So, no, Rocketship doesn't literally say "Poor kids don't deserve music and art"; they just act like poor kids don't. Hence, I'm removing the quotes. I am under no delusion this will satiate the folks who don't want to confront what I'm saying, but it's the best I can do to get people to address my central point.
As a lifelong music educator, this is one of the most despicable education stories I've ever heard:
JEFFREY BROWN: Now we look to a California education experiment called the Rocketship Model that involves teachers, kids and parents and aims to expand one day to serve a million students.
NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has our report.
JOHN MERROW: For about one hour every day, students practice math and literacy skills. They work independently at their own pace. The computer is able to track and guide the progress of each student.
It's something educators call differentiated learning. Some students work on basic skills, while others advance to more challenging lessons.
The learning lab allows a school to hire six fewer teachers, which Rocketship says results in savings of up to half a million dollars. That money is used to pay teachers higher salaries, fund academic deans who help teachers get better, and train principals for future Rocketship schools.
But one thing the savings are not used for, art and music classes.
VERONICA BARBOSA: I wish we could have art and music in the school, but at the same time if you want your child to have that in their life, you can make the effort to try and get it, like, after school or on the weekends. [emphasis mine]Understand that Rocketship explicitly states that its mission is "...to become a national network to eliminate the achievement gap in low-income neighborhoods." They are a school for poor kids - and, according to Rocketship, poor kids don't need art and music education.
Apparently, poor kids also don't need a computerized curriculum that actually works:
Yes, because it's so "exhilarating" to deny poor children the opportunity to have a comprehensive education...
California has well-defined standards in the visual and performing arts. Rocketship, if it wants to be known as a group of "public" schools, has an obligation to follow those standards. That they don't even make an attempt to do so speaks volumes about the low standards they set for themselves in the name of educating poor children.
Because this garbage would never fly in affluent areas. Arts education in California is highly inequitable, as affluent white students are far more likely to get music and art than their poor and/or minority peers. Of course, California isn't alone in this:
One would think a school like Rocketship, which aims to "eliminate the achievement gap in low-income neighborhoods," would care about this achievement gap.
One would be wrong.
There's lots more to say about Rocketship, and I'll try to get to it at some point. Larry Miller has done some preliminary work on the chain's student demographics and attrition rates that ought to give everyone pause. Rocketship has responded to Miller here: one thing I've noticed right away about Rocketship's claims is that they don't disaggregate their data for student poverty as well as they could.
But let's suppose that Rocketship's rebuttal actually holds up under scrutiny. What they would be telling us is that the key to increasing the test scores of poor and minority children is to take away music and art (and maybe some other curricular areas as well) and use the time and money saved to plop the kids in front of a computer screen for hours on end.
This is exactly the sort of thing the Chicago Teachers Union fought against this past year. CTU won concessions from the school board to hire hundreds of arts teachers so that Chicago's children would receive a broad-based education, just like children in the affluent suburbs. It was a unionized teaching force that brought the arts to their deserving students.
Maybe that's why Rocketship doesn't like the idea of their staff becoming unionized:
JOHN MERROW: If the unions came to you and said, John, we'd like to unionize Rocketship, what would you say?
JOHN DANNER: I would say absolutely not. We're a startup. You know, in startups, you basically do something different every day. Any major school district has a 450-page kind of contract that literally says minute by minute what teachers are supposed to do. So the fit between how that's evolved and what Rocketship is like is just a bad fit.Yes, it's certainly a "bad fit": a unionized Rocketship staff might start demanding the schools do the right thing for their poor students and give them the same educational opportunities as affluent students.
Can't have that, can we?
Sorry, Mr. Holland, but we're a startup...