The Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School, a K1-6 Commonwealth Charter school in Cambridge, has been selected as the winner of the sixth Annual Pozen Prize for Innovative Schools in Massachusetts. The Pozen Prize is awarded to one school annually, chosen through a rigorous school selection process that includes a panel review of student academic outcomes; innovations in practice and ongoing programs that enhance student success.
The Banneker has been educating Massachusetts children for 23 years, from its home in North Cambridge. Originally founded in 1996, Banneker was the inspiration of community leaders, parents, and educators, with the common vision and purpose of providing all Cambridge and regional youth, regardless of race, culture, language, or socioeconomic status with a high quality education.
Recognition of achievement in the form of the Pozen Award was welcomed by Executive Director Sherley Bretous, who has been an educator at Banneker since its founding. Bretous started as a classroom teacher and has held positions of curriculum director, deputy director and now leads as executive director since 2012.
Our selection as the 2019 Pozen Prize winner is a tribute to our staff, students, parents and community, all of whom play critical roles in our success,said Bretous. We have a very special school community where all are welcomed, respected and expected to grow. For our students, we expect academic excellence, maturity and a love of learning. For our staff we believe in continuous professional and personal development to enhance the craft of teaching. We are a community of learners.”
About the Pozen Prize
The Pozen Prize 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 MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Elizabeth is a retired psychotherapist who is now focusing on her career as a figurative artist.
First awarded in 2014, the Pozen Prize highlights pilot, innovation, and charter schools that are finding innovative ways to connect with students and help them succeed.
We are pleased today to recognize the Benjamin Banneker Charter for its more than two decades of demonstrated success, said Robert Pozen,. Since 1996, Banneker has built a community that combines a rigorous curriculum, a supportive faculty and regular community connections to create an educational experience that fosters academic excellence and love for learning.
The $80,000 award is given annually to recognize a school that consistently boost students’ . achievements through innovative models, programs and practices. The Boston Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the nation, coordinates the analysis and selection process for the award.
The Banneker demonstrates how a school can leverage autonomy to create a successful achievement culture for students that captures the essence of its community, said Paul Grogan, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation. With a dedicated, experienced, diverse faculty that reflects their student body, and by building in opportunities for community engagement through innovations like their Executive in Residence partnership, Banneker creates a continuous learning environment, for faculty and students that allows it to succeed.
With an enrollment of 350, Banneker is a small Massachusetts public charter school that is in high demand. Applications for the few spots for the fall of 2019 far exceeded the available seats, resulting in a waitlist of more than 350. No doubt the 2018 academic results have prompted more attention for Banneker, where fifth grade students were 78% proficient in science as compared to the state average of 51%. Results in Math and English Language Arts also far outpaced the state averages, with proficiency scores 17% above state averages for both.
The Banner serves a student body that is over 95% African-American and Hispanic/Latino, and with 77% considered “high needs” (versus 47% for the Cambridge school district).
The Bannekers rigorous STEM curriculum, built on high expectations and student supports, is interwoven with a program called “The Banneker Experience” designed to expose its mostly urban student population to a wide variety of extracurricular experiences which include attending art shows, musical performances, visiting museums, enjoying outdoor sports such as skiing and camping, and participating in school community service. The curriculum is regularly reviewed and designed to be agile to better support the varied and unique needs of students and the rich mix of teacher strengths and instructional styles.
This year the Banneker has had other recognition, including the Milken Educator of the Year awarded to their librarian, Jennifer Gordon, for her work in early literacy. Just three years ago Banneker was selected as one of only two schools chosen as a Title 1 Distinguished School for the state of Massachusetts. When asked about the recent recognition, Bretous said We are more surprised than you can imagine. We come to school each day to work with our children, providing them with a very positive school experience they will remember. Their success is our success.
To learn more about the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School, visit www.banneker.org. Upcoming public events for the school include a student staff art show on May 30 and the TEAMS (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Math- Social Studies) Expo, June 11, where students feature their capstone projects using the tools and technologies learned throughout the year.
The school was named after Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) who was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science. His significant accomplishments include the successful prediction of a solar eclipse, publishing his own almanac, and the surveying of Washington, D.C.
The Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School is a K1-6 Commonwealth Charter school founded in 1996 serving families in Cambridge and the Greater Boston area.