Classroom Technology

Rocketship CEO Leaving to Build a New Education Company

By Sean Cavanagh — February 01, 2013 1 min read
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John Danner, who has served as the chief executive officer of Rocketship Education and was in many ways the public face of the charter schools network, is leaving to develop an online-education company.

His role at Rocketship will be filled by Preston Smith, who co-founded Rocketship with Danner in 2006. Smith will serve as president and CEO.

Danner is in the early stages of creating a new online company, one that will partner with Rocketship, as well as other schools, the charter network said in a statement. In addition to his work at Rocketship and other charter schools, Danner has previous experience in the online world, having served as the co-founder and CEO of NetGravity, an Internet advertising software company.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with Preston and seeing the further refinement of Rocketship’s model under his leadership,” Danner said in the statement. “This is an exciting time for me as well—I’m a startup guy at heart—and I am excited to solve online learning problems for Rocketship and teachers and students around the world.”

Rocketship, along with a number of other highly-touted charter networks, recently announced plans to expand beyond California. Rocketship has drawn attention throughout K-12 for its high performance on state tests in California, where it is based.

Equally intriguing, to many educators and policymakers, is its overall educational model. Rocketship students, many of whom are minorities and impoverished, spend a portion of their days in “learning labs,” where they receive tailored instruction via computer. Those sessions are led by noncertified staff, an arrangement that Rocketship officials say allows them to save on personnel costs—an estimated $500,000 annually per school, compared with the costs of a traditional school. Those savings are put toward academic support for students, higher salaries for teachers, and other areas.

But it’s worth noting that Rocketship officials, in a recent story by the PBS News Hour, expressed dissatisfaction with the learning lab model, and suggested they are on the verge of making changes to it. Teachers and other staff voiced concerns about not knowing enough about what students are learning in those computer-based sessions, and not knowing whether those sessions are connected to students’ lessons throughout the day.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.