Starting early next year, the Yale Urban Teaching Initiative, a one year advanced graduate program pending state approval, will prepare Yale grads with a passion for education to bring their skills to New Haven’s public schools.
The initiative is sponsored by the Yale Teacher Preparation Program, a plan of study for Yale students aspiring to become teachers. After taking 13 intensive study courses over a 14-month period, graduates will receive a Masters in Urban Education Studies and a State of Connecticut Initial Educator License permitting them to teach grades seven through 12. After receiving their degrees, participants are required to commit to teaching in a New Haven public middle or high school for three years.
Although state approval usually requires two years, the initiative has already passed the major portion of the review, which consisted of a site visit by state representatives, said Jack Gillette GRD ’85, director of the Yale Teacher Preparation Program and the creator of the initiative.
Officials from the Board of Higher Education and the State Department of Education will visit New Haven schools in December and January, Gillette said.
“The rest of the process is really perfunctory,” he said.
Gillette, who taught at Hillhouse High School for 10 years following his graduation from a similar urban initiative at Wesleyan, said he created the initiative in response to the needs of New Haven public schools.
“These schools face an enormous personnel need,” he said. “They’re looking to hire up to 200 new teachers each year. We wanted to see if we could find an important role for the Yale Teacher Preparation Program in addressing this issue along with New Haven public schools.”
Gillette said Yale has been exceptional in its support and endorsement of the initiative since he first presented the idea to Yale College Dean Peter Salovey in 2004.
“I was really pleased at the support of the University,” he said. “It was Dean Salovey’s fourth day on the job when I pitched this to him, and he was very enthusiastic.”
Salovey said he thinks the initiative is attractive because it facilitates Yale’s role as a responsible member of the New Haven community.
“It’s the perfect sort of town-gown program,” Salovey said. “It lets students at different levels take advantage of our faculty scholarship in the area of urban education, but then the program also helps to produce skilled teachers for the New Haven public schools.”
Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, director of communications for New Haven public schools, said she thinks the program will assist the school system in employing high-quality teachers.
“I think we’re always in a continuous cycle of trying to attract people who really want to teach in an urban environment,” Sullivan-DeCarlo said. “We already know that people in this program will have a passion for city schools.”
Salovey said the initiative may have positive effects on teachers already in the field.
“We would hope this program, by emphasizing teaching in urban settings, would encourage teachers to remain in those settings where they are so desperately needed,” he said.
The program, which aims to develop teachers with both rigorous subject knowledge and depth of background, is unique in its size and the amount of teaching exposure students will receive before graduation, Gillette said.
“The size of New Haven schools means that our graduates will occupy at least 30 out of 400 teaching positions in secondary schools,” Gillette said. “It’s a real opportunity to make a focused impact on a city school system.”
Throughout the program, students initially will be required to teach summer school and then one daily homeroom class for the duration of the school year, Sullivan-DeCarlo said.
“It’s important that students get teaching experience as they go through the program,” she said. “They won’t be in an ivory tower for two years and then suddenly thrust into a classroom.”
Gillette said future teachers will be trained, both in their graduate classes and while teaching in public schools, to address gaps in students’ basic skills. He said prospective teachers will be taught how to present students with difficult material.
“The goal is to break it down, not dumb it down,” Gillette said. “The theory of how to teach must be relevant in practice.”
Applications for the program are currently available online at the Yale Teacher Preparation Program’s Web site, but may not be submitted until the initiative receives Connecticut State approval. Current candidates are limited to those seeking a Yale Urban Teaching Corps fellowship, which fully funds their course of study and provides an additional stipend of $18,000.