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New Study Finds Rocketship Graduates are a Year Ahead of Their Peers

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by Preston Smith
Co-Founder and CEO

When we launched Rocketship ten years ago, we decided to focus exclusively on elementary school. We believed that if we helped our Rocketeers build a solid foundation in those early years, they would thrive in middle school, high school and beyond.

But those tween years are tough. Navigating new social codes can wreak havoc on a student’s self-esteem. And learning how to manage a radical shift in academic independence takes time to develop. There’s no doubt that middle school is one of the most challenging transitions in a student’s academic journey.

So we decided it was time to examine how our Rocketeer alumni perform in middle school. We engaged SRI International, an independent nonprofit research center, to conduct a three-year study on the performance of our Rocketeers in middle school.  This study followed nearly 2,000 students in seven San Jose middle schools with high concentrations of Rocketship graduates. SRI rigorously compared academic performance, socio-emotional skills, and student confidence navigating the middle school transition between Rocketeer alumni and their peers in middle school.

The results are in. Rocketeers are a year ahead of their classmates in math and reading after the first and second years of middle school.

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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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Our Response to NPR “Hit Piece”

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by Preston Smith
Co-Founder & CEO, Rocketship Education

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.

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For Good Measure: The Value of Year-End Assessments

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by Preston Smith
Co-Founder & CEO, Rocketship Education

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.

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11 Ways to Beat the Summer Slide

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by BEYOND Editorial Team
Bay Area
Summertime is here! The pros: fun in the sun, family time, and much-needed rest and relaxation. The cons: what educators refer to as the “summer slide” — the regression a student can experience from lost instructional time during summer break. Continue reading
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Frustrated, Curious, Optimistic: How Teaching Social-Emotional Learning Benefits Students & Teachers

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by Alyssa Warren
Senior Associate, Rocketship Schools Team
Aiden and I started the year off strong. At our home visit before the school year had started, we played “Chutes and Ladders” and ate ice cream and he showed me all of his books, reading the title of every single one. He was a new first grader, excited to start at a new school with uniforms, multiple teachers, dancing, and his big brother across the hall. Aiden was a quick learner, eager to participate, and always winning new friends at recess with his bright eyes, wide smile, and silly jokes. Continue reading
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Music & Motion: Rocketeers Use Chants to Achieve

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by Chioma Umunakwe
Assistant Principal, Rocketship Spark Academy
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

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Learning & Letting Go: A Year in a Kinder Classroom

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by Chelsea Graeff
Kindergarten Teacher, Rocketship Los Sueños 

“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.

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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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Improving the Odds: Giving San Jose – and Its Children – a Chance to Succeed

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by Preston Smith
Co-Founder & CEO, Rocketship Education
According to a fascinating new article in the Atlantic Monthly, San Jose used to be a launching pad for the American dream, a place where immigrant families gathered, drawn by affordable houses and abundant economic opportunity, and worked together to help their children succeed. The article cites a landmark study released in 2014 by the economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues at Harvard University and University of California – Berkeley, which showed that “a child born in the early 1980s into a low-income family in San Jose had a 12.9 percent chance of becoming a high earner as an adult” which gave those children a better shot at prosperity than their parents, and put the city’s children in a better position than even those from progressive cities like Boston and on par with affluent countries like Denmark and Canada.
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Landing: A Fun Friday with Teachers and Staff

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by Clayton Tran
Student, Rocketship Spark Academy

Every Friday, Rocketeers gather outside on Rocketship Spark’s blacktop to dance their hearts out and celebrate the end of the week at Landing. Landing is when students have a fun time with teachers by dancing to songs like “Happy” and more. It teaches us how to have a fun last day of the week with students, teachers and family.

“It is so much fun because we get to dance, and have a time for dancing with our friends,” said second grader Brooklee Tran.  Continue reading