Selected readings on US charter schools
While the majority of the state’s students have at least two more weeks of summer vacation, a new elementary charter school on the south side opened its doors for the first time this week, bringing a new song and dance to the Milwaukee education scene.
Rocketship Southside Community Prep elementary school, located at 3003 W. Cleveland Ave., began school for about 300 children Monday, an enrollment right around the target the group set for themselves earlier this summer.
Each day at 7:55 a.m., the school’s students, families and staff gather for what the group calls its daily “launch,” a meeting where a daily focus is discussed and a dance and singalong is performed by the students.
“It’s meant to be part informative, part energizing,” said Kristoffer Haines, the executive vice president of the group that brought the school to Milwaukee. “They learned it yesterday, and will get better every day.”
Haines is part of the Milwaukee branch of Rocketship Education, a nonprofit elementary charter-school network based in San Jose, Calif. that chose Milwaukee as its first national expansion site last year. The group was granted a special charter by the City of Milwaukee in 2011, which could allow the organization to open up to eight schools serving 4,000 children in the city if successful in the future.
This week at Southside Community Prep, classes that blend traditional instruction with technological innovation are underway after more than a year of preparation and recruiting.
Throughout this summer, however, the group has felt some pushback from some local education leaders. Milwaukee School Board member Tatiana Joseph, who represents the area where the new school is located, has questioned the need for the new school as well as some its practices, including hiring fewer teachers in favor of lower-cost aides who run learning labs. In those, students often work independently or on adaptive software.
Vanessa Solis, the regional manager for Rocketship’s community development, said the weeks leading up to the school’s kickoff have gone very smoothly. She said the group was able to meet its enrollment goal because of continued community outreach, including door-to-door marketing and opening the school to the public for tours.
Initially, Rocketship was wooed to Wisconsin by Schools that Can Milwaukee, a nonprofit aiming to grow the number of local high-performing schools serving low-income students of color.
The organization got political and business leaders on board; the latter helped raise $2.5 million in local private start-up funds, including money from the charter-school-friendly Bradley Foundation and other businesses tapped by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area Chamber of Commerce and its president, Tim Sheehy.
Nationwide, Rocketship’s short-term plans include growing from serving 3,800 students in California to 25,000 students in Wisconsin and five other states by 2018.
Source: Journal-Sentinel – by Patrick Simonaitis