There are more than 400 schools in Philadelphia, but don’t let that overwhelm your search for an elementary, middle or high school. GreatPhillySchools is designed to help you navigate a complex system of public and private options to find the best school for you and your child.
A System of Diverse Options
There are many different types of schools in Philadelphia, and there are great schools of every type. There are also less than great schools of every type. To help you search and find a school, we have grouped together schools that have many things in common, like the admission process and cost. Here is a brief overview of the major types of schools:
District neighborhood schools are operated by the School District of Philadelphia and serve students who live within specific boundaries. They cost nothing to attend and have to accept all students living inside a designated neighborhood. Parents can also apply for a “voluntary transfer” to any of the schools operated by the School District. Read more about how to find your neighborhood school and how to transfer schools.
District citywide schools are also free to attend and open to students from any part of Philadelphia. Most citywide schools are high schools. Students apply to these schools through the School District of Philadelphia or a counselor at a district elementary school, and students are usually admitted by lottery. Learn more about choosing a public high school.
Public special-admission schools or “magnet schools” are middle and high schools that require an application process. Students from any part of Philadelphia can apply to these schools, but they have requirements based on grades and attendance. To learn about this admission process, read more about choosing a public high school.
Public charter schools are independently operated public schools that have been created to foster innovation and provide students with a wider set of opportunities for academic success. There are about 85 public charter schools in Philadelphia. They are free to attend. Most charter schools are open to students living in any part of the city. Students apply to these schools through a lottery that is meant to give every student an equal chance at admission. Some charter schools are neighborhood schools; like district schools, they are open to all students living within designated boundaries. Learn more about public charter schools.
Private Catholic schools are mostly operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and a few are independent Catholic schools. There are 60 Catholic schools in Philadelphia. Like all private schools, they charge tuition. The fees vary from school to school, and some schools offer tuition assistance. Scholarships are also available through nonprofit organizations. Some schools set aside some or all of their spots for students lacking financial resources. Families do not have to be Catholic or members of any church for their children to attend a Catholic school, but there is a religious aspect to the education. Non-Catholic students may apply to any Catholic school; members of a church are expected to apply to their parish school if there is one. Learn more about Catholic schools.
Private independent schools come in many forms. They are independently operated and funded, so they require an application process, might charge tuition, and may offer scholarships. Students can also apply for scholarships from other nonprofit organizations. Some private schools are religiously affiliated, and some are affiliated with other types of organizations. Learn more about independent private schools.
Elementary and Middle Schools
In all types of schools, the number of grade levels can vary from school to school. Some elementary schools are combined with middle schools, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade, while in others the oldest level might be fifth or sixth grade. There are also traditional middle schools, just serving grades five or six through eight. Click below for more information that will help you understand your elementary and middle school options:
Most high schools start in ninth grade, but some are combined with a middle school and begin at earlier ages. You can read more about your high school options here: