Rocketship Academy

Rocketship Academy in San Jose, CA.
October 16, 2013
How does a community who feels (is?) underserved by their local school overcome their challenge and develop a higher quality education for their young children? One option is the Rocketship model of charter schools.
Their model of education grows from three core values: "Excellent teachers and leaders create transformational schools; Every child has a unique set of needs; [and] Engaged parents are essential in eliminating the achievement gap." At Rocketship Alma Road, where we visited today, the parents we encountered raved about the school. They felt welcomed, cared about, and wanted at the school. And that was very refreshing.
Too often we hear from parents that they don't feel welcomed at their children's school, that the feeling they get is that the schools want parents to drop their kids off in the morning, pick them up in the afternoon and just leave the rest alone. There are many problems with this scenario. First, when parents don't feel welcomed they are less likely to be engaged in the daily educational lives of their children. The assumption is that if the school wanted them to do more, they would ask. Second, if the parents are not included in the educational process, asked what they value, what they would like to help with, invited into the classrooms to help and observe, then they will fill the vacuum with either the memories they have from their own education, or with the myths and half-truths they hear from their friends and neighbors. Last, when parents aren't part of the school, they aren't cheerleaders for that school's staff or programs. They are less likely to provide financial support, too.
While I found it interesting that the folks at Rocketship were using computer technologies and web-based assessments in order to help students accelerate their learning in math and reading, I felt that the most profound difference this school makes in their community is their open, caring, and engaging relationship that they develop with their parents. This "village" approach to education is human-centered, relationship-based, and has created an environment in which attitudes toward school amongst the families attending Rocketship are overwhelmingly positive.
As we all move forward looking for proven methods that create positive change in our schools, look to Rocketship and their all inclusive model of parent involvement. The biggest challenge you may have to overcome is deciding how to best utilize all your new resources!

Bret Fitzpatrick
Learning Experience Designer