Lafer’s report details how Rocketship teaches only basics like reading and math with “live” teachers, while the rest of the curriculum is taught online. There are no art, music or gym classes.
The teachers are recent education school grads who have volunteered for a couple of years with Teach for America, a private national program that was modeled after the Peace Corps, but aimed at American schools in poor and troubled neighborhoods.
Like many recently formed charter school companies, Rocketship uses the savings from its educational model to expand its schools throughout the country. Meanwhile, one of its directors runs a for-profit company that provides thousands of educational materials to the schools.
Indeed, it’s these kind of behind-the-scenes financial relationships that have raised eyebrows throughout the educational community.
To be sure, charter schools can be public schools if the school districts set them up to be accountable to the board and administrators. Madison has established three such charters — Wright Middle School, Badger Rock and Nuestro Mundo — that appear to have had good results experimenting with different educational methods and providing a different academic focus.
Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.