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.
Originally posted June 25, 2016, at deutsch29.wordpress.com.
Coming July 08, 2016, from TC Press (revised release date):