Website offers range of information about Philly schools

Posted: October 17, 2012

Call it Consumer Reports for Philadelphia schools.

On Monday, officials launched GreatPhillySchools.org, a website where families can get information about every city school, public, charter, Catholic, and private - details from extracurricular activities offered to violent incidents per 100 students.

The site was created by the Philadelphia Schools Partnership (PSP) - a city nonprofit that aims to raise $100 million to expand strong schools of all types - in conjunction with other local organizations.

Information about more than 400 schools is available on the website, which was ceremonially launched by Mayor Nutter, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., PSP director Mark Gleason, and others at the Shepherd Recreation Center in West Philadelphia.

Most of the data available for parents to peruse were publicly available in the past, but often not easy to access - some was online, much was not.

Notable is that Catholic schools' information is included. In the past, detailed information about those schools was often unavailable.

The site is not perfect, and is a work in progress, Gleason said.

Nutter said the site would become an important resource for city families.

"The information should not be a mystery anymore," the mayor said. "One way or another, we are all paying for this system."

A 2010 Pew Charitable Trusts study was the impetus for the site. In that study, 42 percent of parents of school-age Philadelphia children said they found it "very hard" or "somewhat hard" to find enough information about city educational options.

Parents can now search schools by neighborhood, test scores, and other factors. They can do side-by-side comparisons of schools, and read articles on things like what questions to ask of schools and how to transfer to a district high school.

When her daughter, now a ninth grader at Girls' High, was searching for high schools, Luciana Boone was ready to do lots of research. She even made a spreadsheet.

But the information was tough to come by, said Boone, who is now repeating the process as her son, an eighth grader at KIPP West Philadelphia, looks for a school for next year.

"This makes it much easier," Boone said.

Hite said he knew the site would reveal problems in some district schools, which have been struggling with low academic achievement and safety problems for years.

"However, there are schools where great things are going on every day," Hite said, encouraging families to consider those as solid options.

Parents sat on the advisory panel that helped create the site, along with representatives from the Public School Notebook, a nonprofit newspaper and website that covers city education. The Notebook helped provide some editorial content.


Contact Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.

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