This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
To our readers,
Welcome to our annual fall guide to Philadelphia public high schools. The Notebook, the city’s independent education newspaper, developed this guide because applying to high school here is a complicated, competitive process. Information is vital to help students get into schools that are a good fit.
Sadly, our high schools vary tremendously in performance measures such as graduation and attendance rates. They are suffering the effects of budget cuts. But some schools still have a wealth of courses and activities, while others have sparse offerings. We hope this guide helps level the playing field – assisting families in understanding their options, while flagging the need to improve high schools that are struggling.
This fall, students will have nearly 90 public high school options to sort through (not counting cyber schools), with varying admissions criteria. Some schools receive 10 or more applications for every slot. Others admit students mainly in the middle years, making it tough to get into 9th grade. Although this guide helps explain that, it’s important to get help from counselors or other knowledgeable adults when figuring out where to apply. Unfortunately, counselors are still in short supply due to budget cuts (a good reason to let your elected officials know that Pennsylvania schools need adequate funding!).
For the first time, this year’s guide highlights career and technical education programs. CTE can be a great option for students who are interested in hands-on learning and mastering a skill that makes them employable right out of high school. The 41 available specialties range from traditional trades like welding to growing fields like computer networking. There have been unfilled slots in some of these programs.
This guide has three main sections: articles to help you understand the high school admissions process in general and CTE programs in particular, profiles listing what each school has to offer, and a center spread of data to compare how schools are doing. You can learn more about high school selection at thenotebook.org/fall-guide-page.
Seek out other resources as well. The District publishes an online directory. Our center spread points you to websites that rate schools. Talk to other families and visit schools. That will help you to find the best fit.
Paul Socolar, editor and publisher
P.S. Donations from members make this guide possible. Support its continued publication: Become a Notebook member today!