The Select Seminar Series on Excellence in Education was a profound collaboration. The University at Albany School of Education and CASDA convened “consciously competent educators” working in schools, University professors and CASDA staff to collectively analyze and address diverse issues of educational practice. Over the course of nearly twenty years, more than thirty reports were published on topics such as teacher evaluation, the role of technology in schools and gender equity. These volumes contain insight and perspective that remains valuable to anyone interested in supporting schools as they strive to best meet the needs of their students and communities.
The inaugural report was titled “A View From the Inside: A Report of the Select Seminar on Teacher Evaluation.” Published in January, 1986, this document, and the work which led to its publication, established a framework for research, discussion and collaboration that became the foundation of each subsequent Select Seminar report. The preface to the first report states that “since 1985 at least eight major reports have been issued on the state of American primary and secondary education. These reports have been written by observers of primary and secondary education.” The authors of these widely disseminated reports are described in the preface as “occasional visitors to the public school” who have “categorized, interrogated, diagnosed and dissected” professional educators and the schools they serve. Seminar coordinators Dr. Edward Kelly and Dr. Richard Clark from the School of Education and Dr. Nelson Armlin and Dr. Richard Bamberger of CASDA recognized that developing effective strategies for school improvement required “a view from the inside.”
Dr. Kelly believed that “consciously competent, dedicated teachers and administrators are the best arbiters of educational practice.” Each year, Dr. Armlin identified and invited a cohort of “consciously competent” educators drawn from CASDA-affiliated schools to participate in the Select Seminar process. Teachers, administrators and professors met for five full day sessions held during the winter and spring, culminating in a focused two day retreat. They examined research curated by the School of Education and encouraged to draw upon their own professional reading as they explored the complexities of the topic in question. Lively discussions emerged as educators from diverse backgrounds debated how to best address educational challenges. Reflecting upon his experiences as a participant, Dr. James Butterworth stated that “the Select Seminars were about bringing motivated and creative people together to find solutions for students.”
The Select Seminars for Excellence in Education affirmed the fact that professional educators possess the desire and ability to drive the school improvement process. Connecting the research and resources of the School of Education with outstanding teachers and administrators in the field created a fertile intellectual environment that produced thoughtful reflections on educational practice and the relationship between schools and society. In facilitating the Select Seminars for Excellence in Education, both the University at Albany School of Education and CASDA embraced their commitment to “bring research into practice” while creating a model of collaboration that empowered educators to direct meaningful change in their schools.