Inner-City Educators Get Boost From Yale Teaching Program

A Yale University program that gives teachers from inner-city school districts access to Ivy League classes and other college resources will be replicated in cities in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.

Since 1978, more than 400 public school teachers have become fellows at the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. About 35 percent of all current New Haven middle and high school teachers have participated in the program.

Funded by $2.5 million grant from a private foundation, programs based on the Yale model will be developed at Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham College in Pittsburgh; the University of California at Irvine and at Santa Cruz; the University of Houston; and the University of New Mexico. Each school will receive $20,000 planning grants, plus additional three-year grants ranging from $300,000 to $500,000.

Each year, Yale polls New Haven public school teachers to determine what subjects might further their professional development and help them better prepare their students, who are mostly from low-income households. The institute identifies Yale experts in the subject areas, who then teach the five-month classes in the spring and summer. Subjects have included 20th-century multicultural theater, the US Constitution, global environmental change, genetics, and poetry.

About 80 teachers are currently participating in Yale seminars. "It's given me a chance to develop curriculum, not just my own that I know is related to the interests of my kids, but to the overall curriculum goals in New Haven," says third-grade teacher Jean Sutherland.

She and three other teachers from the L.W. Beecher Elementary School recently took a Yale institute seminar titled "Exploring Diversity through Children's Literature." Each used the class as a springboard to lessons in the classroom.

Ms. Sutherland taught her students about Latino literature, while others focused on African-American literature, Jewish literature, or the literature of women.

Studies have shown that the program helps teachers develop new curricula and become more knowledgeable about the subjects they teach. It's also credited with improving teachers' morale, heightening expectations for inner-city students, and increasing the number of teachers retained by urban school districts.

At their studies' conclusion, New Haven teachers receive a stipend and credits toward earning recertification. Classes also can be used toward credits if the teacher pursues a graduate degree.

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