kitchen table math, the sequel: Rocketship Schools

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rocketship Schools

Does anyone have any information about a bunch of new charter schools called The Rocketship Schools?

Andy Rotherham gave a rave about it here.


ChemProf said...

Joanne Jacobs has talked about it a few times:

jmay said...


* small network of schools in the San Jose, CA area
* the population they serve includes a high percentage of Hispanic ESL kids
* "hybrid model": kids spend 2 hours a day working on computers, with fewer experienced state-credentialed teachers in attendance (this helps them keep down staff expense)
* seems to have figured out how to build modular schools cheaply; spun out Launchpad Development Company (
* so far, academic results from the Rocketship schools are higher than the nearby district schools
* just got approval to open 20 more schools; probably gearing up to expand outside the Bay Area.

SteveH said...

They use DreamBox for math.

"DreamBox has created math software that is “adaptive.” That is, a child can log into the online game and solve problems and the game can react to the skill level of the child. If the child does well, the game adapts the lessons so that they are harder. If the child needs more help, the game adapts the lessons so they are easier."

I tried a 3rd grade sample. It may be adaptive, but it's soooo slow. Kids may spend a lot of time with the "game", but you have to do that to get all of the practice you need.

Nothing beats worksheets or flash cards in terms of concentrated practice. I don't know whether they have a fast way to allow kids to test out of sections or whether they have to go through all of the games and let the adaptive process decide. It also wasn't clear whether kids can move ahead at their own pace. Can a second grader move on to 4th grade material? The Rocketship site wasn't big on explaining its curriculum.

Online learning has the potential of breaking the no acceleration blockade. Even with differentiated instruction, they don't allow acceleration past the grade level. The differentiation is not really acceleration, but enrichment. It really is No Child Gets Ahead.

From Andy Rotherham"

"Rocketship has a school model that works in California’s cash-starved public education system: it is able to boost teachers’ productivity by letting them focus on critical thinking and higher-order thinking skills by using technology for more basic skills and practice."

Blah, blah, blah. Apparently, skill practice is OK if teachers don't have to do it. It's OK if it's done with technology. Heaven forbid if some kids come in with flash cards. Teachers can then focus on just the fun things like "higher-order thinking skills", whatever that means. Fine, as long as skill mastery gets done grade-by-grade. The next question is whether those skills lead to algebra in 8th grade or PISA-like bar chart reading.

How long and tiresome do online games become when you get to percents, decimals, fractions, and mixture problems? The games have so much baggage you think that kids would figure out that there has to be a faster, more direct way.

To some extent, charter schools should do better because the kids are self-selected and have the support of thier parents. This alone is an advantage. Higher expectations are also an improvement. As it is now, urban kids are owned by the public school hierarchy and they really don't want the more willing kids to leave. Then again, they don't do anything for them.