Conference Report on "School-College Collaboration: Preparing Teachers and Curricula for Public Schools"

by Thomas R. Whitaker

New Haven, Connecticut, December 5-6,1991


Contents of this section:

"School-College Collaboration": Table of Contents | Brochures and Reports


This conference, hosted by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute and made possible by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund with further support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the National Endowment for the Humanities, brought together teams of representatives from 27 school- college partnerships from across the country.
The key-note of the conference was diversity-of program, educational concern, political position, and personal point of view. Teachers and administrators from public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and demographically various public schools took this occasion to speak out-often with great passion-on the challenges and the opportunities for the collaborative movement.
The results were provocative rather than definitive. To the most urgent problems a variety of solutions were proposed. But the conference itself was an important step in the direction of fuller communication and strategic collaboration among programs of great diversity. It was also an important demonstration that school-college partnerships, in a variety of forms, are able to meet some of the most serious needs in our educational system.

The conference was planned to address a series of issues: the content, process, and products of school-college collaboration; and the structure, evaluation, and financing of collaborative programs. In consultation with the programs planning to attend, the Teachers Institute laid out a sequence of sessions that would address these issues. It asked each program to suggest specific subtopics that should be taken up, and it distributed the responses as a 'de for discussion. Over the two days of the conference, however, a number of continuing themes emerged that deserve special mention:


The conference was an important demonstration that school college parterships are able to meet some of the most serious needs in our educational system.

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Conference Themes

"Content" and Pedagogy:"

Some participants appear to regard "content' and "pedagogy" as quite distinct areas of concern, and may even define their own programs as emphasizing one or the other. Others are convinced that every "content" field contains principles and procedures that provide major clues to "pedagogical" strategies, and that attention to "pedagogy" divorced from intellectual content is stultifying or self-deceptive. Indeed, some misunderstandings may have resulted from a hasty separation of these concepts from each other. Teaching in New Haven: The Common Challenge, a compilation of curriculum units developed in Teachers Institute seminars over the past fourteen years, suggested to some participants that the Yale program emphasizes "pedagogy," whereas in fact its seminars are devoted to the interrelations between the study of subject-matter fields and the needs of the classroom. Some faculty members from both schools and universities were quick to point out that if a subject-matter is understood as a field of inquiry and communication, this opposition disappears. In the final plenary session, Robin Winks, Professor of History at Yale, remarked that for the historian "teaching is research, and history is communicating." And in the same session Professor Jay Robinson, from the Center for Educational Improvement at the University of Michigan, argued that we must cease to think in terms of such easy and misleading oppositions as "content" and "pedagogy" or "teachers" and "administrators." Only then can we begin to understand the full resources for collaboration that are disguised by verbal and sometimes political distinctions between "schools" and "universities," "teachers" and "faculty," "teachers" and "principals"-or, for that matter, "liberal arts colleges" and "schools of education."
Jay Robinson argued that we must cease to think in terms of such easy and misleading oppositions as "content" and "pedagogy" or "teachers" and "administrators."
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Curricular Reform and Assessment

Some participants in the conference believe that the revitalizing of teachers and the creation of individual curriculum units can lead to significant grass-roots reform in primary and secondary education. Others see a need for more extensive negotiation with school administrations and some modification of the usual school hierarchy. The various roles of school principals and subject coordinators was a topic of often impassioned discussion. Perhaps we need a fuller sharing of the ways in which school organization can in some places facilitate rather than hinder the necessary changes in curriculum. All participants seemed to agree, in any case, that we must seek further involvement of government, of communities, and of the private sector in our collaborative efforts, and that we must proceed apace with the recruitment of additional institutions and of additional teachers and administrators within all participating institutions. There was also general agreement that existing standardized tests may perpetuate inadequate assumptions about the nature of education, even though perceived as a political necessity. Alternative modes of assessment must be pursued, with a clear recognition that they are labor-intensive and may lack a quantifiable objectivity.

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Promulgation and Dissemination:

Some participants are more optimistic than others about the possibility of interesting the public and private sectors in supporting collaborative programs. There seemed broad agreement, however, that enduring bases for programs must be found, and that they may require new accommodations among the partners. Tom Furtado of United Technologies spoke in some detail, for example, of resistances from schools in the Hartford area to offers of assistance from private industries active in scientific and technological fields. And yet participants from Cambridge, MA, urged that a four­way collaboration­schools, colleges, community services, and businesses­had in their experience proven its success. It seems clear that even among programs committed to collaboration, mutual cooperation is often difficult. We must therefore find areas of common need and modes of mutual assistance. An electronic network? National seminars that would introduce selected teachers and possibly administrators to the process of a given program? Through more intimate and extensive acquaintance, we might yet build a national movement of some substance and power.
We might yet build a national movement of some substance and power.

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Conference Sessions

Opening Session:

The conference began with remarks by Sheila W. Wellington, Secretary of Yale University; Donna V. Dunlop, Program Director of DeWitt Wallace­Reader's Digest Fund; and James R. Vivian, Director of the Yale­New Haven Teachers Institute. Donna Dunlop congratulated the participants on finding ways to make collaboration work, and asked them to share their views on the characteristics of successful collaboration and the barriers to such success. She urged the conference to keep in mind the desirability of a coherent educational process from kindergarten through graduate school.

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Panel Discussion on Teaching in New Haven: The Common Challenge:

This panel, moderated by Thomas R. Whitaker, Professor of English at Yale, included also Peter P. Wegener, Professor Emertius of Engineering and Applied Science at Yale and five teachers from the New Haven schools: William J. Derry, Drama Teacher in the Comprehensive Arts Program; Lois Van Wagner, Science Teacher at East Rock School; Hermine E. Smikle, Mathematics Teacher at Roberto Clemente Middle School; Sylvia D. Ducach, Foreign Language Teacher at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School; and Jane K. Marshall, English Teacher at Cooperative High School. Members of the panel spoke of how the Institute seminars are formed in response to teachers' needs and interests, offer courses of common reading, and provide contexts for the development of individual curriculum units. They spoke also of how the seminars offer models of community learning that can be replicated in the schools, how the writing process contributes to "teacher empowerment," and how individual units reflect the enthusiasm of teachers and meet the needs of students. The discussion touched upon the effect of these seminars upon Yale faculty, the possibility of enrolling teams of teachers from given schools, ways in which the enthusiasm of seminar members might spread to others, and the relations of individual curriculum units to other levels of instruction.
The panel spoke of how the Institute seminars are formed in response to teachers' needs and interests.
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Remarks by President Schmidt:

Mr. Vivian introduced Benno C. Schmidt, President of Yale University, expressing gratitude for his support of the Yale­ New Haven Teachers Institute and the collaborative movement of which it is a part. President Schmidt spoke of the importance of such collaborative endeavors in promoting educational change, emphasized the need for permanent bases for these endeavors, and thanked the DeWitt Wallace­ Reader's Digest Fund and the National Endowment for the Humanities for their contributions toward such permanence for the Teachers Institute. This conference, he said, symbolizes Yale's sense of community with the New Haven schools and with colleges and schools across the country. We all have a great stake in a common work: the weaving of a seamless web of education in this nation.

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Plenary Session:

Chaired by Jules D. Prown, Professor and Chairman of History of Art at Yale, this session raised a great variety of issues. Some were quite specific: To what extent does the Yale­New Haven Teachers Institute deal with pedagogical matters? How does it relate to curriculum coordinators? What effects has it had on Yale faculty? Other issues were more general: How may professional societies be brought to bear upon the collaborative process? How can we increase the participation of younger faculty? Or make use of the contributions of high school students?

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Academic Content of Programs in Sciences and Mathematics:

Chaired by Robert G. Wheeler, Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale, this panel consisted of representatives from three programs. Mayda Carnes, Kids' Net Coordinator, Santa Ana, CA, described this project, which involves four institutions. She explained the use of interactive computer programs in projects for English­ and Spanish­speaking students, and the ways in which they stimulated parental involvement. Edward C. Kisailus, from the Biology Interaction Group Partnership in Education, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY, described that effort to upgrade science content in the schools, with direction from the science teachers and with community support. Geoffrey Smith, Science Department Chairperson at Watsonville High School, CA, described a "Gateways" project within the California Academic Partnership, in which concern for curricular reform is coupled with attention to access for a broad range of students to science courses.

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Academic Content of Programs in the Humanities:

Adele Seeff, Director of the Center Alliance for Secondary School Teachers and Texts, University of Maryland, College Park, chaired this session and began by describing the work of this "content­based program," which assumes that teachers have the necessary skills in pedagogy and desire information about recent critical approaches to texts. Jeanette Gaffney, Foreign Language Teacher at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School in New Haven, then spoke of "content" in relation to "pedagogy" in the Institute seminars. Leo Rockas, Professor of English at the University of Hartford described that university's Academy for Teachers, which emphasizes both pedagogy and content in courses that somewhat resemble the traditional extension program. The general discussion began with questions about how curricular units can remain fresh over the years, how they can be integrated into larger structures of learning, and how they may relate to mandated curricula. This led to some debate about tensions between standardized testing and individually developed units, and between the views of teachers and those of principals. Participants agreed that the most important results of teaching are not easily amenable to quantitative assessment. We need to develop ways of testing the ability to make connections, draw conclusions, and communicate the results of an investigation.
Participants agreed that the most important results of teaching are not easily amenable to quantitative assessment.

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Teacher Leadership and Administrative Structures:

Brief presentations on the opportunities and difficulties of leadership were offered by Dixie Goswami, Executive Director of the Bread Loaf Writing Grants Program, Middlebury College, who chaired the session; Sharon Lloyd Clark, Director of the Institute for Secondary Education, Brown University; Thomas J. Karwin, Coordinator of the University­School Program, University of California­Santa Cruz; and Carolyn N. Kinder, Curriculum Specialist at Jackie Robinson Middle School, New Haven. The discussion focused increasingly on the fact that teacher leadership often challenges existing structures in the school system. What strategies can lead to some reallocation of power and responsibility? What definition of missions can lead to fruitful collaboration rather than mere defense of turf? Collaborative programs must exert some pressure on the system, several participants said, if only because teachers are not allowed sufficient "planning time" to enable their participation. And if such programs are to go beyond the preparation of curriculum to an on­going learning about the educational process, yet greater flexibility in the system seems required. Page 6

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Incentives for Institutions and Individuals to Participate:

Chaired by Charles H. Long, Deputy Provost at Yale, this session began with presentations by Diana Doyle, English Teacher at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School; Robert Moore, English Teacher at Hillhouse High School; and Jean Sutherland, 5th Grade Teacher at L. W. Beecher Elementary School­all of New Haven­and by Paul Connolly, Professor of Humanities and Director of the Institute for Writing and Thinking, Bard College; Cecil G. Miskel, Dean of the School of Education, University of Michigan; and Deputy Provost Long. The New Haven teachers spoke warmly of the intellectual and personal growth that the Teachers Institute had made possible for them. Paul Connolly, starting with the premise that a teacher's authority comes from an ability to negotiate among disparate discourses, stressed the incentives inherent in a program that deals with the relation between language and thought. Dean Miskel listed the advantages that accrue to a School of Education including the use of schools as laboratories and the generating of new scholarship­when it participates in a collaborative program. And Deputy Provost Long spoke of the difficulties and advantages of supporting a collaborative program at an institution that has not included such activity in its self­definition and is facing budgetary difficulties. He concluded by saying that Yale had now reached the point of regarding the Teachers Institute as part of its corporate identity.

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Concurrent Presentations:

Accounts of organizational strategies and opportunities were offered by Bruce Robinson, Assistant Director of the Education Division, The National Endowment for the Humanities; Vinetta C. Jones, National Director, Equity 2000 Project, the College Board; and Carol Stoel, Director of School and College Collaboration, The American Association for Higher Education. They stressed the great variety of exploration now under way and the need to prepare for dramatic changes in our school population over the next decade. This will require academic enrichment, the serving of disparate populations, the development of appropriate means of assessment, and the rethinking of administrative structures.

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Address by Fred M. Hechinger:

"The University's Neglected Task," an address by the Senior Adviser, Carnegie Corporation of New York, drew together many themes of the conference. Universities, he said, must recognize their obligation toward the entire scope of education in this country. Teachers will not act as professionals until they are treated as part of a profession. And faculties of arts and sciences, not just schools of education, must understand the need for a seamless fabric of education. Mr. Hechinger warned, however, that only one tenth of one percent of American faculties are now engaged in collaborative programs. The challenge to the universities is clear: those already converted to this cause must find ways of spreading the word among their colleagues.
Those already converted to this cause must find ways of spreading the word.
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Caucuses:

The second day of the conference began with caucuses of "School Teachers," "University Faculty Members," "School Administrators," and "University Administrators." These sessions were in certain respects both the least satisfactory and the most satisfactory parts of the conference. In each there were complaints of being isolated from other colleagues; in each there was also a remarkable diversity of views frankly aired; and in each, perhaps, the fractiousness and the candor may have been encouraged by the very isolation that was criticized.

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School Teachers:
The chair, Kelley O'Rourke, English and Social Studies Teacher at the Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School in New Haven, invited responses to the conference thus far. There were some negative comments: we are not getting anything specific to take away; we need more detail about how collaboratives were put together and funded; we need more small­ group discussions, more hands­on workshops. There were some constructive suggestions: the next conference should incorporate students, should be focused on more specifically defined problems encountered by programs. After deciding to sit in a circle­which seemed more intimate and collaborative than the seats in rows­members of the caucus conversed more freely about a variety of issues. It was urged that networks be established to distribute the written products of the collaboratives. Others objected that the programs are so different that sharing might not be helpful. One participant spoke of problems that result from the hostility of principals and deans of instruction, and of the need to empower teachers. Those from New Haven said that teachers may already have more power than they realize, and that the Teachers Institute, which is effectively run by the teachers, had not recently encountered such opposition. Another participant complained that this was "just another meeting," which would not break down the walls between teachers and administrators or college faculties. "We should have time to talk, not just read another paper." But at this caucus such talk was given its chance. These and other issues seemed to point toward the desirability of other meetings that might focus on shared problems or specific strategies.
Those from New Haven said that teachers may already have more power than they realize.

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University Faculty Members:
The chair, Jay L. Robinson, began by alluding wryly to "our customary isolation" from colleagues in the schools. Another participant objected yet more vigorously to the separation of caucuses. The meeting, the conference, and the room itself, he said, did not facilitate collaboration. In a mild act of revolution, this caucus also decided to sit in a circle. Focusing then on the problems of recruitment, rewards, and collegiality that the chair had posed, the group offered various responses. A participant from Cambridge, MA, said that equality could be brought to the relation between schools and colleges by adding representatives from community organizations and from business. Another way, tried at Indiana University, PA, involves the short­term exchange of jobs between college and school teachers. Another way makes use of "master teachers" to bridge the gap. It also may be desirable to abandon verbal distinctions that seem invidious. At Michigan they now speak of a "K­post grad faculty." It was also suggested that we should look at collaboration as an opportunity for change in the universities­the development of new structures and the use of students in educational research in the schools.

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School Administrators:
The chair, Thomas E. Persing, Superintendent, Upper Perkiomen School District, PA, charged the group to consider issues they had met in conjunction with collaborative programs. The discussion moved swiftly to some structural problems: how to establish a working consensus from the supervisor through the principal to the teacher. Some were pessimistic: "Schools are the last bastion of feudalism." "What I see in the immediate future is budget cuts, literal decimation." "If you want to gain power, try to give it away." Others expressed confidence in the possibility of shared decision­making, and in the desirability of persuading the country that teachers (and not outside parties) should design curriculum. A call for "portfolio assessment" as an alternative to standardized tests led to yet more sweeping demands for "systemic change" that would alter the "hierarchical structure" of the schools. Others suggested that we must find a more genuine relationship between school and work, must extend the school year, and may have to address failings in the socioeconomic system as a whole.

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University Administrators:
The chair, Manuel Gomez, Associate Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, University of Califomia­Irvine, invited the group to present their concerns. Among the problems stated: the need to get the real attention of the president of a university; finding a structure that taps into the budgetary process; dealing with the fact that "service" is not recognized at a university; coping with the lack of coherence in a university structure; the difficulty of obtaining financial collaboration from the school districts served; and the challenge of constructing a model of more ambitious school reform.

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Present and Potential Sources of Public and Private Support:

Nevin C. Brown, Director of the National Conference on School College Collaboration, American Association for Higher Education, opened this session by offering an account of legislation now in Congress. He urged those present to familiarize themselves with these bills, make their concerns known to their congressmen, and develop long­term relations with those who represent them. Thomas Furtado, Corporate Ombudsman, United Technologies, spoke of support for education in the private sector. The focus now is yet more specifically on mathematics and science, with a concern for the companies' own bottom lines and recruitment opportunities. Mr. Furtado spoke of instances in Hartford in which schools resisted or ignored offers of help, fearing some interference with curriculum. He added that his company is now emphasizing assistance to collaborative programs because they offer a greater chance for promulgation of the experiment. He elaborated on the need for compromise between private business and the educational system if contributions are to be made, mentioning specifically the rigidities of teacher certification that prevent the use of many highly qualified scientists and mathematicians now retired from industry.

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Program Evaluation: Constituents' Perspectives on Methods and Results for Teachers and Students:

This session, intended to focus on the "Progress Report on Surveys Administered to New Haven Teachers, 1982­90," turned out to be much broader. The chair, William Kessen, Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at Yale, described the report as one way of evaluating a collaborative project. The first speaker, Kelley O'Rourke of the New Haven system, testified to the accuracy of the themes and the responses conveyed through the questionnaires used by the Institute. These surveys, she said, have captured the life and energy of the program as experienced by teachers. Burris Smith, Director of K­12 Instruction, Saginaw, MI, then spoke of the more general problem of evaluation as experienced by school administrators. We need instruments that can identify articulateness, willingness to collaborate, creativity in problem­solving, etc. He spoke of efforts in Saginaw to use modes of evaluation that require of students an engagement in a project that involves learning about the community, preparing of reports, conducting of interviews, and devising of performances that can convey what has been learned. Rene Castilla, President of the Dallas Independent School District School Board, TX, then spoke of how evaluation relates to policy­making. He outlined demographic changes that dictate reform of curricula and teaching methods. He said the major challenge was to devise a curriculum for the '90s. A proposal for radical reform on a national scale would catch attention and help the collaborative movement to go beyond its currently small­scale efforts. Gita Z. Wilder, Educational Policy Division, Educational Testing Service, then returned to the New Haven "Progress Report." She described it as an excellent evaluation of the Institute against the goals it has set for itself, which of course do not include all of the goals for education. She added that more can be done in assessing the ways in which the curriculum units have contributed to the school curricula.
A proposal for radical reform on a national scale would catch attention and help the collaborative movement to go beyond its currently small­scale efforts.
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A broad discussion followed, which engaged some important issues: Is it likely that teachers are growing as a result of such institutes but that paradigms of education are not changing? Why have alternative assessments not been developed on a national scale that could avoid the deficiencies of standard testing? Ms. Wilder pointed to the labor­intensive nature of such testing and the lack of good measurement models. Participants then shared ways in which different programs have coped with the political pressures for standardized testing and have instituted portfolio assessments, essays, and performances that can be assessed by the teachers themselves. The session ended with expressions of frustration over the difficulties of bringing change into the system.

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Concluding Panel/Plenary Session:

Moderated by Robin Winks, Professor of History at Yale, this panel consisted of speakers who summed up the major conclusions from the various caucuses and added their own reflections. Thomas E. Persing listed a number of issues raised by school administrators: The problem of recruitment for collaborative programs; difficult relations between supervisors and building principals; the desirability of making a school, and not a central office, the nucleus for a collaborative model; necessary education in administrative leadership; the need to recognize the importance of dialogue between the board and teachers; the hard fact that testing is needed and will be done whether we like it or not; and the types of decision­making that might be employed in a collaborative.
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Duane Emejulu, English teacher at Skyline High School, Dallas, TX, who had been elected by the teachers' caucus to represent them, stated that the teachers wish to include administrators in their meetings. For her the major effect of collaborative programs is the renewal of teachers. Indeed, school reform must involve the transformation of teachers, which will then have effects upon the students.
School reform must involve the transformation of teachers.
Manuel Gomez then reported on major issues engaged by the caucus of university administrators: the appropriate administrative arrangements in a research university to support collaborative activity; the need to engage the attention of presidents of institutions; the need to move this work with schools onto more enduring foundations; and the need to connect evaluation of this work more clearly to student­outcome measures. "The road ahead," he said, "will be far more difficult than the road we have already traveled since the publication of A Nation at Risk, even though the task has already seemed to be like that of Sisyphus." He challenged us to find ways to create a new ethic of partnership.
Jay Robinson reported on the issues raised in the caucus of university faculty members. He suggested that we must broaden our understanding of the partnership in collaborative undertakings to include administrators, students, parents, community agencies, and business and industry. The university must rethink its responsibility to life outside its own programs. Changes in testing must respond to the qualities we most wish to produce in our students. We must find the appropriate textbooks for changed curricula. And we must cease to think in terms of such easy oppositions as those between "content" and "pedagogy" or "teachers" and "administrators."
The university must rethink its responsibility to life outside its own programs.
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In the concluding discussion there were calls for closer communication, and for some shared action, but the diversity of approaches in these programs seemed to preclude any transformation of the conference into a continuing organization. It seemed clear that, amidst our diversity of aim and strategy, we must find common needs and modes of mutual assistance. One possibility may be an electronic network. Another may be "national seminars" that would introduce selected teachers and possibly administrators to the actual process of a program such as the Yale­New Haven Teachers Institute. Through a more intimate and extensive acquaintance, we might create a more effective national movement.
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Participants were invited to respond to a questionnaire dealing with the value of this conference and of possible next steps in our on­going effort. An appendix to this report summarizes those responses.

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