Relay Grad School of Ed Operation Rejected in Pennsylvania
Since February 2014, corporate reform entity, Relay Graduate School of Education, has been trying to gain approval to operate as a masters-degree-granting entity in Pennsylvania.
Relay is not seeking for authorization in Pennsylvania; Relay wanted to establish a physical presence in Pennsylvania to offer its New York-approved Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT).
On July 26, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) denied Relay’s application.
In sum, PDE details its reasons for Relay-PA rejection as follows:
- Relay was unable “to differentiate between the requirements for approval to offer courses… that would lead to a MAT degree and the requirements… to offer a post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program” (page 8). In other words, Relay apparently saw earning a masters degree as equal to attaining a BA/BS, tag-on teacher certification.
- Relay proposed that 13 individuals would serve as administrative personnel– but only 2 would be physically stationed in PA. The other 11 would remain in NY and be available “off site” on a part time basis. Moreover, regarding the 2 located in PA, Relay “failed to provide sufficient evidence” that these 2 would be “appropriately qualified to operate the education enterprise” and that only 2 individuals would be an adequate number to run the PA site (page 8).
- Relay proposed a 3-member advisory committee without “a background in higher education administration or in the assessment of higher education program quality” (page 9). In addition, 2 of the 3 proposed advisors are “employed at Mastery Charter school, which is the proposed site for the operation of the Relay education enterprise” (page 9). Whereas the advisors could be appointed to the Relay advisory board since they are not employed by Relay, the fact that these 2 advisors work at the proposed Relay site “does create concerns about their independent advisory capacity especially because, as noted above, they lack a background in higher education administration and in assessing the quality of a higher education program” (page 9). In other words, these two proposed advisors appear to be advisors chosen for convenience and not for professional qualification.
- Relay’s MAT has no masters-level research component. Relay tried to pass classroom assessment techniques as the masters-level research component. PDE didn’t buy it: “Student assessment is a skill required for classroom teachers, but it is not form of academic research, which requires the review and citation of academic literature and the application of quantitative and qualitative analysis” (page 9). Relay also contradicted itself regarding a “masters defense seminar” as a “cornerstone” research component when Relay’s own literature described the seminar as an elective. PDE concludes, “Relay not only provided conflicting information… but also failed to provide sufficient evidence that courses provided in the education enterprise include the study of research techniques and results” (page 10).
- Relay did not provide evidence of its own advisory committee approval for the MAT curricula to be offered specifically in PA (page 10).
- PDE takes issue with Relay’s advertising “terminal degree preferred” in reference to its Assistant Professor of Practice job ad. PDE notes that a “terminal degree” could be a masters degree (that is, the term “terminal degree” does not always mean a doctorate) (page 10). PDE also notes, “In accordance with generally accepted academic practice, the appropriate level of instruction for institutions offering graduate degrees is for faculty, in most instances, to hold the highest degree in the field. … The hiring plans set forth in the application.. mak[e] no reference to the doctorate level, or involvement in scholarship” (page 11). This statement confronts the misleading statement that Relay “dean” Mayme Hostetter made regarding Relay’s alleged focus in seeking doctoral-level faculty “involved in scholarship to some degree” (page 11). PDE points out that in clarifying its faculty hiring intentions, “Relay’s written post-hearing statement dated April 8, 2016, further confirms that Relay intends to hire faculty based on experience as a classroom teacher rather than on academic credentials” (page 11). Hostetter also denied being asked to specifically identify PA faculty even though the application included such a section, which also asked for copies of faculty vitae (page 11).
- PDE notes that Relay “failed to show that its Pennsylvania-based faculty planned the graduate programs or that the Pennsylvania-based faculty committee approved the graduate programs” (page 11). In this point, it appears that PDE is taking issue with the New York-decided, canned-planning approach that Relay showcases as efficient but that treats supposed grad-level, PA faculty as mere deliverers of NY-decided Relay goods as opposed to critically-thinking professionals engaged in the decision making process.
- PDE states, “Relay has not shown that it will employ adequately qualified faculty for the education enterprise that will comply with accepted standards for teaching load, and who will be available not only for classroom instruction, but also for student academic advisement and student interaction” (page 12).
- Relay failed to propose adequate admission standards for its MAT program. In a great irony, test-centric Relay includes no test score requirement for entry into its masters program, as PDE notes: “The admissions standards for the proposed Relay program include having secured employment as a teacher and holding a bachelor’s degree with a grade point average of at least 3.0. However, being employed as a teacher and having a bachelor’s degree with at least a grade point average of 3.0 are not standards that show one is qualified to accomplish work at the master’s level. Relay did not identify that any specific coursework, standards, or test scores have been established to demonstrate the academic background and qualitative and quantitative skills and analysis required as a foundation for admission” (page 12).
- PDE adds, “Relay did not demonstrate sufficient availability of library and research resources at its Pennsylvania location” (page 12). Of course, Relay’s proposed PA location is a charter school. If it even has a library, it is hardly likely to be a library that includes scholarly literature, such as blind-review, professional research journals, and it is hardly likely to include the PDE-required “availability of resources in research methods and statistics” (page 12). Relay tries to pass its “library” as “”100% on-line”– to which PDE replies, “The lack of such resources [as a physical library and research resources] further exposes the inadequacy of Relay’s education enterprise, particularly pertaining to the study of research techniques and results” (page 12).
- PDE notes, “Relay discussed the lack of educators prepared to teach in high-need urban schools, such as in Philadelphia. However, receipt of a MAT degree would not necessarily resolve this issue. Additionally, with other educational institutions offering programs culminating in the receipt of a MAT degree, Relay failed to adequately explain how the granting of its application would further the educational needs of educators in the Philadelphia area or in the Commonwealth.
Notice of the PDE decision to reject Relay’s proposed PA operation opens with a statement of Relay’s right to appeal the rejection “as specified in 1 Pa. Code §§ 35.211–212.” Accordingly, Relay had 30 days to file its appeal with PA Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, who happens to be the signator in the letter.
If Relay chose to file an appeal, it apparently had to do so by the end of August.
Based upon the detailed PDE criticisms levied against Relay for its sham of a masters, I cannot imagine it thinks it stands a chance on appeal in PA. However, I really would like to see how Relay would manage to pull together a grad-level research library in a charter school back yard.
New York should be embarrassed for its role in pseudo-legitimizing the Relay MAT in the first place.