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From Education Next: What Relay is doing largely breaks the mold. Its students are full-time elementary- and middle-school teachers, almost all of them fresh out of college, almost none of them with a traditional teaching degree. The program is heavy on practice and nuts-and-bolts technique. Read more. 


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Our History


Our education system has failed to keep pace as society has moved forward—creating an achievement gap that has grown from decade to decade. At the center of this education crisis are low income youths living in urban communities across America. Fueling the crisis has been a nationwide failure by most university-based teacher education programs to prepare teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom.

As leaders of educational reform, the founders of Relay GSE recognized the need for teachers who can close the achievement gap and give our youth a promising future. So they were inspired to create a new graduate school that immediately and effectively addresses the demand for great teachers in urban communities. Chartered by the New York State Board of Regents in February 2011, Relay GSE is the first independent, nonprofit graduate school of education to be newly credentialed in New York in more than 80 years.

From Teacher U...

Teacher U, the predecessor organization that led to the creation of Relay GSE, was launched in 2008 by school leaders and master teachers from three of the nation’s leading non-profit charter school management organizations (CMOs)—Uncommon Schools, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), and Achievement First. Teacher U partnered with Hunter College's Graduate School of Education at the City University of New York (CUNY) to develop Teacher U at Hunter College (TUHC), an innovative urban teacher training program incorporating the best teaching practices honed in the high-performing charter schools of Teacher U’s partner CMOs.

...To Relay Graduate School of Education

Teacher U’s success led to the founding and establishment of Relay GSE in early 2011. Relay GSE draws upon many key themes and strategies of TUHC and utilizes a teacher training approach based on effective instructional practices developed in the best Uncommon, KIPP, and Achievement First schools.

Teacher U changed its name to Relay Graduate School of Education during its licensing with the State of New York. The new name signifies our new, independent licensed status, and reflects our belief that having multiple effective teachers in succession – a relay – can positively impact a student’s life. We are inspired by a growing body of research that describes how effective teachers are leading their students to significant achievement gains.1 At Relay GSE, we're passing the baton to the next relay teams of great teachers so that far more children—especially those growing up in poverty—have a fair shot at success in school and life.

Relay GSE provides training programs for teachers that lead to Master’s degrees and state certifications, in addition to ongoing teacher training. By doing so, Relay GSE aims to expand the pipeline of qualified, effective teachers for the districts, CMOs, and schools that we serve.

Our Founders

In 2006, Norman Atkins, founder and CEO of Uncommon Schools; Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP and Superintendent of KIPP NYC; and Dacia Toll, co-CEO and President of Achievement First, established the institution to formalize their longstanding collaboration to:

  • Develop a new pipeline of well-trained, well-aligned teachers for their growing networks of schools.
  • Share their techniques and strategies in a systematic way with the emerging movement of charter and district public schools seeking to close the achievement gap.
1 For example:
  • Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., Rockoff, J. E. (2011). The long-term impacts of teachers: Teacher value-added and student outcomes in adulthood. NBER Working Paper No. 17699. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Nye, B., Konstantopoulos, S., & Hedges, L. V. (2004). How large are teacher effects? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3), 237-257.
  • Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458.
  • Rockoff, J. (2004). The impact of individual teachers on student achievement: Evidence from panel data. American Economic Review, 94(2), 247-252