Rocketship’s expansion plans to capture minority student market share
Despite widespread criticism, Rocketship hopes to grow by 330% in the next 5 years, as they move to take market share from district schools
Rocketship is planning to open 27 schools in the next five years, more than tripling their student population from 6,000 students to 20,000 students. By 2019, Rocketship hopes to have 20 schools in the Bay Area, 13 schools in Tennessee, 4 schools in Washington DC and continue with their solo school in Milwaukee.
Rocketship hopes to grow more quickly in the 2016-17 school year, as they open 2 new schools in the Bay Area. Rockethip applied for two brand new schools and one conversion school with the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD) on February 1, 2015 (Rocketship Tennesse #3 & #4, and Rocketship Conversion). Those three schools would add 7,281 students to Rocketship’s roles in Tennessee. One of the three schools to open in 2016 is to slated to be a highly controversial “conversion” school, where Rocketship would takeover and privatize a formerly public school. Rocketship applied to the ASD for the conversion school, even as Tenessee saw large protests against ASD conversions.
Rocketship had planned to open a new school in Washington DC in 2015, but was forced to delay the school until 2016 when Rocketship learned that Andre Agassi’s for-profit facility hedge fund selected a site directly adjacent to a half way house.
Rocketship’s future growth plans in the Bay Area are unclear, although board documents indicate that Rocketship will target the Contra Costa County in the East San Francisco Bay Area region. Sources have indicated that Rocketship approached Antioch Unified School District, but they have not yet formally applied there.
Rocketship schools by region
Rocketship moves to increase their market share of children
Overall, California’s charter school market share is about 9%, just above the national average of 7%. Billionaire and former California school board president, Reed Hastings, laid out plans last March to the California Charter School Association to essentially end public education by 2030 in California. He indicated a strategy of slowly growing charter school market share over the next 20-30 years until essentially all public education would have been replaced by privately held corporations. If the exponential growth of charter schools over the past 14 years continues unabated, 90% of students would be in charter schools by 2034 (see graph below). Hastings is a Rocketship founding supporter, and previously sat on their advisory board. Hastings also owns a significant share of Dreambox, a software company that sells products to Rocketship.
Rocketship’s board documents indicate that the company is hoping to gain significant student market share in the downtown San Jose Franklin McKinley School District (FMSD). FMSD has seen their market share erode from 96% in 2010 to 79% in 2013, a dramatic change in only 4 years. Rocketship’s plans to open an additional school could reduce FMSD market share to nearly 70%.
Traditional public schools will need to adapt to the competition and begin to shift resources towards recruitment and advertising. Rocketship spends considerable sums on marketing their “brand” and growing their “share”; both words appear frequently in board documents. Although school boards are reticent to shift funds away from the classroom, there is little question that the future of public education lies in public school’s advertising their product, and preventing further market share erosion. While it is uncomfortable and perhaps even inappropriate to cast minority children into the position of being a commodity market share, the large scale Charter Management Organizations like Rocketship leave little choice. If the public would like to see public education survive for the next 20 years, we have no choice but enter into the competitive education market.