The New York Times reported that Vassar was among five colleges and universities in New York State collaborating as test sites for the innovative new approach to teacher education advocated by former Harvard president and United States Ambassador to Germany James B. Conant.  Conant proposed making colleges and universities responsible for teacher certification rather than the states, making classroom performance the major factor in certification,  siting more practical training in local schools and giving state authorities responsibility for supervision of practice teaching.  Most controversially, Conant’s plan, outlined in his book The Education of America’s Teachers (1963), called for the replacement of “how-to-teach” classes with “learning through teaching,” leaving more classroom time for teaching and learning in subject matter fields.

To avoid prolonged theoretical debate about his proposals, Conant enlisted as a test bed five quite different institutions with established commitment to teacher education in New York State.  In addition to Vassar, Brooklyn College, Cornell University, Colgate University and Fredonia State College agreed to implement the plan, which already had the blessing of James E. Allen, Jr., the state’s commissioner of education.

“The problem is,” Conant told The Times, “to get the professors of the various disciplines to sit down with the professors of education and to appraise what is now taught and what should be taught.”  Equally important, he added, was a commitment from the professors to examining classroom teaching in the schools and evaluating how well their subjects were presented to students.