Rocketship Education and Important Lessons from Preston Smith

Rocketship Education is a K-5 public charter school that was founded in 2007 by early childhood educator Preston Smith and technological guru John Danner. The pair began that first year of school as innovators of education, bringing personalized education to low-income communities in California.

Today, the school has eighteen locations: twelve in California’s Bay Area; one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; three in Music City, Tennessee; and two in the nation’s capital.

As charter schools, Rocketship Education’s locations can receive funds from parties independent of government agencies, like private investors. Andre Agassi helped fund one of Washington DC’s locations, as one of many other investors that help Rocketship Education keep chugging along.

Preston Smith wrote an article two months ago, in August of 2017, that detailed important lessons he learned throughout the first ten years of working with Rocketship Education. Here are a few of the most notable:

Parents should drive demand

While Rocketship Education moves obstacles blocking career paths, students must have the opportunity to attend high-quality public schools. Parents ultimately decide what schools their children are enrolled in and should push their local governments to create better schools in low-income areas, those that Rocketship Education serves.

They also need to be in on interviews

Parents often have strong desires for their children to be lead by quality instructors. As such, they’re often invited to conduct panel-style interviews after being trained to screen applicants.

Hire teachers to fit the cultural backgrounds of students, not vice-versa

Some schools diversify their demographics because it looks good to potentially interested parents. However, schools with high diversity benefit from matching their teachers’ backgrounds to those of students, as it gains their attention more than teachers they can’t relate to.

Special needs students should be included in most general classroom activities

According to the meaningful inclusion model that Rocketship Education uses for developmentally-disabled students, spending four-fifths – 80 percent – of their time at school in regular classrooms helps prepare them more thoroughly for future schooling. Other schools keep them segregated from regular classrooms, where most learning goes on.

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