Rocketship makes a quick transition to online school days, with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing
By: Isral DeBruin
As schools shift to serve students remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, some are emerging as standouts. These schools aren’t stopping at basic worksheet packets and instead are offering their students coordinated, school-wide, comprehensive distance learning. City Forward Collective is highlighting these schools to spread best practices and encourage others to keep students moving forward.
Online learning has always been an important part of normal school days at Rocketship Public Schools. So it’s no surprise that Rocketship students made a full transition to virtual school days on March 18, just one day after school buildings closed by order of Gov. Tony Evers.
Virtual school days begin each morning with Rocketship’s signature daily morning “Launch” assemblies, a ritual that brings the school community together to sing, dance, and motivate students for the day ahead. In addition, the network is using Facebook Live for daily social-emotional learning lessons, community lunch hours, and weekly parent community meanings.
Teachers provide daily instruction through recorded video lessons on Google Classroom, guiding students through core content in Humanities and STEM subjects. Students also access the same online learning programs they’ve become accustomed to using in the classroom.
Days end with “Landing,” a second daily community-wide gathering that prompts students to reflect on the day, simulating school dismissal. Beginning and ending the day together maintains a normal school-day structure for students and fosters the richness of informal interactions that occur naturally during a regular school day.
Following the first few weeks of distance learning, the Rocketship team is already working to further hone its model. One such change: starting April 15, teachers will be offering students live video instruction.
To enable this robust approach to distance learning, Rocketship has worked to ensure every student has access to technology and internet access to continue their studies. The schools are also serving grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for all students, as well as any other school-age child.
While Rocketship aims to keep kids on track academically during COVID-19, the school network has also prioritized maintaining the social and emotional wellbeing of its students. This starts with ensuring predictable routines and supportive social connections are built into the fabric of its distance learning program. Teachers do one-on-one check-ins with students, and a Care Corps at each campus contacts every family every day to ensure parents have the resources they need. School staff are also taking opportunities to go above and beyond in unexpected ways that show students their teachers are still here, and still care for them. For example, teachers recently surprised students with Easter Baskets over the holiday weekend.
Rocketship is a national network of nonprofit public charter schools, with two locations in Milwaukee: Rocketship Southside Community Prep and Rocketship Transformation Prep. A national leader in online learning, Rocketship is sharing its resources with the public, helping students, parents, teachers, and school leaders make a faster transition to high-quality distance learning.
FACTS & FIGURES
Rocketship Public Schools operates two public charter schools authorized by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Rocketship Southside Community Prep
- Grades: K4–5
- Enrollment: 523 students
- Student demographics: 92.2% Latin@; 3.6% White; 2.7% Black; 0.2% Asian
- Students from economically disadvantaged households: 73.4%
- Students with special needs: 17%
- Students with limited English proficiency: 58.3%
- State rating: Exceeds Expectations
Rocketship Transformation Prep
- Grades: K4–4
- Enrollment: 146 students
- Student demographics: 88.4% Black; 5.5% Latin@; 2.7% Two or More Races; 2.1% White; 1.4% Asian
- Students from economically disadvantaged households: 67.1%
- Students with special needs: 11%
- Students with limited English proficiency: 0%
- State rating: Alternate Rating — Needs Improvement
2019–20 data from https://wisedash.dpi.wi.gov/, with corrections provided by Rocketship Public Schools
Isral DeBruin is director of strategy and communication at City Forward Collective. He is a former elementary school teacher and award-winning education reporter.