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Relay Graduate School clears hurdle for new teacher prep program to feed Shelby County Schools

A new teacher preparation program proposed for the University of Memphis received the green light Thursday from a state higher education panel as part of a push to prepare a new wave of educators for Shelby County’s most challenging schools.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is scheduled Jan. 29 to consider the application from the Relay Graduate School of Education after gaining approval from the commission’s Committee on Post Secondary Educational Institutions.

Relay, which filed its application with the state in November, aims to attract undergraduates who are non-education majors to its one-year teacher residency program beginning this fall. The plan is supported by philanthropists, who have pledged $20 million, according to reports from The Commercial Appeal.

Rooted in a program that began in 2007 in New York, Relay Graduate School of Education is gaining recognition for its innovative approach to graduate-level education and its non-traditional path to teacher licensing. If Relay’s application is approved, the University of Memphis would become home to its sixth campus nationally.

According to its 448-page application, Relay seeks to offer 11 new programs including elementary education, middle grades, biology and chemistry. The program would include both residential and distance learning, and graduates would have to agree to teach in Shelby County’s lowest-performing schools.

Talks between Relay and the University of Memphis have frustrated faculty at the university, which already operates a College of Education. In December, the university’s Faculty Senate passed resolutions expressing concern about the deal, charging that the university’s administration failed to consult the Senate during its negotiations with Relay, and failed to involve its own College of Education in the design of the Relay program.

This week, university President David Rudd told faculty that the school is committed to providing Shelby County Schools with teachers prepared to work in the lowest-performing schools.

All new programs approved by THEC receive a two-year authorization, during which it must meet the state’s minimum standards.

Review Relay’s application below:

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