The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools?

The $250,000 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools is an annual award given to the public charter school management organization that demonstrates the most outstanding overall student performance in the country while reducing achievement gaps among low-income students and students of color.

The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools is the sister award to The Broad Prize for Urban Education, which is given to traditional school systems. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation launched both awards to help schools systems across America learn from innovative public school systems producing the strongest student outcomes.

What does the winner receive?

The winner of The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools receives $250,000 for college-readiness efforts for low-income students, such as scholarships, speaker series or campus visits.

Why did The Broad Foundation create this award?

The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools was created to recognize and reward the most outstanding academic performance and progress among urban charter management organizations serving the largest number of students so that public school systems nationwide can learn from their success.

The first public charter school opened in 1992 to provide parents and students a choice of schools outside of traditional public schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that receive public funds and are held to the same federal and state academic standards as traditional public schools. However, they are granted more flexibility in operating, in exchange for agreeing to be academically accountable.

Since 2000, the number of public charter schools in the U.S. has more than quadrupled, and the number of students they serve has increased by more than 700 percent. As of the 2014-15 academic year, 2.9 million students attended charter schools.

Given that public charter schools have reached a critical mass, The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools seeks to recognize those charter models that show the most outstanding academic outcomes at scale, particularly for traditionally disadvantaged students.

What are the eligibility criteria?

For the 2016 Prize, charter management organizations that have been operating a minimum of five schools for at least four years and which serve sizeable percentages of poor and minority students are automatically eligible. Organizations cannot apply or be nominated for the award.

Organizations eligible for the award in 2016 had:

  • Five or more charter schools in operation as of 2011-12
  • 1,500 students or more enrolled each year since 2011-12
  • At least 40 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch in 2012-13
  • At least 33 percent of students from minority groups in 2012-13

Winners from the previous three years are ineligible. In 2016, Noble, KIPP and Uncommon Schools are ineligible.

Why were those criteria established?

These criteria were established to ensure that the charter management organizations considered for The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools are comparable, in that they serve a significant number of students, share similar demographics, operate at scale, and organize schools under the same management organization.

Most charter schools that are ineligible for the award are single-operators that are not affiliated with a charter management organization. Organizations that outsource school operations to other charter management organizations also do not qualify.

Although many ineligible individual charter schools have made strong student gains and have important lessons to share, the practical need to collect and run comparable data made the inclusion of all charter schools impossible at this point.

The Broad Foundation will continue to review the eligibility criteria and will make revisions to future eligibility requirements deemed necessary to establish the most appropriate, fair and useful comparison possible.

Which organizations are eligible?

Achievement First, Inc.   Alliance College-Ready Public Schools   Aspire Public Schools  
Breakthrough Charter Schools   Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA)   Celerity Educational Group  
Concept Schools   EdKey Inc.   Friendship Public Charter School  
Gateway Community Charter Schools   Green Dot Public Schools   Harmony Public Schools  
High Tech High   IDEA Public Schools   Imagine Schools, Inc.  
LEARN Charter School Network   Lifeschool of Dallas   Lighthouse Academies  
Magnolia Public Schools   Mastery Charter Schools   Options for Youth Public Charter Schools  
Partnerships to Uplift Communities   Performance Academies   Propel Schools  
Rocketship Education   Success Academy Charter Schools   Universal Companies  
UNO Charter School Network   Uplift Education   YES Prep Public Schools  


Who selects the winner?

A review board of prominent education experts from across the country–many of whom also serve on the review board that analyzes data on the school districts eligible for The Broad Prize for Urban Education–reviews student achievement data received from the eligible charter management organizations and their states and collected by American Institutes for Research, one of the world's largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.

Learn more about review board members here

The Broad Foundation and AIR do not play a role in voting for the winner.

What methodology is used?

Typically, states report student achievement data for charter management organizations at the school–rather than aggregate–level. Consequently, The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools’ methodology aggregates school-level student achievement data for all schools affiliated with each of the eligible management organizations to generate organization-wide results and statistics that are presented to the review board. The data are collected, reviewed and analyzed by American Institutes for Research.   

What quantitative data do decision-makers review?

The review board considers the following student achievement and demographic data: 

  • Performance results on mandated state tests in reading, math and science 
  • The magnitude of achievement gaps between ethnic groups and between low-income and non-low-income students 

    In the case of high schools: 
  • State-reported cohort graduation rates 
  • Advanced Placement exam participation and passing rates  
  • SAT and ACT exam participation rates and scores  
  • Demographic data (e.g., student enrollment, income, ethnicity)

No formula is used to choose the winner. Members of the review board select the winner based on their analysis of publicly available student achievement data, their professional judgment, experience and mutual discussion. Among the factors the review board considers are student outcomes, scalability, size, poverty and demographics.

How do I find best practices and student data analyses on the CMOs analyzed under this award?

Learn more about the 2015 winner Noble Network of Charter Schoools.

How does the review board compare high school management organizations to elementary school management organizations?

Assessment data are standardized so that it can be comparable across organizations. For example, performance levels are compared to all public high school and elementary school students in the state, respectively. The resulting degrees of performance versus students at the same school levels make the data comparable across CMOs.

How does the review board analyze the results of charter management organizations that operate schools in different states?

For charter management organizations that operate schools in different states, organization-level analyses are first summarized for each state. National aggregations to reflect management organization-level results are presented where methodologically sound.

Who collects the quantitative student achievement data?

American Institutes for Research manages the rigorous and comprehensive quantitative data collection and analysis process required.

How is this award different from The Broad Prize for Urban Education?

The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools closely mirrors the process used for The Broad Prize for Urban Education given to traditional school districts. For example, similar categories of student achievement data and analytical methodologies are considered. Also, some of the same decision-makers play a role in both awards. However, the quantitative methodology used for the charter prize is modified as necessary to account for differences in the availability and quality of school-level data. In addition, unlike the school district award, because there are fewer eligible management organizations, the review board selects the winner.

What does the annual process look like?

The annual Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools’ process encompasses the following:

  1. Each fall, charter management organizations are identified as eligible candidates based on size, demographics and years of available data. 
  2. Publicly available student achievement data for eligible organizations are collected during the fall and winter. 
  3. The review board analyzes publicly available data and selects the winner. 
  4. The winner is announced in the summer and data showing the overall student gains, performance and magnitude of achievement gaps closures that formed the quantitative basis for the decision are released.
  5. Efforts are made to improve all aspects of the process on a continuous basis. 

What is The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation?

Founded by self-made entrepreneur Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, both graduates of Detroit Public Schools, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is a philanthropy that seeks to ensure that every student in an urban public school has the opportunity to succeed. Bringing together top education experts and practitioners, the foundation funds system-wide programs and policies that strengthen public schools by creating environments that enable good teachers to do great work and students of all backgrounds to learn and thrive. Learn more about The Broad Foundation.

What does “charter management organization” mean?

Given that commonly used terms and definitions in the field are still developing, The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools uses “charter management organization” to refer to organizations that operate multiple public charter schools under a shared management strategy or organizations or firms with one clear educational model that covers multiple public charter schools. The schools at issue also must receive public funds and operate schools under the same admissions rules as traditional public schools.  

The term “charter management organization” is intended to be consistent with the definition of “charter management organization” used by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ charter school database.

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