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Avondale's 'Rocket Academy' helps support students to avoid 'learning loss' or falling behind

Posted at 10:08 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 12:20:41-05

AVONDALE, AZ — An after school program called 'Rocket Academy' is in fully launched mode at Michael Anderson School in Avondale.

“The growth is big. So, we are seeing it on our campus, the research says it works. There are lots of names of kiddos that I am thinking of in my head that it has made a big difference for,” said teacher and program coordinator Carly Schoettes.

Schoettes says the $120,000 grant from the Department of Education is in its second year at the school. During this COVID-19 pandemic the program is especially helpful.

“We look at a lot of things. We look at what is their attendance like? Do they need this extra support or do they need the extra support academically? Or do they need extra social-emotional connection? Do they need another place where they are valued and where they belong? Is that something that they are missing?” added Schoettes.

At any given moment 70 students participate; some meet their goals and exit the program leaving a spot for someone else. Last school year, 147 total students were impacted by Rocket Academy.

Students are invited by their teachers or at their parent’s request. They are broken into smaller groups and a total of 15 teachers take part in this effort.

“It’s a big group on Zoom when there are 30 kids or 28 kids, so this is just another way to work with students in smaller groups. We are definitely seeing gains. Our Rocket Academy versus non-Rocket Academy kids, our Rocket Academy kids especially in our 1, 2, 3 our DIBELS or early reading measures, we are seeing growth,” added Schoettes.

While the goal is to help in the areas where a student has fallen behind, Schoettes said, "They are also front loading. So they are teaching something that they are going to learn the next day or the next week. And that has been huge for our kids confidence, they say 'I learned this in Rocket Academy I got this.'"

Rocket Academy extends beyond the calendar year, helping students during the summer months, something this teacher said will be a game changer for so many who’ve been impacted. For example, a virtual English language learner, who isn’t getting the daily conversation in the language they are learning.

“We have two groups one elementary and one middle grades that is focused just on those English language learners that is focused to produce English,” added Schoettes.

The success at Micheal Anderson school is proving to be so great that the district received another grant to fund the same program called Beyond the Bell, at another Avondale campus.