Dozens of elementary students line up in rows on a black top outside their school in San Jose, California.
Class is about to start. But first their principal leads them in their morning cheer.
“Alright, Rocketeers, let’s hear it loud and proud. Let’s start in three, two, one: ‘I am a Rocketship Rocketeer, at home, at school and in my community.’”
This is lift-off at Rocketship Mosaic Elementary.
It’s one of seven Rocketship charter schools in the Bay Area. It’s one of the fastest growing charter systems in the country.
Though, the school’s founder Preston Smith frames the expansion differently.
“We’re being pursued nationally to expand.”
They’re attractive because their schools have posted some of the best results for low-income kids in the entire state of California.
They’ve done that by using technology to personalize learning. But their strategy is also pretty barebones. Teachers really focus on the basics of reading writing and math.
And Rocketship only operates elementary schools. Smith figures it’s the fastest way to improve education.
“It’s where it all starts. It’s where it all begins. It’s where we think we can have the greatest opportunity to eliminate the achievement gap and start early and really, you know, nip it in the bud early.”
The new charter school law in Texas could align the stars for Rocketship to move here.
First the law —proposed by state Sen. Dan Patrick from Houston — lifts the cap on the total number of charter school operators.
Second, it spells out the process for high performing charters from outside Texas to apply. Before, it was up to the commissioner to set those details.
Not everyone’s a fan of the expansion. Rita Haecker is the president of the Texas State Teachers Association. She thinks the law was the worst thing from the entire legislative session.
“Our concern with that is that our charters in our state currently do not have to follow the same accountability system or standards as our Texas public schools.”
Still, thousands of students in Houston and Texas want to attend charter schools, but can’t get in. David Dunn with the Texas Charter Schools Association says the waiting list shows a need for groups like Rocketship.
“I’m hopeful that with the expanded cap that we’ll be able to grow and meet that deman; although, certainly to date, the demand for seats in charter schools has far exceeded our capability to meet that demand.”
If their application is approved, Rocketship could open its first school in Texas in 2014.