First Day of School in Pictures for the 2016-2017 School Year

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by BEYOND Editorial Team

School started for our Rocketeers in Nashville, Milwaukee, DC and the Bay Area just a few weeks ago and we got some incredible pictures from our families! Though we can’t share all of them, below is a smattering of pictures of our Rocketeers getting excited for school, walking into their classes, or enjoying Launch.

Thank you to everyone who sent in pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Please keep them coming – we want to follow your Rocketeers’ success all year round!

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Reconstructing Beauty: Empowering Our Girls for a Better Future

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by LaToya Fernandez
Teacher, Rocketship Discovery Prep

Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut I learned the value of education early on. My mother was a workaholic providing for a family of seven and carried herself with strength and poise. Life at home was difficult at times, so I became immersed in school and extracurricular activities. Though involved in many organizations at school, I was still harassed for being African American, athletic, religious and just for being a girl. I was constantly teased about my hair. There were times in high school where I felt insecure about my physical appearance and capabilities. This motivated me to find my inner strength. I needed to become the Queen I was encouraging my friends to be.

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Music & Motion: Rocketeers Use Chants to Achieve

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by Chioma Ellis
Principal, Rocketship Brilliant Minds

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. Continue reading

7 Spring Break Strategies for Growing Brains

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by Logan Juve Janicula
Integrated Special Education Program Specialist

Over the next few weeks, students across the country will abandon their desks and leave their pencils and papers behind. Classrooms will transform into ghost towns, and playgrounds will be empty. Why? It’s spring break! While our students may be opting to sleep in and play outside in the sunshine instead of dissecting paragraphs and working through math lessons, it doesn’t mean they can’t continue to grow their brains this week! Here are seven strategies that students and their caregivers can engage in to keep their brains active during this spring break.
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Lighting a Spark: Rocketship Inspires Innovative School Network in South Africa

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by Preston Smith & Bailey Thomson
Co-Founder & CEO, Rocketship Education
Director of School Design, SPARK Schools; Teacher and Rising Leader, Rocketship Mateo Sheedy, 2010-2012

From Preston:

I was recently invited to present at the Global Schools Forum. My first instinct was to (politely) pass up the invitation. The forum was largely focused on education in the developing world, which I know very little about. But after further conversations with the forum organizers, I learned that they knew a lot about Rocketship. What’s more, their attendees were eager to learn from our model – and to explore how to hack it to serve communities in some of the poorest places on earth. And while we are squarely focused on eliminating the achievement gap in the United States, I realized that if we can make even a small dent in the global education crisis by inspiring others to learn from and adapt our model, surely it was worth a few days of knowledge-sharing.

What we are all working toward in the United States with education reform is transformative in so many ways, and inspires others across the globe. Case in point: SPARK Schools, a network modeled on Rocketship, which is now demonstrating what is possible for kids and families in South Africa. The Economist recently profiled SPARK Schools and asserted “the most important thing that schools like SPARK can do is nurture aspiration in more South African children than (just) the offspring of the elite.”

I reconnected with SPARK at the forum and asked one of its founders, former Rocketship teacher and emerging leader  Bailey Thomson, to share her journey from San Jose to South Africa. Her story is powerful proof of the impact that all of us are making as leaders on the front lines of a global movement to create universal access to excellent education for all kids. Continue reading

A Job Interview With Parents Transformed My Career

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by Joshua Pacos
Founding Principal, Rocketship DC

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. Continue reading

Getting the Most Out of Conferences

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by Dustin Lockwood
Academic Support Manager, Los Sueños Academy

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.  Continue reading

Rocketship’s 2014 – 2015 Year in Review

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by Preston Smith
Co-Founder & CEO

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.

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Investing in our Kids: United Academy’s Ribbon Cutting

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by Kevin Bronk
Editor, Beyond

“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. Continue reading

Five Ways for School Leaders to Support Teachers

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by Adam Nadeau
Vice President, Personalized Learning and Achievement

Personalized learning and data-driven instruction have both become persistent in education dialogue, and I hear about them all the time.  At Rocketship, we deeply believe that every child’s education has to be personalized; a commitment to using data and assessments to individualize every child’s education, having the flexibility to convene groups of different sizes depending on the lesson, and a purposeful use of technology to enhance student learning and support classroom instruction is a large part of what makes our schools transformative. Continue reading

Rocketeers Beat the Odds on California State Assessment

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by Preston Smith
Co-Founder & CEO

This month, California released results of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment System. The first year of this more rigorous assessment exposes the severity of the achievement gap in California. But it also shows that our Rocketeers continue to beat the odds with strong academic achievement. Continue reading

How to Build Engagement Beyond Attention Grabbers

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by LaToya Fernandez
Teacher, Discovery Prep

Attention grabbers, songs and chants are tools educators use to capture and keep the attention of students. Sometimes though, this only lasts for a few minutes or moments. Because of this, many educators have grappled with the idea of engaging students in a way that keeps their investment consistent. At Rocketship, one of our core values is responsibility; we want our students to be responsible and accountable for their education. Continue reading