CEO Preston Smith Answers Criticisms of Rocketship Public Education

Rocketship Public Schools (formerly Rocketship Education) was founded to serve students who are underserved by the public school system. Eighty-six percent of Rocketship’s pupils are from low-income families. Offering an elementary level education students attend Rocketship from kindergarten through the fifth grade.

Emphasizing parental involvement in the educational process Rocketship uses an amalgam of online and classroom instruction blended with group tutoring. The success of this approach made it possible for Rocketship Public Schools to grow from a single school in 2007 to 18 schools in three states.

In June of this year National Public Radio’s (NPR) head blogger Anya Kamenetz published an article entitled “High Test Scores But At What Cost?” Perceived by some as a hatchet job rather than objective journalism the piece was critical of Rocketship Public Education’s methodology. Preston Smith the CEO of Rocketship responded to Kamenetz’s observations.

The article took exception to the way classrooms are managed with regard to quiet time and bathroom breaks. Acknowledging that it is easy for classroom management to become too ridged Smith pointed out that his schools follow a program that was developed to instruct teachers on classroom control.

Kamenetz was critical of the way Rocketship uses computers in the classroom charging that students spend 80 minutes a day on computers utilizing a single program. Smith countered that the time spent on computer learning is divided among five programs. He further pointed out that all schools are trying to figure out how to best use technology in the classroom.

In her writing, Kementz asserted that large groups of students were placed in the charge of someone unqualified to manage them. Smith countered that claim stating that other schools use tutors with no teaching credentials. Smith maintains that using uncertified personal frees up teachers to focus on students who need extra attention. He raised the possibility of teachers not being able to give students extra help without unqualified tutors and computer learning time.

Biased or unbiased Preston Smith said this about Kamenetz’s article, “…if we aren’t asking ourselves deeply meaningful questions as we do this work…we have all failed”.

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