Client Spotlight: Brooke Charter Schools

picture of the author, Lynn Bagwan by Lynn Bagwan, October 14th 2016

This edition of our Client Spotlight focuses on a charter school network that truly sets the bar for extraordinary student outcomes. Boston-based Brooke Charter Schools believes that “great teaching closes the achievement gap.” We couldn’t agree more, which is just one reason why our partnership with them has been so rewarding.

Brooke consists of three kindergarten through eighth-grade schools, plus a newly-established high school that is in its inaugural year. Brooke promises an academically rigorous curriculum, and any student from the Boston and Chelsea Public School Systems may apply. This includes English Language Learners, Limited English Proficient and Special Needs students. There is no admission application or interview, and students are selected based entirely on a lottery system.

One of Brooke’s primary goals is to close the achievement gap between low-income students and their wealthier counterparts. Brooke’s website refers to this gap as “the shame of our nation.” The statistics they provide are indeed sobering: A low-income child has only a one in ten chance of graduating from college. In Boston Public Schools, black, Hispanic and low-income students are significantly behind as compared to their white, wealthy peers. For example, the average low-income fourth grader is already three years behind wealthier peers. With numbers like these, it’s easy to question what hope children have of escaping the cycle of poverty.

We began working with Brooke back in the spring of 2015. Using video for teacher professional development was already an established part of their culture, but they didn’t have a platform that enabled them to use video efficiently and effectively. Indeed the atmosphere of sharing and collaboration, plus a laser-like focus on creating the best possible teachers, made Brooke the ideal partner for Torsh. 

Brooke now has an extensive collection of about 7,000 videos. Teachers are constantly uploading, reflecting on their own practice, sharing best practices with their peers, gaining feedback from coaches and mentors, and showcasing examples of their professional development efforts. Not to mention that Brooke teachers are observed about twenty times per year. Torsh TALENT has provided a streamlined way for this invaluable teacher observation, training and ongoing development to occur. 

Clearly, Brooke is doing a great many things right. But with no admission standards, one might question what kind of outcomes Brooke can achieve. That’s the most exciting part. The numbers are beyond impressive, which is why Brooke is regarded by many in academia as being among the best charter school organizations in the country. Here are a few of the highlights from the 2015 PARCC test. This acronym, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is an assessment tool used by many states to measure how prepared students are for college and/or a career: 

• On the 2015 PARCC, Brooke scholars were #1 in the State of Massachusetts.

• 85% of students at the three Brooke Charter Schools scored at the highest level on the PARCC Math and English tests as compared to  34% and 39% respectively for all students in Boston. 

• 109 African-American students scored at the highest level of the math PARCC compared to just 75 in the entire Boston Public School system. 

Here’s another impressive fact: 98% of Brooke alumni complete high school, more than double the rate of their Boston Public School peers. 

The incredible outcomes Brooke Charter Schools are delivering for its students, many of whom  come from low-income households, is helping set the standard for what an urban school can accomplish. We expect to see their success continue. And we’re very proud that they rely on Torsh TALENT to help them achieve their teacher professional development goals.  

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