NPR’s Anya Kamenetz takes a close look at the Relay Graduate School of Education, noting that the U.S. Department of Education last week “singled out Relay in its announcement of new rules intended to improve all teacher-prep programs. Those rules require states to hold schools of education accountable, in part by reporting the learning outcomes of their novice teachers’ students.”
Relay set out nearly a decade ago to prepare a new generation of teachers for the nitty-gritty of the classroom in the way, critics have long charged, traditional graduate schools of education do not.
A now famous 2006 report found that 62 percent of new teachers said they didn’t feel prepared for the reality of today’s classrooms. Its author, Arthur Levine, was then president of Teachers College, Columbia University and became a member of Relay’s board.
Focusing on that real-world preparation is what Relay’s leaders say is fueling its growing popularity. “There are a lot of teachers, schools and districts hungry for a really practical approach to teacher prep,” says the school’s dean, Mayme Hostetter.
The school’s goal is to provide “as authentic a practice experience” as possible, she adds.
June Kronholz wrote about Relay in its earlier days for “A New Type of Ed School,” which appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Education Next.
If there were ever a system in need of reinvention, it would be teacher education. Decades of studies, reports, and blue-ribbon commissions have criticized ed schools for low entrance requirements, mediocre standards, an emphasis on theory over practice, and outdated curricula. “It’s an accepted truth that the field is broken,” Walsh told me. The problem with fixing it, she added, is that “nobody has known what to do.”
What Relay is doing largely breaks the mold. Its students are full-time elementary- and middle-school teachers, almost all of them fresh out of college, almost none of them with a traditional teaching degree. The program is heavy on practice and nuts-and-bolts technique. It is competency-based: students can be waived out of Designing Assessments, for example, if they can show they are already adept at writing tests.
Relay’s method flips the classroom, with an online lesson at the start of every module or teaching unit (about 40 percent of instruction is online) and in-class discussions and exercises afterward. Twice-monthly night classes, once-monthly Saturday classes, and two summer terms are taught by master teachers and charter school heavyweights. Online instructors include Lee Canter, author of Assertive Discipline, charter school founders and principals, and Relay professors and deans.
– Education Next