Academic journal article Education Next

A New Type of Ed School: Linking Candidate Success to Student Success

Academic journal article Education Next

A New Type of Ed School: Linking Candidate Success to Student Success

Article excerpt

I was observing a class called Designing Assessments at the new Relay Graduate School of Education when a student asked if it was OK to rework questions from a teachers' guide to fit the English lesson she was teaching in a Brooklyn middle school that week. Sure, said Mayme Hostetter, Relay's dean: "No need to totally invent the wheel. Just make the wheel amazing."

Hostetter might just as surely have been talking about Relay, which aims to transform teacher education to fit the needs of urban schools. The amazing--or at least attention-getting--improvement on the wheel is that New York-based Relay is linking the success of its students to the success of their students.

During their second year in Relay's two-year masters-degree program, elementary-school teachers are asked to show that their own students averaged a full year's reading growth during the school year. They must also set a reading goal for each child, perhaps two years' growth for a child who is three years behind, for example. Students can earn credit toward an honors degree if 80 percent of the children they teach meet their individual reading goals.


To earn their degrees, elementary-school teachers are also asked to show that their students earned, on average, 70 percent mastery on a year's worth of state or Common Core Standards in another subject, usually math. In other words, a math class would meet the goal if students' individual mastery scores, when averaged, were 70 percent or better. Middle-school teachers use the same yardstick, but only in their specialized subject.

Relay's cofounder and president, Norman Atkins, talks movingly about the crisis in inner-city teaching and the need to "grow a pipeline of effective teachers who can make an immediate difference." But the true value of Relay's model may go beyond potentially improving the teaching in the classrooms where Relay's graduates work. Robert Planta, dean of the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, explained that Relay is creating a "feedback loop," using child-level data to measure the outcomes of its teacher-training program, and using those measures to make decisions about program design. "This is how systems get better," he told me.

Spreading accountability from the teacher back to the education school is an idea the Obama administration is also promoting in its efforts to remake teacher training. This spring, a federal panel looking at teacher-preparation programs debated, among other things, rating ed schools based on how much their teachers add to student learning. That possibility riles ed school deans, among others, but "individual accountability is coming down the pike," says Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy group.

Even Relay's admirers concede that it's too soon to tell whether the model works. It's operating in just two cities: New York, where it's offering a master's degree to 206 students this year, and Newark, New Jersey, where so far it has state approval only to offer a one-year teaching certificate and has enrolled 64. Relay's first class won't graduate until 2013. Philanthropies are still footing much of the bill.

Relay has hired a research director, but Atkins says it may not open itself to independent researchers for another four years. Its students--with undergraduate degrees from the likes of the University of Virginia, Lafayette, and Georgetown--are atypical for an ed school, which could complicate comparisons with other teacher programs. Above all, trying to measure student achievement and a teacher's role in improving it is hard to do.

Still, says Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia University's Teachers College and a member of Relay's board, Relay is helping to reinvent teacher education. "Relay is the model," he told me. "It is the future."


Nuts and Bolts

If there were ever a system in need of reinvention, it would be teacher education. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.