A Culture of Excellence: A Case Study of the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School

January 2021

The Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School in Cambridge—winner of the 2019 Pozen Prize for Innovative Schools—was founded in 1996 by a group of Cambridge-area Black parents and concerned community leaders who acted on the reality that their children did not have access to a rigorous, high-quality education in the traditional neighborhood public schools. Despite dedicated staff and a deep commitment to the school’s mission, the Banneker struggled for much of its first decade. In 2003, only 6% of Banneker 6th graders were proficient in math. That’s when the school’s leadership launched an intensive, community-wide effort to improve performance. Since 2003, the number of students meeting or exceeding expectations in 6th grade math has improved by 62 percentage points and the school now performs in the 85th percentile when compared to all schools in the state. The Banneker also has higher attendance rates and lower churn rates than the surrounding district. This case study delves into the school’s secrets of success, including its comprehensive support for teachers, culture of trust among staff, and commitment to affirming each student and staff member’s culture.


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