Unfair criticism of the charter schools system is nothing new, but a 2016 article published by NPR led to a backlash from those heading the drive to build a better-working school system. The article used the Rocketship Education charter schools network as the basis for its evidence but failed to give any sense of balance in the writing of the blog by Anya Kamenetz. There were many “red flags” for the leadership of Rocketship Education including the inflammatory language used and the anecdotal evidence the article was based on.
NPR responded to the criticism from Rocketship Education CEO, Preston Smith by stating both a parent happy with their experience at the school and an unhappy guardian had been contacted. However, Rocketship Education was only established in 2006 by two public school teachers in San Jose, California and now included 13 locations across the U.S. Parents at the Nashville, Tennessee location found themselves writing an open letter in support of the academic institution when it was unfairly criticized by state politicians. NPR’s blog failed to address the popularity of Rocketship Education or the charter schools movement as a whole. Criticizing Rocketship Education without taking the time to research why it has grown at such a fast rate gives the impression the blogger and NPR were seeking out controversy.
The issues raised by the NPR blog were not dismissed by Preston Smith, but they have been directly addressed and a response given to all the major problems identified. Preston Smith believes the question of staffing levels in schools is an important one for every institution to address, including each campus associated with Rocketship Education. The employment of those without teaching certification is a tough one but is vital for the success of students at all levels. Smith understands the concern of employing tutors and mentors without certification is controversial but is required because of financial constraints. Each non-certified staff member is supervised when handling a large group of students to ensure they are reaching the specified academic level of achievement.