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Penn’s Graduate School of Education and the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation awarded the McGraw Prize in Education to innovative educators. Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn’s Graduate School of Education honored three recipients of the McGraw Prize in Education in the first year of a partnership with the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation.

In a virtual ceremony on Oct. 21, GSE, along with Penn President Amy Gutmann and the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation, recognized three professors from the University of Southern California, Arizona State University, and Michigan State University for their accomplishments in education innovation. The prize recognizes individuals who have made a transformative impact on teaching and learning through innovative projects in three categories: higher education, learning science research, and pre-K-12 education. 

In February, the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to supporting healthcare and education endeavors, announced a three-year, $3 million partnership with GSE to expand the McGraw Prize. In addition to GSE hosting the presentation of awards, Penn will work with the McGraw Jr. Family Foundation to create programming that shares the innovation of prize winners, and hosts a regular speaker series with past McGraw Prize winners. 

Executive Director of Catalyst @ Penn GSE, a hub for education innovation, Michael Golden said the McGraw Prize is “the Pulitzer Prize in education.” Past winners of the prize include Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, and Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.

“These winners are taking research to practice and moving in dramatic ways to make the education system more equitable and more efficient,” Golden said.

After a public nomination process, the final decision on the awards was made by a panel of 12 leaders in education.

Estela Bensimon, winner of the McGraw Prize in Higher Education, is the founding director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California, where she addresses racial inequity in the higher education system. Bensimon developed the Equity Score Card, a tool for schools to understand how inequality within the institution affects its students.

The pre-K-12 McGraw Prize was awarded to Joseph Krajcik, a professor at Michigan State University. Krajcik is also the director of the Collaborate Research for Education Assessment and Teaching Environments project at the STEM Institute, where he studies how to create environments where STEM learning can best take place.

"I firmly believe that in this day and age, everyone has to have a foundational knowledge of science, and certainly in K-12, that's what we should be going for," Krajcik said.

Michelene Chi, recipient of McGraw Prize in Learning Science Research, is a cognitive and learning scientist. She uses her research as the director of the Learning and Cognition Lab at Arizona State University to understand how students learn . 

"We were excited to launch our partnership with Penn GSE by honoring three extraordinary educators in 2020," Harold W. McGraw III, 1976 Wharton graduate and former CEO of the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation wrote in a written statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

"Over the next year, we look forward to working with Catalyst @ Penn GSE to amplify the expertise of past winners to educators and policymakers around the world." 

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