Transforming teacher ed

Relay Graduate School of Education, based at New York City’s Hunter College,  aims to “transform teacher education to fit the needs of urban schools,” writes June Kronholz in  Education Next.

The school trains novice teachers, usually without an education degree, in New York and New Jersey. Most teach in charter schools or are Teach for America teachers working in low-performing district-run public schools. All must show their students are making progress to earn their degrees.

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.

Elementary teachers must show students averaged 70 percent mastery in another subject, usually math, and middle-school teachers must show 70 percent mastery in their subject.

About 40 percent of Relay’s instruction is online. Teachers attend twice-monthly night classes, once-monthly Saturday classes, and two summer terms taught by master teachers and “charter school heavyweights.”

I logged onto an online lesson for a module titled Engaging Everybody, taught by Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools. In the 3¾-hour lesson, Lemov lectured for three or four minutes on each of four techniques that he promotes to keep youngsters involved in class, techniques he labels “wait time,” “everybody writes,” “cold call,” and “call and response.” Each of Lemov’s minilectures was followed by a few pages of online reading from his book Teach Like a Champion, and an essay question or two that students answer online. Then came several short videos showing teachers using each technique in the classroom, with Lemov noting the teachers’ use of an apt pause or effective gesture.

. . . Next came practice scenarios—what do you do if only three children raise their hands to a question about angles?—online group exercises, and instructions to prepare a lesson plan that incorporates the techniques.

. . .  At the second Engaging Everybody evening class, Relay students are expected to present a 10-minute video of themselves using the techniques in their own classrooms.

Teachers pay about $4,500 for the two-year program with philanthropies covering about $13,000 and charter schools and federal grants funding the rest of the $35,000 cost.

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