Category Archives: Flipping The Script

Register NOW: Education for Liberation Conference on Saturday, May 6th

Crawl Spaces* for Liberation:
Educate to Transform

Saturday, May 6
9:30 — 4:00
Hosted by our Co-Sponsor Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures Charter School
1023 Callowhill St.

We see liberation as freedom, as control over our own lives balanced with the responsibility to a larger collective purpose. Crawl spaces* for liberation can exist everywhere, from daily interactions between educators and students to curriculum design to policy making. How can we identify and seize opportunities to create these crawl spaces? When the work of education is subject to competing agendas, how do we harness our power to build towards a movement for individual and collective transformation?

In this time of increasingly dangerous political shifting and uncertainty, it is urgent that we and our students engage in humanizing education to prepare us to take control, lead, imagine and create a better world.

Join us at TAG’s 8th annual Education for Liberation Conference!  The Conference’s panels, workshops, tablers, and lunchtime conversations will create space to witness, learn from and build on the crawl spaces that exist within our school communities. Be part of a day that brings people together to learn, create, grow, and push back to build the educational spaces all students deserve. Breakfast, lunch, and childcare provided. 

Click here to register!

*See Jay Gillen’s book “Educating for Insurgency” for more on “crawl spaces.”

Register NOW: Education for Liberation Conference on Saturday, April 30

Eventbrite - TAG's 7th Annual Education for Liberation Conference


At this year’s conference, we celebrate the vision, strength and resourcefulness of students, educators and community members exercising power and creativity in the face of abandonment and dispossession.  We stand firm in the conviction that the people and places in the Philadelphia school system are not disposable, but instead worth cultivating. Rather than disregard and erase our communities’ wisdom and knowledge, we strive to create a space that values this cultural wealth and uses it to ground our work for manifesting just communities and schools.  Drawing from the power within leads us towards limitless possibility and real transformation.

This year’s workshops include: 

  • African American History Curriculum Review Collaborative: non-negotiatiables and the importance of the counter narrative
  • The Benefits of Guided Inquiry Pedagogy for Students with Learning Disabilities
  • The School to Prison Pipeline
  • Reclaiming Assessment and Leadership of our Schools
  • Teaching Consent Through Youth Media (film screening and discussion)
  • Trauma Informed Teaching
  • Children with Incarcerated Family: From Silence to Collaboration
  • Creating Our Own Mythologies
  • Historytelling: Storytelling as a tool for continuity and resistance
  • THERE’S MORE TO OUR STORY: Counteracting The Tragedy of A Single Narrative
  • Being Poor is Expensive: Philly Students Use Math to Explore Social Justice
  • Mindfulness in the Classroom

Saturday, April 30  •  9:30 — 4:00
Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures Charter School
1023 Callowhill St. 

Eventbrite - TAG's 7th Annual Education for Liberation Conference

Announcing 2016’s Inquiry to Action Groups — Register now!

TAG is excited to present 2016’s Inquiry to Action Groups.  ItAGs bring together educators, parents, students, and community members to focus on topics related to social justice in education, and to take action connected to what they learned.  ItAGs create a space for us to explore, imagine, and work towards creating the schools our students deserve.

Listed here are descriptions of NINE ItAGs, which will convene across the city in the coming months:

  • African American History Curriculum
  • Countering Racial Capitalism for a Just City
  • Creating Grassroots Curriculum
  • Cultivating a Mindful Classroom
  • Feminism is for Everybody
  • History and Memory of the 1981 Teachers’ Strike
  • Math and Social Justice
  • Questioning the World
  • Reclaiming Assessment, Classrooms, and Leadership: Responding to High-Stakes Testing and the Future of Assessment Reforms

Register for ItAGs now!

Then join us at 6:00 on FEBRUARY 11 at SCIENCE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY (55 N. 22nd Street) for a PUBLIC LAUNCH and a chance to meet the facilitators.

Spread the word!  Share the ItAGs list and registration widely, and join the movement for educational equity and justice in Philadelphia: @TAGphilly; #ItAGs16; #PHLed;

For more information, reach out to us at

Support a Game Changer for Education in Philly

Early in 2016, there is an incredible opportunity to change the landscape of education in Philadelphia.  Imagine electing a teacher union leadership committed to actively struggling for social justice through strengthening democracy and empowering teachers across the city.

The Teacher Action Group stands in solidarity with the 
Caucus of Working Educators, a caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) organizing for transformation of our public schools.  The Caucus envisions a democratic and transparent member-driven teachers union.  They are running a slate of inspiring candidates in the upcoming PFT elections in winter of 2016.

Whether you are a member of the PFT or not, please join us to support the work of WE, especially in this critical time!

  • Become a member of the caucus and encouraging your colleagues to join (community allies who are not members of the PFT are also welcome to join).
  • Read and share WE’s platform and build relationships with people around you who connect to its vision.
  • Attend a WhoAreWE Session:                                                          
  • Host a #WhoAreWE session for your colleagues within and beyond your school (contact: for information).
  • #OccupyTheSRC on December 18, 2015 5:00 PM, 440 N. Broad.  Show your support for our schools, students, and teachers.
  • Fundraise and donate to support the election campaign.  Join us for one (or more!) of the following fundraising events:
    • Friday, December 18th: House Party, e-mail
    • Tuesday, December 22nd 5:00PM: “Meet the Slate Fundraiser”, Son’s of American Legion Squadron #366 Loudenslager, 7976 Oxford Ave.
    • Saturday, December 26th: Painting with a Twist, email
    • Wednesday, December 30th: “Party for your Right to Fight” (Host: Kelley Collings), 441 W. Earlham Terr.
  • Organize every PFT member to vote in the 2016 election.
  • Help flyer at every school in Philadelphia (contact for information about getting materials and locations)

Questions?  Want to join this effort at a deeper level? Contact Kelley Collings:      kelleycollings@gmail.com215-868-3089


Submit an ItAG Proposal by December 1st!

Interested in starting a conversation with colleagues about a social justice topic in education that relates to your practice?  Submit a proposal to facilitate an Inquiry to Action Group.  ItAGs are 6 — 8 week spaces for educators from across the city to learn and take action around a theme.  All are welcome to facilitate.  Complete this form by December 1st to propose an ItAG for 2016.  Questions? Contact us at

The WE Convention on Nov 14th: Organizing Skills, Union Lessons, and Announcing the 2016 Election Slate and Platform!


Without a doubt, this is probably the most exciting time in WE’s brief history:

  • In September WE announced its Leadership Bid and Listening Campaign; and have been covered by most major papers in the city. (The Notebook here and hereThe Tribune here and hereThe Daily NewsCity PaperRaging Chicken Press here and here).
  • Through the listening campaign, the Caucus has heard from educators from every part of the city about what they love about their jobs, the obstacles they face, and their ideas for how we can strengthen our union.
  • All that data is currently being compiled into a platform that truly represents the democratic power of educators in Philadelphia.

And on November 14th, The Caucus of Working Educators will host its Annual Convention. Every educator and education advocate is invited to join us for a day of skill-building, workshops from education and union experts from across the country, and…kicking off the official 2016 election platform and slate!

The 2nd Annual WE Convention
November 14, 2015 at 9:30am – 3:30pm
Old First Reformed UCC
151 N 4 St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Lunch, childcare, and parking provided free of charge.

Please RSVP through the website or on facebook.


WE are working to build a member-driven, democratic union that can defend and transform public education– but your ideas and passion are needed to make it possible. Join for the whole day or any part of it (make sure you get some lunch, too). Even if you can’t make it, please forward this info to a Philadelphia educator you know that might be interested.


Tentative Program:

9:30-10:00am- Breakfast and Registration

10:00-10:45am- Opening Plenary: “Race, class and the future of our union”, Brian Jones (NyCORE/MORE)

10:45-12:00pm- Workshop Session 1
  • Organizing to Win: How to Have Effective Conversations that Move People to Action
  • #WEarethePFT: Carrying our Message through Social Media and Beyond
  • Internal Union Elections: Know Your Rights

12:00-1:00pm: Lunch (catered by school employees from Taggart Elementary)

1:00-2:15pm- Workshop Session 2

  • Organizing to Win: How to Have Effective Conversations that Move People to Action
  • Lessons from Recent Labor Victories: Open Negotiations, Hunger Strikes, Charter Protests, and more
  • It Takes More Than a Strong Caucus: Grassroots Fundraising for Our Election Campaign

2:15-3:30pm- Closing Plenary: Announcing the 2016 Leadership Slate and Election Platform!

After Reading Between The World And Me, Consider What Must Be Done Between Philadelphia and You. We Welcome You to Join Us.

In leading up to the October 16th event at the Free Library, Teacher Action Group Philadelphia convened two community roundtables for the truths and stories provided by Ta-Nehisi Coates to emerge significant lessons for local students, educators and the greater Philadelphia community. Through our inquiry, we seek to urge audience members to recognize that the issues that make Between The World and Me such a powerful text is more than a true human story, but a present living history that is actively plundering, assaulting, and burdening Black life in Philadelphia. There is much work to be done to transform cross-sector public policies that have collided to create and collectively reinforce the conditions that underwrite the undeserved suffering in many Black and Brown neighborhoods within Philadelphia. This stands beyond yet inextricably intertwined with the personal necessity of interrogating and transforming harmful attitudes and beliefs that make such policies justifiable. Furthermore, let this be a reminder that there are many local organizations, with only a few named below, who have deep histories of organizing Philadelphia community members to reckon with many of the concrete realities that his book draws to the surface.

Click below to read the entire piece by TAG member Chris Rogers at Medium.

After Reading Between The World And Me, Consider What Must Be Done Between Philadelphia and You.

The LEARN Conference: A Philly Teacher’s View

By Yaasiyn Muhammad

On March 1st, The LEARN Network hosted their annual conference at UPenn, and graciously provided a few passes for TAG teachers to attend. The conference brings together different viewpoints about education reform in Philadelphia. Below are one teacher’s impressions of the day.

The theme of the 3rd annual L.E.A.R.N. conference was “Achievement Gap or the Education Debt? Combating Racial Inequalities in Our Public Schools.” This theme acknowledges the existence of racial inequalities in the nation’s public school systems, a premise that I completely agree with, but some of the solutions proposed specifically by State Senator Anthony Williams are currently creating more inequality in the public schools of Philadelphia.

Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 10.57.00 AMWilliams, as the afternoon keynote speaker, supported his positions in favor of charter schools, cyber schools, and private school vouchers, each of these measures are taking funds away from the public schools of Philadelphia, in an attempt to provide parents with options. Williams claimed that these options are for the very families who are suffering because of this achievement gap, or as Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dr. Camika Royal would put it, educational debt.

Interestingly, when an audience member presented data that stated that families with the highest needs were not tapping into these options, Williams quickly dismissed that notion. A member of the morning panel validated the point that the audience member was making–Ms. Kia Philpot-Hinton spoke on one of the benefits of charter schools. She stated that she placed her child in a charter school because she understood that the parents of children in charter schools were much more active in their kids’ education.

Williams even dismissed the notion that increased funding correlates with academic achievement. Williams touted himself as someone who is in the middle on this issue, acknowledging that there is an achievement gap, that he understands there is an historical context as to why it exists, and that he is open for any suggestions.

Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 10.56.56 AMDr. Royal, as a participant in the morning panel, presented the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings when addressing the theme of the achievement gap. Royal espouses the belief that the term achievement gap is a misnomer that works to compare racial minorities to their white counterparts, in a way that blames racial minorities for their shortcomings. Royal prefers the term “educational debt” explaining that there has been a debt ran up in our society, a debt caused by structural racism, racism that aimed to prevent minority groups from accessing quality education everywhere in this nation. From her statements, it seems that Dr. Royal would like for politicians and the public to understand this issue in light of that historical truth and shift the conversation about funding and academic achievement, in a way that it focuses on addressing inter-generational effects of discrimination.

By contrast, Senator Williams made a statement in his address that told everyone in the audience that he is not focused on addressing historical inequities. Williams said that a teacher who was a C student in their school of education was more likely to be an ineffective teacher. That statement is a reflection of the hyper grade-conscious, test-oriented culture that has infected our students, politicians, and even our teachers. This culture exists in public schools and is expanding the empathy gap present in our schools.

At a late morning session addressed the notion of an empathy gap, one of the most memorable panelists was Philadelphia teacher (and TAG member) Jaimie Stevenson. She saw the empathy gap as her inability to build and develop a relationship with all of her students because of her inability to appreciate his values. She pointed to the lack of flexibility in her lessons and assessments because of the test oriented focal points of her curriculum, therefore, the student who is interested in art can never express that interest in his English class, much worse, his teacher can never express an appreciation in his diverse talents.

Just as Williams sees teachers with C’s as hurting the educational achievement of their school system, our schools see the students who are tactile and art-based as not helping the school’s test scores, because the politicians running the school system are focused on test scores and not the diverse contributions students and teachers bring to education.

Yaasiyn Muhammad has been teaching history for 5 years. Last year he was laid off from Northeast High School after 4 years there. He currently teaches at Central High School.

Flipping the Script: Still No Library

TAG is pleased to present a student voice speaking out about the ongoing lack of resources at their school.

To whom it may concern:

If you were to sweep your finger across the covers of one of the books in our school’s library, you would have a dirty hand. The dust would gather as your finger glides across the ancient covers. Covers that would be worn and torn out. Don’t look for Dan Brown or James Patterson- most of the books were published before the year 2010. However, outdated books are not the major problem. If you were to walk in our library in the first place, you wouldn’t. The library remains locked- as students, we are prohibited to enter a library. Ironically, one would consider a library a place of knowledge, silence, and a helpful location- especially for students.

Maybe a practical teenager prefers Instagram or Facebook, but believe me when I say I am not a practical teenager. I love to read books, the scent of books excites me. What is a “kindle” and a “nook”? A book is a binding of papers, and on those papers are the words, the words that create a story. I told you I am not a practical teenager, I prefer Mitch Albom to Ellen Hopkins, and I like the crisp of noise a book makes when you turn the page.

My classes are parched from the lack of textbooks. My teacher resorted to sharing the textbook online for the sake of the class. His 90 students need 90 textbooks. We only have 40.  As I read the pdf based file, my eyes strain and the pages no longer create sound. The “pages” are just white backgrounds compiled by miniscule pixels. I no longer read a textbook, but a textfile.

People write letters to high authority figures, criticizing them for not doing enough. My intention is not that; my intention is to inform you how bad conditions are. They are not the worst, but they are not the best either. We could have many situations that are far worse than books, but I hope you understand. Books are vital to me as much as libraries are. I get lost in tragedies that make my life seem better, characters are real people to me, and a “theme” is not an English 1 vocabulary word for me- they are real notions I obtain from stories.

I do only have 161 school days left, 3,864 hours, or 231,840 minutes. But to the younger kids who will soon enter themselves into a place they prepare to become adults, they have much to worry. What will they read? The textbooks that have been scribbled on? The textbooks that lost their covers? Or how about the textbooks that don’t exist? They have 724 school days to transform into open minded young adults. In my opinion, books are an essential for students. Without knowledge, action is useless.

                             Aimen Ahmed  — Senior, Northeast High School



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