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The School District of Philadelphia.Photo: Samantha Laub/AL DÍA News.
The School District of Philadelphia.Photo: Samantha Laub/AL DÍA News.

Philadelphia’s new magnet school admissions policy creates concern for students across the city

Parents worry the decision to use a lottery-based system with ZIP code preferences will jeopardize their child’s high-school acceptance.

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Student acceptance at special admission high schools in Philadelphia is caught up in controversy, as to whether the new admissions policy by the School District of Philadelphia will be more equitable.

Applicants from selected North Philadelphia ZIP codes will be given top preference in magnet schools' new lottery system that will be continuing next year.

Little information has yet to be released on how the lottery system will fairly review Latino and Black applicants from neighborhoods outside of North Philly.

The former system that permitted individual school personnel to determine a student’s acceptance, will now be left up to chance with less consideration given to GPA and computerized scoring for student entry essays.

According to PhillyVoice, Superintendent William Hite said the admission change will remain after its launch this fall, and it’ll be revised annually for progress.

At the City Council hearing on Dec. 15, the Committee on Education addressed this issue, sharing direct quotes from parents in disagreement, and data on the effectiveness of school selection processes.

Councilmember David Oh questioned the use of preference ZIP codes, wondering what “weight” North Philly neighborhoods will be given over others. He noticed no ZIP codes shared with him were from West Philadelphia, Southwest, South, nor any “other underserved neighborhoods.”

Magnet schools like Central, Masterman, and Carver Engineering and Science are among the list of public schools that offer career-focused study, and will receive the most impact by the new policy.

The number of multicultural students in attendance at top-performing schools may decrease even more, as a report from Chalkbeat Philadelphia published earlier this year showed low admissions.

Parents of middle school students who already attend a magnet school like Carver, are concerned that the selection process would put a halt to their child’s immediate transition into high school.

Others have criticized the school district for initiating the changes too soon with little advance notice or an option to share their concerns.

An online petition on Change.org continues to receive parent signatures after it was posted about two months ago.

The Philadelphia school district still ranks within the bottom 50% in Pennsylvania as of 2018 and 2019. A policy that may place acceptance barriers to better education is the last thing a heavily diverse city needs.

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