A Different Kind of Graduate School

There are two very well-known pathways into education.  One is through traditional schools of education. The other is through alternative programs like Teach for America.  We're a third pathway.

How we're different from traditional schools of education

You might have looked at our homepage and wondered, "Where's the quad?"  "Where are the people sitting in circles in the sunshine and talking about stuff?"

Many people describe your first year of teaching as the most difficult in your life.  We think that the rigor of the preparation year should match the rigor first year experience.  We offer a different kind of experience, one that is more closely aligned with the intensity and rigor of teaching in a low-income school.  

TRADITIONAL EDUCATION SCHOOL APPROACHSPOSATO APPROACH
Coursework focuses on a range of pedagogical areas.Program is direct and prescriptive in its teaching of specific pedagogical “moves” and habits.
Most of the time in courses is spent thinking about teaching.Coursework involves high dosages of simulated teaching practice and feedback that is facilitated by expert coaches.
Students receive several coaching sessions over the course of their student teaching.Students receive individualized feedback after every day they student teach.
Faculty is primarily composed of researchers.Faculty composed entirely of practitioners (i.e. experienced classroom teachers and school leaders).
Assessment is based primarily on performance in coursework.Assessment is based upon coursework as well as teaching performance.
Preparation is aimed at a wide variety of student populations across many types of schools.Preparation is focused on serving low-income students in high-performing college-preparatory public schools.
Most people who start the program finish with a degree and a teaching license.Only about two thirds of people who start with Sposato complete the program.
Graduate students finish their degree then get contacted by the alumni office for donations.Sposato continues to provide ongoing coaching to its students during their first year of full-time teaching.
The traditional graduate school have optional career counseling, job fairs, and students are free to apply to jobs wherever they would like.Sposato serves as a broker to support placement in our wide network of partner schools. 100% of students are placed as first-year teachers.

How we're different from Teach for America

Many applicants to our program also apply to Teach for America. We love TFA. It's a great program. We frequently trade ideas on how to train and support new teachers. Admission to both programs is tough, although Sposato is actually a little more selective.

Here are some distinctions that will help you decide whether you want to apply to Sposato, TFA, or both:

Philosophy

TFA and Sposato both have the same mission: to close the achievement gap in America. Alums of both programs often go on to take education leadership positions. 

TFA is big. Sposato is small. 

TFA places most of its teachers in traditional high-poverty schools; often teachers describe themselves as trying to create an "island of excellence" in struggling schools, closing their classroom doors and doing the best they can. Sposato places all its teachers in the nation’s best urban charter and turnaround schools, with a crackerjack team of workaholic teachers, all rowing in the same direction. You can/should only work in these schools if you want to be part of a team. These schools are remarkably choosy in teacher hiring, often taking just 4 or 5 out of several hundred applicants. Sposato graduates jump right to the front of the line, because of our track record.  

The Sposato mission is to train the best rookie teachers in America, nothing less. Measuring teachers is a tricky business, but we have some evidence that our alums are indeed the among the best rookie teachers in the nation. 

Method of Training

TFA corps members participate in an intensive five week summer institute, where they establish a vision for their classrooms and build a foundation of knowledge, skills, and mindsets.

Sposato students participate in an intensive yearlong training program. This training is hyper-prescriptive and detailed regarding the nuances of great teaching. Our year of training allows for extensive practice and coaching, to the point where subtle teaching moves become automatic.

We obsess about excellence. Tom Brady recently was quoted:

“I saw a great documentary this weekend on the airplane … it was this Japanese sushi chef that I would encourage you guys to see…He’s 85 years old and the only thing he ever wanted to do was make sushi. … It was just his life-long commitment to being really great at what he loves to do. And he’s 85 and still doing it,
You think man, it’s just simple, throwing a football or making a piece of sushi, how hard can that be?” Brady said. “When it’s something that you just love to do, you think about it, you wake up in the night and think about my mechanics. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about what I can do better: my foot stride and where my arm is and what I’m doing with the front side of the body. For some people it may be crazy to think that, but for me, that’s just what I’ve always loved to do.”

Like that.

Sposato students demonstrate an uncommon dedication to “geeking out” on the fine points of great teaching.

Investing In Yourself

If you're sure or almost sure that you only want to teach for 2 years and then do something else, then TFA is likely to be a better fit. That is, it doesn't make sense to do a full year of training. 

If you could imagine yourself genuinely falling in love with the work of teaching, and the quest to become an exceptional teacher, then Sposato is an investment in yourself.

Where You’ll Teach

TFA places teachers all around the nation.  

Sposato places most of its teachers in Greater Boston -- if you want to teach here, it's a no-brainer. We also have relationships with top urban schools around the nation, so a small number of Sposato alumni get hired in DC, NYC, New Orleans, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. 

Program structure

Aspiring teachers apply to a qualifying residency program in Boston and for admission to the Sposato Graduate School of Education; during their first year enrolled at Sposato, they also work full-time at a Boston-area school.  The mission of the Sposato Graduate School of Education is to create unusually effective rookie teachers.

The two-year program works as follows:

In the first year, residents are trained in Boston. Throughout the school year, they work full-time in a high-performing, high-poverty school in Boston through one of several qualifying residencies.  They serve as tutors or teaching assistants.  During the fall, students participate in evening classes and Saturday drills and teaching simulations. In the winter and spring, students will continue to engage in graduate work in the evenings and on Saturdays.  Graduate work during this phase will include structured lesson planning and practice sessions, feedback sessions with their instructional coach, and video analysis exercises. 

In the spring, we help our residents find teaching positions in the nation's top urban charter and turnaround schools.  School leaders covet Sposato students; many folks get multiple job offers. In July, residents complete their final student-teaching assignment by working Monday through Friday in a summer school setting supervised by Sposato.  This first year culminates in residents receiving a Massachusetts teaching license. At this point, 80% of the Sposato experience – and the work towards earning a Master’s Degree in Effective Teaching – is complete.

During the second year, residents have left their residency. They have full-time teaching jobs elsewhere.  However, they continue to participate in Sposato in two ways.  First, we provide ongoing support and coaching to residents who take teaching jobs in the Boston area. Second, residents take a yearlong distance-learning course that is closely connected to their work as full-time teachers. Ultimately Sposato evaluates each resident’s performance as a first year teacher to determine if they earn the Master’s in Effective Teaching.

Watch the below video for an overview of what Sposato is all about!