Rocketship Education: Pioneers of a New Approach to Personalized Learning

The unbalanced and unfair coverage of Rocketship Education’s tech-centric approach to learning by Anya Kamenetz, a head blogger at National Public Radio raised fundamental issues about the country’s education system especially when it comes to operational models of charter schools. The blog post criticized the 13-school network’s core operations including classroom management practices, retesting practices, technology use in learning and teacher intervention practices. However, Rocketship Education’s chief executive officer and co-founder, Preston Smith and others including education writers have offered a highly detailed and evidence-based reply to the blogger’s claims.

In his response, Mr. Smith noted that contrary to the anti-charter schools’ attacks by the blogger, Rocketship Education boasts of a happy parent base. This is evidenced by the rapid expansion of its network to other states and a 90 percent student return rate. He also noted that up to 72 percent of Rocketship Education’s over 8,000 parents have willingly recommended the charter to other parents while thousands of them drive many miles to take their children to school. Mr. Smith also noted that the school has thousands of applications waiting to processed in addition to the over 7,000 students from high-poverty communities enrolled within the network. He also noted that some of the campuses were set up in partnership with parents who were eager to have the charter school operate in their communities.

In his response, which was supported by education writer Alexander Russo, Preston Smith noted that studies have shown that incorporation of technology significantly increases the outcome of learning. Rocketship Education, which has charter schools in numerous states including Washington, Wisconsin, Tennessee and California, uses a teacher-led and technology-centric approach to achieve its primary objective of providing balanced personalized learning. The model also incorporates effective classroom management practices including the use of silent time and bathroom breaks to promote learning culture among its students.

The use of technology within Rocketship Education’s campuses, which was heavily criticized by the blogger, is founded on several studies that show that there is high digital inequality among students from low-income families despite the essentiality of digital services in the 21st century. Retesting is also not a practice that is unique to the non-profit network of charter schools co-founded by Preston Smith and John Danner as it is common in the education sector.