The Philadelphia Free School is a democratic school operated by its students, staff, parents, and community members. Each individual in the school community, ages 4-19, has one vote in decision making. The School Assembly consists of all of these members and decides broad policies of the school. The School Meeting consists of students and staff and makes day-to-day decisions about school functioning. There is no Principal, tenure, or hierarchy among employees.
The Philadelphia Free School is premised on the following beliefs:
- Urban youth, like all people, are curious, resourceful and creative
- Learning is most efficient and profound where the learner creates and owns the learning process
- Growth and understanding are promoted by interaction among people of different ages, genders, races, and backgrounds
- Freedom is essential to the development of personal responsibility
- Civic responsibility is best learned through participation in democratic processes
- Once acquired, the skills and attitudes of personal and civic responsibility are what enable people to transform their lives and the life of their communities for the better.
We believe there are not enough educational alternatives for Philadelphia families. Philadelphia schools are the product of a view of education that values standardization and hierarchy over results for learners. As a result, 40% of Philadelphia public school students will never graduate (Balfanz & Neild, www.csos.jhu.edu). To date, educational reform efforts in the city have failed to improve on these ugly statistics. (“District, Privately Run Schools Equal?” Phila Inquirer, 2/2/07). Pennsylvania has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation between students above and below the poverty line (National Assessment of Education Progress). When education fails, democracy suffers.
The Philadelphia Free School is a vibrant space where students from all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds construct new knowledge and complex understandings. PFS students are actively engaged in the civic, economic, and educational stewardship of their communities, in and outside of school.