Two-thirds of aspiring teachers enrolled in the Relay Graduate School of Education identify as persons of color, making it one of the largest and most diverse educator residency programs in the country. Relay’s commitment and success in recruiting, preparing and supporting diverse teachers has been sustained annually even as the institution has increased enrollment each year.
Now welcoming its ninth cohort of students as an independent institution, Relay has grown from a student body of about 300 aspiring teachers to working with over 4,000 aspiring teachers and 1,300 school leaders across the country this fall. Relay’s educators are impacting nearly 1 million students nationwide. This year’s growth included the opening of a new campus in Indianapolis designed to prepare teachers or develop school leaders.
“In public education, one of the challenges we have is the shortage of teachers of color,” said Relay President Mayme Hostetter. “We need more teachers in our country who reflect the diversity of our students. At Relay, preparing all teachers to be effective in the classroom is our highest priority.”
As Relay grew, its commitment to diversity with its students and faculty has remained constant. In fact, both the diversity of students served as well as Relay’s own faculty have become more diverse over time. This is in stark contrast to what is happening nationally. Across the nation, 80 percent of teachers are white while only 47 percent of students are white. This gap is important as a growing body of evidence shows that test scores, attendance and even behavior can be positively affected by a demographic match between teachers and students. It’s not just important to get diverse teachers into schools, but to keep them in the classroom. At a time when teachers are quitting the profession at record rates and teacher job satisfaction rates are abysmally low, approximately 90 percent of Relay’s alumni are remaining in education.
Relay intentionally partners with schools and districts where there is an acute need for teachers, particularly high-poverty schools serving primarily students of color. In Memphis, over 85 percent of the teachers working with Relay are Black. Of those training through the partnership with Shelby County Schools, 100 percent identify as Black.
“Seeing our students reflected in our teachers is of the utmost importance to the success of our young learners,” said Dr. Joris M. Ray, Superintendent, Shelby County Schools. “Through our work with Relay, we are increasing the pipeline of diverse, aspiring educators who will lead our classrooms. We’re excited to see how having a variety of teachers in our classroom will continue to strengthen our school communities.”
By making intentionally recruiting teachers of color a goal from its inception, Relay has attracted many teachers from the very communities in which school partners are located. In Texas, Relay partners with IDEA Public Schools to support 100 aspiring teachers at multiple campuses across the state. Of those teachers, over 85 percent are people of color, 70 percent of which identify as Latinx, and about 20 percent are IDEA alumni.
Partnerships extend past the classroom with organizations like the Fellowship of Black Male Educators in Philadelphia and Man Up Teacher Fellowship in Memphis helping to increase the number of Black male educators, which is currently 2 percent nationwide. City Year and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities have also partnered with Relay to increase the diversity of teachers entering the profession.
Today, Relay has 19 campuses nationwide and also works with principals and principal supervisors from 25 states and the District of Columbia. Its newest campus, Relay Indianapolis, opens this fall to students pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching and Indiana teaching credential, and builds upon the work Relay has already been doing with more than 70 school leaders across the city.