We live in a country where access to excellent public schools depends largely on a child’s economic status. The best schools are often in affluent communities, while failing and under-funded schools mainly exist in areas with high rates of poverty. Kids born of this environment are no less capable of achievement. However, there is a direct correlation between students’ lack of access to high-quality schools and their ability to achieve in the classroom and beyond.
Fortunately, there are schools such as Rocketship Spark Academy that are working to level the playing field. A free public charter elementary school in San Jose, CA, Spark delivers the highest quality education to underserved elementary students who would not otherwise have access to top-notch schools. They are both a Torsh client and a member of the Rocketship Education non-profit charter network. The team at Spark is working tirelessly to bridge the achievement gap, and we are proud to feature them in this week’s Client Spotlight.
Rocketship Spark Academy was founded in 2013 and today has over 590 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. 76% of the student body is considered “socioeconomically disadvantaged.” These are the students who typically attend poorly-ranked public schools, and who see a corresponding failure to achieve based on standardized test scores and other metrics. Spark offers these kids and their parents an alternative to their local public school. The lucky “Rocketeers,” students who are chosen at random by lottery to attend Spark, are seeing incredible results: Spark’s students are ranked #1 in both math and ELA across all 15 schools in the Franklin-McKinley School District.
What is the secret to Spark’s obvious success? Their model is built on three pillars: Excellent Teachers and Leaders, Personalized Learning, and Engaged Parents. The first pillar is where Torsh is making an impact through Torsh TALENT, our teacher professional development platform. TALENT serves as a valuable coaching tool for the staff at Spark, assisting them with teacher training and allowing teachers to constantly improve upon their teaching practice through regular coaching. Spark is also using TALENT to record teachers in the classroom to build an exemplar library, where examples of great teaching techniques can be reviewed and shared. These best practices can be disseminated throughout the organization to give teachers new and better ideas for how best to reach their students.
Spark Academy and the other schools in the Rocketship Education network have a stated goal to “eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime.” That’s an incredibly ambitious mission. To make it happen, they must recruit the very best teachers, and provide those educators with the best training and professional development tools available. We at Torsh feel very honored that they have partnered with us to achieve their aims. Together with schools like Spark, we’ll continue to foster high-quality learning environments for our country’s most underserved kids.