Nourishing Equitable Classrooms

What are we doing to support “these” students to meet their potential? This is a question Brian Johnson, TPS Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), asked himself in 2012, prompting him to begin his journey in pursuing equitable classrooms for students of color. Brian first launched the program at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Massachusetts and introduced it at The Philadelphia School in the 2015-2016 school year.

While the program’s roots began with teachers focusing on individual students not meeting their academic potential, it has adapted to now being centered on the teachers themselves—providing our educators with tools, resources, and constructive feedback to help them meet the needs of all of their students while being mindful that each student’s experience and background is different.


Equitable Classrooms (EC) is a year-long program in which participating teachers engage in inquiry-based professional development that focuses on race as well as other social identities in their classrooms. Twelve TPS teachers are participating in the program. Each teacher identifies their own inquiry to explore throughout the year. Two outside consultants, Drs. Charlotte Jacobs and Ali Michael, are each assigned six EC teachers whom they observe monthly. EC teachers receive feedback from their consultant, as well as from an assigned peer, who provides another perspective on how they are progressing towards their goals.

Junior Unit teacher Julia Carleton has participated in EC for the last two years. This year, her inquiry is, How can I differentiate instruction to meet all students where they are and push them each to grow?

“I feel lucky to work at a school where we get to know each student well. I want to use my knowledge of each student and my relationship with them to design learning experiences that are individualized,” Julia shared. “My goal is to hold high expectations for each student, while recognizing that different students need to be pushed in different ways.”

Research has shown that learning environments that are not diverse, equitable, and inclusive can play a factor in inhibiting academic or social emotional performance. EC aims to improve both teacher and student performance. Teachers are addressing DEI growth areas to enable them to better deliver equitable and inclusive instruction and support, while students focus on building the necessary skills and knowledge to improve their academic or social-emotional performance as well as self-advocacy.

“Equitable Classrooms pushes teachers to do the same type of learning we expect of our students: learning that is reflective, critical, and self-driven,” Julia said.

The participating teachers, consultants, and program developer Brian Johnson meet each year to discuss how to continue to adapt this program so it is most effective. “We have the making of a dynamic program,” Brian shared. “I think Equitable Classrooms can make a difference in a teacher’s practice and, in turn, be the difference maker for our students.”

Dance Ambassadors Perform

Earlier in the month, our Friday morning Encuentro featured the talented dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet II (PBII). This company of young professional dancers are Pennsylvania Ballet’s local ambassadors to Philadelphia-area schools and other community venues. PBII dancers also regularly perform with the main company of Pennsylvania Ballet.

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Thank you to TPS parent Sarah Cooper ‘93 for bringing the performers to TPS. Sarah is the Director of Community Engagement for the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Collaborative Scientists

by Pam Holland, Preschool teacher

Today students from Preschool B and 3A (third grade) got together in the Garage to do ice experiments. Working in groups of four, the children observed the change in a regular ice cube placed in a cup of water compared to to the change in a colored ice cube. With blue ice cubes, it was easy to see drips of blue dye as the ice slowly melted. The children recorded their observations and worked on drawings to represent the experiment. The work was fascinating, but the best part was the collaboration between the third graders and our youngest learners.

Support the 8th Grade Yearbook!

The Class of 2019's yearbook is going to be the best ever!

To fund the Yearbook, we need to sell advertisements. Traditionally these are congratulatory “ads” - generally wishing your graduate or the class well and including a few photos of your child or family. The deadline for submitting your ad and payment is March 4, 2019


  • A full-page ad is $70 (2 half-pages can be purchased for $70)

  • A half-page ad is $40 (horizontal only)


Step 1: Reserve your ad

Ask your 8th grader for the ad form that he/she was given this week or click here for a downloadable form. 

Fill out the form (designating the number of ads and the size) and submit payment to the school office (please make check payable to The Philadelphia School, with TPS Yearbook written on the memo line). Please put the form and check in an envelope marked Yearbook.  

Please note that there is a maximum of 2 pages per student. (This can be 2 full-page ads, 4 half-page ads, or 1 full-page ad and 2 half-page ads).

Step 2: Create your ad 

We are providing templates for you in Word; if you use these templates, attach the finished ad in an email to [email protected] as a Word document.  (If you are comfortable working in another program, such as Photoshop, that is perfectly fine, but please keep to the template dimensions and send the final version to us as a jpg.) The size of the ads are as follows:

full page - 8 by 10 inches - download template below

half page (only horizontal) - 8 by 5.25 inches - download template below

(There is no need for additional margins, as your ad will be placed within a page that already has margins.)

Additional important information:

  • Your page can be in color or in black and white.

  • Only use sharp, high-resolution photographs. (What you see on the file you send us is what it will look like in the finished product.) 

  • Please carefully proofread your text before submitting your ad. We will not edit your ad.

  • Make sure your font size is not too small (again, what you see is what will appear in the ad.

  • Please do not use a color background if you are using a Word template.

Completed ads should be emailed to [email protected].  If you need assistance preparing an ad, please email [email protected]. Please remember that the absolute deadline is March 4.

Stay tuned for information about our "Baby Picture Page, which is being assembled by Robin Parke." 

Thank you so much!

The Class of 2019

P.S. Please note that the Class of 2019 will be the Photo Book for our grade. It will be available at no cost to all 8th grade families - as long as we raise enough funds from the sale of congratulatory ads.

Black History Month & All-School Theme

Sixth grade teacher Roxanne Parker was thinking thematically - relating our all-school Water theme to Black History Month. She compiled an 18-page document focused on the water-related discoveries, inventions, and activism of African Americans past and present.

Featured activists ranged from Harriet Tubman – who led three ships up the Combahee River, going from plantation to plantation and freeing more than 750 slaves – to Flint, MI’s Mari Copeny - who in 2016 at age 8 wrote a powerful letter to President Obama on behalf of Flint and its children, who could no longer drink from the tap, shower without their eyes burning, or even safely use a Slip ‘N Slide.

Preteen Mari Copeny, who help turn our nation’s attention to Flint’s water crisis.

Preteen Mari Copeny, who help turn our nation’s attention to Flint’s water crisis.

Several Family Circles will be discussing these and other notable African Americans whose efforts have made significant differences in our nation – and in our nation’s conversations about protecting our water resources.

Transit "Problems"

As part of a unit on time and measurement, some students in Miriam and Josh’s third grade class learned to read a Septa bus schedule and created their own bus travel math problems.

What were some things they learned? “You have to be very specific.” “It can be confusing.” “Morning bus routes take longer than late night ones.” “There are fewer buses on the weekends.”