NPR put out a recent article on Rocketship charter schools.
I teach in Southeast DC and a Rocketship is set to open in the vicinity, like a bunch of other charter schools. I’ve had, maybe, two students so far tell me they’re going there.
It’s funny. One student in particular, who didn’t earn their choice time for the day, told me out of frustration, “I’m going to Rocketship next year!”
I hear this all of the time. When students are upset, don’t get their way, some tell me, “I want to go to another school!” I don’t seem to remember in my years of teaching or my years as a student that transitioning to another school was a way to express anger or frustration.
But then I see a Rocketship rep outside of our school during dismissal, with a clipboard. Then I hear of Rocketship reps poaching outside of Metro stations. They’re going hard.
Large increases in test scores don’t impress me much. Have we seen enough evidence yet that higher test scores in, say, elementary school actually transfer to skill and aptitudes that make one successful in life? Is there actually evidence that large increases in high stakes test scores in low income communities, from elementary school, actually transfer to adulthood?
As far as test scores go, I really don’t care. I care about education, but not test scores.
And here’s the thing. In the NPR article, Rocketship is accused of inflating test score gains, namely having students retake tests. Honestly, a test-based curriculum is in and of itself cheating, if you want to get technical about it.
But Rocketship shouldn’t be alone in these indictments. The entire test score game is rigged. I know for a fact that teachers in regular public schools lie about their data ALL OF THE TIME. Teachers lowball their data at the beginning of the year so they can show huge gains at the end. Granted, there’s some summer learning loss, but there is no way a kid could lose entire grade levels in about 8 weeks.
When we celebrate schools or programs that tout huge test score gains, rather than asking how it was done, maybe we should be asking, why should we care?