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The schools, their scores, and their students

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To our readers,

Welcome to our fourth annual fall guide to Philadelphia’s public high schools. This is the first of six Notebook print editions for the school year, and it has become our most popular one. It’s now a fixture in some middle grades teachers’ classrooms. Selecting and getting into high school is a pivotal point in students’ lives, and we’ve made this a resource that addresses the importance of that decision.

We stress here that students and families should start thinking about this well before 8th grade. There are some important steps that you can take to help stay on track and increase your chances of getting into a school that fits your needs (see Get a jump on high school).

The number of school options to sort through is daunting — there are 89 city regular District and charter high schools (not counting cyber charters). Because each charter organization has its own process and deadlines, this system of high
schools is actually about 30 different systems.

And not all options are created equal. Statistics on page 20 show that at some schools, nearly all 9th graders graduate in four years. At others, fewer than half of students make it through. Our school profile section shows that some schools
have a wide variety of special classes and activities, while others have sparse offerings.

This guide can make for a more level field by helping everyone at least understand the process. Given the deep inequities in the system, we hope our readers will not stop at advocating for their own but will step up public demands for a better and more fair process.

You can find useful stories from our previous guides and tools to learn more about high schools at

Thanks to all the principals and District personnel who shared information with us. We also have benefited from collaborating with Philadelphia School Partnership to collect information on school choice options. All that will be reflected in an ambitious website to be launched later this fall, called For now, best wishes for the new school year!

Paul Socolar, editor and director

P.S. If you value this guide, become a member of the Notebook by completing the form on p 39 or going to As a reader-supported, nonprofit news organization, we depend on your contributions to maintain our independent watchdog role. Join us!

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