Preston Smith grew up in California, specifically in the San Jose area. He went to college on the opposite end of the Untied States, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, its flagstaff campus, earning a degree in Latin American Studies, preparing him for interacting with low-income families that only know Spanish in San Jose. After returning to San Jose, he found that today’s San Jose is filled with little opportunity for children, entirely different from kids of his era, which were commonly able to make something out of nothing, according to research from the likes of Harvard and UC Berkeley.
This is exactly why Preston Smith founded Rocketship Education in 2007, after earning a master’s degree in education from San Jose State University. Usually shortened to the acronym RSED, the 18-deep nexus of nonprofit, public charter schools has all of its branches in low-income places throughout America in an attempt to prove free, top-notch K-5 education to kids who need it most, whose families are entirely unable to afford to move to areas with good public schools, or, even more unaffordable, pay their way through private school.
Throughout Preston’s decade or better with Rocketship Education, he has experienced several lessons that will stick with him forever in educational theory and practice – here’s a few important ones.
Parents should be involved in panel interviews, composed of at least six parents and one school administrator. Parents are always concerned about the quality of instruction their children receive at schools, and even though RSED’s instructors are often top-notch, parents’ screenings help weed out less than optimal candidates.
Parents also submit monthly feedback about what their children think of current events at school, how well their instructors connect, and other important educational information. Kids tell their guardians thoughts and things nobody else is privy to, marking the need for parents’ interaction.
Kids with special needs are mandated to spend at least four-fifths of their time at school in general classes, instead of special education classes, in which they’re segregated from regular students. Traditional practice isn’t good for the development of special needs students, birthing the need for RSED’s “meaningful inclusion model.”