Students aren’t the only ones who are enjoying the summer season. Teachers, too, deserve this well-earned break to visit the beach, take in a trip or binge watch their favorite series on Netflix. Some teachers, though, will find that summer is an excellent time to own their own professional development through various workshops, training or even through resources at the local library. Here are five books that we recommend to kick off teachers’ summer reading:
Last Friday, NPR’s Education blog published what many are calling a “hit piece” on Rocketship Education. As co-founder and CEO, I am used to anti-charter attacks like this. But my staff and parents are not. They flooded my inbox over the weekend with outrage over the voices missing from this story. As for the voices included in the story, 6 of the 9 named Rocketship sources contacted me to express their frustration over how NPR’s blogger mischaracterized their comments.
The end of the school year is a time for graduations, family celebrations, class parties, vacation planning, and state assessments. While the last of these certainly isn’t as entertaining, these tests are incredibly important measures of student learning that our schools and teachers take seriously.
I got a crash course in the importance of these objective measures at age 18, long before I ever dreamed I’d become a teacher or a principal, let alone the leader of a network of elementary schools. Growing up in a low-income community outside of San Bernardino, California, I took AP classes, served as student body president, and graduated near the top of my public high school’s senior class. I assumed I was a shoo-in for UCLA — so much so that when I received a rejection letter, I assumed it was a mistake. It wasn’t. I called the admissions office and they explained that my high school had a reputation for inflating grades. They told me, “we don’t accept scholars from your school, just athletes.” I did manage to get into the University of North Carolina, but only because they did not know my high school’s reputation.
At Rocketship, we are continually seeking new ways to engage our students and our campus community.
One tool I have utilized in my classroom is chanting, a mnemonic strategy to help teach key concepts. This practice is especially useful for our English Language Learners (ELLs), who are able to recognize and engage in content by tying vocabulary to hand movements and sound.
“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.
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.
Whether sharing data celebrations or problem solving homework difficulties, parents and teachers are the ultimate cheerleaders for all students, and conferences are an opportunity to collaborate around students’ academic and social progress. That, and research shows family engagement improves school readiness, student achievement and social skills.
As I look back on the 2014-2015 school year, I am humbled by the amazing accomplishments of our teachers, leaders, parents, and Rocketeers. In San Jose, Rocketship families convened the first-ever mayoral forum organized by parents advocating for high-quality schools of choice. In Nashville, our inaugural class of Rocketeers earned the second highest growth score of all 73 elementary schools in the city. In Milwaukee, our teachers and leaders are redefining excellence in a city with robust choice but limited quality. And above all else, Rocketeers across our network averaged 1.7 years of academic growth in math and 1.5 years of academic growth in English Language Arts. This is what gap-closing student growth looks like. And while I know we can do even better in the school year already underway, I am incredibly proud of the impact we made in the lives of nearly 6,000 Rocketeers in the 2014-2015 school year.
Take a look at our Year in Review and I think you’ll see why now more than ever, I am convinced that together, we can eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime.
“Investing in high-quality, learning-friendly elementary schools is the first step in lifting student achievement nationwide,” tennis legend Andre Agassi said on Tuesday to a crowd of Rocketeers and community members. “This new investment in Nashville will make a difference for thousands of young people, empowering them to continue on to college and realize their full potential.”
Agassi’s remarks followed eager Rocketeers joining together to share their school’s creed (loud and proud, of course) to kick off United Academy’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
It takes many loving adults to run a great school for our young Rocketeers. From school leadership and credentialed teachers to tutors (Individualized Learning Specialists, or ILSs), paraprofessionals, enrichment coordinators and support staff, each one of our schools has approximately 40-50 incredible adults dedicated to our Rocketeers’ success. Indeed, it takes a village.
When we asked our Rocketeer parents to share their first day of school photos, we had no idea we would receive such an outpouring of Rocketeer pride! Thank you to everyone who shared your first day memories with us and with the entire Rocketship community on Facebook and Instagram.
Though we can’t re-share them all, we hope the photos below help capture the excitement for a brand new school year. From group shots to handmade signs to special animal appearances, your photos had it all.
These snaps are special not just because they’re adorable, but because they’re a celebration of new beginnings and our students’ and families’ love for learning. They are a reminder of how our engaged parents are Rocketeers’ greatest cheerleaders and advocates. Let’s take a moment to savor this moment, because we’re about to do a lot of growing, learning and changing over the next year. Here’s what Rocketeers did on their first day: