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Two Nashville Mothers Explain How Rocketship’s Model is Enabling Their Children to Succeed

This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Firefly.

Ever since the first one opened in 2003, public charter schools have seen tremendous growth as a schooling option for Tennessee students.

Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies that must include parents. There are currently more than 30 public charter schools in Nashville, each offering a variety of curriculums for parents to explore and the school district will consider adding handful of new schools this year.

Rocketship Public Schools are among the district’s charter operators serving students with a focus on a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-based curriculum. The organization launched its first Nashville school in 2014 and just opened its third this school year.

Recently two Rocketship parents spoke with the Tennessee Firefly to share their perspective on why they are grateful to be able to send their children to Rocketship Public Schools.

COVID Learning

Chantal Burke, mother of twin fourth graders Emma and Lily Dannersmith, enrolled her kids with Rocketship Public Schools after feeling that traditional public school weren’t giving them the stimulation and resources they needed to reach their full potential. Both of her girls are currently top students in their grades.

“The girls before they switched, they were reading all time, they know math—we really pushed that. And when they went to [traditional public] school they were so below their potential and they would come home and be passed that,” said Burke.

During COVID, Rocketship quickly transitioned to online learning. Burke’s friend’s child, who was still enrolled in traditional public school, had been doing most of her learning on her own prior to virtual schooling.

“One thing I really liked was when COVID hit, that Monday we had teachers on Youtube already. And they were already teaching,” said Burke. “They went to full classes within a week or two, had the whole class schedule on Zoom, they had Friday dance-offs and I got to dance with them. If the parents were home, we got to work with them and sit in with them.”

Burke especially loved how inclusive and close Rocketship she felt was compared to traditional public school. She said that there are many students that come from different countries, and they get the help they need and more.

“I love it because I’m welcomed in there, it’s a big family thing. And when I go in to volunteer, you can tell that all the teachers treat the kids as kids. Everybody knows everybody.”

Immigrant Family Experience

Claudia Morales is originally from Nicaragua, recently immigrating to Nashville less than four months ago. Her husband and son immigrated a year ago. Her third grade son Mattias also attends Rocketship.

“Everybody recommended Rocketship to [my husband]. It had always had a great record of being a great school and [my] son talks about everybody at the school, it’s just great. [I] can see the difference in him and his advancement emotionally, socially and in general,” said Morales. “They do so many different activities and he’s learning a second language.”

Morales was especially grateful that her son is able to learn another language and is able to pursue opportunities they didn’t have back in Nicaragua.

“Going to Rocketship is like going to university in Nicaragua. It feels like the people that work there have a lot of value. They’re so creative, they’re happy, they’re animated and that’s very important for the kids.”

Because Rocketship Northeast Elementary only goes up to K-5, Morales hopes that the next school her son attends will have a very similar vision and model to Rocketship. She hopes to enroll him in another public charter school should that time come.

Last year Rocketship United earned the distinction of being one of 48 Reward Schools in Nashville. Schools receiving this designation typically demonstrate high levels of performance and/or growth across all indicators.

Published on February 24, 2023

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