Thursday, October 30, 2008

Philadelphia's School Choice Success

For several years, Philadelphia schools have been offering options for rising high schoolers to apply into district schools other than the one that services their neighborhood of residence. In a school district plagued with poorly-performing schools and a robustly-growing network of charter and magnet schools, this option is becoming much more popular for many of the city's ambitious students.

With the deadline for applications tomorrow, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports an expected 50,000 applications for 60 participating secondary schools. One of the highest-performing schools, Central High School, is expected to receive 4,000 applications for only 600 seats, translating to what will be a 15% acceptance rate. To provide some perspective, Harvard admits roughly 11% of its applicants, while MIT admits 16% and the University of Pennsylvania admits approximately 21%.

The competition has caused some unease amongst those who feel that under-performing students who most need a quality, high-performing school environment to motivate them will remain stuck in a vicious cycle of underachievement. But in the past five years alone, the network of participating secondary schools has more than doubled, from 27 in 2003 to 60 schools this year. And with such obvious demand for high quality high school in Philadelphia, we should expect the number of participating schools to continue to grow. As it does so, the number of qualified, well-prepared, and well-rounded high school graduates in Philadelphia will grow as well.

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