A Rocketship Visit to Jeffco: More Than Just Eddie's Big Dream?

There’s a lot of attention on the school board politics in Jeffco these days. Dealing with it sometimes is a necessity. But to me it’s a shame, given the pockets of great need for students in the Jefferson and neighboring Alameda articulation areas, just west of Denver.

Last November I first highlighted the significant positive efforts for change, then followed it up with anticipation of an important March 5 Board vote to approve a hopeful plan of action. The Board ended up approving it unanimously!

Since that time I have been watching off and on (there are a bunch of things out there that Ed Is Watching), but have been remiss about providing an update. Yesterday, the good people at Chalkbeat Colorado published a piece about some specific efforts to upgrade academic standards at Jefferson High and surrounding schools:

At a cluster of academically lower-performing schools getting renewed attention in Jefferson County, teachers are expanding efforts to boost the academic vocabulary of their students.

The goal: to improve their chances to perform well on new standardized tests that emphasize critical thinking and prepare them for tougher courses to come.

It’s something Jefferson High School leaders have got to try, since only 3 percent of 10th-graders rated proficiently on math last year. Read the rest of Nic Garcia’s story to get a better sense of the research-based logic behind this approach, and the need to deploy it rigorously and consistently. More than most, I sincerely hope it bears positive fruit for many of those students who hail from challenging backgrounds, including homes where English is a second language.

But if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know little old me. While I’m keeping my eyes on the relevant goings-on, I’m also trying to look beyond the horizon for something even better. Maybe I should say look UP, as in watch a Rocketship zoom across the sky — or better yet — have a safe and prosperous landing in Colorado.

Yes, we’ve been down this path before. Last summer, I mused about the possibility of a charter-friendly board taking a broader look at who or what could best help serve the students in the needy Jefferson and Alameda articulation areas. KIPP would be great to consider, especially given its track record at the middle school and high school level in Denver. But doesn’t Rocketship really merit a closer look for the earlier grades, too?

The blended learning school has registered some powerful results in the past. Now, there’s this bit of exciting research I recently discovered. Bottom line? The more socioeconomically disadvantaged composition of Rocketship kids outperformed their peers when they move up into middle school.

But rather than just read the research, consider this: How many little boys and girls like Aranza are there in the overlooked and struggling areas of Jeffco?

For the sake of these kids who could have a story like Aranza’s, I would love to see the adults in charge at least would identify and emulate what successful schools like Rocketship are doing. Maybe even better, they can get Rocketship leaders to pay a visit and take a closer look at east Jeffco.

Hey, I’m a kid. Can’t I dream big?