NPR’s recent coverage of Rocketship charter schools has garnered a lot of controversy on social media and while many have praised the article for exposing the internal workings of the schools, some quarters have criticized the article as lacking in balance and context.
Founded in 2006, Rocketship is a 13- school chain of free,public college prep, K-5 charter schools based in San Jose, California. The non-profit schools have been described as one of the most nationally applauded charter networks with as many as 90% of its students qualifying for free lunch and about 75% speaking English as a second language.
The recent NPR piece focused heavily on the problematic practices within the schools and this has been condemned by Rocketship’s supporters who criticized the article for a lack of context and in-depth comparison to similar schools.
They also criticized the piece for providing no explanations regarding many of the questions it raised about retesting, bathroom breaks, staff turnover and parent’s satisfaction with the schools. The article did not mention if these were similar practices in other schools or if more parents were withdrawing their kids from Rocketship Education compared to other schools.
Another aspect of the article that was criticized was the description of Rocketship as a ‘company’. This choice of words is considered insensitive and inaccurate since the term ‘company’ has traditionally referred to private or for profit organizations.
The Rocketship network is not commercial but non profit and while the writer had defended her choice of words as a means to avoid repetition, many of the supporters of the charter school felt that a better word to describe Rocketship would have been ‘organization’ or ‘non- profit.’
With many of the unaddressed questions raised by the story,it is unclear if the motive of the article is to ‘takedown’ or to generate controversy. The one thing that’s certain is that Rocket ship shows no sign of slowing down