updated 7/31/2005 10:19:29 PM ET 2005-08-01T02:19:29

Yale University plans to recruit and train teachers for New Haven's public schools, launching a partnership Monday that will send dozens of master's degree recipients into a school district where two thirds of eighth graders don't meet state reading standards.

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In exchange for free tuition, a master's degree in urban education and an $18,000 stipend, students must make a three-year commitment to teach in Connecticut's second largest school district, which faces a teaching shortage in middle and high schools.

Yale's program is the latest by a topflight university to improve public schools in its community. Columbia's Teachers College announced a similar fellowship in New York last year and Brown is preparing to launch a master's degree in urban education and plans to include internships in Providence area schools.

Eighty-nine percent of New Haven's 21,000 students are minorities and one third come from homes where English is not spoken.

The city has struggled to compete with smaller suburban districts for the state's topflight teachers. That effort has gotten harder in recent years as city schools have lagged behind the suburbs on the standardized tests used to evaluate school districts.

"Who wants to be working in a school where every year it's, 'You're failing. You're failing,'" said Reginald Mayo, the city's school superintendent.

Recruiting power
By piggybacking on Yale's global recruiting power, Mayo said he hopes to find people who want that challenge. Yale, they hope, will bring them teachers who have studied the latest teaching methods, who understand the data-intensive No Child Left Behind Act and who aren't looking for jobs in the suburbs.

"These are people who really want to be urban teachers, not people who graduate with a teaching certificate and take a job in an urban district because they can't find a job in the suburbs," Mayo said.

Yale will begin recruiting soon and expects to accept 10 students each year, President Richard Levin said. In a few years, at least 30 middle and high school teachers out of about 500 will have master's degrees from Yale, official said. That number will be even higher if the city can keep those teachers in New Haven after the three-year commitment ends.

Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College, said the programs at Columbia and Yale will, by themselves, never produce the numbers needed to transform urban education. But they can be models for other universities to follow, he said.

In the long run, these programs are about making teaching a profession that top graduates aspire to, Levine said.

"It raises the prestige of the profession," he said. "We're making them rock stars."

The model is similar to that of Teach for America, a national program that places teachers in underserved rural or inner-city school districts for two years. Organizers said in March that they received a record 17,000 applications this year.

Many Teach for America alumni go on to become doctors, lawyers and public officials who advocate for education and social reform. But Yale and Columbia want their graduate programs to attract recent graduates and mid-career professionals who will stay in education.

"They're probably going to be a lot more interested in public school teaching rather than in overall public service," said Jonathon Gillette, director of Yale's teacher-preparation program.

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