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U of M president moves to quell faculty concerns about new teacher prep program

University of Memphis Faculty Senate President Reginald Green counts senators' votes in support of drafting a resolution raising concerns about the school's proposed partnership with Relay Graduate School during Tuesday's meeting.
University of Memphis Faculty Senate President Reginald Green counts senators' votes in support of drafting a resolution raising concerns about the school's proposed partnership with Relay Graduate School during Tuesday's meeting.
Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

A week after a contentious faculty meeting, University of Memphis President David Rudd is trying to quell concerns about the school’s involvement in a new teacher training program that would place more teachers in low-performing schools.

In a letter to the faculty, Rudd emphasizes that the new program, Relay Graduate School of Education, is unlikely to cut into the U of M’s longstanding teacher training programs, as some faculty members fear. In fact, he said, the school — which still must be approved by the state before it can operate — would focus on drawing non-education majors into teaching.

That’s something that Memphis desperately needs at a time when its weakest schools struggle to recruit strong teachers, Rudd said. “Each and every year, the University of Memphis has provided fewer and fewer teachers in the priority schools,” he said. “The decline has been significant, coupled with the reality that the demand far outstrips our traditional approach, with our current supply meeting less than 10 percent of the demand.”

Relay’s existence does not depend on the U of M, Rudd noted, adding that the university’s promises to support Relay with classroom space and by letting students count its training program toward their degree are not unusual.

“We provide support to a broad range of community partners and have been doing so for years,” Rudd said. He added, “The U of M is literally engaged in hundreds of partnerships like this one.”

At the same time, Rudd said he would continue to listen to faculty feedback about Relay, which already operates in several other states and, unusually, makes student test score gains a requirement for certification.

“I will certainly work in a collaborative fashion with you, and continue the conversation for as long as needed,” his letter concludes.

Through an open records request Chalkbeat obtained a copy of Relay’s 448-page application with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The program plans to offer 11 new programs that cover elementary education, middle grades, biology and chemistry, to name a few. The program will involve residential and distance learning and tuition will be $35,000.

Read U of M President David Rudd’s letter here:

Read Relay’s application here:

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