The crisis of Philadelphia’s schools drew preeminent teaching expert Pam Grossman to the deanship of Penn GSE.
Philadelphia is a national testing ground for many of the issues facing American education: school reform, charters, school funding, deep poverty, and a diverse and diversifying student body. Grossman felt compelled to make a difference here – hoping her work at Penn could have an impact on the community and in national discussions.
Crucial to her strategy was understanding Penn GSE’s direct work with Philadelphia schools, which she was surprised to learn extends into every city neighborhood. Grossman also discovered that faculty within Penn GSE and on the Penn campus, although united in their commitment to Philadelphia, do not always have a detailed understanding of the many projects underway. Without that shared knowledge, it is difficult to foster the alchemy necessary for larger change.
To illustrate Penn GSE’s work and partnerships in the city, the school launched an interactive and evolving “heat map.”
Grossman’s hope is that the map forms a foundation for further partnerships across not only GSE, but the larger Penn and Philadelphia communities. “At Penn GSE, we’re committed to putting our research to work to develop teachers, leaders, and resources that can help unlock opportunities for the children of Philadelphia,” said Grossman. “We partner with schools in small and large ways to work towards social justice – always endeavoring to leverage the expertise of the larger research university in service of a better education for all.”
The map demonstrates the range and depth of Penn GSE’s work. Penn GSE’s master’s and doctoral students participate in training partnerships in more than 90 city schools; they are teaching, counseling, and leading. GSE’s researchers are engaged in efforts like Shared Solutions, a deep partnership between the university and school district to better understand the district’s turnaround efforts in order to make changes that can work across systems. And programs like the Philadelphia Writing Project provide professional development to hundreds of area educators.
Penn GSE also prepares teachers and leaders for city schools, and students stay committed to Philadelphia after graduating. A majority of its teaching graduates work in Philadelphia area schools. Our leadership programs prepare aspiring and mid-career principals and leaders to make a positive difference in their schools. These alumni are often the catalyst for bringing Penn students, faculty and resources into their schools.
“This is only the first step,” says Grossman. “In the weeks and months to come, I’m looking forward to announcing new collaborative efforts to harness the energy and resources of Penn to work towards improving education for all Philadelphia students.”