Superintendent SaJade Miller of Rocketship Public Schools plans to be brutally honest with parents when talking about spring 2023 state standardized test results.

The inaugural numbers for Dennis Dunkins Elementary in Fort Worth’s Stop Six community show 23% of third graders met grade level or higher on the reading test and 9% on the math exam. The two-school charter network plans to focus on small group instruction, add additional instruction time and better development for teachers to improve for the 2023-23 academic year.

“The results are unacceptable,” Miller said. 

The test was administered to 44 third-grade students at Dunkins Elementary. They were the only students at the school, which launched in 2022, required to take the STAAR exams.

The school saw 57% of third graders fail the reading test and 59% not pass the math exam, according to results from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR.

“We own these results,” Steve Ulibarri, Rocketship’s director of external affairs, said.

Miller acknowledged the results are not where he had hoped they would be. However, his goal is still unchanged: Ensure every student reads on grade level by the time they finish fifth grade, the last level offered at the charter.

“The gaps were not created in a year or a month or a week. The gaps were created by no faults of this phenomenal community or these wonderful students over time. We need time to make the gains,” the superintendent said.

Rocketship needed its third-grade students to grow up to two years to meet grade level, Miller said. Rocketship third graders started last year at an academic low point.

Miller sees the results as the baseline for Rocketship. The charter school plans to use the STAAR results with the Measure of Academic Progress test from the Northwest Evaluation Association. Students take the MAP test three times a year and it correlates to their eventual performance on the state standardized exam.

“We’re not teaching to a test, but we are ensuring that we cover the standards and build life skills and a love for learning,” Miller said.

Ulibarri described the results as disproving the idea that charter schools cherry-picked students as a way to boost academic achievement. For Rocketship, the opposite is true, he said.

“If they were in a school system that was meeting their needs and their students were excelling, they probably wouldn’t have made the jump,” Ulibarri said.

About 600 students attend Rocketship’s Dunkins Elementary and Explore Elementary, a new campus that opened Aug. 7 in east Fort Worth.

Rocketship faced difficulties changing its teaching model to meet the requirements of Texas. Last school year was the first ever in the Lone Star State for Rocketship, a national charter network with schools in Tennessee, Wisconsin, California and Washington, D.C.

Miller wants to see improvement for the 2023-24 school year. 

Students will see more small group instruction this year. Lessons for the small groups will be customized for each student so they can build on their skills and fill knowledge gaps, Miller said. For example, a teacher will present a lesson to the entire class, then drill down into a specific concept in literacy or math in a small group.

The structure of a school day has changed, too. School now starts 15 minutes earlier. While not much, each minute is important and administrators can dedicate the extra time to instruction, Miller said.

Like their students, teachers will receive more time in small groups to become better educators. Teachers will learn how to better use data from STAAR and MAP tests and apply it to their classroom and lesson plans.

Miller expects improvements if students, teachers, their community and parents come together.

“In order to maximize student potential, we have to maximize adult potential,” Miller said. 

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....