Every morning, as students enter the doors at Robeson High School in Philadelphia, Principal Richard Gordon is there to greet them with a hug, a handshake or a dap. Sometimes it’s a handshake and a one-handed bro hug for the male students at the school. And when addressing the school over the PA, he refers to the students and faculty as “family.”
This humanistic, compassionate approach to education is how Robeson was able to transform itself from one of the worst-performing schools in the city to one of the best — and this approach may be the key to closing the education gap more broadly. Robeson’s education philosophy, known as community schooling, treats a school not just a place for students to take classes but as a hub for the entire community.
The hope is that by tending to the mental, physical, intellectual and emotional development of everyone in the community, a school can improve public health and create more connected, resilient, better educated humans — students and adults alike. That holistic approach helps close the education gap between wealthy and under-resourced schools.
“We have to get kids to love school. If we get them to love school, it fosters their commitment to getting a great education. It motivates them to overcome and transcend their circumstances to be the best students they could possibly be,” Gordon says, explaining the central tenet to community schooling. The end result of closing the education gap is more than just a better experience at school, it’s a better life. “The purpose of an education is to help students carve out a life for themselves,” Gordon says. “One filled with happiness, fulfillment and purpose. And when our kids don’t have a quality education, they have a hard time finding those things.”
Every morning, as students enter the doors at Robeson High School in Philadelphia, P...