Mission. Impact. Urgency.

Video courtesy The 74 Million, published as part of Richard Whitmire’s The Founders

Building Excellent Schools (BES) is a national nonprofit organization committed to improving the academic achievement of underserved students in our nation’s urban centers. We accomplish this by training leaders to take on the demanding and urgent work of leading high-achieving, college preparatory urban charter schools.

What sets BES apart is our focus on entrepreneurial leadership. The BES approach equips school leaders with the skills they need to effectively manage instruction, operations, student and adult culture, and external relationships in a high-performing, urban school. BES-trained leaders are demanding of themselves and others. They are ambitious achievers. They sweat the small stuff because they know every detail matters – every minute matters – when it comes to closing the achievement gap.

The Need Is Urgent

Everything we do at BES is driven by the belief that strong leadership drives every element of a successful school.


BES is committed to improving the academic achievement of the most underserved students in U.S. cities – 84% of students in BES schools qualify for free/reduced lunch, 47% are Black, and 36% are Hispanic. To date, BES has established 100+ schools in 26 cities, educating over 27,000 students. With more than half of BES schools adding new campuses, and with new cohorts of leaders being trained each year, BES anticipates there will be 148 BES schools impacting 31,000 students by the fall of 2018.

Our History

The history of BES is rooted in the beginnings of the national charter school movement. In 2001, in response to the poor academic outcomes of Massachusetts’ first charter schools, the Massachusetts Charter School Resource Center set out to ensure that a dominant share of new charters would be truly excellent, founded by talented leaders and grounded from the start in proven strategies and design elements.

By providing intensive, full-time training to individuals to build new charter schools of the highest quality, the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship was born. The model was so successful that the organization expanded its training outside of the state and re-formed as Building Excellent Schools, a self-governed nonprofit corporation, in 2003. From serving three states in 2004 to working in more than four times that many states currently, BES has a crow’s nest vantage point and a wealth of experience in training high-capacity leaders and founding top-performing schools.