Rocketship Education is a public elementary charter school serving students from low-income backgrounds in Washington DC, Tennessee and California. John Danner founded the school in 2006 with a mission of providing individualised learning experience using technology and involving the parent in the learning process. Rocketship education opens one to three schools every year and continues to get approvals to open new schools in different locations.
Recently, Rocketship education model was criticised by National Public Radio (NPR) blogger Anya Kamenetz. In response to the criticism, Rocketship education Chief Executive Officer, Preston Smith stated that the blogger does not understand the challenges in teaching students from low-income families as she did not visit a single Rocketship school. Anya did not find out how the schools achieve impressive results, but she was quick to undermine those results.
According to Preston Smith, if the school was as bad as the blogger was painting it, then 90% of the students could not return as they always did every year. NPR blogger accused the schools of issuing re-tests to achieve the impressive results. However, Rocketship schools issue state tests hence students cannot take retests without approval from the state department of education. CEO Preston confirmed that a tiny percentage of students in Rocketship take re-test and the school has a very clear policy on retesting.
NPR blogger accused the school of giving students minimal bathroom breaks and enforcing a policy called zone zero. Preston Smith in response to those allegations stated that managing elementary students’ bathroom visits can be quite complicated. The school, therefore, leaves the determination on bathroom breaks to the teachers because they understand each student’s unique needs. Zone zero meaning silent time is enforced when students need to pay attention, but they are given plenty of time to interact and dance.
Blogger Anya also accused the school of spending 80 minutes on Dreambox program everyday contrary to the recommended 45 minutes every week per student. In response, Preston said that students spend time on different learning programs within the prescribed time. The blogger’s story only intended to put the school in a bad light, but parents of the school came out strongly in defence for the school.