John Danner and Preston Smith whipped up the idea for Rocketship Education in 2006. They foresaw a public school that would populate several low-income metropolitan areas across the state of California.
They also wanted to pioneer personalized education, or times throughout the school day when students would work on their own using tablets and laptops to quell specific problems they were having with the material.
Today, RSED has just short of 20 active locations, as far north as Wisconsin, all the way out to Washington DC, and twelve throughout the organization’s birth state of California.
Preston Smith started his lengthy career by going to the University of North Carolina to earn a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies. Having grown up in California, where nearly a majority of the population is Hispanic, he felt being able to better relate to Hispanic and Latino people – those that speak Spanish and those that hail from Latin American countries, respectively – would be a solid first step in preparing himself to teach underprivileged communities in the state.
Mr. Smith found honoring parental power was instrumental in seeing success and student retention rates. Currently, parents are part of interviews with new applicants, rather than the traditional model of only allowing salaried members of the administration to be involved.
Parents are also recommended to form initiatives with fellow concerned parents and educators in founding schools that students can attend after graduating the fifth grade at Rocketship Education. Further, as they are also urged to keep their students out of schools whose curriculum, administration, and environment aren’t acceptable.
Smith was even able to found his own elementary school, alongside the help of tens of educators, parents, and community members throughout the San Diego area – LUCHA Elementary School, where has was Principal for three years, prior to becoming a founder of Rocketship Education.
He’s found that it is important to match the backgrounds of teachers with that of the average student in the classroom they’re slated to teach. Also, kids are urged to be proud of attending public schools, a sentiment not often shared within education.