This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Welcome to our fifth annual fall guide to Philadelphia’s public high schools. Selecting and getting into high school is a pivotal point in students’ lives. The Notebook, Philadelphia’s independent education newspaper, has created this resource to address the importance of that decision.
We’re publishing at a moment of enormous uncertainty in the schools because of the District’s deep budget crisis. Many schools lack the counselors that would normally help 8th graders through the application process. High schools are struggling to maintain the programs described in our listings while coping with previously unthinkable cuts in staffing. Charter schools were not hit as hard this year because of a one-year lag built into their funding formula, but they may face deep cutbacks next fall.
Even when all schools did have counselors, finding the right high school was a daunting process. There are more than 80 public school options to sort through (not counting the cyber schools), with all variants of admissions criteria. At many, competition for slots is exceedingly stiff. And while an effort to create one application and one deadline for all District and charter schools is in motion, many charters will still have their own applications.
The tools you’ll find in this guide are of three types: articles to help you understand the constantly changing high school admissions process, profiles listing what each school has to offer, and a center spread full of data to compare how students at each school are doing.
After exploring here, you can find useful stories from our previous guides and tools to learn more about high schools.
Not all options are created equal. Our data spread shows graduation rates ranging from 99 percent to less than 50 percent. Our school profiles show that some schools have a wide variety of special offerings, while others have sparse options.
There are other resources to help you choose. The District publishes a directory, which will just be online this year. The website greatphillyschools.org has more data and interactive features. Most important, talk to other families and visit some schools if you can. That will help you to find the best fit.
Paul Socolar, editor and director
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