Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Office of Innovation

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1 Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Office of Innovation Charter School Application Recommendation Report Rocketship Education Tennessee Submitted By Rocketship Education Tennessee Evaluation Team Art Fuller, Team Lead, Executive Director Knowledge Academies Gary Satyshur, COO, LEAD Public Schools Erica Mitchell, United Way Director of Educational Initiatives Gerry Altieri, MNPS Exceptional Educational Coordinator Katy Enterline, MNPS Data Coach Molly Stovall, MNPS K-12 ELD Curriculum Coordinator Louis Harrison, MNPS Coordinator of Before and After School Care Melissa Meadows, MNPS Planning Facilitator Kathryn Pattulo, MNPS Literacy Coach Sammy Swor, Belmont University, former MNPS high school principal Sharon Wright, MNPS LEAD Principal Elementary Pam Burgess, MNPS Community Outreach Specialist Mark Mason, MNPS Numeracy Coach, Middle School Stephen Shaeffer, MNPS Assistant Principal, High School Introduction 1

2 Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies that must include parents. In Tennessee, public charter school students are measured against the same academic standards as students in other public schools. Charter schools are required to serve all eligible students, with the education of at-risk students being of utmost importance. It is the responsibility of the authorizer, to apply a rigorous authorization process in order to ensure only those charter schools meeting the needs of students open. Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools is interested in charter applicants who demonstrate the capacity to educate the most at-risk students in highly diverse and personalized settings. Charter schools in Nashville are required to provide appropriate curriculum, aligned professional standards, engaging models of parental and partnership programs, and strategic planning to leverage and grow resources for the school. Schools are held accountable for academic results, responsible school leadership, sound fiscal and operational management and adherence to the laws and rules that govern education in the state of Tennessee. Evaluation Process The Office of Innovation, Division of Charter Schools, has worked closely with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) to set up an evaluation process that embodies best practices from authorizers throughout the country and is rigorous and thorough. 2

3 In accordance with the NACSA Principles and Standards, four (4) review teams were assembled to review the April, 2012 applications. Each team consisted of a team lead plus individuals who had expertise with curriculum, special education, English language learners, charter school financials, operations, management and legal. Each team was given extensive training in application review and interviewing techniques. Additionally, the Office of Innovation and one MNPS board representative exercised additional oversight of the process. The stages of review are as follows: Proposal Evaluation Each team conducted individual and group assessment of the merits of the proposals upon submission April 1, In the case of experienced operators, MNPS requested additional information in the form of a replication application to assist teams with due diligence in assessing the applicants record of performance. First Round The first round of evaluation consists of: A thorough paper review of the application A short interview with each applicant A time of public comment with the MNPS Board of Education Second Interview Those applications moving forward are invited to an in-depth interview by their review team. The purpose is to provide the applicants an opportunity to address questions or concerns raised in the review of the written application and to evaluate the applicant s capacity to implement the proposed program effectively. It is possible that the team will request additional supplemental information or even an additional interview to clarify any outstanding concerns. Consensus Judgment The evaluation team submits their final consensus evaluation to approve or deny the application to the Office of Innovation. The Office of Innovation reviews with each team lead the objective reasons and readies the recommendation for the MNPS Board of Education. Evaluation Contents This evaluation report includes the following: Proposal Overview 3

4 Basic information about the proposed school Recommendation An overall judgment regarding whether the proposal meets the criteria for approval Evaluation Analysis of the proposal based on the four major areas of plan development Educational Plan including Mission, Vision, Executive Summary and Educational Philosophy; Curriculum and Instruction, Target Population, School Calendar and Daily Schedule; Special Student Populations (exceptional education and English Language Learners); School-specific goals and objectives, Assessment; School Climate and Discipline; and Prior Success in Raising Student Achievement Organizational Plan Includes governing body; governing board composition, management and operations; staffing and Human Resources; Professional Development; Student Recruitment and Enrollment; and Community Involvement. Business Plan Including budget assumptions, five year budget and first year start-up budget; Financial Management; Transportation/Food Service/Other Partnerships; Insurance; and Pre-Opening Plan Evidence of Capacity Including the skills and experience of the proposed governance and leadership team, relevant experience, and record of performance Opening a successful, high-performing charter school depends on having a complete, coherent plan. It is not an endeavor for which strength in one area can compensate for weakness in another. Therefore, in order to receive a recommendation for approval, the application must meet or exceed the criteria in all four areas. Proposal Overview Rocketship Education Tennessee Mission and Vision Rocketship Education Tennessee will eliminate the achievement gap by graduating our students at or above grade level in Literacy and Math. Rocketship Education Tennessee seeks to create a future in which thousands of children from Tennessee have graduated from four-year colleges and have come back to Tennessee to eradicate the last traces of the achievement gap. The Rocketship Public School Model combines traditional classroom instruction with blended learning, which enables highly individualized instruction through online adaptive technology and tutors; a parent engagement strategy that allows for 4

5 advocacy on behalf of all children and their education; and a leadership development program that creates sustainable careers for highly effective educators. Proposed location Rocketship is exploring several facilities options with concentration in the Antioch area, and a secondary focus in the North Nashville area, potentially including Madison. Rocketship is looking at several vacant facilities in the Antioch area and would plan to construct their own building in the North Nashville area. A third option would be in west Nashville near the Nations. If approved, Rocketship will finalize a location by July 31. Enrollment Projections (to be copied from the table in the Proposed Overview & Enrollment section) Academic Year Planned # of Maximum # of Grades Students Students Year K-5 Year K-5 Year K-5 Year K-5 Year K-5 At Capacity K-5 RECOMMENDATION Rocketship Education Tennessee Approval Recommendation Summary of Section Ratings Ratings options for each section are Exceeds the Standard; Meets the Standard; Partially Meets the Standard; Does Not Meet the Standard. Part 1 Educational Plan Meets or Exceeds This includes the plan for the educational program and parent/community involvement Part 2 Organizational Plan Meets or Exceeds This includes the proposed governance and 5

6 management structure, including skill and experience of governing board, and leadership team, relevant experience and record of performance based on due diligence. Also included are school staffing, start-up and operations, performance management systems and facilities plans Part 3 Business Plan Meets or Exceeds This includes the start-up budget, operating budget and budget notes and assumptions Part 4 Evidence of Capacity Meets or Exceeds Included is a summary of all other sections and a statement of the overall confidence of the review committee that the applicant has the capacity to start and operate a successful school Educational Plan Plan Summary Rocketship Tennessee plans to serve 600 students in grades K-5. Their model is to begin with all grades at once and at capacity, utilizing extended days and extended school year, with 184 days of planned instruction. Rocketship combines traditional classroom instruction with blended learning through online adaptive technology and tutors in order to meet the needs of all students, including those students with disabilities and English Language Learners. The Rocketship model encompasses the following initiatives: Innovate leverage blended learning to deliver exceptional and enduring academic results Empower foster deep parental engagement and ongoing advocacy for their children all teachers at Rocketship schools make home visits Lead elevate the professions of teaching and school leadership by enabling high-level work with students and families in a sustainable, highly rewarding manner with commensurate compensation. Impact Use resources efficiently so they can scale effectively in high needs areas. Rocketship s curriculum is research based and data driven and follows Common Core Standards. It is also proven to be effective with at-risk populations. Assessments are frequent and are nationally recognized, with goals of one and one half year s growth each year. Teachers will be licensed in the state of Tennessee and also will be a subject matter specialist. Thus, teachers team throughout the day, e.g. every student will have a humanities teacher each day that focuses primarily on literacy instruction integrated 6

7 with social studies instruction; and a Math/Science teacher that is focused primarily on math instruction integrated with science instruction. Additionally, one or more tutors may be in a classroom at any given time for small group/individualized instruction. This allows Rocketship to maintain a larger ratio of students in one classroom but still provide individualized and targeted instruction. Rocketship utilizes the full Response to Intervention model, providing three tiers of intervention for those students who need additional assistance. Individual learning plans are developed for those students in the below basic range. Special Education and English language learner services are detailed and Rocketship will hire specialists in those areas, as well as any additional supports needed, including counselors, speech/language therapists, physical and occupational therapists and nursing services. In addition to integrated support specialists, Rocketship will hire a licensed social worker and/or school psychologist, a behavior intervention case manager and instructional paraprofessionals as needed. The identified school leader has led successful Rocketship schools and is a Nashville native. Analysis The Educational Plan meets or exceeds the criteria for approval because it articulates a proven model that has been implemented with great success in other areas. The Rocketship team presented a solid curriculum with excellent student supports and a well-thought out school design. The proposed plan is data driven, rooted in college-ready standards and structured around relevant feedback that reflects a commitment towards continuous improvement and commitment to educating students in the Nashville community. The assessment plan is well balanced between nationally recognized formative and summative measures and results are used extensively to drive instruction. Rocketship s history of collaborating with other local agencies to address important social and emotional areas of child development is another example of best practices and a good indication that Rocketship wants to partner with others who have a record of success. The application explains clearly how Rocketship will implement its academic plan and it is clear they know the needs of the targeted population. There is a longer school day and year, with 184 days of total instruction and much time built into the schedule for both remediation and extension. Teachers will be subject area specialists as well as licensed elementary teachers in Tennessee. The curriculum, instruction and assessment goals are aligned with the mission and vision and the Rocketship team expressed a willingness to work with MNPS to further define our needs so they can further tailor their school to fill those needs. 7

8 While Rocketship submitted an application for a K-5 school, it also articulated that a K-4 model might work best in Nashville, and expressed a willingness to structure their school accordingly. Their budget aligns with the plans for a K-5 and a revised budget aligns with a K-4 school. Both budgets align with and support the mission and vision. Additionally, Rocketship does not traditionally provide transportation but indicated a willingness to do so if warranted by the needs of their families. There is adequate money built into the budget to address transportation. Overall, the review team was satisfied Rocketship can open and operate a successful school and significantly raise student achievement. 8

9 Organizational Plan Plan Summary Rocketship is a national organization with a governing board of 14 members whose credentials are impeccable and nationally recognized. Upon approval, Rocketship will hire a regional team to oversee the school in Nashville and at least one of those employees will be added to the national board so there will be representation from the Nashville area. They plan to organize extensive board training for this Nashville group. The school has plans for staffing the school, averaging 20% above the salaries of the local district and will provide transportation if necessary and food service. Rocketship anticipates a 15% special needs population and the budgetary assumptions reflect these needs. Organizational charts, start-up plans and job descriptions are included and a recruitment and hiring plan is also presented. Rocketship outlines extensive professional development opportunities throughout the year and has identified a school leader Analysis The organizational plan meets or exceeds the criteria for approval because it presents a clear structure, a proven team and a track record of success. The composition of the governing board is impressive and the structure Rocketship has outlined ensures their ability to be fully engaged in Nashville and its success. Organizational responsibilities are well defined and demonstrate the capacity of this organization to effectively and strategically plan and implement the smart growth of a high performing network of schools. Compensation for teachers and staff are well above current market salaries and it is evident the applicant has a clear plan for recruiting and retaining top talent. Additionally, the staffing plan is well designed and innovative. It includes comprehensive job descriptions and is clearly designed to support the academic growth of students. Transportation and food service were addressed, and although the applicant does not normally provide transportation, they were more than willing to consider it in the Nashville area and provided a budget that included funds for transportation. Both the written application and the subsequent interviews gave the review team confidence Rocketship has the organizational capacity to expand to the Nashville area and open a successful school. 9

10 Business Plan Plan Summary Rocketship plans to open with 100 students per grade level in the Kindergarten through 5 th grade, totaling 600 students, or 120 students per grade level in the Kindergarten through 4 th grade, totaling 600. Expected revenues the first year add up to $5,993,058, including a Walton grant of $250,000. The budget reflects a surplus each year and contains adequate monies for facilities and transportation. Rocketship has indicated they would lease a facility, but are prepared to build if necessary and this is reflected in the budget documents. The replication application indicates a consolidated budget and a fee schedule to schools that support the regional office. These fees are between 3% and 5% and amount to approximately $100,000 per school at full enrollment. The network budget presents a positive cash flow and extensive assistance from the national and regional staff for start-up schools. Analysis The business plan meets or exceeds criteria for approval because a sound financial plan was presented. The budgets are reasonably constructed to carry out the school s start-up phase and ambitious educational management plan. The national organization brings significant resources as does the governing board. There is a track record of substantial fundraising and considerable expertise writing and obtaining large grants. The budget and assumptions appear to correlate with and support the staffing configuration and educational plan for the school. The mean salary of teachers is higher than the surrounding area and supports the plan for recruiting and retaining staff. The applicant s prior experience in opening and operating charter schools is evident and the budget reflects a reasoned and reflective approach that supports the overall mission and vision for the school. If approved, the review team did caution that recruiting 120 students per grade might be challenging and cautioned the applicant to be prepared for lower numbers with a contingency plan. Overall the review team has confidence this applicant has a solid financial picture that should enable them to open and run a successful school. 10

11 Evidence of Capacity Plan Summary Rocketship s startup and early development will be managed by the national Rocketship organization and a regional team. The governing team has many years collective experience running charter schools and is nationally recognized educators and business leaders. The organizational goals are well designed and the budget and assumptions all support the academic goals of the school. 11

12 Analysis The evidence of capacity meets or exceeds the criteria for approval because the model is proven and Rocketship has consistently demonstrated the ability to meet the needs of at-risk students. The governing board and the structure of the organization give reviewers confidence the school will be a success. There is a proven leader identified and the budget and assumptions all indicate this school can be successful. The review team was particularly impressed by the organization s transparent and thorough responses to questions and concerns. Rocketship emphasized they want to blend into the community, reach out to families and educate the most at-risk students in the community. They were more than willing to adjust their original plans to conform to the Nashville and MNPS landscape and the review committee is confident in their ability to open and run a successful school. 12

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