Note: The information in this profile represents SY2010-11 unless otherwise indicated.
Program model: Lab Rotation
Students learn 75 percent offline and 25 percent online. Online occurs in a separate learning lab during two-hour block periods, where students learn reading, math, and other skills.
History and context
In 2006, John Danner, founder and former CEO of NetGravity, and Preston Smith, principal of the highest performing school in San Jose, Calif., founded Rocketship Education (“Rocketship”), a nonprofit charter management organization. They aspired for Rocketship Education to serve one million low-income, urban elementary students across the nation.
According to Rocketship, it is the first elementary school blended-learning model. Currently, Rocketship manages three elementary schools in San Jose. The founders plan to expand nationally in 2014.
Rocketship’s blended-learning model involves 75 percent of classroom and 25 percent of online instruction. Each student attends one block of Math/Science, one block of Learning Lab, and two blocks of Literacy/Social Studies each day. During the Learning Lab block, students go to a separate room where they work on computers to focus on individual learning needs and general skills practice. This online learning and practice time allows classroom teachers to focus more of their student interactions on concept extension and critical thinking skill development.
In Learning Lab, students sit at assigned computer terminals where they initially encounter a screen from which they choose the content program specified for the day. After selecting the program, students complete activities under the program’s guidance. They may also engage in offline activities, such as independent reading and enrichment programs.
Rocketship uses a variety of online content programs in reading and math during the Learning Lab time. For reading, these include Headsprout, Accelerated Reader, and Rosetta Stone. For math, content providers include DreamBox, Reasoning Mind, and ALEKS.
Monitors, rather than certified teachers, oversee the Learning Lab. The model allows Rocketship to staff its schools with approximately 75 percent of the usual teachers and facility space that a typical elementary school occupies. This results in an average student-to-teacher ratio of 31-to-1, although traditional classroom instruction occurs in a 23-to-1 student-to-teacher environment.
Across its two schools, Rocketship achieved 93 percent proficiency in math and 75 percent proficiency in English/language arts, which beat the state averages by 29 and 17 percentage points, respectively, and bested district averages by 26 and 14 percentage points, respectively. Rocketship’s first school, Mateo Sheedy, had an API score of 925 after its third year, which represents a ranking of 1st in Santa Clara County and 5th in California when compared to similar schools with at least 70 percent low-income students. Rocketship’s second school, Sí Se Puede, had an API score of 886 after its first year, which represents a ranking of 2nd in Santa Clara County and 15th in California, when compared to similar schools.
Rocketship has set a goal for the online portion of its school day to drive one-quarter of a year of student growth. It is currently working with SRI International on a study to measure the effectiveness of its online instruction.
The Learning Lab allows for cost savings of approximately $500,000 per school, which Rocketship reinvests in higher teacher salaries (roughly 20 percent higher than surrounding districts), a two-hour after-school Response-to-Intervention program, leadership training, and Academic Deans. The model also allowed the school to reach financial break-even in its first year of operation.
On the horizon
Rocketship is planning to open seven additional schools in San Jose by 2013. Additionally, Rocketship is preparing for national expansion with plans to launch schools in a second region in 2014.