Rocketship Education has earned the well-deserved reputation of being a brave pioneer in the journey to create the most inclusive and effective public school experience for all children. In just 10 years, Rocketship Education has achieved a level of success in this regard that many schools have only aspired to. It is rare that the CEO of a public charter school system will speak so openly about the progress and challenges of a program designed to bring out the best in all students. An article in The 74 included an analysis from the CEO of Rocketship Education, Preston Smith, who was extremely candidate in speaking to the public about the trials and triumphs of Rocketship Education so far.
The article included 10 lessons that Smith says he has learned and internalized since Rocketship Education opened the doors of its first elementary school. He found it refreshing and inspiring to reflect on these lessons because Smith says that it is the best opportunity to find new ways for Rocketship Education to improve. There is no doubt that Smith is proud of and inspired by the leaps and bounds that Rocketship Education has come from its first launch. He takes his responsibility of setting an example for how success in the public school system can be achieved very seriously and thinks that it calls for an open dialogue with parents and officials about ways to keep advancing the many gains made by Rocketship Education. A vital part of that process for Smith is analyzing the achievement record of Rocketship Education and soliciting feedback on how it can continue to grow.
Smith is perhaps most proud of the inclusive nature of Rocketship Education. Instead of simply figuring out how Rocketship Education elementary schools could check off the boxes when it comes to federal mandates on including students with disabilities, Rocketship Education went the extra mile to develop an evolving program of incorporating special needs students in all classroom activities and beyond. This means developing opportunities for special needs students to participate in extracurricular activities and practical learning experiences. Smith hopes that other public schools will follow in the illustrious footsteps of Rocketship Education so that we build a society that is constantly yearning for ways to incorporate the abilities of all people.
Smith also has a powerful message for leaders in education and elected officials. He thinks that students should not have to leave their home communities in order to receive a top-quality education. While he certainly thinks that parents should be empowered to do whatever it takes to get their children access to the best education they can find, Smith is working towards bringing those opportunities closer to home in the poorer areas of the country. He thinks it is crucial to identify and retain top teaching talent from these underprivileged areas so that students can connect with role models and educators who understand their daily struggles and the type of environment they are living in. Smith is so passionate about the importance of this goal that he sent his own children to Rocketship Education elementary schools.
After having seen the power of involved parents in action for more than a decade, Smith is convinced now more than ever before that parents are the missing link in the public education system. There are so many opportunities for parents to be involved inside and out of the classroom, but educators often do not take the chance to consult parents directly about the options available to their children. Smith thinks that Rocketship Education has done a phenomenal job of reversing course on this trend and wants to show other public schools how valuable parents can be in enhancing the school environment for all students.
One example of the potential of involved parents to make a difference that hit home for Smith was when one of the parents from a Rocketship Education decided to continue the tradition of excellence in public education and opened a partner middle school in her community. Although Rocketship Education only continues through fifth grade, parents who have experienced the amazing results of Rocketship Education are working together in their communities to build on this program so that their children can continue to make great strides in their education. This sends a powerful message that parents are the true stakeholders in improving schools and communities. Smith implores other educators to give parents more credit for their role in molding young minds and provide them with chances to make important decisions about the direction of their child’s experience at Rocketship Education.
Background on Rocketship Education
Rocketship Education was designed to be a standout public charter school program for elementary students. It was founded in San Jose, California. Drawing on the talents and experience of a strong community of educators and leaders, Rocketship Education has always stuck to its founding principles of diversity, inclusion and academic excellence. Educators hold very high standards for students at Rocketship Education, but the courses are designed to be accessible to children from all skill levels and backgrounds. There is a place for every child at Rocketship Education because the teachers and staff are driven by their desire to boost student performance in some of the most marginalized communities in the U.S.
Rather than forcing students from lower-class areas to travel far distances to attend better schools, Rocketship Education wanted to bring the best opportunities to communities that are starved for them the most. While achievement level and academic success are paramount at Rocketship Education, there is just as much focus on building a strong community network that supports students outside the classroom. Graduates of the Rocketship Education program are equipped with the skills they need to excel in secondary education and beyond. They are confident, capable and supported in their learning pathway. Rocketship Education brings out the best in each student it serves.