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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.