Penn GSE in Philadelphia

Penn GSE in


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Penn GSE’s students, alumni, faculty, and staff are in Philadelphia District and charter schools, parochial schools, and informal learning environments and community organizations across the city. On the Penn GSE in Philadelphia map, you’ll find details about Penn GSE’s school partnerships, including the award-winning Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander–University of Pennsylvania Partnership School (“Penn Alexander”) in West Philadelphia. You can also see bilingual language initiatives, projects with specific learning networks, collaborations with the central District administration, and dozens of other activities taking place in individual schools, networks of schools, and across the District.

Our commitment to Philadelphia schools is a reflection of the University-wide values expressed in the Penn Compact 2020. Penn GSE is not just located in Philadelphia—it is of Philadelphia. It is crucial to our mission that Penn GSE faculty and students engage in all levels of education, both formal and informal, to better learn how we can solve the challenges of urban education.

About Philadelphia Schools: Challenges and Successes

The challenges faced by education in our city are many, and include …

  • High student poverty: Of major U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the largest proportion of families living in deep poverty in the nation.
  • An ongoing funding crisis: In recent years, the District has shuttered 32 District schools and has been forced to make devastating cuts to core staff such as counselors, school nurses, and instructional support staff.
  • An increasing emphasis on alternative systems: The overall student enrollment in the city is down only 5,500 students from 2009, but the redistribution of enrollment is profound. In 2015-16, one third of all Philadelphia public school students are enrolled in charter schools, with another 25,000 students enrolled in parochial schools.
  • Elusive progress on student achievement: 54% of students graduate high school in four years (61% within six years), and only 13% graduate from college.

Despite these and many other challenges, examples of excellence and hope abound. In recent years, citywide programs have had a powerful impact:

  • High school dropout rates have decreased.
  • High school cohort graduation rates are up 13 percentage points from 2003.
  • There has been a 24% increase in completed college financial aid applications since 2008.
  • The percentage of Philadelphians with a bachelor’s degree or higher has jumped 4.5 percentage points since 2006.

Within this complex social and political context, the need for quality educational programs that have an enduring impact on student learning and achievement has only become clearer. The investment of Philadelphia’s powerful institutions of higher education is essential to the future success of its youth. 

Statistics on Philadelphia education compiled from the Mayor’s Office of Education An Inside Look report, 2015.

About Penn GSE

Penn GSE is a national leader in education research. As part of an Ivy League school training the next generation of educational leaders, Penn GSE faculty are deeply focused on the science of teaching and learning. Questions of equity, access, race, and gender are studied in all levels of education.

Who does the work highlighted on the Penn GSE in Philadelphia map?

  • Our students bring a wealth of personal and professional experiences to Penn GSE. We have master’s and doctoral students taking part in Penn GSE training partnerships in more than 90 schools across the city.
  • Our alumni often stay in the city of Philadelphia to continue the work begun at Penn GSE. Over 60% of the 2015 graduates of our Teacher Education Program are working in Philadelphia area schools. Our alumni include leaders in the School District of Philadelphia and city charter networks.
  • Our faculty and staff include expert researchers, policymakers, and practitioners addressing the local, national, and international educational issues of our time. Over one third of our full-time faculty and staff are working with local schools and the School District of Philadelphia to contribute to the knowledge, skills, and understanding of effective educational approaches to address the needs of urban schools, students, and communities.

We believe it is our responsibility to generate education research that informs both policy and practice. Despite the School’s relatively small size, Penn GSE aims to make a major impact on urban education, both locally and nationally. Our work integrates the domains of research, policy, and practice across the disciplines of teacher education, educational leadership, school and mental health counseling, language education, higher education, education policy, and educational innovation. Our teaching is informed by real-world immersion in the critical questions facing urban education. We engage in questions of education quality and practice in an ever-changing multicultural, multilingual society, in which deep structural inequities shape educational outcomes for U.S. students.

*At this time, the map captures our work in District and charter schools only.