Ten years ago, we opened the first Rocketship school in a church basement in San Jose, California. Although we’ve made remarkable impact in the communities we serve, Rocketship Education is still a work in progress — we’re always learning how to better serve our students and communities. And we’ve definitely learned a few things during our first decade. Here are 10 lessons from our first 10 years:
*This post originally appeared on Education Post.
“I’m not going to that school. I don’t even like school,” Chase yelled at me. Running up and down a slide, holding a giant stick two feet taller than him, this almost kindergartener in tall white men’s tube socks, blue swim trunks, and a neon orange shirt was already giving me a run for my money—and school hadn’t even started yet. It was July 2016 and I was doing my home visit to Chase’s family in Southeast D.C. before Chase started at Rocketship Rise Academy. I knew that we could create a learning environment where Chase could thrive. But I never imagined how far he would come in his first year.
“Ms. Graeff! Ms. Graeff!”
When you are a kindergarten teacher, you are a celebrity. All of the kids call out your name when they see you, with admiration, joy and expectation — not only the students who are with you for the 180 days of that particular school year, but also all the kids who have sat in your classroom over the years. That’s because kindergarten is like no other year in elementary school. For the students, everything is new and a little bit scary at first. For the teacher, we have the privilege of shaping a child’s identity as a student and their idea of what school is all about. There is nothing more dramatic than the change in a kindergartener from the beginning of the year to the end.
En Rocketship sabemos que la tecnología puede ser una herramienta educativa poderosa cuando se usa de forma correcta. La tecnología no debe ser un sustituto de maestros, sino que debe complementar el aprendizaje ayudando a los estudiantes a aprender a su propio ritmo y fomentar su afición por el aprendizaje. Somos muy intencionales con el contenido digital que ponemos delante de nuestros estudiantes. Desarrollamos e investigamos rigurosamente los programas de aprendizaje en línea que usan nuestros Rocketeers. Pero ¿en sus hogares?
At Rocketship we know that when used in the right way, technology can be a powerful educational tool. Online tools should not replace any time with a teacher, rather they should complement classroom learning by helping students learn at their own pace and develop ownership over their learning. We are very purposeful about the digital content we put in front of our students, and rigorously develop and research the adaptive online learning programs our Rocketeers use. But what about at home?
In this new digital age, many parents feel overwhelmed when it comes to navigating devices, screen-time, and technology with their kids at home. With so much out there, parents often ask us for advice on how to ensure their students are using media and technology in a safe and meaningful way. That is why we created this infographic for parents with 10 easy tips about managing screen time at home. We also vetted some of the best educational apps and websites out there, so that parents can turn screen time into learning time!
Check out the resources below, and feel free to download, print, and share with other families who want to make the most out of screen time at home.
After spending the better part of the past decade teaching and working in charter schools in Washington D.C. and California, I thought I had it pretty well figured out. Then, while I was searching for a new public school leadership opportunity in 2014, I met four parents who – quite frankly – changed the course of my life and what I thought was possible in education.
“Rocketship serves all students.” It’s a fundamental principle that drives Rocketship’s approach to meaningful inclusion of students with diverse learning needs in our schools. Ask any visitor to a Rocketship classroom and they will tell you that they see this philosophy play out in the diversity of learners in each and every school. It means that every cohort of Rocketeers consists of students of all abilities and disabilities, learning alongside each other in the general education setting supported by a team of Rocketship educators.
Parents are the first teachers of their children. They are our Rocketeers’ strongest advocates, and the leaders in our collective movement for change. They are closing the achievement gap and bringing educational equity to communities where there are few to no options for an excellent, free, public education.
Rocketship had the honor of celebrating these courageous and powerful parent leaders at our First Annual Bay Area Parent Leadership Awards Ceremony in early May. Over 20 awards were presented, and school leaders and parents from our 12 Bay Area schools gathered together to celebrate. Here are some highlights from the award winners:
Ten years ago, I was in third grade. I started at a new school that year that I really liked. I had great teachers and we started every day singing and dancing together. It was a good year, but I had no idea that it would make such an incredible impact on my future. But looking back now, that is when it all started. That is when I started thinking about college, dreaming about my future, and dedicating myself to reach my goals.
Ten years later, I was accepted to the best public university in the nation: The University of California – Berkeley. My path to college wasn’t easy. Only one person in my family graduated high school. Nobody in my family even applied to college or knew what it would take to get accepted. But way back when I was just nine years old, my family put me on the path to college when they enrolled me in Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary.
This was the very first year of the very first Rocketship school. Our school was in a church basement in downtown San Jose. But what I remember most about my time at Rocketship is my teachers and what they taught me. I loved all my teachers at Rocketship, however, my favorites were Ms. Guerrero and Mr. Nadeau. These two teachers made an incredible impact on my education and my life.
I never thought I’d get here. I never thought I’d be legally allowed to stay in this country, be a college graduate, or be a teacher. Coming originally from Tijuana, Mexico, when I was one year old, my family immigrated to San Jose. We scraped by those first few years. We crammed eight people into a two bedroom apartment. My father was always working, trying to keep food on the table and saving up so we could move into our own home. When I turned five, my dad bought our first house.
I started school that same year. I went to a nearby school in the neighborhood. It was great and I got good grades. But everything changed when I got to middle school. My parents were no longer able to help me with my homework but they still expected me to earn straight A’s. My dad would tell me “You only have one job. Your job is to go to school and get good grades. My job is to work to give you food and shelter so you can bring those excellent grades home.” I was so scared to disappoint my family. I did not know how to study, so I memorized everything by writing it down on a paper. I would read what I wrote to myself and I would go to sleep repeating what I had written from my books. My grades improved but I’m not sure I really learned much in middle school. In high school, things got a little better. I did well in math and science, but I hated English. I understand the pain that many of my students have when they are not able to write or say something grammatically correct in English.
Helping fourth graders access and understand the news. Increasing personalization in kinder STEM classes. These are just some examples of how our creative Rocketship teachers used funds they won in our first ever round of ‘Innovation Grants.’ This grant, sponsored by the Achievement and Operations Teams, awarded 5 different grants to help Rocketship staff innovate and solve important challenges that impact our Rocketeers. The grants were aimed at projects that identify specific, “bite-size” issues and include innovative and scalable solutions to solving the issues. 12 staff members, from teachers to enrichment coordinators to office managers, applied for this inaugural round of funding. Here are some examples of the winners…