Rocketship Public Schools, formerly Rocketship Education, operates a chain of free public K-5 charter schools. Founded in California in 2006, they currently have schools in the California Bay Area, Nashville, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. The students are predominantly from lower-income neighborhoods. Rocketship’s mission is to provide a quality education that starts students on the path toward college. Parents are expected to be highly involved in their child’s education.
Not surprisingly, Rocketship has received both praise and disparagement over the years. Charter schools nationwide tend to be criticized by some media outlets for the ways in which they differ from traditional public schools. Even when a charter school such as Rocketship receives high test scores, critics find fault with how those scores were achieved.
Rocketship’s critics have focused on three primary components of their teaching model.
The Criticism: Rocketship enforces strict classroom rules, including regulating bathroom breaks and “quiet time.” They believe in clear policies that everyone understands.
The Response: All schools must adhere to a routine or the classroom devolves into chaos. Schools with high expectations for their students and teachers normally impose the strictest rules. Rocketship strives to achieve a balance between too much and too little discipline.
The Use of Technology
The Criticism: Criticism has been aimed at the amount of time students spend on computers, up to 80 minutes per day. Are students being deprived of time with the teacher?
The Response: Computer time is divided among several teaching programs. Rocketship uses a “lab rotation model.” While one group of students uses technology, others are called aside for “intervention” or small-group tutoring.
The Criticism: Non-certified staff members are fulfilling roles that should only be handled by certified teachers, such as managing large groups of students in after-school programs or tutoring.
The Response: In all schools, budget typically dictates the creative use of both certified teachers and others, allowing the teacher’s time to be best utilized. Every school must work out the best solution for their students.
Rocketship seems to be succeeding. In California, their students rank in the top 10% of elementary schools serving similar students. A study found their students a year ahead of their peers. Their best answer to critics is to point to the results they’re achieving.