When Rocketship Education was established in 2006 by Preston Smith and John Danner, the pair of former public school educators could not have imagined their charter school would be at the heart of a press fairness controversy. A blog by NPR blogger Anya Kamenetz, who has been widely rebuked for the lack of traditional balance included in her 3,800-word piece forms the heart of the criticism of Rocketship Education. However, in the face of such criticism, CEO Preston Smith has been among those willing to explain how the charter school fits into the overall system.
The core of the criticism facing the California-headquartered school is rooted in three basic issues, including the use of technology, classroom management, and intervention. Smith explained each school has specific classroom management protocols which are enforced school-wide, including Rocketship Education. Looking at similar charter schools, such as Success Academy would reveal similar attention paid to bathroom breaks and rewards which can be challenging for experienced and newly qualified teachers.
Technology has always been an issue for charter school programs as they look to create a learning environment which is focused on using tablets and computers in a comfortable setting. Preston Smith is eager to point out the 80 minutes of technology use each day cited by NPR is not the norm as each teacher staggers tablet to use for their students to meet individual needs. Each student spends time on their technology in a bid to make sure smaller groups can have more one-on-one time with an educator to provide greater benefits for individual students.
The final aspect of the NPR article being addressed by Preston Smith focuses on the use of non-certified members of staff taking control of a class. Smith believes the high ratio of students to teachers means it is important to provide assistance for each educator to interact on a personal level with their students. Non-certified teachers are always supervised during school hours by certified educators who are looking to provide the best environment for their students.