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.
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.
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.
Throughout my time at Rocketship, I have been fortunate to both teach in our schools and work in a network support role. Now, as I coach school staff in the implementation of personalized learning, I get to thought partner with educators as they push and grow their practices just as I did in my classroom.
Great schools do more than teach kids how to read and write. They teach kids to engage, think critically and lead. When I first began teaching, I realized many of boys had room to improve both their academic and leadership skills. So, in October of 2012, I partnered with two colleagues at Matthew W. Gilbert Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida to unite the male population at our school. We envisioned a program that would help build the boys in our school into young men. Modeled after a fraternity, we focused on the pillars of scholarship, brotherhood and leadership. When I began teaching at Nashville Northeast Elementary in 2015, I extended the organization and created the Beta Chapter. I’m proud to share Mu Phi Gamma has already made an impression on our campus. Currently the Beta Chapter is impacting 18 young men. The Mu Phi Gamma Rocketeers participate in community service projects, tutoring, brotherhood gatherings, awareness seminars and have even formed a step dance group.
What does the future of public education look like? Few know better than Michael B. Horn. Co-founder of Clayton Christensen Institute, an innovative think-tank, and author of the award-winning book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns and the Amazon-bestseller Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, Horn is an expert on educational innovation, blended learning, competency-based learning and how to reconstruct the education system to center around students. Read on to find out Horn’s take on the evolving role of teachers, the necessary shifts in teacher preparation programs and how blended learning will transform the future of schools.
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.
Here at Rocketship, we strive to deliver personalized instruction to our Rocketeers, giving them the right level of academic support right when they need it. By strategically leveraging teacher-led instruction, in-class activities, small-group instruction and our suite of blended learning programs, we do our best to balance the modalities of learning and give every student the academic supports they need.
Zooming into our blended learning programs, you’ll find that we don’t just depend on one online program to meet all of the needs of our students. Rather, we utilize a suite of programs – our personalized learning toolbox. After putting these programs through methodical pilots, assessing their benefits based on a disciplined rubric and ensuring each fits into our suite, we’ve put together a group of programs that support our instructional model. Below, you’ll find an infographic that compares our online learning programs side-by-side and forms our comprehensive suite.
To eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime, Rocketship continues to rethink what elementary schools could look and feel like. We continue to innovate and further personalize the learning experience for our Rocketeers, whether it’s whole-class instruction or individualized lessons using technology. Over the last eight years, our approach has evolved and this year is no different. Rocketship’s personalized learning team will pilot a number of programs to further refine our approach to meet the unique needs of each student. Our scientifically designed pilots will range from small ones testing specific areas to larger ones exploring large questions and critical ideas. Below, I describe a few of the primary pilots we’re planning. Though we’re still in the development stages, we’re excited to share our vision for what personalized learning can become at our schools.
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.