New website to help parents choose a school in Philly
By the Notebook on Oct 15, 2012 10:24 AM
by Benjamin Herold, for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
Many Philadelphia parents want to take advantage of the city's varied school options but feel they need better information.
The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) wants to help.
PSP, along with Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite, will launch GreatPhillySchools Monday. The goal is to provide parents with a one-stop shop for information and quality ratings on the vast majority of Philadelphia's district, charter, and private schools, which number close to 500.
"Right now, you have many parents who don't realize the options available to them," said Mark Gleason, PSP executive director. "We've taken on the challenge of creating a multimedia resource that allows them to search for almost every school in the city of Philadelphia."
GreatPhillySchools will include basic data about each school's location, leadership, and program offerings, as well as ratings on academic performance and safety. At an event Monday afternoon at Shepard Recreation Center in West Philadelphia, Nutter will officially launch the project's website.
"We use a number system to say [some] schools are on average better than [other] schools," said Gleason. "But we have to be clear with parents – at the end of the day, this is your choice, and it's about your child, and we're trying to give you some tools to help."
A 2010 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative found that 42 percent of Philadelphia parents found it difficult to get enough information about Philadelphia's school options. Many said they felt overwhelmed when trying to find the right school for their child.
Earlier this month, NewsWorks and the Notebook profiled Karen Lewis, a Philadelphia mother whose months-long search for a new school for her 8-year-old son left her feeling frustrated and angry. Gleason said GreatPhillySchools should help parents such as Lewis.
"To the extent that she's dissatisfied, or even just curious, she ought to be able to find information about how [a] school compares to other schools in her neighborhood [and] throughout the city," Gleason said.
In addition to GreatPhillySchools, the group also operates what it calls the "Great Schools Fund." In just over two years, PSP has raised more than $50 million to support the expansion of successful schools.
This story was reported as part of NewsWorks' partnership in education coverage with the Public School Notebook. The Notebook is a partner in GreatPhillySchools, participating on the advisory board and providing research on high schools and articles on the admission process.