Bargain Rate Schools

This Rocketship School Model video segment could be a featured PBS parody on FunnyOrDie.com -- but they would not be able to use the disclaimer that 'no actual children were harmed in the making of the video.'

PBS' report begins by detailing the singing and dancing of Rocketship's daily "Launch." But mid-way through take-off, the narrator nonchalantly mentions that "75% of the instructors come from Teach for America. About half have less than two years of classroom experience."

One bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Rocketshipper offers that she's confused as to what on earth she would need a union for . . .

Quick-cut to Rocketship's budget shrinking, computer Learning Lab with its staff of "Individualized Learning Specialists" -- hourly wage workers who lack even Teach for America level credentials. Not only are these teachers non-unionized, they're non-licensed! What a bargain.

Rocketshippers also boast of big budget gains by completely eliminating art and music -- which is odd, since that's why they claimed their daily "Launch" was such a valuable part of the mission.

So the school system has saved money by ditching teachers, then doing away with classes. Of course, the final solution from this -- and every charter school -- is to start getting rid of certain students.

Not mentioned in PBS' video valentine . . .

Mr. Danner's amazing test score results are PR and spin. First of all, the chain operates ONLY elementary schools. Secondly, of Rocketship's seven schools -- two have not reported state test results. Standardized test scores for its oldest schools dipped last year. (What a shocking surprise!)

Despite most experienced educator's deep concerns about an over-reliance on standardized testing, Danner has doubled-down on it. Danner's chain focuses exclusively on reading and math tests. His little Rocketeers take eight prep tests during the nine months. Every month or so, his schools close for a day while staff "analyze" test results.

Danner's charter chain enrolls fewer children with learning disabilities than public schools do -- roughly 6 percent of Rocketship students are classified as having learning disabilities, which is about half the rate found in the surrounding traditional schools. Danner was the founding director of (you guessed it) KIPP Academy Nashville. Interestingly, his old TFA pals at KIPP do not endorse the idea of replacing two hours of instruction with two hours of "computer lab."

Rocketship requires parents to pledge to read to their child every night, check homework daily, attend monthly meetings, and volunteer 30 hours each year. Families who do not comply are kicked out. (Try replicating that!) Rocketship parents are then fed into a political action committee. The PAC, nobly called Parents for Great Schools, acts as the "grass roots" that Rocketship's management uses to get their favorite politicians elected.


From a March 18, 2012 DailyKOS article:

As for Teach for America, GiveWell.org does not give them their highest rating as a charity, noting among other things that for the corps members who started teaching in 2009 TFA spent $38,046 for each one (perhaps an inflation, dividing total expenditures by entering corps members).  GiveWell says of TFA "we do not have a concrete sense of how it would use additional donations." Various financial filings to the IRS and to New York State show an operating budget in excess of $170 million a year for a teacher corps of around 10,000. Recent filings have shown financial assets of over $300 million.

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