Milwaukee City Council Authorizes Rocketship Charter School to Operate in Brew City

by Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst

The Milwaukee City Council added a new institution to the city’s growing list of quality charter schools on Wednesday morning by approving a motion to allow Rocketship Charter Schools to operate within city limits.

Rocketship earned authorization for at least eight schools that will educate students across Milwaukee. The organization has been a hot property in the education world after compiling a record of success with their schools in California. The schools operate similarly to KIPP Academies, using a hands-on and work-intensive approach to engage students and create results.

Rocketship Education promotes a hybrid school model designed to impact high-need neighborhoods across America. They have operated elementary charter schools since 2006 and work mostly with low-income students and families. Currently, most of their institutions operate in San Jose, California. Approximately 75 percent of their students are ESL students.

These schools have been labeled “miracle schools” by at least one education blogger thanks to their results. These schools use individualized learning techniques to approach the learning process in a different way than regular public schools. This has led to performances that outpace the California state averages in subjects like math, reading, and science despite working with children that have been traditionally been labeled as difficult to educate. School by school results can be found here.

Milwaukee’s dynamic student body made the city a candidate for Rocketship’s expansion. Currently, the city’s percentage of students with limited English proficiency (LEP) sits at approximately 10 percent and has been rising over the course of the past decade. According to DPI data, 77.4 percent of the city’s students were labeled as “Economically Disadvantaged” in the 2010-2011 school year.

This evolving student population now has an evolving group of schools to help educate it. Rocketship’s successes with similar students in San Jose suggest that the organization will have a positive impact in Milwaukee. Their presence means more options for students and greater access to education for families. It will change the lives of thousands of students in Wisconsin’s largest city.

Rocketship wasn’t the only organization to have their charter privileges approved Wednesday. The Milwaukee School of Academics and Character was also authorized to open their school during the mid-morning session. Both schools will have the opportunity to present new options for students in the state’s most poorly performing district. If Rocketship Education can duplicate the successes it has had with economically disadvantaged students here in Wisconsin, it will be a significant win for Milwaukee’s student population.