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Rocketship Education and Urinary Tract Infection

June 25, 2016

Rocketship charter schools get high test scores. By Rocketship’s corporate reform standards, those high test scores are what matters.

However, there is a cost, and that cost has crossed paths with the inhumane.

At Rocketship’s 13 schools, students spend long periods of time (amounting to a 25 percent of the school day) working on computers. It’s part of a cost-saving measure; hundreds of students and only a handful of “instructional lab specialists.”

As NPR notes, the reality is that Rocketship has high turnover for staff put in charge of those labs– which apparently results in staff shortages and larger groups of students being watched by one person.

Despite high turnover in the limited staff watching large groups of students, Rocketship supposedly tracks the minutes that students are on the computer– which leads to the bathroom issue.

As NPR reports:

That drive to maximize instructional time and monitor data is a tenet of Rocketship culture, said the former principal, Sarratore. “We are trying to teach kids responsibility on how to use their time the most wisely.”

Several former staffers, plus a parent and a doctor, said that this zeal extended to limiting bathroom breaks. At his school, Sarratore said, there was a policy of not allowing bathroom visits for 20 minutes after lunch or recess.

Others reported more severe limits at several different schools: that during Learning Lab, only eight students out of 60, or sometimes just one boy and one girl, were allowed to visit the restroom, a number that was tracked and at times even posted publicly along with other metrics that classes competed on.

Some teachers handed out behavior penalties for going to the restroom….

As a result, “even third-graders were having bathroom accidents,” says Borja. “They were getting urinary tract infections and they put it on the families — that they don’t teach the kids to wipe properly.”

The current Rocketship teacher recalls parents raising concerns about a week with four separate accidents. And the former teacher who still works in the district said, “I’ve never had second-graders pee their pants except for at Rocketship.”

Rocketship, what are you doing to kids in the name of education?

Sadly, what matters most are not the kids. What matters most are the test scores. And when the test scores have high stakes attached– such as teacher bonuses– then those test scores will be manipulated.

The Rocketship high-score secret sauce includes retakes:

Classroom teachers at Rocketship receive higher pay compared with their counterparts at other local schools. This includes up to 50 percent of their compensation as merit bonuses. …

The bonuses are based largely on student growth on the NWEA standardized test, which is given three times a year.

Recent NWEA results showed students across the network making big gains: 1.7 years in math and 1.5 years in English in just one school year.

However, several of the current and former staffers said, and one provided internal emails indicating, that teachers habitually had students retake portions of standardized tests — especially the NWEA tests. …

When [former Rocketship employee Wesley] Borja proctored tests in the Learning Lab at Rocketship Alma, teachers often brought in students to retake tests, he said. “They would have me retest students even though higher-ups would say don’t.” He said that his superiors found retesting to be so rampant that they disabled the refresh button the following year.

Irony: Repeated visits to the computer lab for high-stakes testing retakes even as regular, timely visits to the restroom are penalized.

The twisted priorities of test-score-motivated reform.

restroom closed


Coming July 08, 2016, from TC Press (revised release date):

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Ben Carson permalink

    There seems to be no point in any longer saying we are facing a moral dilemma. All parties, reformers, politicians, teachers, and parents are past that decision. The breach may be small, relatively speaking, but it has happened. Officially, the corparate bottom line is more important than the future of select children. Our children’s future is officially for sale to the con artists.

    Our politicians are going to do everything they can to increase the numbers of children subject to this abuse. The “reformers” will continue to insist their ideas are valid, when they are nothing more than an experiment with a false hypothesis. Most teachers want to do what’s best for kids but are between a rock and a hard place, while others pocket the money. I can’t figure out the parents. The percentage of them that don’t care about their child’s future is extraordinarily small. But yet there continues to be cases of educational abuse that parents tolerate. Last of all, the con artists are being handed the keys to the vault.

    The evidence is clear, but we don’t seem to live in a world where that matters anymore. Too many people can no longer identify and prioritize the threats facing them. I live in Texas. Here our Lt. Governor falls all over himself chasing headlines (the sky is falling) about whose using what restroom. Meanwhile, the state is facing a water crisis, deteriorating infrastructure, abject poverty, and enormous numbers of children wo health insurance.

    PS- I personally think Texas has an Education funding crisis, but our Supreme thinks it’s bad but not bad enough. They say its a legislative problem (see out Lt Gov)

  2. It looks like this is a national problem. I just wrote about something similar a couple weeks ago:

  3. jeannielynna permalink

    Yes, this is a very big problem and quite concerning. These kids need to have their dignity given back to them.

  4. #DoNoHarm must become our guiding principle and sacred trust.

  5. Thanks Mercedes. I’ve witnessed the proliferation of these schools throughout my neighborhood in San Jose over the past decade Here is a post I published on EduResearcher in March, including public letters that had been sent to the State Board of Ed recommending denial of their appeal to open in Concord

    The charter chain is rubber stamp approved of course, regardless of any harm they do. If you can stomach watching the overwhelming public comment recommending denial…and then see the near unanimous State Board vote to approve, you’ll see how surreal it is. State and local officials know of the abuses and push them through anyway. For more, here’s a subset of posts just on Rocketship [ ] within the larger collection,”Charter Schools & “Choice” A Closer Look: The Redwood City campus has been pitched to be built on toxic soil and it appears nobody is paying attention there either:

  6. Donna permalink

    I didn’t know Rocketship had good test scores. The articles I’ve read said they were abysmal. Nevertheless, if they get good scores, and the kids get UTIs, perhaps Rocketship can issue diapers at the start of the day to students and staff, and they can relieve themselves at will throughout the day. Problem solved. Perhaps even Pampers and Depends can underwrite their charter as free advertising tied up in a huge bow. Snark.

  7. Chris in Florida permalink

    After reading this post and comparing it to this Talking Points Memo article about for-profit prosons I see more the future of American education, at least for the poor. It is chilling. Moentizing and profiteering fromonce-public services is perhaps the most dangerous evil to come from neoliberalism and neocoservatism.

  8. Chaya Rubenstein permalink

    This is literally sickening. Much more than a comment on “having dignity given back to them” (nothing personal, jeannielynna, but this is a real health issue which can affect these kids for the rest of their lives, quite posssibly killing them at some point). Not only are these children psychologically abused, but they are physically abused. Where are the parents (do they not know this? Are their children so afraid of adults at Rocketship that they don’t tell their parents?)child protective services? Who doesn’t have to use the bathroom after lunch (or even after being outside in a cold climate for recess–&, really, does Rocketship even ALLOW recess?).

    Out of all the truly awful posts & articles I’ve read about American “education” today, this is one of the worst. The owners & administrators of this chain deserve no less than to be prosecuted and jailed. Absolutely despicable.

  9. rkshp employee permalink

    hey, i work at rocketship and know all about that s**t. i let my kids go to the bathroom as many times as they want, regardless of what my admin says. read about my experience here:

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Rocketship Charters and Bladder Issues | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Will Washington DC Elect a Paid Shill for a Charter School Chain to its Mostly Powerless School Board? | GFBrandenburg's Blog
  3. Bay-Area Rocketship Charter, Where Vomit Stays on the Carpet. | deutsch29

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