Rocketship MythBusters

Fact Checking Rocketship’s Myths…

Rocketship has created a new “Get The Facts” website, ostensibly to counter arguments made on this website. They’ve offered us a set of facts and myths in a PDF on that site. We were surprised to find that almost all of their so called “Myths” were in fact, quite true.

While we’re glad to spark a public conversation, we wish that Rocketship would endevor to be more transparent. But until then, the StopRocketShip.com staff will be busy MythBusting!

Rocktetship is actually a private corporation, with a 501C3 and an unelected board of directors. Rocketship requires 30 volunteers hours a year, so “Any” student can attend, but only as long as you define “Any” as a student who’s parents are available to volunteer. Public schools, as a side note, really do take “Any” student regardless of parental volunteer abilities or special education status. Rocketship may be free and government funded, but as a private corporation, they are certainly quite different from our local public schools.

The first half is in fact a myth — Rocketship is certainly targeting poor students of color, but to call the second half a myth is laughable. John Danner, sold Dot-Com boom internet advertising firm NetGravity to DoubleClick in 1999 for $530 million, and then went on to found Rocketship. Rocketship funders are like a who’s-who of the ultra rich silicon valley-ites: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Skype CFO Jonathan Chadwick, Benchmark Capital general partner Bill Gurley and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have all funded Rocketship, according to venture beat. In fact, multi-billionaire Mr, Hastings ate lunch with Mayor Chuck Reed to push for more Rocketship schools.

This is the only “Myth” that StopRocketship.com is greenlighting!! Rocketship’s test scores used to be high, but the precipitous drops have left “Rocketship’s high test scores” as nothing but an old urban legend. We completely agree with this — it is certainly a myth that Rocketship has high test scores! In fact, even Rocketship admits in it’s board reports that it’s ELA scores are about at the state average for low income students.

We are flabbergasted that Rocketship would call this a myth. Parents in the Washington neighborhood complain often about the relentless recruiting. Rocketship parents are compensated with volunteer hours for every family they sign up. Young TFA teachers from prestigious universities spread rumors that the public schools are a failure. These rumors work to tear down community institutions that we have been investing in for decades.

Here are some comments from Washington Parents who complain of the constant recruiting. You can read more on our stories page.

•We are currently having tremendous problems like traffic, as well as promoting and recruiting children around Galarza and Washington schools. We want to avoid serious conflicts for the entire neighborhood. We want respect for the parents and children of these schools by the personnel of Rocketship.
Sincerely, C.V.
•I feel very sad that many of the parents from Rocketship charter schools verbally abuse and harass the parents from Washington Elementary School, saying that Washington students are academically below Rocketship students when I believe this is not true. The parents from Washington do not harass the parents of Rocketship.
Sincerely, G.L.
•In my opinion we all deserve respect. I do not appreciate that there are people at Rocketship who accused the principal here at Washington of threatening me to stay at this school. I am not, and do not feel threatened by anyone to continue to have my children well-educated here. Each person should be able to have their children wherever they feel is best.
Sincerely B.P.
•One thing that bothers me is the fact that some Rocketship parents say, non true things about our school. For example, they accuse Washington of being a low academic performing school, and that parents and teachers are irresponsible.
Sincerely M.M.

Again, it’s amazing that Rocketship would purport this as a fact. The fact is that we’re building more out to more than 3,000 elementary school seats in a community that only has about 800 kids, according to 2010 census data. They cite 2,500 children on the waiting list, a number that cannot be publicly confirmed. We’ve carefully documented Rocketship’s inconsistent statements regarding their waitlist. We’ve also documented inconsistent claims related to recruiting, for example Rocketship has often claimed to be in the top 5% of California schools, a claim which is not consistent with the facts. While their claim to 2,500 students on the wait list is impressive, we wonder how much of that wait list was built on claims that cannot be substantiated.

Again, this myth is very true. Rocketship is an English only school, unlike the neighborhood school, Washington Elementary which is a bilingual program. It’s interesting to note that a Rocketship leader wrote that his son attended a dual immersion school so he could learn Spanish before enrolling in Rocketship.

This myth sounds as if StopRocketShip.com made up the move to generate $200k in revenue by increasing the student-teacher ratio to 50:1. We wouldn’t have ever considered that a possibility! Only Rocketship would dream up something like that! We were shocked to find that plan in their board materials. We’re just publishing what their board is planning to do!
From: Page 14 of http://www.rsed.org/about/documents/ExhE-BusinessCommittee2013-April30Final.pdf
RocketshipBudget2013English

No has ever claimed that ALL of Rocketship teachers are TFA. But even Rocketship admits is a large number. They also claim that they are all credentialed. But they leave out a little detail — many are on emergency temporary credentials. Note that in this document they claim 96% of their teachers are credentialed, whereas their SARC claims that 25-31% of staff are uncredentialed.

Here is Rocketship Founder John Danner, who states “We are extremely Teach for America Dependent. Unapologetically, 75% of our teacher are Teach for America.”

Below you will find the Rocketship 1/22/2013 newsletter from Mateo Sheedy offering 5 hours of volunteering time and homework passes for showing up at the SCCOE meeting. Note that almost 100 Mateo Sheedy parents signed the petition requesting a middle school at Tamien instead of an elementary school.

Also you will find the more recent email sent to Alma parents promising 10 volunteer hours. The facts speak for themselves!!

Volunteer Hours 1-22-13
Click to view the full flyer
From: “Erika Contreras” <mail@notify.onecallnow.com>
Date: October 21, 2013 at 7:05:58 PM PDT
Subject: City Hall meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 22nd

Notification from: Rocketship Alma Academy

Hello parents. This is Rocketship Alma calling to remind you about tomorrow’s meeting at City Hall. We will be meeting at Rocket ship Alma at 5p.m. where food will be provided. If you wish, you can drive there on your own. The address 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose CA 95113 (on the 2nd floor of the Rotunda). Meeting will start promptly at 7 p.m. We are also encouraging families to speak to the council. If you are interested, please call Adan at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Families, you will receive 10 parent hours for attending. Hope to see you all there.

Another Fact! Read the article in the Mercury News, PAC money floods local school board races.

In fact, we have learned that Rocketship founder John Danner founded one of those massive PACs himself. Hear is Danner describing that PAC:

 

 

Students spend 80 minutes a day or more on computers. Rocketship has stated that they hope to increase this number once they get better software (which would allow them to have even fewer teachers, and generate even more profits).

Check out this email from lobbyist Erik Schoennauer, obtained by public records request. The City scheduled the first Rocketship Tamien hearing for the evening of Jan 8th, 2013 (the first day of school for SJUSD). When the notice went out, there were frantic emails from both Schoennauer and Garcia-Kohl demanding a 1:30pm daytime meeting. Of course, it’s almost impossible for the working parents of the community to attend a daytime meeting. Why would they demand that? We can only presume they were worried about large crowds coming to voice their dissent (which is exactly what did occur). This is a great example of how Schoennauer and Garcia-Kohl (the wife of Sam Liccardo) may have used their influence to suppress community feedback.

From: es@alumni.stanford.edu [mailto:es@alumni.stanford.edu] On Behalf Of Erik Schoennauer
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 9:54 AM
To: Prevetti, Laurel
Cc: Jessica Garcia-Kohl; Horwedel, Joseph; Weerakoon, Ru; Laura Kozel; Cano, Matt; Crabtree, Andrew; Keyon, David
Subject: ERROR IN YOUR NOTICE: Rocketship Tamien – Planning Commission Report

Hi, Laurel. You have an ERROR in your notice. You list the Jan 8th Council Hearing at 7:00pm, instead of the correct 1:30pm afternoon session.

This needs to be corrected and re-mailed ASAP. OR, am I missing something here.
We want/need the meet the afternoon of January 8th.
Please let us know.
Thanks,
ERIK

Yet another fact, students from anywhere in Santa Clara County could attend the Tamien school. The county wide charter works to break up local school communities, by encouraging school commuting. We know folks who drive in from all of Santa Clara to attend our Rocketship schools. We believe our publicly owned land should be used for the benefit of our direct community, instead of being used to benefit Rocketship’s bottom line by educating students from all over the region.