A New Kind of Teacher College

  • Education
  • 2008

Three of the nation’s most accomplished creators of charter schools—Dave Levin of KIPP, Norman Atkins from Uncommon Schools, and Dacia Toll of Achievement First—found they were constantly short on great teachers. So they got together and resolved to build from scratch a dramatically different teacher college capable of turning smart, persistent young people into master educators. Within months of their first 2005 discussion, Levin, Atkins, and Toll had a business plan for the Relay Graduate School of Education. Then hedge‐fund founder Larry Robbins made it real by pledging $10 million to get the program off the ground. Next, the Robin Hood Foundation, the high‐octane New York City philanthropy founded by financier Paul Tudor Jones, raised an additional $20 million for the new college in one night in 2007. Relay opened its doors in 2008.

Relay’s two‐year course of study combines best practices unearthed by actual teachers practicing their craft at Uncommon Schools, KIPP, Achievement First, and other top charters. There are three distinctive qualities to the Relay curriculum: 1) Its strong preference for practical techniques proven to work with needy children, rather than educational theory. 2) Use of new technology: More than 40 percent of coursework is delivered online, and intensive video recording is done of each enrollee’s classroom instruction, for later study and dissection. 3) A demand for measurable results: Fully half of the program’s graduation credits are tied to measured student outcomes, and to receive a master’s degree from Relay you must demonstrate that your pupils made at least a full year’s worth of academic growth in one year of school time.

Relay was the first new graduate school of education to be founded in New York City in 80 years. By 2015 it had already been expanded to Chicago, Houston, Memphis, Newark, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Camden, and Wilmington. It was training more than 1,400 teachers and principals per year, with other campuses to come soon.