Researchers confirm that teacher quality is the biggest determinant of student achievement. Three consecutive, highly-effective teachers can set a student on a clear path to college while three ineffective teachers in a row can place a student significantly behind his peers. Yet, by and large, teacher preparation programs do not prepare teachers for the demands of the classroom. According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “The current system that prepares our nation’s teachers offers no guarantees of quality for anyone—from the college students themselves…to the districts, schools, parents, and, most importantly, the children that depend on good teachers to provide a world-class education.”
Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE) offers an innovative model of teacher training, delivered by professors who themselves are champion teachers with proven track records in their own classrooms. RGSE utilizes a path-breaking curriculum with concrete instructional practices that teachers can employ the next morning. In order to earn a degree, RGSE graduate students must demonstrate that their students have made a minimum of a year’s worth of academic growth in a year’s time. Chartered by the New York State Board of Regents in February 2011, RGSE is the first independent graduate school of education to open in New York in over 80 years.
RGSE grew out of Teacher U at Hunter College, a teacher training program launched in 2008 by three high-performing charter school management organizations—Achievement First, KIPP NYC, and Uncommon Schools. Early on in the charter school movement, critics questioned the need for new K-12 public schools outside the management of traditional districts. Now, in that same spirit, RGSE is the very first charter graduate school of education.
The initial results from the Teacher U at Hunter College program are promising—approximately 90% of the Class of 2010 cohort met the program’s main benchmark of leading their students to an average of at least one year’s growth in one academic year. In the Class of 2011, teachers led their students to 1.3 years of reading growth, on average, in one academic year.
Featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Chronicle of Higher Education, among others, Teacher U quickly earned a national reputation as an organization poised to transform teacher training. In November 2010, Teacher U was cited as one of a handful of “promising practices” by a Blue Ribbon panel report commissioned by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
How NewSchools helped
Since November 2008, NewSchools has hosted summits of aligned teacher preparation providers and other key stakeholders. This community of practice has provided feedback on RGSE’s content and programmatic design and helped RGSE source faculty members. Additionally, NewSchools continues to collaborate with RGSE on a number of advocacy initiatives. Julie Mikuta, a NewSchools Partner, is on the RGSE Board of Trustees.
“Well beyond its financial investment, NewSchools has helped shape the ideas that brought RGSE into being and it continues to be supportive in creating the field in which we operate,” said Norman Atkins, RGSE’s Co-Founder and President. “NewSchools funded the charter school movement, and it’s now playing a key role in teacher preparation.”