Eric Braxton currently serves as the Small Schools Project Coordinator at the Philadelphia Education Fund where he is working to get the School District to adopt a policy that allows communities to redesign failing high schools.
At the age of nineteen he helped found the Philadelphia Student Union and served as its director for ten years. During Eric's tenure, the Student Union grew from the dream of a few young people to a strong organization that has allowed to students to become major players in the struggle to transform Philadelphia's public schools. At the Student Union he helped create a nationally recognized youth leadership development curriculum and assisted students in organizing many campaigns to improve the quality of public education in Philadelphia.
Eric has lived his entire life in West Philadelphia where he is active in several community organizations. In addition, he is involved in a grassroots peer-counseling organization and serves on several boards including the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing and Youth Empowerment Services.
Thursday evening I attended the Renaissance Community Meeting at West Philadelphia High School. About 50 people attended. Most of them were parents and community members with a few students and teachers in the mix as well. The message they sent was incredibly unified: our school has already started the turnaround; don’t lose that progress.
The Innovation School model was one part of the Renaissance Schools plan that I thought might offer a real way for teachers, students, parents, and community members to come together and create plans to transform their schools together.
I thought this could be a great way to show that with the right resources and flexibility, public schools, with public school teachers can really work. Unfortunately, after reading the plan more carefully, I am not sure that that opportunity exists.
A lot of people are talking these days about the failure of public schools. They cite astronomical dropout rates, low test scores, and a host of other alarming statistics. I want to suggest another perspective. Our schools are actually quite successful at doing what they were designed to do.
On Sunday I attended a rally in support of the Asian students at South Philadelphia High School.
It was a powerful and emotional event.
Several adult speakers told stories about how they had been harassed in high school because they were Asian, but they did not have the courage or support to stand up like the students from South Philly.
I am very pleased to report that a fourth Kensington small school will open next year.
At a meeting of the Kensington School and Community Coalition last week, School District Chief of Staff Tomas Hanna announced that in the fall when Kensington CAPA moves into its new building, a new small school will open in KCAPA’s place in the old building.
This is great news for many in the Kensington community who had been concerned that the District might decide to use the space created by KCAPA’s move to make Kensington Business into a large school again.