To the Members of the Connecticut State Board of Education:
I am writing to share my concerns associated with impending CSBE approval of the Relay Graduate School of Education Alternate Route to Certification.
I would like to make you aware of some insightful commentary from Peter Greene, a New York teacher and education activist who writes the CURMUDGUCATION (“Trying to make sense of what’s happening in education”) blog. Last January, he wrote extensively about the founding and intentions of the Relay Graduate School of Education, concluding “In short, Relay is a teacher training school founded and operated by three people who have almost no teacher training, next to no classroom teaching experience, and who have spent their careers in the charter world…. It’s a remarkable achievement. If some buddies and I got together and declared that we would open our own hospitals and train our own doctors, even though none of us have any medical training or experience, we could expect to be laughed out of the medical field. If I showed up at a law school and said: ‘I am ready to be a legal professor, training the lawyers of tomorrow, though I have done nothing my whole life but teach high school English, I don’t think I’d be hired on the spot.'”
There is a body of evidence beyond Relay’s own aspirational website and marketing that tells a different story than the one you may have already or are likely to hear from SDE Chief Talent Officer Sarah Barzee, her SDE boss Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell, and Achievement First’s Co-CEO Dacia Toll. To be fair, I would ask you to conduct due diligence and read what Mercedes Schneider, a New Orleans teacher, education activist, and the author of three books on “education reform”, including her most recent: School Choice: The End of Public Education?, had to say about this “phony” graduate program which makes a “mockery” of graduate programs in education. Follow her deutsch29 blog (10/03/16) and read the many reasons why the Pennsylvania Department of Education refused to approve Relay’s request for state-sponsored recognition, especially as to the minimal qualifications necessary to become a Relay instructor. Dr. Schneider’s commitment to shedding light on these issues is highly informative, yet not likely to be found in mainstream media coverage or forwarded by SDE officials.
If you are so inclined, you may also want to read the recent Washington Post (10.24.16) article, entitled “The big problem with the Obama administration’s new teacher-education regulations”, in which the chair of Connecticut College’s Education Department co-wrote that the “academy provisions” which were incorporated into ESSA (after initially being developed by the two charter lobbyist organizations New Schools Venture Fund and Relay Graduate School of Education) would exempt “entrepreneurial ‘start-up programs’ (i.e. teacher preparation ‘academies’) … from many of the requirements that states will enforce for other programs – such as hiring faculty who hold advanced degrees or conduct research, holding students to certain credit hours or course sequences, or securing accreditation from the field’s accrediting bodies.”
There is no doubt that the promoters of “corporate education reform” will be out in force on Wednesday spinning their praises for this unproven experiment in graduate teacher and administrator training. It is no coincidence that the recent CT Mirror Viewpoint from an aspiring New Haven teacher was published one week prior to your decision on this controversial request for approval. Apologies in advance to its author, but the piece has Achievement First written all over it. And, in case nobody informed you, AF’s Dacia Toll is one of the three founding members of the Relay Graduate School of Education and, from her Achievement First and 50CAN vantage point, sits on its Board of Trustees.
Like much that takes place in public education these days, this effort to secure state approval fits the “corporate education reform” agenda, is based on misleading information and deception, and will result in further undermining established teacher training programs while – at the same time – continuing to enrich those who seek to profit and privatize public education.
As always, it is important that you – as the appointed protectors of public education for CT’s students – analyze the information presented, review the underlying motives of those who provide testimony, and draw your own conclusions based on independent fact-finding and consideration of differing points-of-view. The CSBE has to rise above pressures to pursue and promote policies and practices that have never been proven effective and are not grounded in professional research. Please DO NOT APPROVE this application without a thorough, honest, and transparent investigation of the claims presented.
Thank you for your consideration.
Cheshire , CT