Beyond the Usual Suspects

When I talk to other parents about Philadelphia public elementary schools, inevitably the same handful of schools are of interest to them.  In no particular order, they are Penn Alexander (West Philly), Greenfield (Center City), and Meredith (Queen Village).  Then there are the popular charter schools like Independence Charter (Center City), Russell Byers Charter (Center City), and Green Woods Charter (Roxborough). To a lesser extent because of their proximity to my current or potential future neighborhoods, I also hear people mention Jenks (Chestnut Hill), Henry (Mount Airy), McCall (Center City), and Houston (Mt. Airy).  Of this long list of schools, I have only visited three thus far, so listing them here is not an endorsement, it is simply an observation of what schools I hear about over and over from my peers.

I have wondered what other Philadelphia public and charter schools that are out there that go unnoticed by the masses.  Not having time to visit all of them, I am trying to narrow down a list of high quality Philadelphia public (or charter) schools that I might research further.  I live in NW Philly and I am considering a  move to Center City/Queen Village/West Philly, so my list is geographically-targeted.  Does anyone have any thoughts on or experience with any of these schools?  Are there others that we should investigate?  Read my list after the break.

  • Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures (FACTS) Charter School (Chinatown) This Chinese language immersion elementary school has a diverse student body (70% Asian, 21% African-American) stellar math scores, but pretty low reading scores.  FACTS serves many immigrant students (i.e., non-native English speakers), I presume that the low reading scores are in part the result of that, but I have no evidence to confirm that hypothesis.  I love the idea of a language immersion programs, so this school is particularly attractive to me.
  • Christopher Columbus Charter School (Bella Vista)–They have a nice diversity (35% African American, 51% White) and almost all of their teachers have 5 or more years of teaching experience.  They have a troubling 22:1 student/teacher ratio (as does Independence charter, by the way), however and the parent involvement website hasn’t been updated in almost a year.
  • Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School (South Philadelphia)- It’s hard to argue with their test scores–90% score proficient or higher on math 71% on reading (3rd grade).  Not sure my oldest would be interested in this type of curriculum though.
  • Andrew Jackson Elementary (South Philly) – I recently wrote about an article showcasing how parental involvement has really boosted this school.  Is it on par with the others?

Apropos to this post, there is a pretty involved discussion going on the the PhiladelphiaSpeaks forums about Christopher Columbus and Philadelphia Performing Arts.  Check it out.

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