Posted by the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools on January 6, 2016.
This year the Philadelphia School District used training videos on classroom management from The Relay Graduate School of Education as part of its New Teacher orientation. The principals of Blaine and Kelley Elementary School (recent turnaround schools) are enrolled in Relay’s principal training program.
Relay Graduate School of Education is a teacher/principal training program based in New York and founded by people who had little experience or training in education. The school has opened a Philadelphia/Camden branch and has a partnership with Mastery Charter in the Philadelphia region. Since it appears to be extending its reach inside the Philadelphia School District we felt the need to explore Relay’s history and influence.
Kate Peterson, a graduate student at Arcadia University, has looked into Relay’s founders and programs. Her findings are posted below. We want to thank Kate for her thorough research and for allowing us to post it.
Relay Graduate School of Education Policy Brief
by Kate Peterson
January 2, 2016
Relay Graduate School of Education is a stand-alone school based in New York City. It began as Teacher U in 2007, when Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP Public Charter Schools, and Norman Atkins, co-founder of Uncommon Schools, decided to develop a program that would supply their charter schools and others with high-quality teachers, which they deemed as scarce. They partnered with the founder of Achievement First, Dacia Toll, to create their program. Receiving $10 million from Larry Robbins, founder of the hedge fund Glenview Capital Management and current board member of Relay, and $20 million from the non-profit The Robin Hood Foundation, the three charter school leaders partnered with Hunter College in New York to implement their program (Relay Graduate School of Education, 2015h; Barbic, 2013).
In 2011, it was renamed Relay Graduate School of Education and was granted a charter by the New York State Board of Regents (Relay Graduate School of Education, 2015h). Partnering with the New York City Department of Education, they began training district public school teachers. After its claimed success with this program, Relay spread to other major cities including New Orleans and Newark (Barbic, 2013). Today, in addition to these cities, Relay has branches in Chicago, Houston, Memphis, and more recently Delaware and Philadelphia/Camden (Relay Graduate School of Education, 2015a).
Norman Atkins is currently the president of Relay and has been associated with several charters. He received a B.A. in history from Brown University and a M.A. in educational administration from Columbia. He began his career as an independent journalist (Uncommon Schools, n.d.). From 1989 until 1994 he served as the co-executive director of The Robin Hood Foundation in New York City, a prominent donor to Relay as well as to numerous charters in New York City, including Uncommon Schools and KIPP (Uncommon Schools, n.d.; The Robin Hood Foundation, 2015). Then in 1997, he co-founded and co-led North Star Academy Charter of Newark. In 2005 he co-founded Uncommon Schools, a charter management organization that currently manages 44 charters. Atkins now serves as board chair for Uncommon (Uncommon Schools, n.d.). Additionally, along with Dave Levin, Atkins co-founded and is a board member for Zearn, a non-profit online math program designed for kindergarten to eighth grade based on the Common Core standards (Zearn, n.d.). Zearn also receives funding from The Robin Hood Foundation (The Robin Hood Foundation, 2015).