effective only if they are long-term.

For several years we have been discussing these principles of our program with colleagues from other institutions across the country who leave been pursuing the establishment of similar programs to benefit mutually the schools and universities in their own communities. On occasion, I must admit, I still encounter some of the skepticism that was especially evident when we began our program in New Haven. Why, some still ask incredulously, would faculty members from an institution like Yale, be interested in participating in such a program? And even if they were, what could they possibly offer to teachers whose students are different from Yale students in so many respects? Moreover, these skeptics ask, why would Yale as an institution make a commitment to such a programs In fact, some have even contended that Yale is the least likely of places for such a program to take root and thrive. Others now ironically take the opposite view: that only an institution with the resources of a place like Yale could possibly undertake such a program. I think that last view is simply wrong. During the course of our work with other communities, I have become increasingly convinced that there are much greater similarities than differences in the opportunities for educational collaboration in cities and towns across the country.

With respect specifically to New leaven, as Ernest Boyer wrote in his evaluation of our program, "It is no secret that the University and New Haven are two separate worlds. The challenge was to find a way for these two worlds to meet." To put the matter in general terms, I would say the question in New Haven was how a major cultural institution located in the center of an urban area, which happens to be the seventh poorest city in the country, might become more constructively involved in the community where it resides and upon which it depends in so many ways.

That school teachers be centrally involved from the outset in shaping the program was fundamentally important if the institute was to address how we might strengthen teaching and learning in the classroom. We wanted in effect to empower teachers within our institute so that through the program they might gain greater control over the subjects they teach, the curriculum they use and the professional activities they undertake as educators. For these reasons it was essential that participation in the program we were planning be voluntary. Just as teachers themselves determine much of the nature of the program, teachers decide whether they wish to take part.

There was, when we began the program, the coincidence of several favorable circumstances. Most importantly I would mention that since 1969, teachers from New Haven high schools and faculty members from the University s history department had worked together in a small project The History Education Project, which was a forerunner of the present institute, a program that enjoyed a good reputation among school teachers and the administrations of the University and the Schools. The participating school teachers and members of Yale's history department had discovered what they stood to gain from working together, and they became the nucleus of the groups that planned our present program. These are among the reasons why I often observe to colleagues from other institutions that successful collaborative projects may well begin small, investing real authority in teacher leadership and developing organically, based on the needs that teachers identify. In this way, programs are not guided by reconceptions but grow from their own local conditions. Clear and visible support from the highest level of university and school administrations is also critical in my view, particularly if a collaboration is to be long term. Tangible evidence of that commitment is essential.

For the administrations of Yale and the Schools, the first questions focused on which of the Schools' many needs might be most usefully addressed by the University s resources. In what areas did the Schools have significant needs and the University have complimentary strengths? What was central enough to the missions of both institutions to enable us to construct a real partnership of allies in league to improve our community s public schools? Which problems of the schools were recurring and which University resources enduring so that the program might be of benefit to the schools over the longer term? These questions were addressed at a time of enormous pressure on the budgets of the university, the city and the schools. But even in better times, financial resources would never match fully our ambition to construct a highly productive partnership.

In sum, at the beginning the over-riding question we faced was how we together might apply limited resources in an intensive way where we deemed the need was greatest. Teachers and administrators from the university and the schools quickly reached a consensus on these questions. The relationship, they thought, between the university and the schools must be both prominent and permanent within any larger viable relationship between Yale and New Haven. And of the many ways Yale might aid New haven, none was more logical than a program which shares Yale's educational resources with the schools. Because of changing student needs, changing scholarship, changing educational objectives, set perennially by the school system and each level of governments school curricula undergo constant revision. Because of Yale's strength in the academic disciplines, on the other hand, all agreed that developing curriculum, further preparing teachers in the subjects they teach, and assisting teachers to keep abreast of changes in their fields are the ways that Yale can most readily assist the schools.

The intent, then, was not to create new resources at the University. Rather it was to make available in a planned way Yale s existing strength- that is, to expand and to institutionalize the work of university faculty members with their colleagues in the schools. The Teachers Institute has since then become by far the most comprehensive, intensive, and sustained collaboration of Yale faculty members with school teachers. Between 1978 and 1986, the Institute offered 57 different seminars in the humanities and the arts, social sciences, mathematics and physical and life sciences. We have been fortunate in the number of Yale faculty members who have become involved in the program. Many or them are among the most senior members of their departments. Fifty-six individuals leave given talks and led one or more Institute seminars. During that same nine-year period, about 225 teachers completed the program successfully from 1 to 9 times each. Through the program they have developed more than 45() individual curriculum units which are widely taught in more than 1500 school courses in New Haven.

Much, however, remains to be done. Just in New Haven, two-thirds of New Haven's secondary school teachers in the humanities and the sciences have never participated in our program, and of those who have taken part, two thirds have participated only once or twice. This is especially important, I think, because evaluations of our program have shown that teachers who have participated in the Institute on a recurring basis, who make the program a regular part of their professional lives, gain the most.

Still, one of the persistent issues for our Institute is keeping our work sharply focused where the need is compelling, where we have annually renewable resources to address that need, and where successfully addressing that need is demonstrably in the self interest of the university and the schools. So we periodically, annually or even more often, resurvey the boundaries we set for the program in 1978. As we do so, however, we try to keep in mind that truisms are, among other things, true, and that school reform efforts are often too ambitious, not to mention, too ephemeral. As Theodore Sizer, currently chairman of the Education Department at Brown University, wrote in his evaluation of our program: "The claims for increased scale of the Institute are not persuasive. Indeed the arguments for current scale are powerful. All too few school reform efforts get the scale right."

From the beginning the teachers in the leadership of our Institute have been adamant about making the program academically serious, demanding of the participants, attractive to a significant proportion of their colleagues and directed at improving the learning of all New Haven middle and high school students. We therefore had to determine the activities that would best assist teachers, not only in studying the subject but also in developing practical approaches for applying their new learning in their own very diverse school courses. We had to arrive at a schedule that would be manageable for the largest number of teachers, a schedule that would also be possible for university faculty members whom they wished to involve. To make the program as demanding as feasible and still to achieve a high level of participation by New Haven teachers, we also had to consider questions of time and money and other rewards. We had to consider how to balance the rigor of the program with sufficient incentives that we might realistically make available to participating teachers.

With respect to collaboration , then, I stress that in New Haven we mean by the term something highly specific. In New Haven, within a partnership of institutions there is a collegial relationship among colleagues a voluntary association of teachers who choose to work together and bring talents to the relationship.

Let me return finally to the issue I mentioned at the outset and address briefly the benefits of our program to the university. As A. Bartlett Giamatti, Yale's former president pointed out in an interview early in the history of our program "It is profoundly in Yale's self interest to have coherent well taught well thought out curricula in our local schools and in secondary schools across the country. The Institute and its dissemination, therefore are important to Yale not only in terms of our own future students but also in terms of what Yale faculty members who lead Institute seminars themselves gain from the program. They increase their knowledge about public schools and the background therefore of many of their own students. Many faculty members speak also about how their experience in the Institute has contributed to their own teaching and scholarship. The Institute, then, is a most natural and logical way for our university to be involved in pre-college education drawing on the university's existing strength and tradition of academic excellence. In the absence of a school or department of education the Institute serves then as a center for faculty from throughout the institution who care deeply about public education in this country and in the New Haven community and who wish to leave a practical and constructive involvement. The Institute is also of unquestionable value with respect to the university's relationship with New Haven. Yale s future and New Haven s are bound together in many important ways. The Institute represents what Yale as an educational institution most has to contribute to New Haven. It is an alliance of the university and the schools together with the city administration, business and labor in our community. "

As Ernest Boyer also wrote in his evaluation of our program "The Institute is an educational venture and when measured on that yardstick it has been a great success. "However I cannot avoid observing " he said "that the project is a political success as well. It has put a human face on the university opened doors and focused resources where they are needed most."These are among tile reasons that the partnership became an institutional priority for Yale and among the reasons why Yale's current president Benno C. Schmidt Jr. has pledged his strong support for securing an adequate endowment so that the Institute will be a permanent part of the educational and human structure of the New Haven community and of the larger education community nationally."

Finally I must state my strong concern that the collaborative movement nationally address in particular the education of students from minority groups and low income families. You have no doubt heard stated previously and I am sure will again in the course of this conference the concern of many working in this field that the current education reform movement not erode but rattler that it advance the gains which those groups made during the previous fifteen to twenty years. You are familiar I am sure with the demographic changes we face in public education and in the nation - for example that minority students are becoming a larger proportion of the total student population in this country. Yet some of the warning signs have already been posted. For example black students who are an increasing proportion of the total student population are at the same time going on to college in decreasing numbers. In my view the future of public education depends on our success in serving student groups that have traditionally not been well served by our nation s schools and colleges. That I think, therefore, must be a fundamental and pervasive concern in our collaborative work.

In our own Institute then we have two basic commitments. First, a commitment to school-college collaboration and more specifically to collaboration among school teachers and university faculty members working together as colleagues as one of the most necessary and vital means of strengthening teaching and learning in the nation's schools and colleges. Second a commitment not only to excellence in education at all stages of the educational process, but also inseparably a commitment to ensuring that all students have equal opportunity for and access to that excellence. I want to suggest today in fact that these two are really one: that what we seek through the educational process is to prepare and enable all students to fulfill their own promise and thereby our promise as a diverse people. In the end I think that is the real collaboration which we seek: a capacity for and a disposition to a process of working together on an equal basis in the larger society. That is why I believe our work as colleagues in collaborative programs is so urgently important.


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