Charter School Initiative

In response to the shuttering of 60+ Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York (primarily K-8 schools serving underserved children), Seton set out to launch a secular charter school model of virtue paired with optional, privately funded Catholic faith formation after school. This model would ensure that thousands of underserved children whose Catholic schools close—and other local children—have access to an academically superior, character-building, and—for those who choose it—faith-nurturing education.

In 2013, Seton launched Brilla College Prep Charter School in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx. Brilla, which means “shine” in Spanish, has achieved academic growth results that match or beat the most acclaimed charter schools. Brilla schools form the minds, bodies and souls of children by inculcating the knowledge, skills, and virtues necessary for them to realize their God-given potential. Seton’s approach to pedagogy and content is both innovative and traditional. Brilla students study classical content developed over millennia and across multiple cultures. Teacher-led instruction is combined with blended learning technology to support personalized growth.

Today, Seton manages three Brilla charter school campuses in the South Bronx serving nearly 800 students. Seton hopes to further expand its network of Brilla charter schools to ensure that thousands of underserved children, especially those who cannot afford a Catholic school, have access to a holistic education that produces outstanding academic growth, strong moral character, and vibrant communities—all to achieve a life of meaning and true happiness. We hope our Bronx-based network might serve as a national model for other cities that face the shuttering of Catholic schools, so they too can continue to serve the underserved.

About Brilla College Prep

Brilla College Preparatory Charter School opened its doors in August of 2013 with 200 kindergarten and first-graders in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx, one of the nation’s poorest congressional districts. Just over 20% of our students have special education needs, 93% are economically disadvantaged, and 32% are English language learners (36% of our K-1st graders). Despite some of the challenges our students and families face, Brilla scholars achieve outstanding academic results, outperforming the district, city, and state on ELA and math tests.

  • In 2016-17, 51% of Brilla students were proficient on the state ELA exam compared with 26% of their neighborhood peers.
  • In 2016-17, 62% of Brilla students were proficient on the state math exam compared with 25% of their neighborhood peers.
  • In 2017-18, 77% of Brilla students met or exceeded projected academic growth on the NWEA MAP exam in ELA as compared to 50% of their peers nationally.
  • In 2017-18, 76% of Brilla students met or exceeded projected academic growth on the NWEA MAP exam in math as compared to 50% of their peers nationally.

It is not just our academic results that make us proud. We have a very low incidence of suspensions for a public school in the South Bronx and enjoy a very close relationship with our parents:

  • Only 12 of 640 students were suspended in 2017-18, and since our founding, zero students have been expelled.
  • We had a 96% average student attendance rate in 2017-18, compared to the district average of 57%.
  • 95% of parents say they are “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with Brilla.
  • We have achieved 100% attendance at parent-teacher conferences (held three times per year) since our founding.

About the Brilla Schools Network

In July 2017, Seton officially became the management organization for the Brilla Schools Network. The Brilla Schools Network, now three schools strong, includes Brilla’s flagship elementary school, serving grades K-4; Brilla’s first 5th-8th grade middle school, and a second elementary school, Brilla Veritas. The Brilla Schools Network team ensures mission integration and alignment among all Brilla schools and provides services related to instruction, data, facilities, operations, talent recruitment, human resources and employment, budgeting and financial reporting, and fundraising. By performing these functions, Seton empowers school leaders to focus primarily on setting a powerful vision for student academic achievement and character development, motivating others to follow that vision, and strategically implementing the school’s mission.

Click here to read our 2016-2017 results.