Category Archives: News

Toxic Schools 215: A Tale of Two Cities

TAG is launching a new media campaign: Toxic Schools 215: A Tale of Two Cities

We live in two very different cities. One is for our public school students, mostly Black, Brown, and living in poverty. It features toxic lead, leaky roofs, and unbearable temperatures in the buildings where children are trying to learn. The other is a playground for the wealthy developers who benefit from Philly’s ten-year tax abatement. They charge millions for luxurious new residences, and instead of paying their fair share to fund our schools, they walk away with the profit.

These conditions are a direct result of the racial capitalism we live under, which says our students’ education matters less than money in the pockets of these mostly white, already wealthy developers. As educators in these schools, we say no to profit over our students’ health and education. Together with The Caucus of Working Educators, we demand:

  • Ending the ten-year tax abatement for the wealthy and requiring big universities and mega non-profits to pay their fair share through PILOTS
  • Lead remediation in all schools that have toxic lead — not just the 40 schools the District has selected
  • Robust pest control and air conditioners in every learning space in order to alleviate asthma, which is a widespread cause of suffering and absenteeism among Philly children.

– Do you work in a Philly public school? Send us your photos
– Are you a non-PFT member? Sign this community petition! 
– Are you a PFT member? Email to get a hard copy of the version for PFT members and gather signatures from your school!

Join TAG’s Story Circle Project

TAG is convening people connected to education in Philly — students, teachers, parents, community advocates — to share our stories and dreams, grow our relationships, and build our collective vision and power to transform our city.


Our first Story Circle event will focus on educators sharing stories about our classrooms, our practice, and our purpose.  
Wednesday, October 3rd
YouthBuild Philly School
1231 N. Broad St. 
These gatherings will lead toward a larger theater project that TAG is making to amplify our stories and visions for change in Philly. 
RSVP for the October 3rd Story Circle here.
Interested in finding out more?  Email:

Register TODAY for Teacher Action Group’s 9th Annual Education for Liberation Conference

Connecting the Dots: Building Solidarity to Transform our City and Schools

Eventbrite - 9th Annual Teacher Action Group Education for Liberation Conference

What does it mean for students, families, and educators to be in solidarity with each other?

It is critical that we see how issues of education justice connect directly to broader movements for racial, economic and gender justice. When we connect the dots, we recognize our responsibility to deepen our analysis, strengthen our commitment to solidarity, and push ourselves toward further action.

At this conference, we invite participants to see the connections between struggles inside and outside of schools so that we challenge the social systems of violence that make it hard for any of us to show up whole.

Contributions are encouraged. The cost of putting on the conference is approximately $10/person. Pay what you can! No one is turned away for lack of funds.

This year’s workshops will be…
– A Guide to Indigenize Your Classroom
– Black Muslims in the United States: An Introductory Activity
– Building Anti-Racist White Educators: Organizing with Our Colleagues
– Centering Black Womyn & Girls in Education Communities
– Citizenship & Radical Hope: Student Work That Speaks to Human Needs
– Gentrification, Displacement & Schools
– Liberatory Designed Pedagogy: Framing Our Classroom and Professional Practices
– Queer Identity and Gender Exploration: Sample Lessons and Discussion
– Sexual Consent in School
– Trust Student Vision

2018 inquiry to action groups (ItAGs)

TAG is excited to present 2018’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 below are descriptions of the NINE ItAGs that will convene across the city in the coming months.  Register for ItAGs here.

Join us at 5:30 on Thursday, FEBRUARY 22 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; #ItAGs2018; #PHLed;

For more information, reach out to us at

1) Addressing Islamophobia and Religious Diversity in Schools

Description: In today’s society, it’s important that educators help lead the conversation around Islamophobia and diversity within our classrooms and schools. Unfortunately, many children who are Muslim and those who look Middle Eastern face a barrage of insults and sometimes violent actions from students and teachers due to the climate of the country and the actions of a few. We must learn how to have serious and necessary conversations with the youth so that they grow into conscious and cultured adults.  In this ItAG, we will review videos, articles, and listen to personal accounts of Muslim students and teachers about the issues they face within classrooms and schools.  We will develop a lesson plan for addressing Islamophobia within the classroom, and also have weekly blogs from participants on what they’ve learned and how they will implement it into their daily lives and classrooms.

Essential Questions:  Why is it important to discuss Islamophobia within our classrooms and schools?  How should cultural sensitivity be discussed in our classrooms and schools?  Why is it important to develop knowledge on the diversity of the Islamic community?  How do we help students address issues of Islamophobia within their classrooms and school overall?

Facilitators: Keziah Ridgeway is a Philadelphia school teacher at

Northeast High School who identifies as a Black Muslim

Woman.  Contact:

Saturdays 2:00pm to 3:00pm.
3/3 Introduction to Islam/Diversity in the Classroom (Ask An Imam).
3/17 Islamophobia Pre and Post Trump (Topics include Diversity, Racism in Islam, Immigration)
3/30 Youth Panel Students Discuss Experiences and Next Steps
4/14 Create A Video Series of Muslim Youth/Series Recap


2) Building Anti-Racist White Educators

Description: This ItAG is part of the ongoing work of the Building

Anti-Racist White Educators Group. We aim to take responsibility for educating ourselves about racism, and to support and push our colleagues in the same work. Our second goal is to turn these conversations into anti-racist action in our own classrooms, schools, and districts. We commit not just to talking about race but to using these conversations to devise concrete strategies for actively impacting change at our schools.  While we welcome people of color to join and contribute their ideas and opinions to our group, this is meant to be a group that holds white educators accountable for dismantling the white-supremacy that presides within ourselves, our classrooms, our schools and our society.  Our plan is to support each other in creating individual action plans for our work in our own classrooms and to design larger concrete action we can apply to our schools and/or districts.

Facilitators: Jenn Hare is a history teacher at SLA Beeber. Charlie McGeehan is a Humanities educator at The U School.

Time/Place:   Tuesdays February 27, March 13, April 3, April 17, May 1 – 5:00-6:30pm – The U School (2000 N. 7th St., entrance 2nd door above Norris)

3) Building Understanding of Underprivileged Students’ Rights and Needs in Schools

Description: The student-led non profit UrbEd Inc. will facilitate an ItAG on building understanding of underprivileged students’ rights and needs in schools. Specifically we want to focus on the school to prison pipeline and teacher diversity because these are extremely significant factors in how unhealthy classroom environments are created. Zero tolerance policies have plagued Philadelphia classrooms for decades and have an especially negative effect on low income minority students. To work towards ending these issues we must change the environments and cultures of these schools that are doing a better job imprisoning students rather than preparing them for higher education. We would emphasize a more positive culture and environment through interactions between school faculty and students. We must address the lack of diversity in faculty. Encouraging more people of color, particularly Black males to teach in schools. We want to work to create schools that elevate instead of regulate. As students we have a unique perspective on these issues. We would be more than honored to lead a series of sessions working towards changing classroom and school culture to promote healthier relationships between students and staff.

UrbEd Website:

Facilitators:   Zoey Tweh is a junior at Science Leadership Academy who has been passionate about social justice since Trayvon Martin’s murder. She was raised in West Philadelphia by her Liberian mother and attended Penn Alexander. Since then she has joined countless organizations and clubs that have helped her grow as a budding activist fighting for a range of social justice issues.  (Zoey Tweh will be leading group, other team members will come in all bios here:

Time/Place: Science Leadership Academy, One weekday evening (TBD) at 6:00pm


4) Color Matters: It’s Deeper than Skin Tone

Description: Over the last couple of decades there has been a growing perception that our society has become more diverse and inclusive of different groups. Along with this perception, people have pointed to the changing racial demographics of our society as indicator of the inevitable transformation of how view diversity in American society. In Color Matters: Deeper than Skin Tone, participants will explore the cultural, social, economic, political ramifications, and educational implications of skin color on our changing society and determine if we have advanced in relation to bias connected to things that are only skin deep. This ItAG is meant for anyone interested in exploring this subject further and wanting to become more aware of how we are all indoctrinated to associate skin tone positively or negatively in smaller intragroup and intergroup relations.

March 8: Colorism as power construct- An overview of the ItAG and framing.
March 22: Socio-economics of colorism- Specific examples of the effects of colorism on groups economics.
April 5: Interpersonal and Intrapersonal effects of colorism- How colorism affects relations between individuals and also the impact on personal perspective of self.
April 19: Latinos and Colorism- Whiteness as a zero sum game of power and its effect on spanish speaking countries and identity

April 26: Colorism and education- Implicit bias and educators in the classroom practice relationship to colorism. Next steps

Facilitators: Angela Crawford has been an educator for 19 years, and affiliated with the School District of Philadelphia for 15. Mrs. Crawford’s work with School District of Philadelphia began in 1997 as an Instructional Reform Facilitator and English Teacher. In addition, Angela led the teacher study group in which she encouraged self reflective practices for professional pedagogy, a discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education; thus it concerns the study and practice of how best to teach.

Ismael Jimenez is a dedicated educator, who for the last twelve years has worked with Philadelphia students from preschool to high school. After working as a social studies teacher at Germantown High School until it was closed, Ismael was appointed to Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School. Along with being an active PFT member, Ismael has facilitated professional developments in the school district and at postsecondary institutions like UPenn, Penn State and Princeton on issues including structural racism and bridging the gap between high school and postsecondary institutions. Currently, Ismael is co-chair of the Caucus of Working Educators and co-founder of the Philadelphia Black History Collaborative. The philosophical orientation that guides Ismael’s teaching and activism is rooted in the theoretical educational framework developed by Paulo Freire which emphasizes the interconnected nature of education with participating in the transformation of the world.

Time/Place: Martin Luther King High School (library); March 8, March

22, April 5April 19April 26


5) Critical Financial Literacy:  Rethinking Curriculum to Close the Racial Wealth Gap

Description: This ItAG seeks to reexamine financial literacy programs found in many school and community programs. Recognizing the racial wealth gap in the US, we seek to support youth in understanding the historical and systemic context that created and maintains vast inequity and poverty. Our action will be to develop curriculum and school/community partnerships that provide basic financial literacy skills, and at the same time, challenge educators and youth to consider individual, community, and public policy solutions to help build generational wealth in marginalized communities, and to take active, ethical, and collective steps to close the racial wealth gap.

Facilitators:      Samuel Reed, III  is a U School Humanities Educator, TAG Member,  and Teacher Consultant Philadelphia Writing Project.

Tom Quinn is a Central High History Teacher and is part of the PYN WorkReady Summer Learning Team.

Nicole Newman is President/CEO of Newman Networks.


The ItAG will meet biweekly on Mondays, 5:00-6:30pm at the U-School, 2000 N. 7th Street, Room 304.
  • Monday, February 26 – (Re)Framing the Issues: The Historical and Structural Causes of the Racial Wealth Gap
  • Monday, March 12 – Public Policy Advocacy, Union Organizing, and Community Action Planning
  • Monday, March 26 – Rethinking Financial Literacy for Schools and Community Youth Programs – Part 1
  • MondayApril 9 – Rethinking Financial Literacy for Schools and Community Youth Programs – Part 2

Join the Critical Financial Literacy ItAG web forum.


6) Dropped Out or Pushed Out? Come Learn with and from Students of YouthBuild Philly

Description: Why do students in Philadelphia drop out of school?

How are students in Philadelphia pushed out of school?

What can students, teachers, principals, district officials, legislators, parents, families, community members do to engage all students in continuing their education?  The content of this ItAG will include: First hand expertise from Philadelphia students and staff, research, podcasts, and discussion.  Who should join this conversation: Students, Teachers, Administrators, Community Members, Parents

This conversation matters because the more students that drop out connects to prison theory, homelessness and other life-altering consequences. The imbalance in dropout rates between white students and students of color points to persistent systematic racism.

Facilitators: Candyce Coleman is a senior at YouthBuild Philly Charter

School, pursuing a career in Healthcare. When she’s not studying she like to explore the the city with her four-year-old son who is a pro at skeeball.

Hadiyah Brown is a senior at YouthBuild Philly Charter School, pursuing a career in Healthcare. Hadiyah is an avid reader and has started a book exchange program at YB.

Rebekah Dommel is a math teacher who never liked math. She is a member of the academic team at YouthBuild Philly Charter School.

Justine Philyaw is a native Philadelphian and the Program Operations Director at YouthBuild Philly Charter School.

Time/Place: Thursdays 4:30 – 6:00 (4 sessions, specific dates to be

negotiated by the group) YouthBuild PHiladelphia Charter School 1231 N. Broad St, 3rd Floor


7) Fair Housing and Education: Civil Rights in 2018

Description: Fair housing rights are civil rights tools that students can learn at a young age. It can be difficult to explain racism to students who attend segregated schools. For instance, a Black student whose peers are 99% African American has a hard time understanding what racism looks like. Likewise, teaching white students to un-learn racism can be futile if they’re never exposed to its impact on communities. Our challenge as educators is teaching students to identify the attitudes and practices that shape our neighborhoods on a macro level. Our ItAG will provide literary materials to teach students about housing discrimination. We will also discuss current housing issues in Philadelphia and discover their fair housing components together.

Facilitators: Joelle Tomkins, Karléh Wilson and Aurica Hurst are members of the Fair Housing Coalition of Young Professionals. Karléh is currently the Executive Assistant at the Fair Housing Rights Center and was previously a Teaching Assistant at Wissahickon Charter School. Aurica is an After-School Program Director at Overbrook High School. Joelle is a Foreclosure Coordinator at Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP. The three women dedicate a lot of time to understanding fair housing rights and identifying ways to stop segregation, slow down gentrification, and strengthen fair housing in Philadelphia.

Time/Place: TBD


8) Popular Education: Museums & Social Justice

Description: What role can art museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions play in facilitating education for social justice? How can they practice and promote inclusivity? Taking lessons from recent projects such as PHL Assembled, Decolonize This Place, and at land’s edge, this ItAG seeks to convene educators from schools and cultural institutions across Philadelphia to imagine strategies to leverage these community spaces and their assets to be useful for local organizers and global movements for freedom and justice.

Facilitators: Sarah Shaw has been a classroom teacher in Philadelphia public, charter, and independent schools, and is currently a member of the School and Teacher Programs team at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She coordinates the Education Resource Center at the Art Museum and leads tours and workshops for students and teachers.

Chris Rogers is a core member of Teacher Action Group Philadelphia, a former collaborator within PHL Assembled, and the Public Programs Director at the Paul Robeson House Museum. @justmaybechris

Time/Place: Wachovia Education Resource Center (Philadelphia Museum of Art);  Dates and times TBD.


9) Social Justice in the Elementary Years

Description:     Students begin to understand race, gender, culture, and sexual identity from a young age. Elementary educators interested in exploring these topics are encouraged to join our ItAG as we learn together how to infuse social justice topics and themes in a developmentally appropriate way into the elementary classroom. Possible topics will include: How to facilitate/hold tough conversations with young students; diverse book choices and diverse libraries; the early elementary social justice history curriculum; celebrations and holidays in the culturally diverse elementary classroom.

Facilitator: Kati Rutkowski is an early literacy teacher coach in a Philadelphia public school. She has participated in ItAGs in the past and is interested in exploring this topic that is targeted to the elementary years.

Aileen Haggerty is a 2nd grade teacher in a Philadelphia charter school. She is working to implement a year-long social justice curriculum with her fellow teachers at her school. She is excited to work with other elementary teachers invested in social justice work.

Time/Place: TBD

After Charlottesville: Confronting White Supremacy, September 13

After Charlottesville: Confronting White Supremacy

in Ourselves, Our Schools, and Our City

As the 2017-18 school year begins, join educators and community members as we organize to individually and collectively confront white supremacy in ourselves, our classrooms & schools, and our city. This workshop will include a historical overview of white supremacy in the United States and Philadelphia, breakout groups, sharing of resources, and planning for next steps.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


The U School, 2000 N. 7th St.

Street parking available, located near SEPTA routes 3 & 47 and Regional Rail

Childcare provided!                RSVP @

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

2016 Education for Liberation Conference – Call for Workshops, Tables, Student Work, and Volunteers


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.

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

Call for workshop proposals

We invite you to share a workshop with the social justice education community in Philadelphia.  We welcome workshops that are focused on political education  (e.g. intersectional analyses of how institutional oppression affects our students, our schools, ourselves as educators) and deeper understanding of the current context, curricular ideas, instructional strategies and teaching practice, presentations of community work and student-led presentations.  We particularly encourage student-facilitated workshops.  We will offer three tracks of workshops.

  • Restorative Justice and Healing Trauma

  • Teaching and Learning

  • Organizing for Just Communities and Schools

Submit a workshop proposal here.

Call for student work

Please share examples of your students’ amazing work!  Participate in the student work gallery that showcases students’ expressiveness and skill, and also provides models of what education for liberation looks like in action.  Examples include visual art, memoir, poetry, digital media, student-led presentations/exhibitions

Sign up to display student work here.

Call for tabling and lunch conversation facilitators

Do you have resources or curriculum to share?  We will provide a table for you to display your work and offer it to others.  We also invite you to sign up to host an informal lunch conversation around a theme of your choice.

Sign up to table or facilitate a lunch conversation here.


We need your help to make the conference run smoothly. Consider volunteering to help us in a number of different ways.

Add your name to a volunteer list here.