Teacher U passes the baton to Relay

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New York City's Teacher U, just a few years ago considered the vanguard of teacher education, is now so yesterday. New York's Board of Regents granted permission for the program, whose approach to preparation bears a striking resemblance to the coaching techniques of successful sports teams, to severe its ties with CUNY's Hunter College and head out on its own. The divorce prompted a new name: the Relay School of Education, officially a master's certification program for middle school teachers.

The transformation comes with no help from CUNY. Alexandra Logue, CUNY's executive vice chancellor and provost, did her best to persuade the Regents that their separation would be irresponsible.

The brainchild of Uncommon Schools' Norm Atkins, Relay School doubles down on what's "alternative" in alternative pathways. For starters, its teacher candidates are pulled primarily from the ranks of alternative recruiters such as Teach For America and other nontraditional types, giving them a path to earn their state-mandated master's degrees without going to a traditional ed school.

Teacher U, now Relay, has been notable for putting its graduate students on the line, either proving they're effective in the classroom or risk denial of their degrees. Its first class mostly met that challenge,with master's degrees denied to 6 percent of the candidates because their students didn't make a year's worth of gains. An impressive half of that first class produced at least 1-1/2 year's progress in a single year.

Within five years, Relay plans to quadruple in size, ultimately training 800 candidates, and new franchises in other locations may also be on the drawing board.