What were the highlights of Rocketship’s first year here?
Strong growth. Rocketship set a goal of having 65% of its Milwaukee students meet the national average for reading and math growth over the course of the year. In fact, 72% of the school’s students, almost all of whom are low-income and Hispanic or black, learned as much as a typical American student in English and language arts. In math, 87% of Rocketship students met or exceeded that average growth target.
New style. Rocketship introduced children to spending part of the day doing reading and math exercises on the computer, using software that adapts to each child’s skill level. Sessions are overseen by an aide rather than a teacher, which is one way Rocketship keeps costs down. Most teachers also specialize by subject matter.
Parent involvement. A Rocketship hallmark is involving parents in schools, not only to help their children with homework and goal-setting, but also to advocate in the community. Kinser said almost all teachers had 90% of their parents meet the 30-hour goal of interacting with the school.
Enrollment. This year’s enrollment goal is 487 children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the school on its way to meeting it, Kinser said.
The turbulent first year in Milwaukee also set Rocketship on its heels at times. Some challenges included:
Special education. About 17% of Milwaukee Rocketship children had special needs last year, which is close to the district average in Milwaukee Public Schools. Venskus said Rocketship went about $500,000 over budget to serve those students.
Teacher turnover. Rocketship, like other demanding urban charter schools with long hours and high expectations, was not a good fit for some teachers who left early in the school year. Rocketship did not renew some others. This fall there will be four new teachers at the school from Teach For America, the alternative teacher certification program from which Rocketship frequently recruits.
Political challenges. Rocketship leaders had to negotiate with lawmakers in Madison to try to clear a path for their staff with out-of-state teaching or administrator credentials to be recognized in Wisconsin.
Rocketship has a charter agreement with the Milwaukee Common Council to open up to eight schools serving 500 students each.
Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.
A majority if the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.
Via Molly Beck.