Boarding the Rocketship

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Much attention has been drawn to a major player in the charter school movement, Rocketship Public Schools. Founded in 2006 as Rocketsh9p Education, it started with its first school in San Jose, and now runs a network of 20 schools in three states and the District of Columbia.

Its prominence increased with the 2014 publication of education writer Richard Whitmire’s account of the project’s rise in On the Rocketship: A Tech Entrepreneur’s Journey to Re-Think Education Through Charter Schools.

Rocketship proclaims the three “pillars” of its approach as:

  • ““Personalized Learning: Tailoring instruction, content, learning experience, and pace to unleash the potential of every student.”
  • “Talent Development: Investing in the growth and development of every team member to unleash their full potential in the classroom and beyond.”
  • “Parent Power: Unleashing the power of parents to champion their children’s education, hold leaders accountable, and enable high-quality public schools to thrive.”

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A major element of RSED’s approach is the model of “blended learning”, focused on combining classroom learning with computer and digital technology.  Rocketship’s means of implementing this is the “Lab Rotation” system, which splits the day between subject blocks in classrooms, and the “Learning Lab”, which features accessing computer learning with the aid of Rocketship tutors. Teachers also make use of devices such as iPads and Chromebooks in the classroom setting.

Recent reports have claimed that RSED is “turning away” from the blended learning concept. But former CEO John Danner responds: “Only in public education would continuous evolution be seen as a negative.  Rocketship is never satisfied with its program, technology, approach, because they can see clearly how much better they can do. “

The latest Year in Review report claims notable success in “closing the achievement gap” with pupils previously in underperforming schools.

One parent writes about the San Jose Rocketship Discovery Prep: “Teachers are involved. They are excited. Not just teachers but all staff. Parents are held responsible for their children’s education as well, homework and reading daily. This is about a movement to bring all children regardless of any obstacles to their full potential and goals for a better education.”

A success story from a teacher’s side is recounted by Jeremy Ault about his experience at Rocketship’s Southside Community Prep in Milwaukee. He gives a heartfelt account of his experiences drawing out an initially nonverbal student.

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