To the editors:

One year ago, in a meeting with the principal of a Philadelphia  K-8 school, a group of alumni heard that getting into one of the District’s special admissions high schools fundamentally shapes a student’s educational outcomes. But with the publication of Research for Action’s recent study of the freshman year transition, we now know that high school choice is an illusion.

That prescient principal appealed to the alumni to raise funds for a school library. She argued that it was her duty to ensure that the overwhelmingly low-income students under her care had easy access to books and other learning resources. Her goal was to target materials to 6th-8th graders and to better equip them for applying and being admitted to one of the “more choice” high schools.

Egregious dropout rates among 9th grade students at neighborhood high schools are inexcusable. Superintendent Ackerman’s plan to “place renewed emphasis on the freshman year” is sound, but in the meantime, parents, teachers, and principals should aggressively guide students through the still-murky high school choice process.

Sydelle Zove
The writer is an alumna of the Thomas K. Finletter Elementary School and board president of 2andC Cares.

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