A New Report Finds Access to High-Achieving Schools in Philadelphia Varies Widely by a Student’s Zip Code, Income and Race

Six of Every 10 Philadelphia Students Attend a Low-Achieving School

School Quality, Choice & Access in Philadelphia,” a report produced with publicly available data and released today by the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), finds an unequal distribution of high-achieving schools across the city and disproportionate enrollment by income and race.

Using the last three years of available data (2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19), the School Quality report shows trends in student achievement (proficiency rates), academic growth (improvement from one year to the next) and enrollment for public schools across the city of Philadelphia. Most of the analyses in the report are broken down by 13 regions of the city—the same regions the School District uses for its Comprehensive School Planning Review (CSPR).

The purpose of the report is to support families, communities, school leaders and policy makers as they consider schools for their children, school admissions and enrollment policies, and expansions, renovations or closures of school buildings. Here are four key findings:

  1. Six of every 10 Philadelphia students attend a low-achieving school. Black and Hispanic students are overrepresented in the City’s lowest-achieving schools (predominantly located in Northwest, Southwest and Olney/North Philadelphia), and White and Asian American students are overrepresented in the highest-achieving schools (predominantly located in Central, Northeast and South Philadelphia).
  2. Encouragingly, most of the city’s low-achieving schools are demonstrating consistent academic growth. There are 80 schools with low achievement and high academic growth; seven of these schools improved by 10 or more percentage points on state achievement tests over the past five years.
  3. Almost half of K-8 students attend schools of choice. Across the city, students are more likely to opt out of their neighborhood school if the school is low-achieving. Thus, students in Northeast Philadelphia are more likely to attend their neighborhood school, while students in West, South and Southwest Philadelphia are less likely to do so. Of all students who attend high-achieving schools, 60 percent attend a school that is not their neighborhood school.
  4. There are more than 29,000 unfilled seats in low-achieving neighborhood schools. Over half of these unfilled seats are located in schools in North Philadelphia.

“Despite the steady progress Philadelphia public district and charter schools have made in improving school quality over the last few years, stubborn inequity remains in how students are enrolled in schools,” said David Saenz, PSP’s manager of public affairs. “As the city and its schools seek to further tear down systemic barriers to educational equity, this report aims to provide residents, communities and policy makers with basic information about school quality, choice and access. While we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all definition of school quality, we hope this report fosters community-level conversations about schools and enrollment policies, and how well they are meeting the needs of those communities.”

The public can view the full report online or download the PDF. An interactive map is also available online so the user can view detailed information for each of the city’s regions, and the schools within each region.

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