Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Charter School Run Graduate School of Education

I learned today that the state of New York has approved a new graduate school of education (The Relay School of Education) to be run by several charter school operators, including KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First. From what I gather from a New York Post report, see here, this school intends to prepare up to its first 200 middle school teachers this summer and plans to expand to 800 students within the next five years. This is a sizable and significant endeavor. The Relay School of Education will largely educate teachers currently teaching in charter schools, Teach for America, or the NYC Teaching Fellows Program and many graduates will be funneled back into NYC charter schools. One requirement for receiving a master's degree from the school will be demonstrated success of solidly improving student achievement in practicum K-12 classrooms.

I'm just not sure what to think of this new college and I invite others to share here their initial thoughts and questions. I find myself wondering:
**Emphasizing demonstrated student success is certainly a worthwhile goal, but how are the required learning gains to be measured?
**What happens when these energetic new teachers encounter the difficult and sometimes deflating fact that it is hard to consistently demonstrate success with all students in all classrooms? What happens when this is magnified by a degree on the line? (Don't get me wrong here, I think it is wise to expect graduates to be able to significantly improve student performance.)
**What about the unreliability of test data, which suggests that it may not always be a direct reflection of teacher performance? Can we trust that the teachers who earn their master's degree from such a program are really worthy and that those who do not meet the demonstration criteria have genuinely not proven their abilities?
**Is the Relay School limited in conveying the breadth and depth of the teaching field by being cut off from a typical university environment and resources?
**What happens if the Relay School overwhelming feeds its teachers back into charter schools, especially those operated by the same organizations? Does this create a worrisome feedback loop? Does it create a stronger income stream for these charter organizations?
**Would funneling the teachers back into charter schools prevent meeting the original goal of using charter schools to spur innovation amongst traditional public schools?
**Schools of Education certainly have room for improvement. Are charter organization run Schools of Education the best answer?

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