The School District of Philadelphia and Penn’s Graduate School of Education Launch First-Ever Formal Researcher-Practitioner Partnership

Monday, September 22, 2014

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Philadelphia, PA—A formal research partnership between Penn’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) has been launched, with the aim of assisting the District’s school turnaround and new schools efforts. The School District of Philadelphia-Penn Graduate School of Education Shared Solutions (SDP-Penn GSE Shared Solutions) effort is one of 20 researcher-practitioner partnerships being funded over the next two years by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) within the U.S. Department of Education. The grant, which was awarded on July 1, 2014, was approved by the SDP’s School Reform Commission on August 21.

The partnership will be comprised of Penn GSE faculty and students and SDP leadership and staff, led by Dr. Tonya Wolford, Deputy of Research and Evaluation at the SDP and Professor Laura Desimone of Penn GSE. The IES grant provides seed money—about $100,000 per year for the SDP and $100,000 per year for Penn GSE—to foster research that directly applies to improvement efforts in the District. 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 Partnership has the support and enthusiasm of the highest levels of each organization—Amy Gutmann, the President of the University of Pennsylvania, and William Hite, the Superintendent of the SDP.

Despite a history of Penn GSE-SDP connections, prior to the formation of this partnership, the SDP and Penn GSE had not yet jointly collaborated on the design and execution of a cohesive program of research. This innovative partnership, founded on principles of open communication, collaboration, and inclusivity, seeks to break the mold of traditional research partnerships by providing opportunities to engage researchers and education practitioners at all levels in every aspect of research—from study design and construction of instruments to interpretation of results and translation of research to practice.

The SDP-Penn GSE Shared Solutions is dedicated to both improving public education within the SDP and bridging the gap between research and practice. Demonstrating its commitment to practical research that is grounded in the realities faced by the District and informed by those with boots on the ground, the Partnership will provide many opportunities for stakeholder engagement. Such opportunities include mini-conferences where leaders and teachers in Philadelphia schools can share ideas and experiences and collaborate with researchers as well as community forums where Philadelphians can learn about, and provide feedback on, Partnership work.

The Partnership is overseen by an advisory board made up of key stakeholders in the Philadelphia community. Advisory board members include:

  • Gregory M. Anderson, Dean, College of Education, Temple University
  • Michael Casserly, Executive Director, Council of Great City Schools
  • Helen Gym, Co-founder, Parents United for Public Education
  • William Lynch, Professor and former Dean, School of Education, Drexel University
  • Kate Shaw, Executive Director, Research for Action
  • Paul Socolar, Editor/Publisher, Philadelphia Public School Notebook
  • Nancy Songer, Dean, School of Education, Drexel University
  • Elliot Weinbaum, Senior Program Officer, William Penn Foundation

For more information about The SDP-Penn GSE Shared Solutions, please see the Partnership website:

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Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit

For more information about the SDP, please go to

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Contacts:         Kat Stein,, 215.898.9642

                        Fernando Gallard,, (215) 400-6349

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