High school students in Philadelphia transfer for two basic reasons: They are having problems at their current school or they hope for better educational opportunities elsewhere.

Students in Philadelphia are eligible to attend any of the School District’s 57 high schools no matter what part of the city they live in. (Special Admission schools are restrictive based on grades and test performance, but not based on where students live.) Students can transfer schools even as late as 12th grade. It’s usually easier to find an opening in 9th grade, so students are encouraged to carefully consider high school options in 8th grade and try to land in the one they want then. If a student wants to transfer once high school is underway, school officials recommend starting as early as possible, particularly if a student is considering a career program with a three-year track.

Except in emergencies, students who want to change high schools within the School District typically have an eight-week window to complete the transfer process during September and October. For 2012, the transfer application deadline is Friday, Nov. 2. The application for district high schools is available online here (PDF). For charter schools, application deadlines vary but typically they fall in winter or even early spring.

For voluntary transfers--the most common kind--the District recommends that parents and students start with the counselors at their current school and with the District’s High School Directory, available online (PDF) or at one of the District’s Parent and Family Resource Centers. While there is no way to know now what openings will be available next spring, counselors should be helpful in assessing whether a student is likely to meet any admission requirements.

Once the choices have been narrowed, the student should attend the High School Fair in September at District headquarters. Students, teachers, and staff from all District and charter high schools are there to give presentations and answer questions.

The student should then call any schools of interest and schedule a personal visit, says Danielle Seward, deputy chief of student enrollment and placement. “Go to the school and ask the tough questions.”

But she cautions that before doing this, it is worth checking out transportation time to and from the school. Ride the bus and subway at the times you would be using it.

All students attending schools 1.5 miles or more from their home receive a SEPTA TransPass free of charge, but in some cases, Seward says, students have found that the travel time to and from their neighborhood places a burden on them or their family.

Parents may also want to contact the principal of a school to get the name of a parent leader, such as the head of the School Advisory Council, so they can ask questions about the school and the administration.

Students are notified in the spring if their transfer request has been accepted.

Emergency transfers are available in rare cases, usually when a student feels unsafe or threatened and can provide documentation such as a police report. There must also be a record of past efforts by the school and the parents to remedy the situation. These transfers are initiated through the school and can usually be arranged in a matter of weeks.

Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, students in schools designated as “persistently dangerous” by the state can transfer to schools not on the list as long as they meet the admissions criteria. Six Philadelphia schools now have that label, and a list is available online here. Schools are required to notify parents when their child’s school is on the list and supply a list of receiving schools to which the student may transfer. These transfers can also be effective in a matter of weeks. Parents should ask what steps the school is taking to reduce the number of serious incidents and get off the persistently dangerous list.

An additional avenue for emergency high school transfers under NCLB, available in previous years, is no longer an option, school officials say. Students previously could apply for a transfer if their school failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress performance targets for two consecutive years. But now the District has no receiving high schools available for these transfers. Parents still do receive a notification letter from the District about their school’s status, and these students, in some cases, are eligible for special services, including private tutoring if they fall under NCLB low-income guidelines.


The School District of Philadelphia’s Voluntary Transfer Process

For more information, contact the School District of Philadelphia’s Student Placement Office: 440 N. Broad Street, Suite 114
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: 215-400-4290