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The Power of Choice: Fourth Annual Middle School Expo

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by Michael Yeung
Fifth Grade teacher at Rocketship Fuerza

At Rocketship, we focus on rethinking elementary school because we believe a solid foundation in the early years is critical to success in the future. As we start this new year, many of our families are beginning to think about the next steps in their Rocketeer’s education. Middle school is a critical time, with challenges ranging from the academic to the social and emotional arising as students navigate this change. It is a time of great transition and often where the achievement gap between students widens. We are committed to helping our families navigate through this transition equipped to make the right choices for their children.

A few months ago, we shared the results of our middle school study from SRI that showed our Rocketeers are a year ahead of their classmates in math and reading after the first and second years of middle school. That same study showed that Rocketship alumni are far more likely than their non-Rocketship peers to be involved in choosing their middle school. Our annual Middle School Expo is one critical way we help our Rocketeers and their parents harness the power of their voice and choice. This year was our fourth annual Middle School Expo, held in mid November. We invited high-performing middle schools such as Sacred Heart, ACE Charter Schools, Voices College Bound Language Academies, Alpha Public Schools, KIPP, Renaissance Academy, Summit Public Schools, and Downtown College Prep to present to over 600 attendees in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Michael Yeung, fifth grade grade teacher at Rocketship Fuerza, shares a reflection on this year’s Expo.  

1,287.

That’s the number of fourth and fifth grade San Jose Rocketship students who will move on to middle school this year, ahead of the game and ready to demonstrate the ganas they developed from their upbringing in Rocketship.

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Over 600 people attended the middle school expo this year

On November 19th, we held our fourth Middle School Expo. Over 600 members of our San Jose community, parents, staff, leaders, and innovators, gathered together to talk about the options their children have in competitive, high-achieving schools. As one parent said to me, “I never realized how many schools there are. It’s like choosing a college for them when they’re ten.” Choosing the right college is important, so shouldn’t choosing which schools help ensure our Rocketeers reach college be equally important? 

“I got to know all the other middle schools that I didn’t know,” said Mercedes Marcelo, a fifth grade parent at Rocketship Mateo Sheedy. “And now I can choose the right one for Angel.” I’ve known Mercedes for four years. I taught her son for two years and her niece for another two. Mercedes has always been a parent on top of her son’s education. Despite her busy life as a working mom, she is an active participant in the community and her son’s classroom. But in choosing her son’s middle school, she didn’t know what choices there were. Her hopes lay with Sacred Heart, but being the active parent she is, she wanted to explore every option available to her son to find the best fit.

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KIPP middle school information session

As I looked out on the courtyard during the Expo, I saw Mercedes advising other parents how to navigate the options for their Rocketeers. She suggested parents check out Renaissance, a high-performing district-choice school that focuses on social justice. She also made sure they knew about Sacred Heart. She encouraged them to talk to the speakers about how their child can get in and to ask questions. It was a whole-hearted warrior moment, to see a parent show other parents how to be active and engaged voices for their children.

Our mission is one of nurturing parent voice and leadership – helping parents learn how to effectively and passionately advocate for their children, and eventually getting our students to advocate for themselves. They are the ones in the trenches, fighting the battle against racism, inequality, and adversity. And if we continue to give them the tools of information, activism, and confidence, we help them leverage their own power to blast beyond the ceilings, graphs, and statistics others place them in.

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Rocketship families at a Q&A with middle school reps

I asked Francisco Garcia, a fifth grade Rocketship Fuerza parent, for his thoughts on the Expo. “The Middle School Expo helped me a lot because of the fact that I was able to hear the presentation, but more so that I was able to ask a lot of questions to the persons representing the schools which helped me to make this process a little bit more stress free. For one presentation, I was able to talk to the students and I noticed the way they talked and that interaction helped me realize the level of preparation that those students have.” The students he referred to were former Rocketship Mateo Sheedy students, now in eighth grade, Elizabeth Falcon-Islas, Luna Cervantes, and Samantha Ortiz, helping their own community’s parents make informed decisions.

We’re shaping the future in the work we do and our Middle School Expo is one example of that in action.

Do you have stories about your family’s experience choosing a middle school? Share with us ➟ @RocketshipEd

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