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Making sense of the numbers

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

The school profiles in this guide tell you a lot about the 89 schools we highlight and their programs. Here we provide statistics that give you a picture of how their
students are performing. That is important information as you think about where to apply to high school.

On the facing page you’ll find data about all the District-run schools. On this page, the schools shown are charters.

The first four columns of numbers on each page tell you about each school’s student body. What’s the enrollment and do they serve large percentages of low-income and special education students and English language learners?

Student attendance is often a good indicator of how engaged students are. Keep in mind that a school with 90% attendance has twice as high an absentee rate as
one with 95% attendance. The number of suspensions tells you about school climate, though large schools will usually have more suspensions.

Average SAT scores indicate how well the school prepares students for the test often required for college admission. Nationally, average student SAT scores hover
around 500, but SAT test results are highly correlated with poverty rates. Only three schools in Philadelphia have SAT scores above the national averages.

Finally, check out graduation rates and what percent of graduates are going to college. Here you see some of the starkest contrasts. In 2011, there were more than a dozen schools that graduated 90% or more of their 9th graders from 2007. You will also see 10 schools where half fail to graduate. And at a majority of high schools, fewer than half the graduates go straight to college.

One statistic you won’t find on our chart this year is PSSA scores. This is because the Notebook is waiting to learn more about the investigations into possible cheating on the 2009-11 PSSA tests.

–Paul Socolar

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