NJ Greenlights For-Profit School Grad Degrees For Teachers

Relay GSE lesson for teachers

Despite venture capitalists' fondest dreams, the truth is that charter schools are failing at a faster rate than public schools. New Jersey is no exception.

What do you do when your charter schools are failing? Why, you give teachers cut-rate masters degrees from a "school of education" started by three charter network operators, of course!

Launched in New York in 2011, the program has made news -- and waves -- since its start. It was created by leaders of three prominent charter school networks and aims specifically at teachers who work in low-income districts and charter schools.

Relay already runs an alternate certification program out of Newark’s North Star Academy Charter School, serving about 75 students a year mostly from charters in that city. North Star is part of the Uncommon Schools charter network, one of the three organizations behind Relay. The others are KIPP and Achievement First.

As Relay did when it launched a master’s program in New York, the application for a Newark campus has drawn opposition from the state’s teacher colleges. Understandably so: Its approach replaces graduate-level coursework based on academic theory and research with skills-based workshops and “modules” on topics like classroom management, planning, and assessment.

This is what they call "entrepreneurial education." It's sort of like the business school model of the last century, where students learned shorthand and stenography, filing and typing skills, but not any actual business knowledge. All teachers really need to learn is how to create lesson plans, administer standardized assessments and of course, manage the little monsters while they're in school.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that this "degree" is intended for charter school teachers and low-income district teachers. After all, why bother educating kids -- really fostering learning -- when you can simply hustle them down the assembly line like a Model T? Education doesn't seem to be a goal of the Master of Arts in Teaching program as much as education management.

Princeton University, along with 23 other university programs, opposed Relay's application for their master program.

“While the results of a good education are ultimately vocational in nature, the belief that the primary purpose of education is the development of professional competence is not only misguided, it is extremely dangerous,” read the position statement.

Relay begs to differ.

“With the state’s approval, we can launch a small Relay campus establishing a rigorous, results-oriented, accredited master’s degree program in Newark this fall,” Atkins said. “Eventually, Relay aims to develop several thousand effective New Jersey district and charter school teachers over the next decade to better prepare our state’s low-income children for success in college and life.”

Let's parse "results-oriented", shall we? That would be the shepherding of children in low income districts through turnkey "education". Teachers will be amazingly adept at administering modules, creating lesson plans, and getting test results. GothamSchools reports:

Teacher U CEO Norman Atkins, who will be the president of the new graduate school, said that Relay students will have to prove that their own students have made at least a year’s worth of improvement on standardized assessments in order to graduate. To do this now, Teacher U students use a mix of New York state assessments and, for grade levels and courses that are not tested by the state, select outside assessments to prove their effectiveness, Atkins said.

But is our children learning? Oh, who cares about learning. It's really about profit.

Atkins said the program needed to become independent in order to innovate and achieve financial sustainability. As a certified graduate school, Relay can charge tuition and its students can receive federal student loans; neither is possible as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

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