Frequently Asked Questions

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Enrolling In Rocketship

Information On Our Rocketship Schools

Information On Our Students

Information On Rocketship’s Curriculum And Teaching Strategies

Information About Online Learning

Our Rocketship Teachers And School Leaders

Answers: Enrolling In Rocketship

 Q: Are Rocketship schools free?
A: Yes, Rocketship schools are free public schools serving kindergarten through fifth grade.  Some schools now provide pre-kindergarten classes.

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 Q: Do students have to apply to Rocketship?
A: Rocketship schools are open enrollment, which means that we accept any and all students. Filling out an application only takes a few minutes and will ensure that your child is immediately eligible to participate in our lottery and become a Rocketeer. Please visit a Rocketship school near you to complete a form. For more information on our lottery process, visit our enrollment page.

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Answers: Information On Our Rocketship Schools 

 Q: Is Rocketship Education private,  for-profit company?
A: No, Rocketship Education is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which operates public elementary charter schools in neighborhoods where access to excellent schools is limited. We are a national school system that manages and supports our schools, allowing the school leaders and teachers to focus on providing intensive, high-quality education to our Rocketeers.

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 Q: Are Rocketship schools safe?
A: We strive to create safe, nurturing, joyful learning environments for children.  All visitors and volunteers are required to sign in with the front office and be escorted by a Rocketship staff member.

Since parents have access to teachers throughout the day and even after hours, parents trust our staff. Parents are notified immediately of any incidents and parents are encouraged to participate in meetings to resolve any issues. All teachers are trained on lockdown protocols and natural disaster drills, as well as certified in CPR and First Aid for medical response. In each room, there are emergency buckets with supplies to ensure that all students are safe.

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 Q: Is Rocketship strict?
A: We believe consistency and high expectations for all students is the foundation of building a strong college bound culture for our Rocketeers. To that end, we strive to create joyful learning environments where Rocketeers are pushed to learn as much as possible, and held accountable for acting in a manner reflective of our core values (respect, responsibility, empathy, and persistence).

Our teachers employ a variety of strategies from the Lemov Taxonomy to ensure their classrooms are engaging spaces focused on learning, where behavior management can be kept to the minimum and student learning is always the primary focus.  While we invest heavily in student achievement, we also place enormous emphasis on school culture to ensure that our Rocketeers demonstrate core values at home, at school, and in their community.

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 Q: Why does Rocketship have an extended day?
A: Rocketship’s extended day allows us to deliver flexible, personalized instruction to meet all students’ needs.  Our school day runs from approximately 8am-4pm. Students spend the majority of their day with teachers building critical thinking skills.  This is supplemented with small-group tutoring, adaptive online learning programs, and enrichment time (physical education, art, music).   We believe extra time time for personalized learning ensures each students' success through elementary school and beyond.

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 Q: How much homework do students receive?
A: Rocketeers can expect to have nightly homework to reinforce skills taught in class.  Building these college-ready habits early prepares Rocketeers for success throughout their academic careers. Although the homework may seem overwhelming at first, our team works to meet families where they are.  Teachers and staff work with parents to develop techniques to support their child in completing their homework.  Rocketship schools also offer after school programs which provide homework support and welcome the participation of parents.

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 Q: Does Rocketship require parents to do volunteer hours?
A: All Rocketeer parents sign a commitment-to-excellence pledge when they join the Rocketship community, which includes contributing 30 hours of community service per year. While no family is ever disciplined for not completing their commitment, we strongly encourage and recognize families taking an active role in our school community. Last year, over 90 percent of our parents completed 30 hours or more. Because many parents work multiple jobs and have limited free time, Rocketship schools offer a variety of opportunities for families to get involved in the evenings, on weekends, and even in their own homes . Volunteer hours also include weekend field trips, monthly evening community meetings, home visits, parent conferences, and serving on parent committees.

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 Q: Is each Rocketship school the same?
A: No. As a national school system, Rocketship strives to ensure that the quality of education at each school meets high standards in achievement and culture. However, each Rocketship school is located in a unique neighborhood and reflects the culture and values of that community. Founding families also name their school so that it reflects their hopes for their children.

In addition, each Rocketship school has four core values: Respect, Responsibility, Persistence, and Empathy, and founding families choose a special fifth core value. For example, Rocketship SÍ Se Puede’s fifth core value is “healthy choices,” and Rocketship Mosaic’s is “global citizenship.” Rocketship schools are community schools and we believe it takes a village to raise a child.  Family members and community leaders visit our schools regularly, whether to watch Exhibition Nights, participate in campus wide celebrations, or volunteer for various activities.

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 Q: What is the Rocketship Model?
A: Rocketship Education is a network of public K through 5 charter schools serving primarily low-income students in neighborhoods where access to excellent schools is limited.  Using a blend of traditional instruction, adaptive technology and targeted tutoring, Rocketship strives to meet the unique needs of each and every student. But we believe that truly transformative schools do more than educate students; they empower teachers, engage parents and inspire communities. Together, we can eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime.

Rocketship is based in San Jose, but we realize the achievement gap stretches across the nation. We're opening new schools every year to help reach the millions of students striving in underperforming schools every day.

 The key to our success is the following three core pillars:

  1. Excellent teachers and leaders create transformational schools.  Rocketship invests deeply in training and development to ensure teachers and leaders have a profound impact on students and communities.
  2. Every child has a unique set of needs. Rocketship meets these needs by customizing each child’s schedule with a combination of traditional instruction, technology and tutoring.
  3. Engaged parents are essential in eliminating the achievement gap.  Rocketship develops parent leaders in our schools and communities to become powerful advocates for their children.

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 Q: There have been low-performing charters in my community before, so how do I know Rocketship is different?
A: Look at our results! All charter schools are different, each with its own mission. Rocketship's mission is to eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetimes.  At Rocketship, high academic benchmarks at each school ensure that our Rocketeers are performing above state standards. Innovation is in our DNA and our model continues to evolve.  We seek out and create best practices to provide our Rocketeers with access to the best education possible.

Instead of focusing on the district vs. charter debate, Rocketship is creating a new kind of school system that we believe can serve as a model for improving the education of students and the profession of teaching.  In 2010, Rocketship Education received the John McNulty Prize for the impact the Rocketship Model is making in addressing the foremost social, economic and political challenges of our time.  Rocketship shares its model regularly with many educators (district and charter) so that we can truly eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime.

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 Q: Who authorizes Rocketship charters?
A: There are a variety of entities that authorize Rocketship charters. In California, we have charters with San Jose Unified and Franklin McKinley School District and with Santa Clara County Board of Education. In other states, we have been authorized by districts, counties, the state, and independent state-wide entities.  We employ a unique approach to authorization in each region with a focus on a structure that allows us to operate high-quality schools.

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 Q: Is Rocketship looking to compete with local districts?
A: No. At Rocketship, we are focused on ensuring that every child is able to attend a high performing elementary school, especially in high-need communities. We are eager to partner with local districts in eliminating the achievement gap. This is difficult for many local school districts across the country in the current economic and political landscape, but we remain committed to building these local partnerships so that all students can attend a great school and no longer find themselves subject to the “destiny of demographics.” In order to eliminate the achievement gap, we need to work together.

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Answers: Information On Our Students

 Q: Does Rocketship "cream the crop" (i.e., accept only high-performing students or benefit from self-selection)?
A: No, Rocketship is a public school system and proud to accept and serve all students who apply, including students with special needs. Because our mission is to eliminate the achievement gap, we believe there should be no reason for any child to miss the opportunity to receive a high-quality free public education. Rocketship schools are intentionally built in communities where access to high-quality schools is limited.  We don't select students, enrollment is only subject to capacity.  When schools reach full capacity, a public, random lottery is held to determine placement.

In order to reach the highest-need students, Rocketship’s staff delivers presentations to local community groups, preschools, churches, and other civic organizations. In addition, Rocketship parent ambassadors go door-to-door in neighborhoods to get the word out to families who are least likely to hear about Rocketship. 

Finally, Rocketship has never expelled a student—we are committed to serving every single Rocketeer.

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 Q: What questions are asked on the student lottery application?
A: The initial stages of the enrollment process only require submission of a student lottery application. This form collects basic information (e.g., name, date of birth, grade, parent/guardian name, and contact information) to enter the student into the lottery and help us to contact the student/family after the lotteries. This sheet does NOT include any information regarding the previous academic performance of the child, any programs the child has participated in (i.e. SPED, GATE, etc.), or economic status which ensures that Rocketship is able to fully implement a ‘blind’ selection process.

If a school receives more applications than there are seats available, each school holds a random lottery. To learn more, visit our enrollment page.  Please visit the regional page to learn more about the enrollment process in your state.

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 Q: Does Rocketship serve only Latino students?
A: No. The Rocketship Model is not designed to serve only Latino students, rather it is designed to eliminate the achievement gap, which affects students of all races and ethnicities across the county. All Rocketship schools reflect the demographics of of the communities they serve.

We believe great teaching is great teaching and we support teachers to ensure they are effective in their classrooms regardless of the ethnicity of the students they serve.  Also, we value and understand the importance of cultural diversity and work to ensure that our staff and students appreciate similarities and differences.  Through outstanding, personalized learning and deep community involvement, Rocketship looks forward to serving students and families in cities and regions nationwide, regardless of race or ethnicity.

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 Q: Does Rocketship serve special education students?
A: Absolutely. Rocketship is committed to serving the needs of each and every Rocketeer. Rocketship believes that the least restrictive environment starts in the general education classroom for all Rocketeers, and supplemental aides and services are added to students’ educational plans according to their identified areas of need.

Rocketship implements a comprehensive pre-referral process, which includes the delivery of evidence-based interventions through a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework. Through the implementation of these research-based practices, along with Rocketship’s overall approach to individualized learning, we are able to remediate many non-severe learning differences through our general program. This results in a smaller number of students being classified as special education students because all students are receiving highly individualized instruction tailored to their unique set of needs. Approximately 5.5% of Rocketeers are currently receiving formal special education services. The following is a breakdown of the Special Education eligibilities that are represented within Rocketship Schools:

  • Specific Learning Disability: 38%
  • Speech Language Impairment: 36%
  • Autism: 13%
  • Other Health Impairment: 9%
  • Other: 4%

For students who are identified as having true learning or behavioral disabilities by our multi-disciplinary special education team, we provide a comprehensive range of services as outlined in students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

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 Q: What is the student retention at Rocketship?
A: We're working on collecting this data from 12-13 school year, but have generally seen very strong student retention over the years.

In addition, Rocketship has not expelled a student since our schools were founded in 2007. We work with our parents to continuously bring the culture of Rocketship home so students have consistent expectations at school and home.

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Answers: Information On Rocketship’s Curriculum And Teaching Strategies

 Q: Does Rocketship have a curriculum?
A: Rocketship believes that scope, sequence, and frequency of measurement against objectives are important. Suggested units and lessons are provided to teachers and guided reading is taught and expected, but teachers are free to deviate and adjust plans as long as they meet their student learning goals. This flexibility encourages our teachers to reach out to other teachers to learn best practices that have been effective in other classrooms.

Our national team works with Rocketship schools to support and encourage teachers to share engaging and effective units and lesson plans. Lead Teachers across the network also design our science and social studies curriculum.  Teachers focus on teaching an integrated curriculum that merges subjects so that students can more easily make connections between what they learn throughout the day. Our academic content meets Common Core State Standards, but there is no set curriculum that the teachers work through daily.

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 Q: Are there particular 'boxed' curricula that you use either as a base or a supplement?
A: We purchase Jolly Phonics and Words Their Way for English Language Arts and Singapore Math and enVision for math as curricular tools valuable for teachers as they plan their year. We are more stringent about implementation of our literacy and math intervention curricula, which are used during small-group tutoring sessions as part of our second tier of RtI: currently, this includes Phonics Boost, SIPPS (Systematic Instruction and Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words), Ready Common Core (literacy and math).

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 Q: Are there any particular frameworks that you use when writing your own curriculum?
A: We use Understanding by Design (UbD) as a framework for planning all units of instruction.

We teach phonics using the Jolly Phonics sequence in K and 1st as needed. Words Their Way has proved a valuable supplement for other grade levels. Our reading program is influenced by Debbie Miller Reading with Meaning and Stephanie Harvey/Anne Goudvis' Strategies That Work, Fountas and Pinnell's Framework for Guided Reading Instruction and Lucy Caulkins' Workshop Model.

In math, our teachers most frequently refer to “John A. Van de Walle's Elementary and Middle School Mathematics”, with additional resources being pulled from the work of Marilyn Burns' “About Teaching Mathematics” and Catherine Twomey Fosnot's “Young Mathematicians at Work” series.

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 Q: Why is Rocketship so effective with teaching English Language Learners?
A: Rocketship schools are about 70% English Language Learners and we have had strong results in literacy proficiency. The online learning programs we use differentiate lessons to meet students at the level where they are struggling in learning basic math and reading skills, allowing teachers to focus on developing the students at a high-order skill level. In the classroom, teachers have been trained in the Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) model for English Language Development (ELD) instruction. The combination of online learning programs' personalized instruction and the efforts of our amazing educators have ensured that all Rocketeers are effectively learning, no matter how far behind or ahead a student is in their classroom.

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 Q: Do Rocketship teachers teach all subjects?
A: Rocketship teachers specialize in either the math/science or humanities (literacy and social studies). We find that this focus allows teachers to become experts in teaching their specific subject matter and helps us to more quickly evaluate the effectiveness of their lessons. This also means each student interacts with two teachers (math/science and humanities) daily allowing the students access to more of our outstanding teachers on a daily basis.

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 Q: How often are Rocketeers assessed?
A: Rockethip is a data-driven organization and we use multiple methods to assess our students.  Our educators are then supported and developed to use this data to inform their practice.  Rocketeers are formally assessed across 4-5 data cycles per year and more frequent formative assessments.

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 Q: What assessment tools are you using?
A: At Rocketship, we use a variety of formative and summative assessments in both reading and math. All student data, reported centrally via SchoolZilla and is used at the school-wide and individual classroom level to plan for instruction, modify student paths in learning lab, assign students to supplemental intervention programs, and analyze teacher performance.

Literacy: All students are tested four times per year using the STEP (Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress). Based upon students' STEP levels, we also use supplemental assessments like the CORE Phonics Survey, Words Their Way Spelling Inventories, and Fry's list for high frequency words.  Rocketship also uses NWEA MAP and MAP for Primary Grades to measure student growth and assess student performance relative to national norms.

Math: All students are tested every eight weeks using Curriculum Associate's i-Ready benchmark assessments. We also use NWEA MAP and MAP for Primary Grades to measure student growth and assess student performance relative to national norms.

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 Q: Do Rocketeers take state tests?
A: Yes. Rocketeers take the same state tests that students do in district schools. Please click here to see our Rocketeers’ outstanding results from 2012-13.

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Answers: Information About Online Learning

 Q: What online programs does Rocketship use?
A: Rocketship uses the most adaptive and personalized programs available, and continues to push Silicon Valley vendors and others to create even more adaptive learning tools. This menu changes depending on which programs best fit into the Rocketship Model to improve student learning.

Math: All grades use i-Ready math, DreamBox, ST Math and Equatia.

Literacy: All grades use Curriculum Associates, Lexia and Accelerated Reader.

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 Q: How does Rocketship evaluate online programs?
A: Rocketship is continuously evaluating the effectiveness of all online programs to find the best in class programs that will best meet the needs of our students.  Different programs prove more effective for teaching different skills and Rocketship is continuously analyzing programs to determine which allow students master content most efficiently for each type of skill.

Programs we are interested in must have the following criteria:

1. Adaptive and containing comprehensive Common Core Standards coverage.
2. Assignable programs that teachers can sync with their lessons.
3. Integration with our data management platform and student information system to automatically create logins.
4. Engaging content that students enjoy.

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 Q: Is Rocketship affiliated with online learning program vendors?
A: No, Rocketship is not affiliated with the online education programs used by our educators. Our staff works closely with the educational program vendors, offering suggestions on how to make them more effective for students, teachers, and all schools using blended learning. The educational programs we work with have agreed to integrate into our data management platform, allowing integrated reporting for our teachers and ease of use for our students.

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 Q: How often do the students use computers and online learning programs, and for how long?
A: Our model is becoming increasingly flexible where teachers can assign online learning programs to students based on need instead of for a set amount of time each day. While on computers, students split the time between online math programs, and online reading programs.  At most, students will spend 25% of their day using online learning programs.  Students also attend enrichment (physical education, art, or music) each day.

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 Q: Has there been any research that shows online learning is effective?
A: Rocketship participated in a study conducted by SRI International. The study found that Rocketship students who received additional online math instruction through the DreamBox Learning program scored an average of 2.3 points higher on the NWEA mathematics test than similar students who did not receive the additional online instruction time. For the average student, these gains would be equivalent to progressing 5.5 points in percentile ranking (e.g. from 50 percent to 55.5 percent) in just 16 weeks. For more information, read the press release and the full SRI report on the details of the findings.

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 Q: Who manages the online learning?
A: Online learning is jointly managed by our teachers and tutors (Individualized Learning Specialists), who support teachers during online learning.  Each Specialist helps to oversee the culture and effectiveness of online learning time. They also work directly with students in small tutoring groups to provide academic assistance in literacy and/or math. For more information on the Individualized Learning Specialist responsibilities and qualifications, see the job description.

Supported by an Assistant Principal at each school, Individualized Learning Specialists undergo professional development similar to the teachers. They also receive training on Response to Intervention (RTI) and implement small group tutoring lessons, to meet students’ needs at their appropriate level.

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 Q: Does Rocketship employ credentialed teachers?
A: Yes. ALL Rocketship teachers are considered “highly qualified” under No Child Left Behind.

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 Q: Does Rocketship employ Teach For America (TFA) corps members?
A: Yes. Rocketship is proud of its partnership with Teach For America.  TFA teachers are among the most accomplished young leaders in the country, who are passionately committed to eliminating the achievement gap. Moreover, many TFA teachers within Rocketship regularly realize student achievement gains of one and a half years or more. Similarly, many have shown interest in becoming Rocketship school leaders. In addition to TFA teachers, Rocketship recruits professionals from a variety of backgrounds seeking to provide the highest quality of teachers for our students.

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 Q: What strategies are teachers given for classroom management and professional development?
A: Rocketship helps our teachers grow by using embedded learning opportunities, personalized coaching, and customized training as part of the regular work day.  Learn more about our pillar of excellent teachers and leaders, here.

We also train our teachers on techniques from the Lemov Taxonomy shared by Doug Lemov of Uncommon Schools in his book Teach Like a Champion. Rocketship has also created many internal tools that we’ve found useful within  schools to create purposeful and engaging classrooms. Rocketship provides three weeks of professional development before school starts and provides professional development support throughout the year.

Watch a short video on teacher support and professional development.

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 Q: What are the career opportunities for Rocketship teachers?
A: Teachers come to Rocketship for the innovative teaching environment, including higher compensation, a teaching model that better utilizes their abilities, and increased professional opportunities. Our Rocketship Network Leadership Program provides clear pathways for teachers interested in becoming an Assistant Principal or Principal.  While we know that developing leaders is essential to eliminating the achievement gap, we also know that it is critical to support teachers who wish to remain in the classroom by providing opportunities to be instructional leads and mentors to their peers. We seek to support all teachers in defining and growing towards their career goals.

Learn more about how we elevate and celebrate the profession of teaching, here.

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 Q: Is there high teacher turnover?
A: No. Rocketship significantly invests in our teachers through a robust professional development program, competitive career pathways, and higher compensation than surrounding districts and schools.  These programs have a positive impact on teacher retention.

We retain 70% of our teachers from one year to the next and are working to continuously build job satisfaction across our network. Over 50% of teachers leave the profession after their first five years.  This is unacceptable and inspires us to make teaching a sustainable, enjoyable, and well-compensated career.

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 Q: How are Rocketship teachers paid compared to district teachers?
A: At Rocketship, we believe it's incredibly important to provide teachers with a competitive salary and reward them for demonstrating excellence. To that end, Rocketship offers salaries above the district averages, as well as a 10% performance bonus dependent upon realization of a variety of student achievement and professional development metrics. In the coming years we are working aggressively to be able to offer salaries even more befitting the incredible work that goes into leading a transformational classroom.

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 Q: What emphasis does Rocketship place on hiring a diverse staff?
A: Rocketship is deeply committed to hiring a staff that reflects the communities our schools serve. We respect our communities and recruit staff from the local area, including dedicated parents seeking to become more involved with Rocketship. Amongst our school leaders, we are proud of our diversity and continual growth to become more diverse. Here is the current breakdown:

Our Principals and Regional Directors are 17% Latino/Hispanic and 50% women
Our Assistant Principals are 20% Asian, 20% African American, and 80% women
Our Academic Deans are 20% Asian, 20% Latino, and 100% women

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 Q: What is the relationship between Rocketship and teachers unions?
A: Rocketship teachers are not unionized. Rocketship already puts into practice much of what teachers unions have historically advocated for: higher salaries, extensive support from school leadership, quality professional development, leadership opportunities, and a rewarding work environment. Staff surveys indicate that an overwhelming proportion of Rocketship teachers enjoy their work.

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