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”) and the Lea School 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.

Toggle to our community map, and you will find another array of engagement activities – this time, in settings as varied as nonprofit arts organizations, after-school programs, churches, libraries, and community centers. Among other community projects, Penn GSE faculty and students are providing mental health counseling to victims of violence, teaching English as a second language in community centers, and studying the effects of immigration upon community cohesion in South Philadelphia.

Our commitment to active, on-the-ground engagement in Philadelphia 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, in traditional and alternative settings, to better learn how we can solve the challenges of urban education and contribute to the growth and wellbeing of our citizens.

About Philadelphia: Challenges and Successes

The challenges faced by those living and learning in our city are many, and include …

  • High rates of child and family poverty: Of major U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the largest proportion of families living in deep poverty in the nation.
  • An increasing emphasis on alternative education systems: In 2017-18, less than half of the city’s 202,538 public school students are enrolled in District K-12 schools, with over one third of all Philadelphia public school students enrolled in charter schools.i
  • Elusive progress on student achievement: Sixty-seven percent of students graduate high school in four yearsii – an increase from a few years ago, but behind the rates of other large US cities and well below the state average of 86.1% and national average of 84%.iii
  • In Philadelphia alone, an estimated 245,000 adults lack basic literacy, but there is only one opening for every 430 low-literate adults who aren’t proficient enough to tackle high school-level work.iv

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.
  • Unemployment in the city has dropped by half - from 12% in 2012 to 5.7% in 2017, with higher wages for professionals and larger numbers of available entry level jobs.

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

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 maps?

  • 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 110 schools and 54 community organizations across the city.
  • Our alumni often stay in the city of Philadelphia to continue the work begun at Penn GSE. Our alumni include teachers and 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, community organizations, 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 its 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.

i. School District of Philadelphia
ii. School District of Philadelphia
iii. Education Week Research Center analysis of NCES data, 2017