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The Time is Now: Youth Organize to Transform Philadelphia Schools

Through a study of public school reform in Philadelphia, Research for Action (RFA) has focused on youth roles in civic engagement. Two local youth organizations at three high schools have researched various educational models and have turned to ‘small schools’ in the hopes of drastically improving their schools. Concurrently, the School District of Philadelphia has launched an unprecedented capital campaign, to renovate dilapidated buildings, and an initiative to downsize large urban high schools and increase educational choice. Organized youth recognized an important opportunity for youth-led campaigns that could influence the decisions made about their schools, yet, as they advocated for small schools, it appeared that civic engagement and District reforms were not well connected. This field report presents RFA’s research on the first years of the youth-led campaigns for small schools with a particular focus on how youth-driven organizing groups have helped to build civic capacity in Philadelphia.