Rocketship Education is a non profit charter school network launched in 2006 by Preston Smith and John Danner, having its headquarters in Redwood City, California. By 2012, 6 years since its inception, Rocketship was operating 5 schools in the San Jose Region and was averaging approximately 450 students per school. Under their motto stating that every child deserves an excellent education, out of 90% of students who qualified for free lunch, approximately 75% spoke English as their second language. The charter network started expanding in 2013 and they currently have schools located in 4 regions within the United States: California, Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Washington D.C., and Nashville (Tennessee).
Rocketship uses individualized online learning as well as small-group tutoring and classroom teaching. The charter focuses on educating students that come from low-income families, in order to eliminate the achievement gap. Reports from the 2016-17 school year pointed out that 86% of students who enrolled in Rocketship schools came from families that had a low socioeconomic background, while 70% were students who were learning English as a second language.
Rocketship was recently criticized for certain practices, but critics noted the fact that original piece criticizing Rocketship did not paint a full picture – including little information about why the Rocketship schools are popular and giving no context for the critical anecdotes. Critics also pointed out the fact that the practices that the organization came under fire for are not unlike other charters or schools in the area – such as limiting bathroom breaks, and staff turnover.
A controversial aspect from the piece is the fact that Rocketship Education was labeled as a “company”, with critics point out that that choice of words is a sensitive issue in the world of education, where accusations of being privatization-oriented or commercial are critical. Critics noted the fact that “company” refers to a private or a for-profit business, and not a non-profit one. Despite the fact that non-profits and traditional schools can rely on for-profit companies for materials and service, they are rarely described as being companies. The original piece raised some journalistic questions that people think should be addressed.