Daily Video

January 3, 2013

Can Good Schools Be Mass Produced?

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Can successful schools be replicated on a mass scale? While the U.S. has many great schools that deliver a first-class education, there are many other schools that are failing. So far, educators have not determined how to take lessons learned at successful school and apply them broadly across many schools. However, John Danner of Rocketship Education is giving it a shot.

His innovative elementary charter school model was designed from the ground up to be mass-produced, and focuses on students in low-income areas. Charter schools are different from traditional public schools because although they operate with public funds, they are managed privately, and have less rules to follow.

Danner says this allows the school to innovate faster and respond to what’s working in the classroom.

“Our public education system’s not really set up for change,” he said.

Every school day at a Rocketship school starts off with an event called “launch”, which gets teachers, students and parents together to kick off the morning with shared activities. It iss meant to bring the community together around the students to encourage learning.

“It’s just amazing how the community comes together and just cheering for our school, like if we were cheering for our favorite football team,” said parent Veronica Barbosa.

Rocketship is able to offer education at a lower price in part because of the “learning lab”, a room full of computers where students go for an hour every day for personalized digital instruction.

This allows the school to hire about six fewer teachers and save up to a half-million dollars a year, money that is put back into paying teachers and training staff for future Rocketship schools.

However, the lower costs do have drawbacks. Rocketship schools, for example, do not offer art or music classes and the learning labs are not as effective as they should be.

“Next year, we’re — we’re thinking of bringing the computers back to the classrooms and the kids back to the classrooms,” said Andrew Elliott-Chandler, principle of Rocketship Si Se Puede Elementary. “Innovation, I think, is one of the most exciting reasons to be at Rocketship. It’s exhausting, but it’s also exhilarating. Things change dramatically every year.”


“I have someone in my classroom almost every single day, sometimes every other day, giving me feedback and just holding me accountable to high-quality instruction,” Judy Lavi, teacher, Rocketship Mosaic Elementary.

Warm up questions

1. What makes a school successful or unsuccessful?

2. What is a charter school? How is a charter school different from a traditional public school?

3. What are some obstacles that you think keep students from being successful?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most interesting about this video?

2. Why does Rocketship think it is important to include parents in the daily school functions?

3. Do you think that a winning school model can be replicated with success over and over again? Why or why not?

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