Poetry, Performance & Pride: Teaching Black History to Elementary Students

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by Beyond Editorial Staff

During Black History Month we have the opportunity to engage our young Rocketeers in important conversations around race, civil rights, social justice, and American history. Our Rocketeers live all over the country. They come from varied backgrounds, speak different languages, and have unique experiences. It is our job to instill in our Rocketeers the knowledge, confidence, and language necessary to talk about and appreciate difference. Black History Month is an opportunity to inspire students to dream big and become the leaders, change makers, and champions they encounter in the powerful figures and accomplishments of the Black community in this country. 

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Gratitude is a Choice We Make Every Day

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by Tatum Schultz
Third Grade STEM Teacher, Rocketship United Academy

Every language in the world has a way of saying “thank you.” Gratitude is an inherent quality that resides deep within each one of us. It is triggered by different events and crosses the boundaries of race, age, and gender. Gratitude comes from the heart. It is an acknowledgment of the positive things that we feel in our soul. When we give gratitude, we give a gift freely and unearned.img_9471

At Rocketship United Academy, our leaders, teachers, and support staff are dedicated to sharing gratitude. Within our halls a positive culture thrives. Respect, responsibility, empathy, and persistence are our core values we believe in. We build on our core values and allow our Rocketeers to grow in a community that shares a desire to exceed expectations.

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Tet Festival in Pictures: Celebrating Culture & Community

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by BEYOND Editorial Team

At Rocketship we know we cannot achieve our mission of closing the achievement gap in isolation. We are a collective movement made up of many different identities. A diverse group of teachers, families, and staff united by a common belief that all children deserve a quality education. We believe in creating supportive environments where we celebrate the rich tapestry of social identities that make up our greater Rocketeer community. That means we encourage all of our Rocketeers to learn about each other’s cultural traditions to strengthen the bonds that will help us all unite together to rethink education.

This month, we have the opportunity to celebrate both Black History Month, as well as the Tet Festival, the Vietnamese version of the Lunar New Year. Vietnamese people around the world consider Tet to be one of the most important celebrations of the year, and we were honored to share this important time with our Rocketship community. Several of our schools welcomed the year of the rooster in with special events. The Rocketship Mosaic Vietnamese Parent Association (RMVPA) hosted a large event at Mosaic Elementary that showcased student performances and even a surprise visit from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and District 7 Councilman Tam Nguyen.

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Keeping Kids in Class

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by Beyond Editorial Staff

Central to our mission is the belief that all students can achieve, both academically and through upholding our core values as respectful citizens. This belief is put into practice every day in Rocketship classrooms. Some of the most obvious ways in which this is implemented is through our very low suspension rate and our special education inclusion model. We put incredible time and effort into bringing all students into the classroom and supporting them to thrive there.

Rocketship Has Never Expelled a Student

We don’t kick kids out of school. That has been our stance since we opened our first school ten years ago. And while we have grown from a single school serving a couple hundred kids in a church basement to a national network serving nearly 8,000 Rocketeers, we have still never expelled a student at any school in any year.

Rocketship’s Network Suspension Rate Was 2.6% in the 2015-2016 School Year Continue reading

They Can Take Away Our Garden But They Can’t Take Away Our Unity

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by Marie Issa Gil
Bay Area Regional Director
“Our children feel like second class citizens.” This feeling comes from Rocketship Futuro Academy parent Sasha Hickman, Principal Jason Colon, and a host of other Futuro community members. Why? Because the local school district has routinely targeted the school, students, and families with discriminatory language and action.

The first Rocketship school in the East Bay, Rocketship Futuro Academy has only been open a few months and already our parents have created a community of pride around their school. Rocketship Futuro Academy is co-located on the Ayers Elementary campus in Concord. Made up of six portables, the Futuro campus houses Rocketeers from kindergarten to second grade. ‘Purpose’ is the school’s fifth core value, as chosen by the Futuro parents and community supporters.

Rocketship Schools Named Top Bay Area Public Schools for Underserved Students

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by Beyond Editorial Staff
The accolades keep rolling in for our Rocketeers! In the fall, Innovate Public Schools released their 2016 report titled “Top Bay Area Public Schools for Underserved Students.” Their findings show that for the third year in a row, the majority of Rocketship schools made their lists for top schools closing the achievement gap. Six Rocketship schools in San Jose made at least one list of top schools getting results for low-income Latino or African-American students. In math results for low-income Latino students, six Rocketship schools made the list of the top 18 schools, the most of any district or charter management organization. We are so proud of our Rocketeers who are beating the odds and getting on the path to college and career. This report is just one of many testaments to the results our Rocketeers achieve through their hard work and dedication.
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2015-2016 Rocketship Year in Review

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by Beyond Editorial Team

In the 2015-16 school year, 90% of our Rocketeers returned to our schools. We are humbled by this remarkable vote of confidence and work relentlessly to deliver on the promise our families see in our schools every single day. But what is it about Rocketship that drives this remarkable loyalty? Find out in our 2015-16 Year in Review.

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They Deserve a Dream: A Reflection

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by Dr. Bianca Jones
Principal, Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary 
Editor’s Note: Dr. Jones originally wrote this piece as part of Rocketship’s weekly Thursday Reflection, in which selected staff reflect on their practice and current topics and share with the larger Rocketship staff. All names were changed to protect confidentiality. We’re reprinting these inspirational words in celebration of Black History Month.

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. Continue reading

U.S. Secretary of Education Visits Rocketship

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by Preston Smith
Co-Founder and CEO31007203240_431e252d8f_o
 As I opened the door to welcome the United States Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr., to Rocketship Rising Stars Academy, he turned to me and said “I’ve wanted to visit Rocketship for a very long time.”

Appointed by President Obama, Secretary King is an inspiring and proven leader in our movement to close the achievement gap. He began his career as a high school teacher and went on to co-found Roxbury Preparatory Charter School which became one of the highest-performing urban middle schools in Massachusetts, closing the racial achievement gap, and outperforming schools in Boston’s affluent suburbs. Roxbury Prep later joined Uncommon Schools, where Secretary King served as managing director before becoming Commissioner of Education for the State of New York.

Secretary King knows what it takes to run a high-performing public school network in underserved communities. As we walked the halls of Rising Stars he told me he’s heard great things about Rocketship but wanted to see for himself what is driving our impressive performance.

Rocketship Encourages Creativity and Problem Solving with Hour of Code

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by LaToya Fernandez
Social Justice and Culture Teacher, Rocketship Discovery Prep

Rocketship is celebrating Computer Science Education Week (December 5-11) this month by hosting the global learning movement, Hour of Code, in our classrooms for a second year. Last year we noticed that our students went from video gamers to video game designers, and discovering algorithms was just as exciting as discovering cheat codes to defeat virtual opponents. Rocketship is continuously integrating enriching programs into our students’ learning to gain both exposure and opportunities for our communities. We are excited to host the event again this year, and want to continue to give our students the tools they need to take tech advancement to the next level and represent their communities at the forefront of the coding movement.

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Rising Into School Leadership

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by Michelle Chung Ng
Assistant Principal, Rising Stars Academy

I can still remember the day my coach suggested I should apply to be in Rocketship’s Rising Leaders program. I was excited by the challenge and the opportunity to grow professionally. As a member of the Rising Leaders cohort 15-16, I have grown professionally by being honest about my development areas, being pushed out of my comfort zone and sharing openly with those in my cohort. Sitting in a room with other highly effective teachers who want to grow and learn as a professional inspires me.

Rising Leaders is a leadership development program that is offered to teachers at Rocketship who are interested in growing their adult management skills and have taught for more than two years. The program is designed both for teachers who want to grow their leadership in the classroom or begin the transition into school leadership. We meet once a month with our cohort, which is composed of about 20 teachers across the network.

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