Debbie Grill SRC testimony – October 13, 2016

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Good evening, My name is Deborah Grill and I would like address two issues: TNTP and Relay Graduate School of Education.

As described in resolution A-3 you intend to continue to use TNTP in your teacher recruitment process, to screen teacher and principal applicants and to coach employees in the Office of Talent. TNTP claims to be able to identify the qualities of good teachers based on their research—research that relies on questionable methods including small samples over insufficient time spans, faulty evaluation systems, and has been described as “not able to survive any sort of peer review process.” Few members of its leadership team have spent more than 2 years in the classroom. Many have had no experience teaching. The President of TNTP has 2 years teaching experience through TFA. The charter school she founded was closed after 3 years by the State of NY due to low test scores, financial improprieties and, ironically, high teacher turnover. Yet this is the group you hired to recruit and screen prospective teachers and principals and coach your Office of Talent Development. I just hope the District’s competency- based selection models are not based on TNTP’s research.

In April 2016, you approved a $99,000 contract with the Relay Graduate School of Education to enroll 6 principals and 2 assistant principals in their National Academies Fellowship program. In May you accepted a donation from The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) to help pay for the tuition. This is not the first time you accepted money from the Partnership to enroll principals in Relay’s programs.

Relay is not an accredited graduate school. It was founded by 3 charter school founders who had very little experience in the classroom. Its purpose was to train teachers in their charter schools through workshops and modules on classroom management and assessment.   Relay has no one on its faculty with a doctorate, engages in no research, has no library, and has no relationship to the advancement of knowledge in education. It is not accredited in Pennsylvania. In fact the Pennsylvania Department of Education recently denied its application to operate a masters program in the state for a myriad of reasons in addition to the ones listed above. One that I particularly find disturbing is that Relay’s proposed Pennsylvania advisory committee did not have a “background in higher education administration or in the assessment of higher education program quality.” Two of the three proposed advisors are “employed at Mastery Charter school, the proposed site for the operation of the Relay education enterprise” presenting a possible conflict of interest. This not only raises questions about Relay’s relationship with Mastery but, more importantly it raises questions about Mastery’s and the Philadelphia School Partnership’s influence within the Philadelphia School District especially in light of the Partnership’s involvement in the decision to hand Wister over to Mastery last year.