Tuesday, February 2, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 84

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About the Cougar

Yale grant to benefit education program

$375,000 gift will help Houston Teachers Institute improve the quality of curriculum in HISD schools

By Audrey Warren

Daily Cougar Staff

The Houston Teachers Institute, a program that works with UH to improve classroom education in the Houston Independent School District, received a $375,000 grant to help continue its work.

The money will pay for a three-year program involving teaching seminars for about 70 middle and high school teachers in HISD.

The grant was one of several awarded to teacher institutes around the country by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Teacher institutes allow public school teachers to work with local university professors in preparing quality curriculum.

The teachers will participate in semester-long seminars conducted by UH professors. During their time with the institute, the teachers will have access to University resources as they focus on developing skills tailored to their individual needs.

"In the seminars, teachers will write a curriculum unit to be used in their classes in the fall," explained Paul Cooke, a visiting assistant professor at UH.

The HISD teachers will sit down with a UH professor once a week to discuss teaching methods and ways to derive an appropriate curriculum.

The teachers will also learn how to deal with the problems faced by "at-risk" students who live in economically disadvantaged areas or are in danger of dropping out of school.

Statistics show that about 73 percent of HISD students receive free or reduced-priced lunches daily, and 49 percent of the district's total enrollment was considered at risk of dropping out of school in 1997.

Cooke said there will be no tests or paperwork involved in the seminars. The only requirement will be a 15- to 20-page report each teacher must submit at the end of the seminar, explaining how he will use the information presented in the seminars to enhance individual teaching methods.

Although the program will ultimately benefit students, the seminars focus on teachers. 

"The program is to enrich their own learning," Cooke said.

Among the UH professors participating in the Houston program are Garth Jowett, assistant professor of history and communication, and Lawrence Curry, assistant professor of history and associate dean of the College of Humanities, Fine Arts and Communication.

The awards, which were underwritten by the DeWitt Wallace/Readers' Digest Fund, are intended to replicate programs like the one established in 1984 by Yale University and the New Haven, Conn., public school system.

"This is the first time that we've received a grant to replicate," Assistant Director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Annette Streets said.

However, the funds are not intended to establish carbon copies of the Yale project.

"Each is done under different circumstances to reflect the needs of the situation in that area," Streets explained.

All recipient schools were first awarded $20,000 planning grants in the spring of 1998, which were used to set up the teacher institutes in each area. The larger grants will fund the programs for a certain time, after which they will become dependent on local money.

Cooke said the $375,000 given to the Houston Teachers Institute will cover about half the costs of the three-year program. The rest of the money needed will be raised locally by the UH Development Center and HISD.

The University of New Mexico and Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Penn., are among other schools that received grants for their teacher institutes.

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