Empowering Critical Friends for Change

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Summit : Baltimore, MD

School : Freire Charter High School

District : Freire Charter School District

State : Pennsylvania

Level : K-12

Team Lead : Jason Falconio

Topics: Community, Policy - Teacher Voice, Teacher Leadership Positions/Roles

Science Educator and Instructional Coach Jason Falconio recognized a dual problem in his school district:  student attrition and teacher turnover. Jason and his Teach to Lead team wanted to address these problems in multiple ways–expanding a mentoring program, increasing the number of teacher mentors available, and by lifting up teacher voices. This team believes strongly in the idea that teachers can solve systemic, school-wide issues by working with others.

Problem and Solution

Student attrition and teacher turnover are no small issues, but Jason and his team cultivated a strategic plan to address them in his town of Philadelphia, PA. Bringing together a variety of stakeholders invested in the success of Freire Charter School, this Teach to Lead team worked to build a “critical friends” group in their community. This critical friends group works together to advance the goals of the original Teach to Lead project team.


Since the Teach to Lead Summit in Baltimore, Jason and his team were given a half-day of professional development at their school in April to pilot their critical friends groups. They used the time to ask participants to dive into salient questions around the key issues the group hoped to solve.

“We were so excited to hear that many teachers enjoyed being asked to come up with their own solutions,” Jason said. “And we have had excellent discussions with our administration about expanding the use of critical friends groups next year!”

Teacher Leadership Tips

The work to address student attrition and teacher turnover in his school and district has helped Jason and his team realize the power in teacher leadership. “Get involved,” he emphasized. “Find a problem in your school, gather others to help, and bring your ideas to the fore.”

Interested in learning more about this project? Contact Jason Falconio at jason.falconio@freirecharterschool.org.