Rocketship’s 5th Franklin McKinley school to be heard on appeal Wednesday at County

Rocketship petitioned the downtown San Jose Franklin-McKinley school district for yet another charter school.  The corporation already has 4 charters in or on the border of Franklin-McKinley school district, a progressive district swamped with charters.  On April 14, Franklin-McKinley’s board voted to deny Rocketship on a vote of 4-1.  The board and staff found a number of problems with Rocketship’s charter petition.  Rocketship has appealed Franklin-McKinley’s decision to the Santa Clara County Board of Education (SCCOE).  Superintendent Jon Gundry’s staff has recommended approving the Rocketship school as long as a series of conditions are met in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The county staff ignored a number of issues raised by the Franklin-McKinley staff report.  Most importantly, the Franklin-McKinley staff found that Rocketship has a unsound educational model as a result of using uncredentialed teachers in their schools.  These uncredentialed aids, referred to “Individual Learning Specialists” (ILS), are not required to have any formal teaching education and receive a short training before starting their instructional duties at Rocketship.  Rocketship has shown falling test scores in recent years, a fact which Franklin-McKinley attributed to the ILS instructor’s lack of training.  The County staff ignored this point in their analysis.

Franklin-McKinley school board denies Rocketship for “unsound education” as a result of using uncredentialed teachers.

The following analysis comes form the Franklin-McKinley’s staff analysis on Rocketship.  Oddly, the Santa

Rocketship Education has seen declines in its pupil outcomes, both overall, and by numerically significant subgroup (LatinoHispanic), in its other charter schools in Santa Clara County. The following chart shows the years in which Rocketship schools saw a decline in its API growth


The District has found that these declines in pupil outcomes can be traced to unsound elements in Rocketship Educations educational program. Specifically, the Board finds as follows:  Rocketship Charter Schools Rely Too Heavily on Uncredentialed Instructional Staff.  Rocketship assigns an Individualized Learning Specialist” (ILS) to supervise instruction at the Learning Lab, overseen by the Assistant Principals. (Petition, p. 64.) This is not the only element of Rocketships educational program in which instruction is provided by noncredentialed individuals. Under Rocketships Response to Intervention approach, Tier 2 intervention is provided by the ILSs. (Petition, p. 56.) Moreover, an uncredentialed assistant teacher” would also provide instruction in Rocketships Transitional Kindergarten classes.” (Petition, p. 47.)

SCCOE Staff MOU requirements

The SCCOE set forth several requirements that must be met in an MOU if the Rocketship school is approved.  Most interesting is the requirement for the Charter Management Organization (CMO) fees paid to Rocketship’s national headquarters in Redwood City.  Rocketship has faced criticism for excessively high management fees that flow to the corporate headquarters, away from local student communities and can in turn be used to fund national growth.  The staff stated that those fees, that come from California tax payers, must “be held in a separate account and used solely to support Bay Area Rocketship schools. All support services provided by RNS will be clearly identified, delineated and accompanied by associated charges.”  It is most interesting to note that the separate bank account would apply to “Bay Area” schools.  In other words, monies generated by Franklin-McKinley schools could be used to help open new schools in other Bay Area counties.  Rocketship is opening new schools in San Mateo County, and is hoping to open other schools in Contra Costa County.  The separate bank account would, however, prevent Rocketship from using California state public funding to fund out of state growth.