Rocketship Grounded

Zack wrote earlier about Rocketship Tennessee’s appeal of the decision by the MNPS School Board to deny an amended application to open a new charter school. The appeal goes to the State Board of Education, which has the power to overturn the local decision and authorize the school.

Rocketship says their application should be approved due to a technical defect — the Board met one day later than the 30 day limit to vote on an appeal. Note, Rocketship is not asserting that it has responded to the concerns raised when the initial application was denied, but instead is saying that because of a technicality, it should get to open new schools. To be clear, the amendment does cite self-administered test scores, but the MNPS team assigned to review charter applications found those scores unconvincing.

The MNPS Board voted 8-1 to deny Rocketship’s application on appeal. That’s not a vote down the supposedly predictable pro- and anti-charter lines. That’s a vote that says a solid majority of the board agreed with the charter evaluation team that a denial was appropriate.

Interestingly, Rocketship was also denied a charter expansion last year by MNPS. They appealed to the State Board. The State Board, on an 8-1 vote, denied that application on the same day they approved an appeal by KIPP.

Now, Rocketship is saying it doesn’t matter if they’ve improved their application, addressed the concerns of MNPS, or provided the necessary information to justify a new school — they should just get to do it because of a technical oversight.

MNPS already has two Rocketship schools — the board is clearly not averse to launching Rocketships.

So, why the denial now?

Here’s what the review team had to say:

The review team did not find compelling evidence that Rocketship had sufficiently analyzed their performance data or developed a plan to ensure stronger student outcomes.

In fact, Rocketship’s appeal to the State Board was rejected last year in part because of low performance:

“They did have a level 5 TVAAS composite, which is the highest score overall you can get in growth,” Heyburn said. “But their achievement scores are really low, some of the lowest in their cluster and in the district.”

The MNPS review team addressed this as well:

In summary, with no additional state accountability data to consider, and no compelling evidence presented that provides confidence in the review team, converting an existing low-performing school before Rocketship has demonstrated academic success on state accountability measures would not be in the best interests of the students, the district, or the community.

The MNPS review team did note Rocketship’s reference to the use of the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment to bolster claims of academic success in the absence of current state data. However, several problems arise from this claim. First, there is no way to compare the MAP data to other schools in MNPS or across the state. Second, there is no way for MNPS to know if proper testing protocol was followed in administration of the MAP. Finally, the state charter application requires relevant data from state assessments. The MAP does not meet that standard.

Let’s review. Rocketship was denied expansion by MNPS and the State Board of Education last year. Rocketship applied again. MNPS denied them. Rocketship appealed. MNPS denied the amended application by an 8-1 vote. Rocketship is now appealing based on a technicality instead of working with MNPS to find a satisfactory way to address concerns.

If Rocketship should be complaining to anyone, it’s Candice McQueen and the Department of Education for the botched TNReady rollout. Perhaps with test data from this year, we’d know enough to know whether an expansion of Rocketship is justified.

Simply asserting that we need another Rocketship when we’re not yet sure it can fly seems an irresponsible course.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport




4 thoughts on “Rocketship Grounded

  1. Reed Hastings is the CEO and founder of NetFlix. He is also a HUGE donor and supporter for Rocketship (he sees the huge profits to be made). He also gave a recent speech in which he said elected school boards are the problem with education and in 20 years there will be no more elected school boards. What more do people need to know about Charters before they understand they should be STOPPED DEAD right now. Memphis was right to refuse Rocketship but I am sure the bought and paid for bureaucrats in Nashville will reverse the decision of the Memphis school district. The agenda of Charters is NOT to improve education but to improve the bank accounts of those involved. It is NOT a choice it is an alternative. When was the last time you saw a public school go out of business leaving hundreds of students stranded. This happens on a daily basis all over the country with Charters. Rocketship is also supported by the usual suspects. Gates, Broad and Walton. When you no longer have elected representation you will also have no voice. Just talk to the parents in New Orleans. I have been told by several parents they not only have no choice they have no voice and they are stuck. Charter schools eventually will become training centers because it is no longer about education it is all about training for a job. Parents only have themselves to blame for their complacency when it comes to education. The day will come when you will be very sorry you didn’t put an end to Charters when you could. The answer to our issues is not to be found in Charters. Charters is part of the problem not the solution. If there are any good charters around they will be swallowed up by the big boys, they will not last.

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