Q&A with Chaka Booker, Managing Director, The Broad Residency in Urban Education


Q&A Chaka Booker The Broad Residency

Recently, The Broad Residency was granted accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges for a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Today, Chaka Booker, The Residency’s Managing Director, talks with EP on what accreditation means for his organization, what they look for in leaders, and why leadership matters in education.

(This Q&A has been edited and condensed.)


EP: Let’s talk about The Broad Residency. In a nutshell, what is it?

CB: The Broad Residency in Urban Education is a two-year leadership development program that brings talented, experienced professionals -- primarily from outside of education -- into roles in the central operations of urban school districts, charter management organizations, and federal and state departments of education. Through the Residents’ work in key function areas like operations, finance, and human resources, these organizations are able to drive central-office efficiencies to schools and classrooms throughout the system.

Throughout the program, Residents participate in eight professional-development sessions with their cohort. Between sessions, Residents receive executive coaching, staff advising, and peer advising, and they complete capstone and applied-learning projects -- all connected directly to their work. Our aim is that they have an impact in their roles and grow as leaders.

EP: Why is leadership and management critical to strengthen urban school systems?

CB: Our philosophy is that management matters. In any urban school system focused on continuous improvement, new strategies are always being developed. But it doesn’t matter how smart your ideas may be if you don’t implement them well. Strong leadership and management help ensure those strategies can produce the desired effect.

In education, this is an area in which we know we can add value. We have robust systems in place to find talented, experienced professionals who care deeply about urban public education and social justice. At the same time, we know from our partner organizations that they have ongoing needs for effective education leaders and managers. If school systems aren’t managed well, too many things that happen at the system level actually get in the way of teachers’ efforts to do great work in their classrooms.  

EP: TBR recently gained accreditation – tell me what that means.

CB: The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has thoroughly assessed our program, including our capacity and educational effectiveness, and we met their high bar for quality. It was an incredibly rigorous process which we began about five years ago. Among other things, it requires strong organizational reflection. Our graduates now earn a master’s in education, acknowledging their dedication and hard work on behalf of children and communities, and we are stronger program for it.

EP: Does this change anything for past Residents, or only future Residents?

CB: Anyone currently in the program who successfully completes the program requirements will earn a master’s degree. The same goes for future Residents.

EP: What sets The Broad Residency apart from other education leadership programs?

CB: What makes it very different from other programs is the job placement component. We help place people in a public school system for the entire two years of the Residency. That was both exciting and challenging for the accreditation committee. It’s completely different from more traditional models to create work experiences that are a critical part of the learning. But it’s a direction that more higher-education programs should pursue. This kind of hands-on component to learning accelerates and augments the classroom experience.

EP: Will this change other aspects of your program – cohort size, admissions requirements, anything else? Do you expect more interest as a result?

CB: At this point, we don’t anticipate changing the cohort size or the admissions requirements. We think this may make the program more attractive to some candidates. But that may not translate into a bigger cohort size.

WASC has really pushed us to become more involved in the broader higher-education community. Through the accreditation process, we have started thinking about how we can help other programs preparing education leaders by sharing what we do and what we have learned. It’s a new stream of work, and we’re learning what it will look like.

EP: What do you look for in the leaders you choose to become Broad Residents?

CB: At a basic level, we seek individuals who have a track record of strong leadership; the ability to manage complex relationships and work well with a diverse set of stakeholders; superb analytical, problem-solving and project management skills; and best-practice experience in key functional areas.

At the same time, they also must have a real desire to make change, and to do impactful and important work for the long haul. They must believe deeply that world-class urban public education is critical to changing lives and making our country a better place. And, of course, they must believe that all children can achieve at high levels when their schools are organized to teach them to high levels.

EP: Are there specific skills or practices that have been demonstrated to be effective in leading or managing in urban school systems that you teach Residents?

CB: The ability to build authentic relationships with a broad range of people is critical. We also want Residents to understand the strategic planning and theories that different school systems use to drive work forward. We focus on building and leading teams, situational leadership and other management topics. But a large part of our work is getting Residents up to speed on important K-12 topics, meeting with teachers, principals, students, visiting schools. If they don’t understand that part, they will not be effective leaders.

EP: The Broad Center has been a partner of EP for a number of years and some of our Fellows have gone on to become Broad Residents. What do you see as the value of Broad and EP working together?

CB: Education Pioneers exposes a broad range of talented people to the important work of improving urban public education. Many emerging leaders come to us after having served as an EP Fellow. Both The Broad Center staff and the Broad Residency have benefitted greatly from the talent pipeline that EP has developed. In fact, Sarah Chandler – the Broad Center staff member who led our accreditation process – is an alumna of Education Pioneers. We couldn’t have done it without her, so that’s a great example, right there!

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