Philadelphia's School Reform Commission approved a contract Thursday which will prepare 20 new teachers to work in the Philadelphia School District, Philly.com reported.
The contract caused public disagreement due to its recipient: the Relay Graduate School of Education. Relay, according to Philly.com, is "a relatively new teacher-preparation program founded by three charter-school networks." The Relay graduate school previously submitted an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education but was not approved to offer degrees in Pennsylvania. However, Relay is licensed in nine other states, Philly.com reported.
Under the new contract, prospective teachers will enter a two-year program. The student teachers will be assigned to work with a current Philadelphia educator in the first year before operating their own classroom the second year. Once the program is complete, each student teacher will be granted a master’s degree from a licensed Relay program.
Penn, along with Drexel University, Temple University and New York University, unsuccessfully bid on the contract. According to Relay, the only additional tuition cost for the 20 student teachers would be the $7,500 paid by the district, a figure which Philly.com said was lower than other bids.
Penn's Graduate School of Education works closely already with the Philadelphia School District, to the point where some classes sync their calendar with the district's.
Relay’s contract with the Philadelphia School District will likely diversify the district's workforce. According to Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., 70 percent of Relay's students in the Philadelphia-Camden area are candidates of color — a fact that he believes will help accomplish the district’s goals for increased diversity.
However, questions remain about Relay's track record.
"I have concerns about the quality of the services that they’re known to provide," SRC member Christopher McGinley said, according to Philly.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that all GSE courses correspond with Philadelphia Public Schools' calendar. In fact, only the Teacher Education Program does. The DP regrets the error.
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