Office of School and Community Engagement

The Office of School and Community Engagement (OSCE) at Penn GSE directly supports the mission of the School and the University in engaging meaningfully, intentionally, and with documented impact with the city of Philadelphia. Our aim is to facilitate and support partnerships with schools and communities in order to improve the educational outcomes and overall wellbeing of children and youth in Philadelphia.

The creation of the OSCE enables Penn GSE faculty and staff to engage more efficiently and effectively across institutional boundaries—within the University itself and between Penn, the School District of Philadelphia and other schools, and community organizations across the city—in addressing the challenges facing the city and its youth.

Our Model

The OSCE oversees an evolving portfolio of projects that share key characteristics:

  • They are responsive to a request or need coming from the community.
  • They leverage existing internal resources and relationships to provide added value to the external community.
  • They address an important question or issue related to the educational and social/emotional advancement of children, youth, and families.
  • They provide opportunities for sustained impact and increased capacity within an institution that serves children, youth, and families.
  • There is an existing mechanism for assessing impact and outcomes.
  • They provide opportunities for replication, translation, and other forms of taking lessons learned to new contexts, systems, or settings.
Philadelphia Heat Map

Mapping Penn GSE in Philadelphia

The Penn GSE in Philadelphia heat map displays Penn GSE’s school partnerships and community engagement activities. From teaching in classrooms in Philadelphia schools to providing mental health counseling to victims of violence, Penn GSE is committed to active engagement across the city to better address the challenges of urban education and contribute to the growth and wellbeing of the city’s citizens.

The darker colors  on the map represent areas with more activities.

Featured Initiative: Rebuilding Joy and Connection Through Summer Learning

Seven students in 5th-6th grade surround their teacher as they share ideas about a math task.Photo Credit: Eric Sucar, University Communications

Since Summer 2021, Penn GSE has partnered with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to host a 6-week summer program for West Philadelphia students. With a goal of rebuilding students' connections to and readiness for school amid pandemic-driven disrupted learning, this program brings students together for joyful, hands-on learning. Penn GSE wraps the Netter Center's annual summer program—which already leverages strong school-year relationships with students and families—in an added layer of academic and mental health support. The program has served nearly 500 students in grades 1-8, most of whom come from four schools in West and Southwest Philadelphia: Andrew Hamilton, Benjamin Comegys, Henry C. Lea, and Penn Alexander.

Facilitated by the OSCE, this work brings together teams from across Penn GSE, including the Philadelphia Writing Project, the Responsive Math Teaching Project, GSE's counseling programs, and the Center for Professional Learning's project-based learning program. These teams work in deep collaboration with Netter Center staff and school personnel.

Learn more about the program at Penn Today.

The program has been funded by Penn Projects for Progress; the William Penn Foundation; and Steven Wagshal, W'94.

Penn Partnership Schools

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School (“Penn Alexander”), the most successful K-8 public school in the city, is a partnership between the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia School District, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Penn GSE also leads the university’s partnership with Henry C. Lea School, focusing on integrating university resources along with community and parent efforts to establish Lea as a community school. It is implementing a longitudinal evaluation of the partnership processes and outcomes.

Alliance for Interprofessional Education

The Alliance for Interprofessional Education is an interdisciplinary community of practice through which school-based helping professionals (such as teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, and administrators) collaborate to create and implement responsive, inquiry-driven professional development opportunities for leaders, school groups, and Penn students. This work takes a “whole child/whole community” approach, driven by a belief that actively cultivating communities of care within and across schools—where all helping professionals understand and support each other’s work — can improve the mental health and wellness of school staff, retain them in the field, and most importantly, build their capacity to best serve the needs of all students. 

This initiative grew out of the Graduate Alliance for Field Practice, an interprofessional training partnership for Penn fieldwork students at Kensington Health Science Academy. It now welcomes practitioners from all schools in the Greater Philadelphia area who are interested in interprofessional collaboration and knowledge- and skill-sharing. For more information, contact OSCE Director of Teaching & Learning and Alliance Coordinator Stacey Carlough.


two people talking across a table

Networked Improvement in Mathematics Instruction

Through a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia Learning Network 2 (West Philadelphia), Penn GSE is working to build capacity in mathematics instruction and leadership in grades K-8 with the Responsive Math Teaching project.

Responsive Math Teaching logo

Contact Us

Caroline Watts
Director of School and Community Engagement
(215) 746-4584