Rocketship Education: Exploding into the Future

 


Rocketship Education is a non-profit network of charter schools established to serve low-income students who have limited access to first-rate schools. Founded in 2006, the organization focuses exclusively on elementary education. Rocketship counts Bill and Melinda Gates, the Andre Agassi Foundation and the Obama Administration as early and pivotal financial contributors to its cause. The core focus of Rocketship is to use intense online learning to help students – who may have fallen behind academically – advance to their appropriate grade level education. The network currently manages schools in the San Francisco Bay area, Nashville, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. By placing schools in underprivileged, economically challenged areas, Rocketship is determined to eliminate the achievement gap in the K-5 age group.

Students at Rocketship schools rotate between labs throughout the school day. Between labs, students are given time to engage in art, music, gardening, play time and the like. Rotating students through varying modules throughout the school day allows for a smaller teacher to student ratio. Paraprofessionals are instrumental in the curriculum because of the heavy use of online learning. Also, Rocketship relies heavily on the engagement of parents and the local community to strengthen the educational partnership. The three pillars that guides Rocketship Education are personalized learning, talent development and parent power.

A unique feature of the Rocketship model is the inclusion of special education students in a standard classroom setting. A special needs student will spend up to 80% of her day in a standard classroom with the aim that all children have potential. “Mainstreaming” in education is not a new concept and it is mandated by the federal government. However, the personalized approach by Rocketship educators ensure that special needs students are given the additional supports that she needs. This is a win-win for all students: the special needs student experiences the curricula presented to all students while the “typical” student learns empathy and understanding in relation to the diverse needs of their peers.

Rocketship Education has seen many successes related to test scores and high retention rates. One of the main objectives of the enterprise is to remain flexible in its approach to educating children who may have started out a step behind. As technology evolves, flexibility will continue to be important in closing the achievement gap.