Amid “Promise,” Yale Cuts Teacher Training

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAs Yale committed up to $4 million a year to help send New Haven kids to college, it quietly closed down ambitious efforts to train their teachers.

Yale has informed participants in its Urban Teaching Master’s Program that the effort will end this coming summer. Since 2005, the masters’ program has trained 20 people to become teachers for free in exchange for a promise to teach in city schools for at least two years. Fourteen of the program’s 20 graduates remain in city classrooms.

Yale also decided to close out its undergraduate Early Childhood and Secondary teaching certificate programs.

It made those decisions quietly just days before Yale’s president joined Mayor John DeStefano at a nationally covered rally to unveil the “New Haven Promise” program. Yale has committed up to $4 million a year for four years under that program. It will pay as much as 100 percent of the cost of in-state public-college tuition for city public-school students who graduate with averages of at least 3.0 and maintain good grades as undergraduates.

“The master¹s program was a worthwhile endeavor, but Yale believes its best support for public education in New Haven will come from initiatives other than formal teacher education programs,” said Yale spokesman Tom Conroy.

The decision caused dismay among city teachers who graduated from the Urban Teaching Program. They praised New Haven Promise while lamenting the loss of a novel effort that made a big difference in city classroom.

“We are so psyched about the Promise grants, but it is such a shame that Yale has chosen not to couple this initiative with continuing to train teachers for the district, who can help in the effort to give our students the tools to achieve Promise’s high standards,” said Michelle Shortsleeve, a New Haven Academy teacher who graduated from Yale’s master’s program in June.

“What concerns me most is that Yale sends a clear statement with this decision that reverberates beyond the 15 of us: ‘We will gladly throw money at this problem of underperforming urban schools in New Haven, but we won’t get our hands dirty—Yale people shouldn’t be teachers.’ It’s this statement that sums up what is so wrong with the education system in this country, and it just makes me furious,” Shortsleeve said.

The Yale program paid for students to spend 13 months earning their master’s in teaching as well as certification in a subject matter such as history or English. They spent time in city classrooms. They also formed a team that stays together long after graduation, sharing experiences from the classroom.

One such gathering of program grads is scheduled for Tuesday. Leslie Blatteau plans to be there.

Blatteau, who finished the program in 2007, is in her fourth year teaching in city public schools. She’s currently at Metropolitan Business Academy. (Read about some of her experiences at a previous post here, and click on the video.)

Like Shortsleeve, Blatteau had mixed emotions about last week’s dual developments: excited about Promise, discouraged by the abandonment of the teacher training effort.

“The Promise program is a great idea. But it is pretty indicative of the bigger picture of Yale: We’ll step in as the heroes and put the money in the end rather than invest in the day-to-day hands on in the trenches work, which is what we’ve been doing for the past five years” through the master’s program, Blatteau said.

“They’re deciding they have pocket change to spend on education. They can spend pocket change training a small amount of teachers. Or they can spend their pocket change—- $4 million is pocket change for Yale—on investing in college. It’s sexier. It’s a good thing. But the kids who are going to get Bs and go to college are going to get Bs and go to college [with or without New Haven Promise]. We need good teachers in the classroom for the kids who are struggling, so the kids who are getting Cs will think about” staying in high school instead of dropping out.

Blatteau said the Yale program aimed at making teachers “change agents” in their schools. It also taught here to see teachers not as “performers” entertaining students in the classroom but rather people charged with “creating a community where kids can do things ... constructing interesting, purposeful tasks that the kids want to do.”

She still carries with her lessons about turning around bad days through reflection. “I had a crazy class last week,” she said Monday. “I didn’t say, ‘It was the kids’ fault.’ I thought about it this weekend. I planned for the class, and we had a great class this morning. The kids knew it. I knew it.”

Conroy said Yale’s commitment to supporting public education remains strong. He noted that other programs continue, including the celebrated Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.

It made last week’s decision based on where the demand is, he said. Enrollment has proved low for the master’s program, he said. That’s because aspiring teachers are instead gravitating to Teach For America.

The program certified just three graduates in 2010, he said. Meanwhile, 17 percent of Yale seniors applied to TFA last year, and 46 of those went on to teach through TFA. New Haven has embraced TFA as part of its school reform drive; read about that here and here.

Update: On Tuesday, a national expert panel called for the creation of new teacher-training programs—programs similar to the expiring Yale one. Read about that here.

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posted by: New Haven teacher on November 15, 2010  4:48pm

This is infuriating.  Teach for America is not a replacement for high quality, intensive teacher education programs (like the Yale Masters).  Research shows that trained, certified teachers outperform uncertified teachers on a number of different measures.  New Haven schools need high quality, TRAINED teachers who are committed to New Haven in order to boost student achievement and help students get their hands on this Promise grant money.  Without good teachers, many students will not be able to meet the high standards of the Grant.  By closing its education programs, both Graduate and Undergraduate, Yale is turning its back on teaching as a profession. I am incredibly disappointed that Yale would give up on an initiative designed to create long term change in the schools.  Ms. Shortsleeve is right when she says that this is indicative of Yale’s response to many of New Haven’s issues—throw money at the problem, but don’t get your hands dirty actually collaboratively solving it.

posted by: streever on November 15, 2010  5:25pm

At first blush, it’s certainly bad PR for Yale, and I can understand Shortsleeve’s anger—I think she goes a step too far in saying that Yale says “Yale people shouldn’t be teachers”—if that quote is correct, I think she probably just over-spoke and doesn’t really think that the message is Yale people are too good for public schools. My experiences with Yale administrators certainly have not suggested that.

I think Blatteau has a great perspective on it—it is much easier for Yale to step in and be the heroes at the end of the scenario.

It is interesting though that so many Yale grads choose TFA over the Yale program—while I can understand Yale stepping away from an unsuccessful program, it’d be nice to see them provide more tangible (monetary) support for TFA if indeed they’d like their students to use that program.

I agree with Blatteau that they should continue to support training and retaining teachers for New Haven schools—and that the Promise grant by itself is not enough to justify dropping the Yale teachers program. If indeed the program is just extremely unpopular and the overhead makes it inefficient, why not partner with TFA and support their work? (Maybe they already do this?)

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 15, 2010  5:26pm

What were the results of the Yale Masters program?  How well did the graduates do in their classrooms in terms of student outcomes (CMT’s, CAPTs, GPA, college enrollment, etc.)or even on measures of progress for kids who were furthest behind?

If the program is making a huge difference for children then the leaders can raise private endowment funding.  These days there are plenty of people (Yale alums included) who are interested in putting their money into programs that work for kids.

posted by: trainspotter on November 15, 2010  7:04pm

The fact is that there are several area universities that offer Masters programs for teachers and to imply that only Yale is capable of providing quality training is just silly. Yes it was a free ride, but if they’ve only had twenty graduates in 5 years that amounts to only 4 per year. Hardly a huge impact when budgets are being scrutinized. Many Universities are cutting back on their offerings in these tough times. The promise program will have a more far reaching impact on New Haven youth.

posted by: nfjanette on November 15, 2010  8:09pm

Some of the complaints give the impression of a sense of entitlement.  From my perspective, given that Yale is a private institution that has voluntarily chosen to give millions of dollars toward the cause of improving the educational experience of city youth (those attending public schools), I find it reasonable that it should be the decider of how to best apply that funding.  A old parable about a gift horse and its mouth comes to mind.

posted by: Doyens on November 15, 2010  8:29pm

It seems part of the New Haven Promise was omitted by the knowledgeable parties last week while they were pimping the main story line. If the TFA program yielded positive results, the move by Yale is short sighted. In any case, it should have been acknowledged and discussed. And just for the record, the “Promise” is a 4-yr commitment. Why sell it to much younger children when the city has no idea if the program will be around 5, even 10 yrs. from now. What will be said if new money is not found, and like TFA, Yale decides not to fund it any longer? Oops. Sorry? There is nothing wrong with trumpeting a positive development. There is something wrong with calling it a promise, rolling it out to elementary school kids when its future is a roll of the dice.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 15, 2010  8:47pm

I keep telling all of you.This whole school reform here and across this country is noting more than a Three Card Monte.It is load with corporate vampires who are funding school reform for profits.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 15, 2010 4:26pm

If the program is making a huge difference for children then the leaders can raise private endowment funding.  These days there are plenty of people (Yale alums included) who are interested in putting their money into programs that work for kids.

Raise private endowment funding.Give me a break.Look at private endowment funding form these corporate vampires. Look at this one.

Michael Milken and Larry Ellison
Net worth: $2 billion and $27 billion

Michael Milken dominated Wall Street in the 1980s using junk bonds to fuel that decade’s merger mania before landing in federal prison for violating securities laws. Now, Milken has gone into the education business as chairman, co-founder and driving force behind Knowledge Universe, a multinational conglomerate that operates for-profit day-care centers and schools and makes interactive educational toys. Ellison, CEO of Oracle, co-founded the company with Milken.

And here are the rest.

Hey fix you talk big about how good Joel Klein was good as the New York City schools chancellor.I wonder why he would step down two months after the schools have open.And now he is taking a job with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.Now king bloomberg is hiring Cathleen P. Black,the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines.She even said that she has limited exposure to the public school system.What do you think about that fix. I can’t wait.The countdown has started.The heavyweight on the real deal on school refom will be here.Diane Ravitch will be here.In fact I saw some of the people who will be on the panel.I told them get get ready to rumble.

posted by: Michelle Shortsleeve on November 15, 2010  11:00pm

I am glad this article has started discussion, and I hope it continues. Especially regarding recognition for non-Yale teachers, (nfjanette and trainspotter) and the TFA vs. teacher training path (streever). Yale teachers are by no means the only, or the most skilled and capable, teachers helping our kids achieve success in New Haven - as I also told Mr. Bass. My inspiring colleagues are a main reason I want to stay in this district. But this message Yale sends - that teaching is not a craft that requires intense preparation - affects all New Haven teachers, and all teachers who plan to make teaching a profession and career. As any teacher will tell you, you cannot master the craft in 2 years, and you cannot become a master teacher without constant support, observation and feedback. This was the unique model Yale offered, thanks to its unique set of resources, and the model toward which all our teacher education systems can move. On the subject of TFA, I have a wonderful TFA colleague who plans to make teaching a career, and many friends in the Core. But, as Doyen alludes, even thousands who sign up for 2-year teaching stints are not going to fix the structural problem that faces our education system, urban and suburban (many of our suburban schools want rigor too, don’t forget that.) Respect and value for the teaching profession will sustain true change in our country’s schools.

posted by: Paul Wessel on November 16, 2010  10:04am

FIX THE SCHOOLS’ ... comment is a good one - if this program performs, is there a way to keep it alive - whether at Yale or independently?

Interesting op-ed piece in today’s New Haven Register from program grad and Bishop Woods teacher Tara Stevens, who laments:

“The implicit message in the decision is that Yale and its students shouldn’t be wasting their time on teaching as a profession. It’s the same with Teach for America being so popular on Yale’s campus: The message is get in, get out and move on to a job at a Fortune 500 company.

This sort of attitude will never fix New Haven’s schools, or schools anywhere. Great teachers can come from many places, but as of today, they will no longer come from Yale.”

Tara Stevens - New Haven Register: Yale throws money at schools, but backs off on teachers

posted by: anon on November 16, 2010  4:38pm

“Great teachers can come from many places, but as of today, they will no longer come from Yale.”

This was entirely off base, given how many Yale graduates actually become teachers, and how many then become so well-recognized for their work.

I believe Yale’s mission statement is something about training the world’s best scholars and social leaders. In order to do that, you can’t have programs in everything - you have to specialize. Yale doesn’t offer hotel management or veterinary sciences, for example. 

If you think that this means Yale can’t produce great teachers, just look at the fact that many of the nation’s best high school teachers have Ph.D.‘s in fields other than teaching (like astrophysics, for example), and I would speculate that the vast majority of top teachers in general did not study education as their undergraduate major.

Offering more TFA-prep type programs (e.g., summer teaching fellowships) seems like a great idea, however, given that Yale sends more students to TFA than almost any other university in the United States.  TFA has excellent training but more never hurt. 

And if an alumnus had an extra $30 million or so lying around, I’m sure Yale would consider restarting their master’s program.

posted by: New Haven teacher on November 16, 2010  5:51pm

To anon:
TFA has excellent training?  Are you kidding?

A cosmetologist must be trained for 9 months before he or she can practice.  Teach for America teachers only receive 5 weeks of training before they receive their own classrooms.  Suburban parents would never allow their children to be taught by untrained teachers.  Why is this okay for some of our nation’s kids, but not all? 

TFA training is a crash course on lesson planning and classroom management that does not compare in any way to an intensive, rigorous teacher education program that combines educational and social theory with extensive classroom experience.  Yale is not training teachers by sending its graduates to Teach for America.

posted by: anon on November 17, 2010  9:28pm

New Haven Teacher:

First of all, “5 weeks training” is not an accurate statement.  Have you looked at the number of hours, or the training that TFA gives outside of its Summer Institute?

Second, in an annual survey of principals who manage Teach For America teachers, nearly two out of three principals (63 percent) rated corps members’ training as better than that of other beginning teachers.

Nearly all principals (95 percent) regard Teach For America teachers as effective as, if not more effective than, other beginning teachers in terms of overall performance and impact on student achievement; two-thirds (66 percent) regard corps members as more effective.

When it comes to a crisis, clearly it is very easy for some folks to scapegoat programs that are working, but hard for them to propose and take action implementing alternative solutions that would be better.  Makes you wonder what their motivations are.

posted by: Stephen on November 18, 2010  2:35pm

The State Department of Education has been making it tougher and tougher to meet all their bureaucratic standards for teacher training programs. Schools that train large numbers of teachers (like SCSU) can comply, but schools that train only a few (like Yale) have a hard time. I think they just decided it wasn’t worth it. Pity.

posted by: anon214 on November 20, 2010  2:30pm

The decision to put an end to Yale’s teacher training programs comes at a time when national reports are coming out calling for teacher prep programs to be revamped in order to look, rather conveniently, just like the one that Yale offered. Too many programs, these reports argue, don’t offer teaching candidates enough time in the classroom; that’s why Yale’s program offered 13 months of field experience. Too many programs, they argue, accept an unqualified talent pool; that’s why Yale sought to bring high-performing future teachers to New Haven. Yale’s program was ahead of its time: it exceeds the new criteria for teacher-prep programs being called for. As Yale accepts its place as the only Ivy that doesn’t train teachers, I hope the university’s decision-makers realize that it is passing on the chance to further develop a model program that I sincerely hope lives on elsewhere. For more:

posted by: teacher-in-training on November 21, 2010  7:24pm

Thank you, anon214.
It is important to understand that the teacher training program was different from others in the area, and not just because it had the name “Yale” attached to it.  As a progressive, self-selecting program, it created true teachers rather than people who saw teaching as simply their job.  I had hoped that the program might be extended to elementary teachers in the future, but instead it has been cut altogether.  I now travel out of state to receive an education of that quality.  While 20 graduates may at first seem like a low number, consider that it is 20 high-quality, committed professionals, many of whom have stayed in the community.  The students respect and value these teachers in a way that is not often seen in teenagers.
Teaching is an undervalued and often misunderstood profession.  I thank those that have been part of the program for their dedication and conviction.  While I am sad at the loss of the Yale program, I hope that it is not the end of similar programs in the future.