Excellence in Teaching: A Common Goal


Transcript of a twenty-seven minute video program on the results of the National Conference held at Yale University February 16-18, 1983

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in cooperation with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Yale University

Featuring in order of appearance:

­A. Bartlett Giamatti, President, Yale University
­Ernest L. Boyer, President, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
­Robert MacNeil, Executive Editor, "The MacNeil-Lehrer Report"
­Gordon M. Ambach , President, The University of the State of New York, Commissioner of Education, State of New York
­Barbara W. Newell, Chancellor, the State University System of Florida
­Norman C. Francis, President, Xavier University of Louisiana
­Craig Phillips, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of North Carolina
­Benjamin H. Alexander, President, University of the District of Columbia
­John E. Sawyer, President, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
­Floretta Dukes McKenzie, Superintendent of Schools, District of Columbia
­Stephen S. Kaagan, Commissioner of Education, State of Vermont
­John B. Duff, Chancellor of Higher Education, Massachusetts Board of Regents
­Michael G. Cooke, Professor of English, Yale University


President Giamatti:

Good evening. I want to welcome you to Yale and to New Haven. By coming here from 38 states, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, and the U. S. Virgin Islands, you have made this a truly national meeting of Chief State School Officers and college and university presidents and chancellors a national meeting of elementary and secondary and higher education which is almost without precedent. A central purpose of this meeting is to draw national attention to the crucial role that higher education can, indeed must, play in strengthening teaching in our schools.

Dr. Boyer:

The drama of America in its endless town meeting is to me something very beautiful. That is, as de Tocqueville put it, when in doubt, call a meeting. But I don't diminish that, because that signals the priorities that somehow shake us out of the tracks we're on, and the very fact that we leap out of those means something is stirring in our society that needs attention. And so the issue, what have you accomplished? Well, the accomplishment has been that people have come to New Haven.

Mr. MacNeil:

I read that in your opening remarks you said that there are four problems. You mentioned four problems, nice alliterative problems: "prestige, power, pay, and preparation." Which of those problems . . .

President Giamatti:

Those are with regard to teachers . . . ?

Mr. MacNeil:

Yes, with regard to teaching. Which of those problems does this effort, this conference, carve out and potentially solve?

President Giamatti:

Well, I suppose in an interesting way, we are not going to solve the problems of pay, and we are not going to solve the problems of power, whatever that may mean, in any given institution. The extent to which school teachers and university faculty believe themselves engaged in a common enterprise that has dignity and purpose and "juice" in it, the extent that there are interests of prestige, and self-worth, then I think in fact the mode of collaboration will address that in due course. And I think in terms of preparation, by which I mean the sense of how better to encourage the people who do teach well, to teach better, in ways not only in the boosting of morale which goes to the other point, then I think there have been a great many ways in which that has been addressed, in terms of the various case studies that we saw.

Mr. MacNeil:

Mr. Ambach.

Commissioner Ambach:

I think we leave with a much better understanding of some of the specific projects that are underway. The stress here has been on practice, on what's actually happening, and although there may be some who have known about a particular project in Michigan, or a project in North Carolina, a project in Louisiana, we may not have all known about those projects, and what happened in order to put them in place in the particular locations. So, I think we each carry away a certain, very specific learning about some practice which has gone on elsewhere in the country. And I think we come away with a mutual concern that it is possible to replicate these kinds of practices elsewhere, if we will take the initiative to do so. And I think perhaps, along the lines of prestige, one of the most significant points that has been made is the matter of the colleagueship among those who are in faculties in the colleges and universities and those-who are in the elementary and secondary schools. We have our educational system very much split along horizontal divisions. There is very little vertical connection or integration, if you will, for the most part. And I think some very significant points have been made by way of what it means for the teacher in the elementary or secondary schools to be associated with faculty at the college and university level, in the sense of prestige, but I think more important, in the sense of commitment to scholarship, and a commitment to learning, to being on the forefront of learning, and in the sense, mutual, of an impact on the university level, by way of a better understanding of in fact what is really going on in the schools.

Mr. MacNeil:

Yes Ma'am.

Barbara W. Newell:

Barbara Newell, University System of Florida. If you re adding so substantially to human knowledge, one of our real problems is how do we make sure that all within the educational system share, and it seems to me to be one of the major parts of the New Haven project, one of the very real reasons for the partnership, is to try to make sure that all teachers in the system have an opportunity to know how fields are changing, what the expectations of students are. I think the subject matter in-service training is perhaps the most significant part of the partnership. And as we put our emphasis on subject matter it also seems to me what we re saying is that the partnership has got to be far broader than Schools of Education. It has to cover the entire university community.

Dr. Boyer:

Finally, I stressed the need to have continued schooling of the teacher. The data are absolutely shocking. Some have told us about forty percent of the teachers have not had continuing education courses over the life of their high school teaching this in science and mathematics as the field is changing. All of these, I stressed this morning, are obligations for both the schools and the colleges, and there are ways in which both of these institutions can focus on what I think is a comprehensive response to the problem of teaching excellence in the schools.

President Francis:

One particular point, in the cooperation, collaboration, it is not a "big brother-little brother" situation, and I think that came through. And if it was a message that had to come through, I think that most of us understood the fact that you shouldn't approach it that way, but unfortunately many of us do so. But I think if the conference said anything, I think it said that we both have something to bring to the collaboration, and a mutual respect for what can take place, I think, was an important point made at this conference.

Mr. MacNeil:

Mr. Phillips, looking at it from the point of a school system administrator, confronted with all the myriad problems that you are in the schools, what piece of those problems does this area give you hope could be solved? We have heard President Giamatti's four "P's." What chunk of your problems could this . . . ? How realistic is it to think you can carve off a piece of your problems with this effort?

Superintendent Phillips:

well I guess that I would add the "possibility" as the fifth "P," and if you want to go out of the partnership, we can keep on. Since Phillips begins with a "P," I'll add that, too, if you'd like.

President Giamatti:

You re on a roll, guy . . .

Superintendent Phillips:

This thing called education is a labor- intensive business. I think we all know that. It s quality, whether it is the public perception or our own perception, the quality of what happens is directly related to the quality of and the effectiveness of that labor. Which brings you to the moment if, and I think it was Ben Alexander in the panel yesterday, who talked of the promotion side of it.

Benjamin Alexander:

Well everyone knows if Fords are not selling, we market an advertise; if clothing is not selling, we market and we advertise; if coca-cola is not selling, we market and advertise. And what I stated was, this should be the same for education. You know, we should begin to say, "Education is like a coke, it s the real thing," and people will understand that. We should say, "Education is like a Hallmark card: It lets you be the very best." or we can say, "Education is like a Pepsi: It has a lot to give." BPresident Francis: We've sent the wrong signals to young people, for a combination of reasons, why one should not be a teacher. Pay, prestige, concerns, and I think if this conference says anything else, it says in effect, "Look, teaching is not only a noble profession, but it is an important profession, probably one of the finest professions we have." And that hopefully, we will bring to bear all of the other things that we have done for other professions, again, pay and the like. And we are going to give a priority to it, a concern to it that it rightly deserves.

Dr. Boyer:

And I urged that we think carefully about recruiting young students early for the profession of teaching. I said I m just tired of having us be told once again that the lowest academically are entering teaching. If we care about that, we're going to have to choose our gifted students when they're in school junior high, high school, and say, "I think you d be a great teacher." And I'm convinced, just as we recruit athletes in the early grades . And I think that would have an enormous influence on shaping the minds of young people who say, "Oh, you think I can be a teacher!"

Commissioner Ambach:

To me, the single most important task that we have is to assure that there is a strong quality of teaching in our schools. The general public perception in this country is that we are in a surplus circumstance for teachers. We have gone through the 1970s in which there have been tightening fiscal belts, in which there has been a decline in enrollment, and a general perception that there is an excess of teachers. We have got to carry out of that, we have got to be persuasive and informative that we are moving to a circumstance where there is a very substantial potential shortage of teaching personnel.

Mr. MacNeil:

Does anybody else want to comment on that point? Yes, sir?

John E. Sawyer:

John Sawyer of the Mellon Foundation. I would comment, and I hope I can reserve the right to a question afterwards, but I think Mr. Ambach s point is extremely important: That the sense of these new linkages that have been talked about at this conference may be very important in bringing forward into the teaching stream young people in the Bachelor of Arts degrees across the country who have by discouragement of jobs or the image of the profession have been seeking other callings. I think there is a tremendous latent potential. We know that in the early '70s about 20% of the students coming into higher education thought of teaching. This last year the ACE survey showed it had dropped to 4.7%. And I think that the fact that jobs will pick up later in the '80s and '90s will offer opportunity to the kind of talent that this college- school interaction may help bring forward.

Mr. MacNeil:

Does anyone else want to comment on this idea? Yes, Ma am.

Floretta Dukes McKenzie:

Flo McKenzie, Superintendent of Washington, D.C. While we talk about the bright young students entering the profession, some of us have the real problem of very low turnover rates. In Washington we re down to about 2% with a teaching force of about 5000 to 5600 persons. What do we do to revitalize and recharge those people who are going to be with us, because the economic situation as it worsens, persons are staying in the profession much longer. And that poses for us in Washington a very significant problem that we must grapple with. And we must have the assistance of the colleges and universities to deal with that issue.

Mr. MacNeil:

I read in one of the addresses to the conference that, I think, on average, a great proportion of the teachers of the country had not in ten years taken any form of further education . . . would you like to comment?

Commissioner Ambach:

The observation is not only for the District of Columbia, but it is for our school systems across the country, particularly, I think, right now in the East. In the State of New York, the number of first-year teachers this year is less than 2% of the total of all the public school teachers in the State, and that same percentage has been true in the last five years, and the same percentage will probably be true in the next couple of years. So, the matter of trying to address those who are currently in practice right now, is perhaps even more important than recruiting for the future. The possibilities of providing a direct relationship and it is true in the Yale project, a direct relationship has been expressed in other projects of having a real partnership there, not the "Big Brother" approach, and that was referred to earlier, but rather a co-equal approach, where there are college and university faculty members and administrators, who are on a colleague basis, working one-to-one with those who are in the schools, it seems to me has the most promise.

Mr. MacNeil:

Let me just play the "devil's advocate" here a moment. Is there a danger that this conference, by its very weight and prestige, that you hope is going to have a positive rippling effect throughout the country in drawing attention to this aspect of the problem, may by that prestige divert attention from other aspects of the problem and create the sense that this is a panacea, that you are going to solve the problems of the schools by cooperation between colleges, universities, and local school systems?

President Giamatti:

I think if the conference had allowed itself to labor under that illusion, the danger you referred to is very real. The fact is, the conference has not. I think the fact is there has been a very healthy realism. What I take away from this is a renewed sense that there are limited and very real things that are possible to do. That the cooperation that has been manifest and for which there is a record in various parts of this country indicates to me that if one defines and clearly sticks with what one thinks one can do in a given locale, one can do a great, great deal. And one cannot become overwhelmed or paralyzed by the fact that one is not solving all of the problems of American education or American culture, all of which are there, but which the educational process will solve in the longer term if it is healthy every step along the way.

Mr. MacNeil:

I just wonder, again, playing on this idea of the enormous prestige that you are bringing to bear, and the attention you are attracting. Do you give Federal, state and local government an excuse not to pay attention to the resources because they can say, "Oh, hey, here is a way of improving the quality of teaching because the universities are going to come in, and we are going to be able to share some of their academic excellence and prestige with our school teachers." Does this give them . . .

Commissioner Ambach:

I think not. No, not at all. First of all, half of us are states, or directly representing state resource. I think that there is an expectation, once again, of the public, that unless the school systems and the colleges and universities can come together and in fact can design the agenda, can demonstrate that they are genuinely putting their resources together to meet the most difficult problems, then there is not a good case to be made to go to the public to try to draw the local or the state or the Federal resources.

Mr. MacNeil:

Can you push the improvement of the quality in the selection of teachers at the early stage, and their training and development, and career development, without also concentrating on the resources that are available to pay them? Because isn t that the chief motive, as well as loss of public image, for them leaving the profession, for the huge exit of teachers into private industry? Can you discuss it in isolation from the resources necessary?

Commissioner Ambach:

No, not at all. And I don't think it's been discussed in isolation.

Mr. MacNeil:

President Giamatti?

President Giamatti:

I think that everybody here has worked all his life, her life, on the principle that people ought to be paid in this noble profession of teaching at a level that somehow allows them to live with some dignity. There's no doubt about all that. The fact is, there s also some evidence, at least from our little, tiny efforts in one corner of New England, that shows that a fair number of the New Haven high school teachers who have gone five years through the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute have told us that they have stayed in teaching in New Haven because of the presence of the Institute.

Mr. MacNeil:

Even though their salaries haven't gone up?

President Giamatti:

Not necessarily. There are ways of making people not just feel better, but recharge themselves, and engage the profession in the broadest sense of the word, keep up with scholarship, exchange ideas with other faculty colleagues who happen to be teaching at Yale, that has meant a good deal to people, while it has not necessarily resulted in an increase in pay. But it has resulted in an increase in the kind of internal expansion that you undergo when what you are doing is taken seriously by everybody.

Mr. MacNeil:

Is this realistic? I mean, could you alleviate any significant amount of teacher dissatisfaction particularly in the secondary schools, for instance in Louisiana, by enhancing their professional lives this way, without at the same time causing local school boards or the state or anything to pay them more?

President Francis:

You ask me, first among equals, I would say right off that you've got to do both. And I think to continue to assume that teaching is a "labor of love," and you "do it for the cause." We've got to disengage that in the minds of the public. If we re going to have the best minds teaching, and we need the best minds in teaching, as we need the best minds in any of our critical national efforts, we are going to have to pay people for it. Unfortunately, when we say that, it's self-serving. So, we don t say it at the beginning, and we talk about all the nice other things. But let's be very crass about it. I don't think any of us are naive; we are not going to get the kinds of teachers we want in any of our educational systems, in elementary or secondary, unless we pay them their total worth, as we are paying others for their total worth.

Mr. MacNeil:

What happens next? Is there another? Is there an agenda? Do all the conferees here go out and spread the gospel? Do they have specific assignments? What happens from here? (Pause.) Nothing? (Laughter.)

Commissioner Ambach:

You've gotten your answer. That s symbolic. Each of us has a different course.

President Francis:

I think you can assume there will be other conferences, and I think there are people in this audience who represent varying aspects of what we have talked about, who will need to take it another step, after they have assessed what we've done here. So, I think there will be other conferences. But I think for us we will all become missionaries in some way about what we ve learned, about what we ve been motivated to do.

Commissioner Ambach:

Well, I think it s important to note that you have 2500 colleges and universities across this country. I think there s a feeling here that each and every one of those institutions has a responsibility. They may not be in the business of preparing teachers, but each and every one has a responsibility by way of helping with the recruitment, with the identification of persons who might become interested in teaching.

Mr. MacNeil:

Mr. Giamatti, what happens from here for you?

President Giamatti:

Well, I am going to stay the course, Mr. MacNeil. I d be happy to help. . . .

Mr. MacNeil:

We have "let us continue" over here, "stay the course" over there. . . .

President Giamatti:

I watch your program. You had a fellow on a couple of months ago who said "Stay the course", and I am going to stay the course. . . . Frankly, I am going to continue, because I am a simple fellow, and I am going to work at the local level. We are going to continue to do, in New Haven, with the New Haven Public Schools, what Yale has been doing and will continue to do. If that can be useful to New Haven, it is, from my point of view, not going to solve the country's problems, but it is going to help New Haven. To the extent to which one can help as an institution, as a person, other places, and other people, through this kind of forum or others, I will obviously be involved because I care very much about it. But you asked me practically what am I and Yale going to do? We are going to do what we have been doing for five years, and going to do it better.

Mr. MacNeil:

The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute was one of the models discussed at the conference and outlined in the Carnegie Report, which the conference . . . which was released at the conference, which you can all look at, surveying all these various experiments across the country. Are there any of them, coming out of this conference, that automatically leap to mind as models that can be copied throughout the country, or are they limited to their local circumstances and application. Are there any good models that other people could, just say, yes, transfer immediately. "Replicate," I think is the word.

Stephen S. Kaagan:

My name is Steve Kaagan from the State of Vermont. Well, first, I have been impressed with the kinds of projects presented here. But one of the things that disturbs me a little bit is that there haven't been enough examples proposed of ways in which universities and elementary and secondary schools can interact in a way in which their futures are truly intertwined. In such a way that the projects that are developed are not able to be jettisoned at a given point in time. Where a university tries something and decides, well, we will stop cooperating five years from now and neither the other institution will be hurt nor will we be hurt.

John B. Duff:

After listening in detail to the Yale project and the Michigan project and the Syracuse project, that all of them help the high schools. Mr. Maeroff comments in there that all those projects seem to give a better feeling to the high school teachers about themselves and their professions. So, this one person alone takes back from this conference the feeling that things can be done.

Superintendent Phillips:

Really the big model is the model of partnership, that it can be done. That is reflected in every one of the different ones.

Commissioner Ambach:

I don't think there has been any attempt here for anyone to try to sell the rest of us on a single model or a single demonstration. On the other hand, I think there is a deep concern that unless there is a way to repeat what is being done, or somewhat repeat what is being done, in one institution or another institution, then we would not bother to be here.

Mr. MacNeil:

Anyone want to pick up?

Michael G. Cooke:

I'm Michael Cooke from Yale University. The emphasis that I have heard throughout the conference, and that I have experienced in my participation in the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, is very different from that. First of all, we do not contend that somebody up there has knowledge and somebody down there receives it. We contend for the secondary school teacher, as we practice in college teaching, that training never ends. We train ourselves continually: by reading, by writing, by teaching. And we say to the secondary school teacher, "we believe, we hope, we have something to contribute to what you're doing; we know that you have something to contribute to what we re doing." And so, there is a co-equal relationship, there is a partnership. This has been stressed, and I would like to keep that stress and avoid the idea of training.

Mr. MacNeil:

Isn't one of the by-products of the Yale-New Haven experiment that some of the secondary school teachers can teach the university professor how to teach?

Mr. Cooke:

It s not a by-product. It s a central product. We do. We do have our teaching practices revised, reformed.

President Giamatti:

I think this is all marvelous. I really must say that one of the myths we live under is that college teachers don't know how to teach and don t care how to teach. That's nonsense. I just don't want to get too enthralled with the mythology on both sides. One of the nice things about this conference is that it didn't get too deep into the uncut street stuff of myth. And, just, you know . . . terrific.

President Francis:

That may be the frustration sometimes with a conference like this. You didn't promise more than you could deliver, and we sometimes are looking for more than can be done. And maybe that's the excitement about it all. We still have left some things to be done.

Dr. Boyer:

And so the issue, what have you accomplished . Well, the accomplishment has been that people have come to New Haven. More than that, they have in my view demonstrated a seriousness in their groping for an agenda, and make no question about it, it is groping but that's the nature of the human condition. And so I can only say that I, sometimes I m appalled at this effort and go home enormously depressed. But when it works, I go home exhilarated at what I can only call the endless American town meeting. Don't over- expect a conference to behave any better than your institution or the human race. Because my own view of institutions and change is it begins in your head. If we go with a different view in our heads as to the nature of the problem as well as the nature of the possibility, God, a revolution has occurred. Because that s where revolutions begin.


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