Will DC Help Make Rocketship More Profitable?

Opening eight hybrid — computerated instruction combined with traditional classrooms — charter schools is part of a plan to make Rocketship more profitable. Is it also a plan to help DC students? Listen to the opening report on Jan 10’s Education Town Hall on We Act Radio.

Students in Rocketship charter schools – now approved in six cities across the country – divide their time between a traditional classroom and individualized on-line instruction….this is designed to raise low-income students’ scores in reading, science and math. It also reduces costs by providing tutors – hourly employees without teaching certification – to support Learning Lab hours….The model omits art and music.

UPDATE: A Rocketship spokesperson clarifies that Rocketship schools do not employ art or music teachers, instead including art and music in Humanities classes.

DC may soon join Rocketeer ranks. New Orleans, Nashville, Indianapolis, Memphis and Milwaukee have already agreed to replicate the model, begun in San Jose, CA, where seven Rocketship schools are in operation.

The financial success of John Danner’s model requires rapid expansion: A recent report for their Business Committee notes that Rocketship’s National Office will not break even until 20 schools have been established.

Even as Rocketship prepares to expand, however, the charter management organization is rolling out a redesigned educational model. A late December PBS News Hour reported: “The learning lab saves schools a lot of money, but there’s just one problem: They’re not really working.” Journalist John Merrow describes problems with the Learning Labs and suggests that the instructional redesign – already in the works – might do away with labs entirely to provide a better experience for Rocketeers. But internal documents stress, instead, that the instructional redesign should add $100,000 annually to each school’s net income. Rocketship describes the redesign as offering “equivalent (if not better) academic results.” The real point, the board presentation makes clear, is to render schools more immediately profitable.

With only six years of history, Danner’s instructional model – original or redesigned – does not yet support data on long-term educational effectiveness. In DC, however, Rocketship is one of three charters seeking fast track approval as an “experienced operator.” Danner hopes to open eight schools serving over 5000 children — kindergarten through 5th grade — all in Wards 7 and 8.

Public Comment Opportunity

A Public Charter School Board hearing is scheduled for Jan. 28.

Here is the Rocketship executive summary PCSB is sharing with the public. Visit the charter school board’s website for information they have posted on other “experienced operators.”

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