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University of Memphis seeks to create high-level teacher residency

Truth in disclosure: Eons ago, I entered teaching through the backdoor. I'm grateful I had the opportunity but I know that it made those first years much more difficult. I then spent years trying to learn pedagogy, history, theory.

Relay Graduate School of Education is involved in this Memphis enterprise. Relay is a New York-based nonprofit that helps full-time elementary- and middle-school teachers, almost none of them education majors, become "highly effective inner-city schoolteachers." (Their description.) According to Education Week, Relay feeds nuts and bolts to "non-traditional teachers," folk who want a quick avenue to "what to do" and skip the pedagogy, theory, and history.Just tell 'em what to do on Monday.

Take a look at the Relay delivery team.

And their founding partners

And of course Memphis would go to Bill Gates for money for this new venture. We can only hope that maybe he's tired of Memphis. Bill is like that. He gets tired and moves on to new magic solutions for a problem that's rooted in poverty.

Meanwhile, take a look at a couple of people mentioned as key players:

Brad Leon:

Chief of Strategy & Innovation at Shelby County Schools

Senior Vice-President of Regional Operations at Teach For America
Executive Director at Teach For America Tennessee
Recruitment Director at Teach For America


Broad Superintendent's Academy
Occidental College

Chris Barbic:

Superintendent, Achievement School District

founder and chief executive officer of YES Prep Public Schools, 2012 winner of the Broad Prize (awarded $1 million towards expanding YES Prep's efforts in Houston by Oprah's Angel Network)

member Houston Teach for America

by Jane Roberts

Memphis -- For more than six months, University of Memphis leaders have been working with local and national philanthropists, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to position Memphis as the premier city in the nation for talented undergraduates who want to teach.

By the earliest drafts, the university is envisioning a stand-alone program -- separate from its college of education -- that would turn out up to 225 seniors a year -- ready to teach at a high level on Day One in poor, struggling Memphis schools.

In a confidential draft of its proposal dated July 2, the university estimates the cost of the expense-paid residency at $28,000. The snag is how, struggling with its own deficits, it will fund a program that early projections suggest will cost it $5 million a year.

In less than two weeks the panel will discuss the final feasibility with funders, said University President Dr. David Rudd.

"We will know what it is possible after August 7."

The proposal, which has been in the works since January, will require âsubstantial external fundingâ to work, Rudd said. âWe have not settled the financial matter. Right now, it is just a concept.â

Based on emails The Commercial Appeal obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the program is slated to kick off in the fall of 2015 when the first class of 50 would begin their residencies, studying courses the university expects to deliver partly through Relay Graduate School of Education, a New York-based nonprofit that helps full-time elementary- and middle-school teachers, almost none of them education majors, become highly effective inner-city schoolteachers.

If they do well, they could expect a job offer in their senior year from the Achievement School District or schools in Shelby County Schools' Innovation Zone. They would spend that year finishing their studies and building relationships with the school and the neighborhood around it. . . .

Because I'm not supposed to reprint entire article. . . .

The issue coalesced last year in Teacher Town USA, a mission funded by philanthropists -- including Poplar Peak, funded by Mason Hawkins at Southeastern Asset Management. It has poured tens of millions of dollars into charters, iZone schools and efforts to leverage the pipeline. . . .

It in many ways Teach for America is the model for what the university wants to copy. Instead of serving two years, the university will push for five-year retention rates. Rudd says universities are better equipped to run the programs because they can do the recruiting and training more efficiently.

For the last two years, TFA and MTR -- the Memphis Teacher Residency -- plus a small handful of traditional teacher training programs, have outperformed traditional colleges of education, including the University of Memphis, in terms of how well the students of their teacher graduates perform on state tests.

The comparison was done by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which publishes an annual report card of the findings. Last year's report showed the U of M was statistically and significantly behind in middle- and high-school performance.

Faculty in the college of education say they have not been included in any discussions. Ernest Rakow, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, early this summer provided the committee list of several dozen concerns, including that programs that donât follow the standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools "would place the entire University in jeopardy of losing accreditation."

Dr. Sutton Flynt, head of teacher education, said neither the faculty nor the office of teacher education "has been involved in any of these conversations.

"I am uninformed of the structure or framework this program would have. I cannot comment because I have not been part of the conversation."

— Jane Roberts
Memphis Commercial Appeal





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