Broken Promise: API Contract

Rocketship Broken Promises

In the late night of Dec 14th, 2011, the Santa Clara County Office of Education approved 20 Rocketship county charters. Rocketship bypassed the local district, going straight to the county for approval, short circuiting the local community’s ability to hold Rocketship accountable.

During that meeting, Rocketship made a number of promises, which they have subsequently broken. This is the first in a series of 3 posts outlining Rocketship’s broken promises.

Rocketship promised that if it didn’t meet a performance contract it would relinquish future charters. Each school not meeting the contract would result in a future charter being lost. It was a promise that we believed, sold to the public in a Mercury News editorial and discussed at length in the public hearing. As of today, it stands as a broken promise.

2013 Rocketship charters meeting their performance contract

Year of Operation
Pass or Fail
Rocketship Los Suenos Academy3790FAIL
Rocketship Discovery Prep2791FAIL
Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy4837FAIL
Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary6851FAIL
Rocketship Alma Academy1809PASS
Rocketship Mosaic Elementary2836PASS
Rocketship Academy Brilliant Minds1893PASS
Total Number of FAILS4

Rocketship CEO Preston Smith’s public testimony during the SCCOE board meeting, Dec 14, 2011:

“We proposed at Rocketship that our first year schools would realize a 775 API. Year two schools, so in their second year, an 825 and Year 3 plus 875 API. And I think those are very serious metrics. So all of our schools currently meet those metrics. Si Se Puede has to make some gains to realize those metrics in the third year and we’re confident they’re going to do that. If an existing school fails to meet those standards then a future charter that has not been opened yet would be lost, we would not be able to open those schools so it would actually slow down our growth and it would be a 1 to 1 comparison point…. We would actually not just push out, we wouldn’t open those schools, so we wouldn’t open those schools.”

Thus far, Rocketship has relinquished ZERO charters. They have broken their promise to the public, and the County Office of Education has capitulated. Below is a public correspondence email from Grace Mah regarding the issue. Note the passive note of Board President Mah who has the ultimate power to oversee Rocketship. The hundreds of thousand of PAC contributions to trustee Mah’s campaign must have done the job, erasing her oversight requirements, and ensuring that the charters could get a free pass due to the big money donors.

From: Grace Mah <>
Date: Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM
Subject: Re: Santa Clara County Charters Accountability Goals and Oversight

Thank you for your email regarding the Rocketship schools and accountability to their academic goals.
Rocketship was approved for 5 schools per year for 4 years. However, due to their school scores, they have only opened one school for 2013 – 14, and two for 2014 – 2015.
The SCCOE is aware of Rocketship’s greenlighting process and is monitoring its academic progress, with respect to growth.
Thank you for your observations,

Dec 14, 2011 Public Testimony