In 2007 the nonprofit network of public elementary schools, Rocketship Education, opened its first school in a San Jose California church. Years later, the co-founder and current Chief Executive Officer, Preston Smith, looks back on the lessons they have learned about how to best help children learn and develop as better students. He published an article about the top ten lessons learned.
The first and more important lesson learned was that personalized learning must begin at home. Rocketship Education became famous for first implementing personalized education, integrating technology into the learning process to a degree never seen before. However, Smith maintains true personalized education uses technology, but is not about technology. It requires a deep understanding of each student and each family’s unique, personal needs. The technology just facilitates. Also, they have a policy of visiting the homes of each student every year. Putting teachers into the home with the parents and students cements relationships in a unique and powerful way.
Smith also argues for creating more demand personalized education. Although parents have asked him to extend the Rocketship Education system up through Grade 12 in high school, he does not wish to create an enclosed environment parallel to the education system as typically experienced by students. That’s true even though he wonders how their Rocketeers will react when they attend a normal fifth classroom. He wants parents to demand more and better personalized education for all students.
That leads to lesson number three, which is to teach parents how to demand better middle and high school educations for their children from the public school system. One Rocketship parent, Karen Martinez, has done this in San Jose.
Preston Smith and John Danner founded Rocketship Education in 2006, with headquarters in Redwood California. It’s a nonprofit network of elementary charter public schools. When students at their flagship school scored as high as students in the Palo Alto School District on California’s state assessment, it achieved recognition as a way of improving public education for students from lower income families. It also has opened schools in Milwaukee Wisconsin, Nashville Tennessee and Washington D.C.