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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rocketship: An Experienced Charter Operator in DC?

On Sunday, the Washington Post published a profile of Rocketship Education, a highly successful California charter operator that serves grades K-5, and its co-founder and CEO John Danner.  Rocketship is known for their "hybrid" education model - using computers for a portion of the day to supplement classroom instruction. This past spring, I visited Rocketship with other education leaders from DC. The integration of computers into the school day was interesting, as was the use of data produced by these computers to help the classroom teachers be more effective.

But what most struck me most pointedly was how the changed economics made so many other things possible. Computers mean the school spends less on classroom teachers. But remember - this is a nonprofit - so all of the saved money is put back into other things that help students, like after school tutoring and summer school and parental engagement. Indeed, Rocketship has the single most impressive parental involvement I have seen in a charter school.

Rocketship is exactly the type of charter school operator the PCSB would like to attract to DC. That's why the Board created a new application process for outside operators. The new process is streamlined. Prospective DC charter school operators apply in the fall and, if approved, can open just a year later. The questions on the application focus as much on the operator’s track record as plans for the school. Of course this "experienced operator" application isn't just for groups outside of DC. We have many experienced charter operators right here in DC, the best of whom we want to see expand and grow. And we still have our regular application process in the spring for new operators, who remain critical to bringing new ideas and innovations to DC.

DC students and families should benefit from the very best charter schools in the country. Making it easy for groups like Rocketship to come to DC is good for the city and its students.

Posted by: Scott Pearson at
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