How Rocketship Schools are Beating the Odds
by Wendy Noble, Ed.D, VP of Schools, Bay Area
Last month, Innovate Public Schools released their Struggling Schools, Promising Solutions report. Their findings show there are more than 120 schools across California achieving at high levels for high-need students. Despite many great schools, the report states more than 15,000 students in Silicon Valley currently attend schools that have been persistently low-performing. This vast injustice is why we at Rocketship work every day to eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime. We are proud to have three Rocketship schools highlighted in Innovate’s report as examples of schools that are beating the odds for low-income students.
Innovate’s report highlights many problems, but also shows that there are proven solutions in effective educational models. One line that particularly resonated with me in the report is, “The path to college and career begins early.”
As a mom, I find that I am preparing my three year old for college today. That may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s not to me. The choices I make in her education both at preschool and at home will have a profound impact on her future — I know that. I see that every day in my work in education.
Children enter our doors with varying experiences with some entering kindergarten reading, others entering pre-reading and others entering with little understanding of print concepts and all at varying levels of English language proficiency. The minute our school doors open each day we make a commitment to ensure that, regardless of what knowledge and skills our Rocketeers bring with them, they will succeed. We make a promise to our families that we will work tirelessly with their children so they have the very best educational opportunities and are on the path to college and career.
Our three core pillars create the foundation for the schools highlighted in Innovate’s report (Mateo Sheedy, Brilliant Minds and Mosaic). This foundation allows us to consistently beat the odds for high-need students.
First, excellent teachers & leaders create transformational schools. While we have a rigorous hiring process and cultivate highly talented teachers and leaders, our leadership model is such that every campus has three or four instructional leaders who are able to spend at least 75 percent of their time coaching teachers and tutors in a personalized manner creating a culture of continuous professional growth. In addition, teachers participate in 300+ hours of professional development every year focused on the core tenets of high-quality reading and STEM instruction, English language acquisition, student culture and data-driven instruction. Instructional leaders also participate in coaching and professional development to ensure continuous development. Experienced teachers who have a demonstrated record of high student achievement also have opportunities for additional leadership development through our Grade Level Leads program. Many of our teachers are on the path to school leadership and most of our principals have first served as an assistant principal in our schools. Building our leadership team from within is key.
Second, personalized learning means that every child is unique. Every Rocketeer has unique talents, abilities and styles of learning. We are committed to personalizing each Rocketeer’s education to ensure that though they may begin at different points on their path to college, all will leave us prepared for middle school, high school, college and career. We personalize every student’s learning through our blended learning model which encompasses a mix of technology, small group instruction/tutoring and traditional whole class instruction. Rocketeers work on literacy and mathematics at their individual level utilizing a myriad of online learning programs designed to support their unique academic needs. Tutoring and small group instruction are also provided at our Rocketeers’ academic level. Whole class instruction is designed on grade level to ensure all students experience grade level humanities and STEM pedagogy. School leaders, teachers and tutors frequently review data to monitor and adjust online and offline learning programs to ensure Rocketeers’ needs are being met throughout the school year.
Third, engaged parents are essential. We believe that all of our parents are our Rocketeers’ first teachers and leaders and are the key to eliminating the achievement gap. We want them to be our partners here at school supporting their children’s education while at home. Rocketeer parents make the choice every day to come to a Rocketship school. That is a decision not made lightly and one that we take very seriously. Parents entrust their children to us and hold us to our promise of educating their children and making sure they leave us on the path to college and career. Additionally, parents are powerful advocates within their communities.
All students deserve an excellent education. We believe our three pillars allow us to serve our communities to prepare our Rocketeers for success in college and career. Read Innovate’s report to learn more about the achievement gap in the Silicon Valley and the methods high-performing schools across the county are employing to beat the odds.
What other schools are beating the odds and how? Please share ➟ @RocketshipEd
Published on December 3, 2014