Penn GSE Partnership

About the Partnership

In 2014, the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, awarded a two-year grant jointly to the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) Office of Research and Evaluation and to the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) to support the development of a formal researcher-practitioner partnership aimed at improving public education in Philadelphia. The Partnership has the enthusiastic support of William Hite, the Superintendent of the SDP, and Amy Gutmann, the President of the University of Pennsylvania. It is advised by a board of key school and community stakeholders.

The primary focus of this partnership—named Shared Solutions—is evaluating the District’s various school improvement efforts, including Renaissance Charters, Promise Academies, District Transformations, and School Redesigns. The goals of the Partnership are to:

  • Analyze successes and challenges within the District and its schools.
  • Identify areas for school improvement.
  • Provide actionable insights into how we can improve teaching and learning, school climate, and help create more successful schools.

Over the past year, the Shared Solutions partnership has worked collaboratively with practitioners to develop a series of District-wide surveys through which students, parents & guardians, teachers, and principals in all Philadelphia District and Charter schools could provide annual feedback to the District and school leadership about how they experience and rate their schools.

The data from these surveys are the centerpiece of Shared Solutions’ study of school improvement, and results are also helping to shape ideas about what next steps teachers, parents & guardians, school staff and administrators, community members, and the District can take to improve schools for our students. To view results from the 2014-2015 school year surveys on our new interactive database and learn more about these surveys please visit:

The Partnership regularly hosts various events that provide stakeholders with the opportunity to share their experiences with school improvement efforts and critically reflect on research and data.

In our first year, Shared Solutions has made considerable progress on its research agenda studying the SDP’s various school improvement efforts, and on its Partnership-building agenda focused on capacity building, database development, and community outreach. Our work thus far has resulted in (1) joint development of a conceptual framework to guide our work; (2) creation, administration, and ongoing analysis of data from survey, interview, and observation instruments based on that conceptual framework; (3) the hosting of several researcher-practitioner events; (4) development of resource-sharing mechanisms such as including District-initiated studies of SDP data in a Penn GSE practicum course, and operation of a work-study program at SDP for Penn GSE students; (5) development of an external SDP database and archive; and (6) initiation of a community outreach strategy that includes traditional as well as social media.