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Rocketship Expands Network to Washington D.C.

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[CORRECTION (Feb. 27): An earlier version of this post misstated the number of schools Rocketship Education will be opening in 2015-16. The network will be opening five new schools in 2015-16 including one in Washington D.C.]

Charter school network Rocketship Education will be opening five new schools in 2015-16, one of which will be located in the District of Columbia, the first time the network has expanded to that city.

The network, which operates blended learning elementary schools, has announced that it has plans to open up to eight schools in the nation's capital over the next five years. In a blended learning model, students spend part of their school day learning through face-to-face instruction and part of the day learning through virtual education.

The move comes amid criticism lobbed at the network for expanding too rapidly and a steady decline in students' standardized test scores in recent years. Part of that downward trend correlates with the rollout of the network's new flexible classrooms, in which more than 100 students may be broken into groups to work on different lessons in separate parts of the same classroom. 

That approach was launched originally, in part, to reduce staff and redirect that money toward expansion of the network. But that plan has been scrapped after a rocky rollout of the pilot during the 2012-13 school year that contributed to a dip in test scores and the loss of nearly 30 percent of Rocketship's teachers. 

The additional charter schools opening in 2015-16 will be located in Rocketship's other regions—the San Francisco Bay area, Milwaukee, and Nashville—bringing its total number of schools up to 16.

The network, which began in 2006 in San Jose, California, currently educates about 5,000 students in nine schools. Its student population consists of 75 percent English-language learners and 90 percent of its students qualify for the federal free-or-reduced-price lunch program.

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