Projects & Initiatives


Catalyst @ Penn GSE is an endeavor to design innovative practices and to create and scale actionable solutions to advance opportunity for all learners. Building on Penn GSE's history of pioneering innovation and entrepreneurship in education, Catalyst combines ideas from education, technology, and business to address the pressing problems in education and shape the future of education across preK-12, higher education, and executive learning.

Center for School Study Councils

The Center for School Study Councils works to improve the quality of education in school districts across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Center serves as a catalyst for school district superintendents to take a pro-active leadership role and facilitates their professional development.

Center for Urban Ethnography and Annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum

Center for Urban Ethnography / Annual Ethnography in Education Forum convenes the Ethnography in Education Research Forum, the largest annual meeting of qualitative researchers in education.

CPRE Mathematics Formative Assessment Project

The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at Penn is coordinating a large-scale field trial of a mathematics formative assessment program called the Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP). Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project involves 61 elementary schools and over 600 grades 3-5 teachers in the School District of Philadelphia and neighboring Upper Darby School District.  The program provides a sub-sample of teachers with training, resources, and support to implement OGAP. CPRE-Penn researchers are conducting an experimental study of the program’s impacts on teachers and students using innovative measures of teacher implementation and teacher and student impacts.

Digital Seeds / Semillas Digitales

Semillas Digitales (Digital Seeds in English) is a collaborative project that supports the use of technology-rich instruction and broader pedagogical innovations to improve the quality of education in coffee-producing communities in Nicaragua. The project serves as a catalyst for collective participation and innovation among teachers, teacher supervisors, students, community members and other educational stakeholders. Our educational facilitators directly support and work alongside students and teachers as the programs establishes roots, cultivates connections, and collectively grows in ways that are in harmony with each school and the community contexts that shape it.

Distributed Leadership Program

The Distributed Leadership Program at the Penn Center for Educational Leadership was conceived and developed by Dr. John DeFlaminis with the support of Dr. James Spillane and Dr. James O’Toole and initially funded by a $4.9 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation. The Program is designed to operationalize distributed leadership through team building, leadership training, and school capacity building. School administrators work with teams of teachers and leadership coaches to design and implement instructional improvements that target specific student learning needs.

Diversity @ Penn GSE

Penn GSE strives to foster an inclusive community of scholars, administrators and students who possess diverse knowledge, experiences, and research interests, and who service and learn from diverse communities. Learn more about diversity-focused resources, research, and projects at our school.

Global Ed Forum

The Global Education Forum (GEF) involves many leading international and national organizations making a difference in the global education field. The Forum is a community of practice environment where teachers, administrators, parents, and community members can come together to network and share how they are preparing students in the 21st century. 

GSE Films

GSE Films is a film production and training unit at PennGSE. Our mission is to both make films on learning and help educators become more effective media communicators.


Launched in 2018, HEARD’s aim is to draw together members of the Penn GSE community committed to equity and anti-oppression scholarship — and to provide opportunities for continuing learning and research. HEARD welcomes Penn GSE students, faculty, and staff interested in various anti-oppression topics. Read more about HEARD.

Improving Curriculum Use for Better Teaching (ICUBiT)

ICUBiT stands for Improving Curriculum Use for Better Teaching because that is our ultimate goal—to understand the capacity required to use curriculum resources productively to design instruction. We believe this is an area of teacher knowledge and ability that is not well-understood or developed in teacher education or professional development, but is central to what teachers do on a daily basis. It is our view that understanding and improving curriculum use is critical to improving teaching at scale.

Leadership for Excellence and Equity Initiatives

The Leadership for Excellence & Equity Initiatives serves as a resource for school district superintendents and their leadership teams for taking a pro-active social justice and equity leadership role in examining and refining policies and practices that will significantly improve the academic performance of their underperforming students, and close their observed achievement gaps. Projects include the Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence & Equity, the New Jersey Network to Close the Achievement Gap, the Long Island Consortium for Excellence & Equity, and the Central Jersey Consortium for Excellence & Equity.

Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

In partnership with the Milken Family Foundation, Penn GSE organizes and hosts the annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC), the first-ever funded business plan competition for emerging education ventures. Since its inception in 2010, the EBPC has awarded more than $500,000 in prizes and services to an outstanding group of education ventures and has spurred a new focus on creating meaningful synergies between the fields of entrepreneurship and education.

Penn Center for Educational Leadership

Penn Center for Educational Leadership provides programs and services targeted at improving leadership in schools and districts, helping them enhance student’s achievement and growth.

Penn Educational Leadership Simulation Program

PELS is an innovative, research-based collaboration between Penn GSE and the three major professional associations for K-12 school leaders (AASA, NAESP, NASSP; combined membership of more than 45,000). The goal of this venture is to develop human capital in school leadership through blended peer-to-peer (P2P) professional development.

Penn Literacy Network

The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) is a comprehensive Pre-K to 12 professional development/curricular enhancement program based at The Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn GSE). Since 1981, PLN has provided on-site credit-bearing courses, workshops, and coaching programs to more than 35,000 teachers, instructional coaches, school leaders, and parents with a focus on inclusive, interactive, and engaged teaching and learning. PLN offers some online courses as well. PLN work is focused on the evidence-based frameworks of The Five Reading Writing Talking Processes and The Four Lenses of Learning developed by Emeritus Professor Dr. Morton Botel. PLN can be reached at 215-898-1984 or 215-746-4864.

The Penn Project for Civic Engagement

The Penn Project for Civic Engagement is a cross-University project that collaborates with media, business and community agencies to identify and address projects on emerging issues.  It links citizen concerns to expert knowledge and media coverage, to develop real-world solutions that might not emerge otherwise.

Philadelphia Writing Project

PhilWP is a teacher network of over 700 teacher consultants who work in a variety of ways with teachers and other educators to explore literacy, writing, teaching, and learning in their classrooms and schools regardless of grade or discipline. Educators in Philadelphia established PhilWP in 1986.


School District of Philadelphia-Penn Graduate School of Education Shared Solutions (SDP-Penn GSE Shared Solutions) is the first-ever formal research partnership between Penn GSE and the SDP. Partnership work will focus on evaluating the heart of the SDP’s reform initiatives—the District’s several school turnaround and new school efforts. The two-year effort is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences.

West Philadelphia Collaborative History

West Philadelphia Collaborative History aims to encourage university—community collaboration and foster the benefits of local history education through the power of collaborative digital storytelling. The core of the project is a website focused on the history of 20th- and 21st-century West Philadelphia which provides the members of the community with both research resources and a space for their many voices. The site is supplemented with a series of programs focused on encouraging community participation and supporting educators interested in using local history in the classroom.