Reform Selling Reform: Chiefs for Change Promoting Relay Graduate School of Education
Chiefs for Change (C4C) is a corporate-reform-promoting organization that began under the direction of Jeb Bush; as of March 2015, C4C is its own nonprofit. Under Bush, C4C’s membership of state ed superintendents was dwindling. (In February 2015, C4C had only four members.) Still, according to Bush’s nonprofit, Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), C4C received over $1.5 million in 2014 from FEE for “program support for Chiefs for Change, a coalition of reform-minded chief state-school officers.”
The rebirthed C4C has extended its membership to include local as well as state ed chiefs. It’s even willing to pick up as many former chiefs as possible to boost its appearance of a notable membership. As of this writing, C4C only includes five active state ed superintendents. The rest of its 24 members are local superintendents or former superintendents.
As of 2016, C4C is not a large organization. Still, it is trying to drum up new members to form a coalition behind its ideas. Thus, it has released this 38-page policy brief on Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title II essentially concerns “preparing, recruiting, and training high-quality teachers, principals, or other school leaders,” where *high-quality* involves raising the federally-mandated state test scores associated with the “challenging State academic standards.”
Discussion of Title II begins on page 113 of the ESSA doc linked above. On page 114 is the discussion of a “teacher, principal, or other school leader preparation academy” that can be a nonprofit and that has as its chief aim of boosting those federally-mandated test scores.
In its Title II policy brief, C4C features one organization for “innovative teacher and school leader preparation programs”
The Relay Graduate School of Education:
Relay Graduate School of Education was formed to revolutionize the way teacher education is delivered and to better prepare more high-quality teachers for urban schools. Varying by location, Relay, a non-profit, accredited Institution of Higher Education, offers an innovative program that includes teaching residency, master’s degree programs for novice and experienced teachers, alternative certification, special education credentials, programs for school leaders, and free online courses.
Relay Graduate School of Education is a New York-based nonprofit (EIN 27-5316628). It describes itself as follow on its 2014 tax form:
Relay Graduate School of Education (“Relay”) was organized under the education law of the State of New York in February 2011, to improve the training and preparation of teachers. The organization received its public charity determination from the Internal Revenue Service in September 2011.
Relay commenced operations in July 2011, at which point the programs previously operated by Uncommon Knowledge and Achievement, Inc (“UKA”), related not-for-profit organization, were transferred to Relay. UKA supports Relay and its development and delivery of teacher and school leader training programs.
In July 2011, Relay Graduate School of Education opened its doors to an inaugural class of graduate students. In the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years, Relay offered two programs, Master of Arts in Teaching graduate degree program in New York, NY, and teacher certification program in Newark, NJ.
By the 2014-2015 academic year, Relay offered Master of Arts in Teaching graduate degrees in New York, NY, Newark, NJ, New Orleans, LA, Chicago, IL, and Houston, TX, Master of Education in Instructional School Leadership graduate degree in New York, NY, and national instructional school leadership program. Since launching in 2011, over 1,400 teachers and school leaders have completed Relay’s teacher and school leader training programs.
In April 2012, Relay was approved by the Department of Education as Title IV eligible institution, allowing it to offer Title IV federal student aid programs to its students starting in the 2012-2013 academic year.
Relay is able to call itself a “graduate school” because it offers masters degrees. However, the organization is better described as what happens when an organization principally led by Teach for America (TFA), charter-school-leading alumni manage to figure out what they need in order to be granted accreditation as a teacher-prep program.
The Relay secret is that it focuses on test-score-raising skills:
Our approach to training teachers and principals is distinct in the world of higher education. It begins with a curriculum that emphasizes the teaching and instructional leadership skills that have the greatest impact on student learning. We know that when teachers and principals develop these skills, they can forever improve the lives of children.
To identify these skills, we’ve turned to the teachers and school leaders who’ve led thousands of students to extra- ordinary growth and inspired other educators to grow their own ability to do so. These exceptional thinkers are never far from schools. But they’re not sitting in ivory towers. They’re faculty members at Relay.
To be fair, Relay also refers to developing “personal character strengths” of students. However, the abundant TFA-alum presence among Relay leadership as well as the presence of “no excuses” KIPP as a founding partner and Walton and TFA as funders is evidence that marketing a set of skills is likely the overriding focus.
Skills-focused Relay currently has 12 campuses operated by 11 “deans.” Only one of these deans currently holds a doctorate (in this case, the one doctorate is a juris doctorate). Three others are working on PhDs. Eight have their teaching experience from TFA. Many mention affiliation with charter schools as their leadership experience.
In order to become a Relay dean, one only needs to be willing to start a new Relay campus the Relay way– where student test score outcomes are front and center. For example, this ad is for a “dean fellow” in the Bay area (California). Here is an excerpt:
To succeed in this role, it’s not enough for you to know about educational theory and history. You must also believe that great educators can lift children out of poverty — and that teachers and school leaders can learn how to be great by mastering concrete, practical techniques for high-impact instruction.
That’s because Relay’s approach to training educators is unlike any other in the United States. Our graduate students earn their master’s degrees only if they can show a measurable impact on student achievement in their classrooms. …
In short, Relay focuses on results — not just at our institution, but also in the schools of the educators we train. As a Dean Fellow, and eventually as Dean, you will be responsible for helping Relay students achieve those results on a broad scale, across district and charter schools in the Bay Area.
And note that “essential duties” include drumming up philanthropic support:
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
- Serve as our primary instructional leader for the new campus by creating and teaching Relay courses, as well as advising graduate students
- Manage and strengthen Relay’s relationships with key external partners, including donors, as well as prospective graduate students and faculty
- In partnership with Relay’s National Dean and Chief Academic Officer, design a comprehensive program of study for graduate students in education, tailored to state-specific standards
- Support your operations team member to coordinate all logistical aspects of Relay on the new campus, including but not limited to: scheduling; acquiring and creating all necessary resources; and working with staff in New York on recruitment, enrollment, communication, finance, student and staff policies, technology and facilities needs
As for the qualifications of a Relay “dean”: A doctorate is not necessary (which is not the case of any dean of a real college/university). Too, the requirement of “instructional experience” is not the same as “full time classroom teaching experience”– which makes it easier for TFA alums to become Relay “deans”:
Most importantly, you must share the team’s sense of urgency about the need to improve student achievement through phenomenal training for educators. Additionally, you must have the following:
- A master’s degree in education, doctoral degree is a plus
- At least six years of instructional experience, with at least three as an instructional leader
- Strong alignment with Relay’s pedagogical philosophy
- Ability to work and communicate effectively with diverse populations
- A proven aptitude to lead, inspire and persuade others
- Excitement to start a new venture
- Ability to work effectively, intensely, and within an entrepreneurial environment
- A demonstrated passion for urban education and closing the achievement gap
Given that so many former TFAers become Relay “deans,” one can assume that the Relay “pedagogical philosophy” is indeed corporate-reform-approved, test-score-centrism.
Only one Relay job ad includes a doctorate as a must: The position of director of accreditation:
As a nationally accredited institution of higher education (IHE), Relay participates in annual and periodic reviews by CAEP and MSCHE. Reporting to the Senior Dean of Academic Programs, the Director of Accreditation will be responsible for leading ongoing accreditation processes. The Director will work closely with our faculty and our operations teams to ensure we are offering an innovative, rigorous, and accreditor-aligned program to our educators. This is an exciting opportunity for someone who thrives at digging into curricular and programmatic details and thinking creatively about how to translate and present Relay’s approach.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
- Research CAEP and state political landscape around Relay’s accreditation and make recommendations to Relay leadership as needed
- Build relationships with accreditors, state boards of education, and policy makers to better understand requirements and advocate on Relay’s behalf as necessary
- Develop and execute CAEP program review strategy based on the best practices in teacher preparation from across the country
- Manage the process for each of our campuses to move from a modular to a course structure, while meeting state regulations and aligning to specialized professional association (SPA) (e.g., National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) standards
- Manage a team of design faculty to prepare and submit all required reviews that meet SPA standards in a timely fashion
- Manage Relay’s next CAEP unit accreditation (2020), including the writing of its Self-Study
- Complete program proposals to the state of New York and manage relationship with NY State Department of Education
- Support other state regulatory approval processes as necessary, including reviewing and editing IHE and certification applications, and, as needed, speaking on the behalf of Relay
- Collaborate with research team to create data requests and analyze and interpret evidence of candidate proficiency against relevant standards
First and foremost, the Position must share Relay’s sense of urgency about the need to improve student achievement through phenomenal teacher and leader training.
Additionally, candidates for the position must have the following:
- Doctorate degree in a relevant area of study (e.g., Ed.D. or Ph.D. in leadership or school administration)
- At least six years of professional experience, with a background in urban education and educational policy
- Strong project management and relationship building skills
- Exceptional attention to detail
- Ability to work efficiently, intensely, and within an entrepreneurial environment
- A demonstrated passion for urban education and closing the opportunity gap
- Authorized to work in the United States
It is true that Relay has been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). However, it is interesting to note of all New York teacher training programs, only Relay’s masters program has no indication of a date for an accreditation renewal visit. Its “initial teacher prep” program (ITP) is up for a site visit in the fall of 2020.
Aside from its campuses being operated by founding “deans” who are supposed to have at least masters degrees in education, Relay also advertises for three types of instructional staff: assistant profs, instructional fellows, and adjunct instructors.
The first group gets to call itself “assistant professors of practice.” I have been an assistant professor in the Ball State University College of Education, where a PhD or EdD was required. However, Relay “profs” only need to have a masters degree in something– anything– but they do need to have at least 5 years of K12 teaching experience– which rules out most TFA alumni. The “profs” also need at least 2 years of some sort of “instructional leadership.”
The “prof” role is as follows:
- As part of the effort to ensure that every urban, low-income public school student learns from a great teacher, Assistant Professors of Practice are responsible for teaching, observing, evaluating, and advising a cohort of graduate students.
Next are the full time, “instructional fellows.” They are there to “support deans and assistant professors of practice with instructional preparation and delivery” and “also support graduate students through classroom observations, personalized feedback, and grading.” The difference between fellows and the “profs” is that the fellows only need 3 years of K12 teaching experience as well as some unquantified experience in “observing teachers and giving instructional feedback.”
TFA alum could fit into the instructional fellows role, if they stick it out in the classroom for just a smidge more than the TFA-contracted two-year stint. Of course, such TFA alum would also need a masters, but no problem– just zip ’em through the Relay masters program, and they’re ready to start teaching teachers how to teach.
Finally, Relay has its part-time adjunct instructors. The requirements for the adjuncts are the same as for the “profs”; however, it seems that adjuncts must have more focused K12 teaching experience:
- At least 5 years of K-12 teaching experience in:
- Secondary Math
- Secondary Science
- Secondary English
- Secondary Social Studies
- Elementary Math and ELA
- Elementary and Secondary Special Education
- At least 2 years of instructional leadership (e.g., coaching teachers, leading professional development)
- Master’s degree
It seems that in seeking accreditation, Relay has found itself in need of legitimate teachers– not the fly-by-night TFA-trained variety. More than that: Relay needs legitimate teachers who will also buy into the test-score-driven reform that runs contrary to the professional sensibilities of career K12 classroom teachers. Therefore, it is willing to pay referral bonuses:
One of the most valuable things you can do to support Relay is help us find the very best talent. So we offer a $1,000 bonus for referrals that lead to full-time hires and a $250 bonus for those that lead to part-time hires.
SPREAD THE WORD
Our referral program is simple. Use the form below to provide contact information for the person you want to refer and ask your referral to tell our talent team that you referred him or her. If we hire your referral, you will receive 100% of the bonus upon the candidate’s start date. Members of the public and Relay employees qualify for the bonus.
Work at the cutting edge of education – leading innovative work to attract college students to the teaching profession. Relay Graduate School of Education is hiring a manager to help us identify promising and talented college students and recent college graduates who will make exceptional teachers. You will connect these future teachers to the opportunities, experiences, and training that will make them strong future teachers – and you will coach and mentor them on their journey to entering the teaching profession.
Note that the recruitment isn’t just into the teaching profession; it’s into Relay. And there must be Relay teachers willing to teach those recruited students, so:
Interest Form: Talent Roles
Training a relay of high-quality teachers starts with a team of educators and support staff who are dedicated to doing the work. Our Talent team is responsible for finding the best people, supporting them, and growing them as professionals. If you’re passionate about closing the opportunity gap and one or more of the following areas, we’d like to hear from you:
- Professional Development
- Benefits Administration
- Performance Management
Indeed, one must also “manage the brand”– and drum up funding:
Interest Form: External Affairs Roles
We’re excited about the work we’re doing at Relay and we want the world to know about it. Our External Affairs team is focused on telling our story to the world. If you are passionate about using Marketing or Development to close the opportunity gap, we’d like to talk.
- Our Marketing team tells Relay’s story both on and offline. They create dynamic content for our website, communicate with the press and manage our brand. We are looking for marketing professionals with a range of experiences.
- Our Development team works with partners around the country to fund our programs. Folks who are successful on this team are able to clearly articulate the work we do and strategically find opportunities for funding that work.
Forget marketing. If Relay expects to peddle “accredited” corporate reform, it must 1) betray the corporate reform mantra that experience and degrees do not matter where “talent” is concerned, and it must 2) come up with scores of instructors who have more years in the K12 classroom than do most TFAers coupled with such individuals’ possessing at least masters degrees in any field, and, on top of that, it must 3) find such qualified individuals who also buy into skills-driven teacher prep.
That’s a tall order, even with cash bonuses for faculty referrals and the likes of a C4C policy brief promotional.