Rocketship’s 2013 – 2014 Year in Review
by Preston Smith, Co-Founder and CEO, Rocketship Public Schools
Rocketeer Supporters and Friends,
The 2014 – 2015 school year is off to a strong start as we welcomed back 6,000 Rocketeers and their families. One of those Rocketeers is my son Zeke, who is now a kindergartener at Fuerza Community Prep. I am elated to finally be a Rocketship parent! Amid all the excitement the new school year brings, I want to reflect on the incredible successes of our network this past year.
Success for us means more than just running top tier schools for our Rocketeers. For us, it means making significant strides towards eliminating the achievement gap in our lifetime. We have continued to grow with quality in the Bay Area, opening our largest school yet, while celebrating a third year of being in the top five percent of school districts serving low-income students in California. We also opened our first school outside of California. Southside Community Prep welcomed 300 Milwaukee Rocketeers and their families. After just one year, these students have achieved significant academic gains, proving that exceptional teachers and personalized instruction can overcome even one of the largest racial achievement gaps in the country.
Success for us means that we continue to innovate our school model and learn quickly. Moving forward with our lessons from the flexible classroom, we are poised to even more purposefully integrate technology with teacher-led instruction.
Success for us means parents effectively advocate for the great schools all kids deserve. Hundreds of Rocketship parents came out in force last year to petition for the opening of Fuerza and a future Rocketship school in Redwood City. After several hearings, our parents succeeded on both fronts with unanimous votes from two separate school boards. I am truly humbled by the power of our Rocketship community.
Success for us also means that our teachers and leaders transform their communities. Rodney Lynk Jr. returned to his hometown of Milwaukee to open Southside Community Prep last year. Fourth grade teacher Juan Mateos is entering his first year as a school leader in San Jose, the community where he grew up. After six years opening and leading Rocketship schools, Adam Nadeau is now back home in Nashville, opening our third region. In 2015, a current school leader in San Jose, Amy Zapatka, will return to DC, the community she’s called her home away from home for more than five years.
I am grateful for how far we’ve come at Rocketship — and I’m even more excited by what we have yet to accomplish. Together, we will eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime.
Read our Year in Review for a look into another great school year for our network.
Preston co-founded Rocketship Education in San Jose with John Danner in 2006. Prior to founding Rocketship, Preston was founder and Principal of L.U.C.H.A. Elementary School, part of the Alum Rock Unified School District in San Jose, CA. After its first three years of operation, L.U.C.H.A. was the fourth highest performing low-income elementary school in California. Preston began his career in education as a Teach for America Corps (TFA) member at Clyde Arbuckle Elementary School (CA). In 2003, Preston was named “Teacher of the Year” at Arbuckle and was also nominated as one of six finalists for TFA’s Sue Lehmann award, given to TFA corps members with the highest classroom academic gains in the nation. Preston is also an Aspen New Schools Fellow.
Published on September 10, 2014