Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Rocketship Education Works Towards Reducing Achievement Gap

Educational achievement in the United States is often observed along socioeconomic lines, but the ultimate goal of this observation is to formulate strategies that effectively reduce the achievement gap. Rocketship Education, an American provider of public charter school solutions in disadvantaged communities, has a solid track record of lowering the achievement gap across various grades.

Rocketship Education, education, school, non-profit network of public elementary charter schools

A couple of years ago, the principals of this educational provider issued a few responses to media reports that detailed some of the methodology applied in the classrooms administered by Rocketship. One of the issues that elicited public attention was Rocketship's efforts to integrate technology into the traditional public charter school curriculum.

It should not be surprising to learn that Rocketship Education makes use of technology to bridge the achievement gap; after all, limited access to educational technology is something that disadvantaged communities often face. Young students are more likely to respond positively to technology in the classroom; to this effect, Rocketship uses software platforms such as Dreambox, Lexia and ST Math to improve the learning skills of pupils at their schools.

In the case of ST Math, students approach arithmetic and geometry concepts in a visual manner that allows them to try different exercises that lead to the same result; this method engages their critical thinking skills through animated feedback. By visualizing math concepts, Rocketship students develop confidence that translates into higher test scores because it reduces the potential of feeling intimidated by exam questions. When students see formulas such as (4 + 6) - 10 in a math test, they will remember the colorful and whimsical animations of their ST Math lessons on the topics of addition and subtraction.

When students enroll in public charter school managed by Rocketship Education, teachers and counselors know that not all of them can be expected to be fully familiar with a technology-centric curriculum. To face this issue, teachers apply a computer lab rotation schedule that puts a group of students to work on academic software while other groups may spend more time with their teachers for guided instruction. The goal is to make the entire classroom learn and advance at the same pace, and this is another important aspect that comes into play when bridging the achievement gap.

Some of the values that Rocketship schools observe as they seek to reduce academic disparity include:

Transparency: This is key when expecting constructing feedback from education officials, parents and the community.

Innovation: As previously mentioned, the Rocketship model encourages implementation of technology in the classroom. As long as innovation can make a meaningful impact in terms of academic achievement, it will be welcome in Rocketship classrooms.

Excellence: In the United States, academic achievement is largely measured and quantified by means of test scores. In the nearly 10 years that Rocketship has been operating charter schools, their test scores speak for themselves in terms of commitment to excellence.

A typical day for Rocketship student involves learning about STEM topics and humanities while spending time at the learning lab. In addition to these three blocks, students also get to work on personal enrichment for the purpose of improving their academic potential.

The Rocketship model is also focused on community development. Through a partnership with the YMCA of San Jose, California, the Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School hosted a special virtual and augmented reality summer program for 48 students. In this program, which was supported by technology giant Google, students were able to explore space and even walk alongside dinosaurs during their summer vacation. Exposing students to cool and emerging technologies increases their interest in STEM, an important aspect of life in a community such as San Jose, which is located in the heart of Silicon Valley.
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