What is it Like on the Rocketship?

A great deal is said these days about “charter schools” and whether they are a blessing or a bane. One major entity in the field is Rocketship Public Schools (started as “Rocketship Education” in 2006), which has expanded from an initial school in San Jose to a network of 20 schools in three states and the District of Columbia.

A detailed account of RSED’s rise is education writer Richard Whitmire’s On the Rocketship: A Tech Entrepreneur’s Journey to Re-Think Education Through Charter Schools. (Jossey-Bass 2014).
Rocketship says its approach has “three pillars”;

• ““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.”

Rocketship has been known as a major proponent of what is known as “blended learning”, which seeks to use the best advantages of computerized digital learning techniques and more traditional classroom settings. Its particular approach is the “Lab Rotation” system, which divides a school day into subject blocks in classrooms (in turn split between humanities and mathematical subjects , and the “Learning Lab”, where Rocketship’s tutors assist students in making use of computerized learning systems.. Teachers also make use of devices such as iPads and Chromebooks in the classroom setting.

Reports on newer adjustments in this have led people to claim RSED is “turning away from” the blended learning paradigm. 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 gives statistical data on success in “closing the achievement gap” with pupils previously in underperforming schools.
A teacher working at one of the Nashville schools writes: “A progressive place to work! This company values the opinions of their employees. Th e company provided continual training and appreciation days for their teachers. It was a diverse environment with mission-driven goals!

Another teacher success story 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.

More information is available at RSED’s own site.

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