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Welcome to the Notebook’s first fall guide to Philadelphia schools! We’re hoping that each September we’ll be able to provide you with vital information that you may want to hold onto – about the new school year and Philadelphia public schools, both District and charter.

Thanks to the generous support of our foundation funders, members, and advertisers, this will be the first of six editions of the Notebook for the new school year, after 15 years of publishing four print editions a year. Regular print editions of the Notebook will appear in late September, December, February, April, and late May. Don’t forget that we also have fresh content daily on our Web site.

The focus of our first annual guide is on selecting a high school. Where to apply to high schools is one of the most important decisions that students have to make during their K-12 years.

Applications for admission to District high schools are due early, on October 30. But ideally high school selection is something students and families think about not just months but years earlier. It’s tragic to hear about students finding out in 8th grade that their 7th grade attendance, behavior, grades, and test scores can make or break which high school will accept them.

One reason all this is important is the tremendous variation in outcomes for students, depending on what high school they attend. There are public high schools here where virtually every student goes on to a four-year college. There are unfortunately others where the majority of students never earn a high school diploma. And then many of the high schools fall in between these two extremes.

Until now, most Philadelphia students have not ended up getting matched with one of their preferred high school choices. Our hope is that by providing information about high school selection, more students will be able to make a successful match. We also hope to stir demand from informed students and families that can help move us toward a fairer process and build the momentum for making real improvements at high schools.

The School District produces an annual high school directory with valuable information about the application process and programs offered at different schools. It’s definitely worth getting your hands on a copy. We’ve tried here to also provide information on how schools are doing – data that permit comparisons between schools in terms of their academic performance.

Our section on choosing a high school is still a work in progress. We will be doing a Web version of this guide, and there we will be able to provide some additional information and tools that we couldn’t incorporate into this print edition. We encourage you to join the discussion on our site about how to bring positive change to the city’s struggling high schools.

And we encourage you to become a member of the Notebook to ensure that we can continue to write about what you really need to know. We welcome your feedback and ideas for how to improve this guide in the future. Thanks for reading!

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