Boston – Brooke Charter Schools, a grades K-8 charter school network with campuses in Roslindale, Mattapan, and East Boston, has been selected as the winner of the second annual Pozen Prize for Charter Schools – an $80,000 prize to recognize academic excellence and quality learning environments in Greater Boston charter schools.
Of the $80,000 prize, the Brooke Charter Schools is required to use $5,000 toward the sharing of institutional best practices. The runner-up, Excel Academy Charter Schools, will receive a $10,000 prize for its work providing quality educational opportunities for students.
Brooke Charter Schools, named for the late Edward W. Brooke III, the first African American to be popularly elected to the United States Senate, was one of two finalists for this year’s Pozen Prize, which was created by Boston Foundation donors Robert and Elizabeth Pozen. Robert is a former top executive of Fidelity Investments and MFS Investment Management, who now serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Business School and a Senior Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Elizabeth is a retired psychotherapist who is now focusing on her career as a figurative artist.
The Pozen Prize Selection Committee focused the 2015 competition on charter public elementary schools. Each year the committee focuses on a different grade range. The 2014 focus, for example, was charter high schools.
“The student bodies of both finalists have achieved superior results in a manner that undermines one of the main arguments against charter schools,” Robert Pozen said. “Critics argue that charter schools report high test scores primarily because they manage out weak students. However, the Brooke network regularly loses students from its sixth and seventh grades who gain admission to Boston Latin or high quality private schools. Thus, the Brooke School is achieving superior results despite losing some of its best students each year.”
Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation, hailed Brooke Charter Schools for demonstrating success in both strategy and results.
“Brooke Charter Schools is carrying on a tradition of excellent academic performance among Greater Boston’s charter public schools,” Grogan said. “Both of this year’s finalists showed creativity, a willingness to try new things, and the ability to identify and embrace what works. Both promote collaborative teaching and learning. And both have the results that suggest their students leave prepared for the challenges of high school and more. The Brooke schools has especially shown a commitment to seeing their students into and through college.”
Brooke Charter Schools serve 500 students on the Roslindale campus, which opened in 2002, and 460 on the Mattapan campus, which opened in 2011. A third campus, Brooke East Boston, opened in 2012 and was too new to be considered in this year’s Pozen Prize application process. The network is tuition-free and open to children from Boston and Chelsea. All students in Boston Public Schools and Chelsea Public Schools –including English Language Learners, Limited English Proficient students, and Special Education students, are encouraged to apply through the admissions lottery.
More than longevity, the Brooke schools have demonstrated results. In 2012, Brooke Mattapan showed a 67% English proficiency rate on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Test. That rate climbed to 79% for the 2014 school year. Brooke Roslindale saw MCAS English proficiency rates rise from 90% in 2012 to 96% in 2014. In math, Brooke Mattapan’s MCAS proficiency rate was 66% in 2012 and 77% last year. Brooke Roslindale’s high rate of 94% math proficiency in 2012 held relatively steady in 2014 at 93%.
While students at Brooke Charter Schools are taught and mentored through elementary and middle school years, the network also boasts a strong program aimed at preparing students for high school and college, a program which includes referring Brooke alumni to college readiness services.
“We are tremendously thankful and appreciative to be named this year’s recipient of the Boston Foundation’s Pozen Prize,” said Jon Clark, Co-Director, Operations, of Brooke Charter Schools. “We are thankful for the recognition of our scholars, who have made their schools not only among the top-performing schools in the city, but among the top-performing schools in the state. We are thankful for the recognition of our teachers and our principals who, at each of our campuses have used the autonomy granted them to create wonderfully positive learning environments…And not least of all, we are thankful for the attention that this prize is helping to focus on the Boston charter sector – the highest performing charter sector in the country.”
The finalists – the Brooke Charter Schools and Excel Academy Charter Schools – were selected on the basis of a quantitative analysis of their academic excellence as determined by their proficiency and growth scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Test, as well as a comparison of the demographic makeup of each school’s student body relative to the overall district in which the school was located.
Pozen Prize candidates also completed detailed applications that focused on their methods, needs, and objectives, including instructional program design, goals, staff, student recruitment, and demonstrated best practices that could be shared with other public schools to advance the overall performance of schools across the state. A secondary application required the finalists to explain their teacher recruitment and retention practices – particularly efforts to diversify faculty and staff ranks, as well as their specific college preparatory strategies for students.
The finalists then each hosted a visit from members of the Pozen Prize Selection Committee, whose recommendations played a critical role in the ultimate prize determination.