Brooke Charter Schools is a Boston-based Charter Management Organization that operates three K-8 charter schools and serves almost 1,500 students in the greater Boston area. The schools focuses “unrelentingly” on their mission “to provide an academically rigorous public education to students from the cities of Boston and Chelsea that will ensure that they are prepared to enter into and succeed in college.”[i] To do so, “from day one, Brooke leaders have been dedicated to great teaching.”[ii] Today, Brooke’s schools are among the best in Massachusetts, and the country, and serve the highest need students, outperforming many of Boston’s wealthy suburban school districts. Brooke’s success comes from this targeted focus in their business model and the coherent, aligned, and effective way in which they implement it in their operating model.
Brooke’s Business Model: Creating the best outcomes for every child
Since opening in 2002, Brooke has consistently and outstandingly produced results for their customers, the students and families they serve. Their results have received national attention for proving that socioeconomic status and race do not determine educational outcomes, as Brooke’s students have had the highest performance in the entire state in multiple subjects for every year since 2006.[iii] In composite test scores, Brooke’s flagship campus, Roslindale, demonstrably outperforms every school in the state.
Beyond just test scores, Brooke also focuses on character of students, summarized into five core values: focus, integrity, respect, self-determination, and teamwork. To be effective, Brooke identified quality teaching as the single most important lever in achieving their value proposition for students. As a result, Brooke’s business model goes one step beyond the value of the outcomes for students by recruiting, developing, and retaining the best teachers in the country.
Brooke’s Operational Model: Putting high-quality talent first
Brooke’s tangible and intangible investments reflect a clear set of priorities and an aligned strategy to ensure that the schools deliver on their promises to students and families. As Assistant Director of Talent and Recruitment, Rachel Kohn, describes “Everything we do comes back to developing our teachers from good to great to provide the best instruction for our students.”[iv]
A Differentiated Talent Model
Brooke’s entire organization places an intense focus and priority on high-quality teachers. To differentiate the schools from others, Brooke has developed a portfolio of human capital programs directly aligned to their ultimate outcomes:
- Professional Development: Kohn explained Brooke’s robust PD system, “Our professional development is inherently teacher centric… focusing on classroom culture, instruction, and content.”[v] The regularity, consistency, and value of these institutionalized features enable continuous growth and development of teachers at every level.
- Master Teacher Program: Brooke developed a new role to reward and incentivize their top talent with a 10% increase in pay and additional leadership responsibilities. Brooke has named nine master teachers since launching the program.
- Associate Teacher Program: Brooke builds their own pipeline of talent by hiring novice teachers (0-2 years of experience) as an “apprentice” teacher for a year, learning to teach in the school. Brooke then fills as many as 70% of their vacancies with this internally developed talent.[vi]
Brooke’s suite of professional development programs have multiple results. First, teachers at Brooke report high levels of satisfaction on surveys.[vii] Second, Brooke has high teacher retention (>85%) each year (many charter networks experiencing turnover rates as high as 30% annually).[viii] Finally, Brooke’s teachers and schools have been recognized for their achievements, including two consecutive years of the Pozen Prize for Charter Schools from The Boston Foundation.[ix]
A Culture of Continuous Improvement with Tools to Implement Change
Built in to Brooke’s professional culture (and PD) is a pursuit of excellence for their students. The adults in the schools are always looking for ways to improve, as an internal document described, ““Our highest performing teachers are just as positive about their constant improvement as our newer teachers are. We hope that our top teachers will never hit a ceiling here.”[x] The organization encourages and enables this change by institutionalizing time and structures for feedback, including their robust teacher rubric with 32 sub-categories (summarized below).
As a result, even though Brooke is the best at the value they offer for students, they are consistently seeking ways to improve and evolve their model.
A Strategic Scope
While Brook has added two new campuses in the past five years to now serve nearly 1,500 students, their growth has been measured and purposeful. Limited by legislation rules on charter school enrollment, Brooke has chosen not to expand to new geographies. Furthermore, they have not been distracted by innovations that obscure their core work, such as integrating unnecessary technology. Finally, they have applied to open a high school to further vertically integrate the educational experience of their students to serve them from K-12.[xi]
A Lean Centralized Organization
Finally, Brooke’s focus on teacher talent and student outcomes is evident in their lean central office organization, with only 12 FTE under the Co-Director (Operations). The Co-Director (Academics) team, which is the instructional and professional development of the organization, has 8 FTE at the network level who support principals and leaders at each school, 101 teachers, and 26 associate teachers. “Brooke Charter Schools directs all of its resources toward creating a culture that reveres great teaching, develops it, and supports it.”[xii]
Brooke Charter School: Demonstrating Effectiveness in Public Education
The alignment of Brooke’s vision, business model, and operating model enables the success they consistently deliver for the students they serve. Instead of identifying every program or practice they could use to teach children, Brooke invests in its teachers and designed the entire organization around supporting and developing those teachers. The results, proven again with the release of the new test data for 2015, show this singular focus and systematic operational model produce outstanding results for students.
[iii] Brooke Charter Schools. Annual Report 2013-14. Retrieved from http://www.ebrooke.org/wp-content/uploads/Brooke-Charter-Schools-Annual-Report-2013-2014-Spread1.pdf p. 5
[iv] Kohn, Rachel. “Human Capital at Brooke.” Personal interview. 7 Dec. 2015.
[viii] Sawchuck, Stephen. “Teacher Retention Data for Charters Still Murky.” Education Week. 2 June 2015. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/media/2015/06/02/32turnoverside-c1.jpg
[ix] The Boston Foundation. “Brooke Charter School Wins Second Annual Pozen Prize for Charter Schools.” 12 May 2015. Retrieved from http://www.tbf.org/news-and-events/news/2015/may/brooke-charter-schools-wins-second-pozen-prize
[x] Teach Plus. “Retaining Public Charter Teachers for Student Success.” Why Are My Teachers Leaving? Summer 2012. 6 Dec. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.teachplus.org/sites/default/files/publication/pdf/whyaremyteachersleaving_0.pdf
[xi] Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “10 Groups Seek to Open New Charter Schools, 19 Schools Apply to Serve More Students” 3 Aug 2015. http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=21098