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

In Summer 2021, Penn GSE 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 after over a year of disrupted, mostly virtual learning, this program brought students together for joyful, hands-on learning. Penn GSE wrapped 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 served 221 students in grades 1-8, most of whom came from five schools in West and Southwest Philadelphia: Andrew Hamilton, Benjamin Comegys, Henry C. Lea, Penn Alexander, and S. Weir Mitchell.

Facilitated by the OSCE, this work brought together four teams from across Penn GSE: 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 worked in deep collaboration with Netter Center staff and school personnel. A Summer 2022 program is now in development.

Learn more about the program at Penn Today.

The program was 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 Field Practice: A Penn Futures Collaboration

The Penn Graduate School Alliance for Field Practice with Kensington Sciences Academy (KHSA) brings together Nursing, GSE, and SP2 in the development of an interprofessional training partnership at KHSA, a Philadelphia health science public school located in one of America’s most under-served neighborhoods. Understanding that developing practitioners to serve the needs of a community in poverty requires the expertise of multiple disciplines, this collaboration aims to serve as an innovative model for a partnership between a university and an urban school district for the purpose of developing and supporting a “whole child/community” model of professional learning for students in counseling, teaching, nursing and social work.

School District of Philadelphia logo
Penn Nursing logo
Penn Social Policy & Practice logo
Penn Graduate School of Education logo


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

Advisory Board

Penn GSE: Gerald Campano, Anne Pomerantz, Diane Waff, Dean Pam Grossman, Harris Sokoloff

University of Pennsylvania: Rogers SmithCory BowmanHeather KlusaritzTerri LipmanDaniel Miller-Uueda, Jeff Cooper, Joann Mitchell

School District of Philadelphia: Naomi Wyatt, Vicky Ellis, ShaVon Savage, Michael Farrell, Rashene Davis-Bowie

External Advisors: Steven Wagschal, SamLyn Capital, NYC; Sara Lomax-Reese, WURD Radio, Philadelphia


Contact Us

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