Best Schools 2009

When it comes to getting kids ready for the future, you never know where you’ll find great ideas. From writing to rocket-making, college counseling to cool cafeterias, here’s our roundup of local schools that are the best at what they do. (Feel free to crib their answers)

Cafeteria
The Haverford School
At this Main Line boys’ school, mornings in the cafeteria (Café Teria?) begin with custom omelets and fruit-topped Belgian waffles. Noon brings major decisions, too: Organic salad or baked potato bar? Vegan stir-fry or fresh sushi? Dim sum or sautéed-to-order pasta? With a menu like this one, dinner at home — dinner at Georges, even — must be a letdown.

Theater Program
Germantown Academy
Bristol Township’s theater department may have been first to produce Les Mis, but G.A.’s circa-1894 Belfry Club — the oldest continuously operated high-school drama club in the country — has serious cred. (And not just because at its first time to the Cappies, the high-school version of the Tony Awards, Belfry culled 12 out of a possible 19 nominations and seven awards, including “Best Musical”). With three productions a year, plus classes in musical theater ensemble, drama and technical production, the program is intense. Says department head K. Richardson, “We’re not a big school — our talent pool is really small — but the kids are really smart, really hard-working. At G.A., that’s just the expectation.”

Language Program
The Episcopal Academy
Everyone is planning to teach Mandarin … next year. Newtown Square’s Episcopal has been doing it for an enterprising two years — which means when it comes to getting into an international program at Wharton, its students are already out ahead of yours.

Outdoor Classroom
Friends’ Central
Spring Mills sculptor Stacy Levy worked with architecture firm the Gund Partnership to develop the outdoor classroom beside Friends’ Central’s new science center in Wynnewood. It features Levy’s Watermap, a sandblasted self-draining map of the regional river basin; in rainstorms, the runnels and tributaries fill up and flow into the Delaware River in front of students’ eyes. “I want to make work that’s about the process of change in nature, rather than work that just imitates nature,” says Levy. Of course, it’s also just a cool place to hang.

Student Newspaper
Conestoga High School
Nationally recognized and award-winning, Conestoga’s seasoned student journalists learn to tackle serious topics — growing up gay, teen pregnancy, swine flu, illegal gambling — for their published-seven-times-a-year paper and even richer, ever-updating website, Stoganews.com.

Scientific Learning
Science Leadership Academy
Founded in 2006 in partnership with the Franklin Institute, this high-energy, high-tech public magnet school in Center City is attracting kids from around the city. Principal Chris Lehmann says that students learn via an innovative, inquiry-driven model inspired by scientific method. Every student gets a laptop, every freshman goes to class at the Franklin Institute, every sophomore and junior gets an individualized study plan, and every senior does an independent study. What’s more, the school’s engineering program has patents pending for a new way to produce biodiesel. Students also designed a solar water heater currently in use by Engineers Without Borders at a hospital in Sierra Leone. And oh, says Lehmann, “Our girls’ softball team rocks, too.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 < Previous Next >View as One Page

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Josh

    I noticed that Moorestown Public Schools, second a few years ago, is not even on the list. Is there an explanation for lack of a ranking? It would seem that an error was made or that the ranking scheme was not fully accurate. If an explaination could be given it would really help the situation.

  • Alexis

    Was Pennsbury ranked #51?

  • Kayane

    Haverford Public High School was not in the ranking…does that mean it doesn’t make the top 50, or they just chose certain schools to rank?

  • Nancy

    Haddonfield’s SAT scores are incorrectly reported – the numbers were switched for reading and math. According to the Haddonfield’s BOE report in November 2008 the scores were as follows: V: (Critical Reading) 573; M: 580; W: 575. And not V: 580 and M: 573 as the article incorrectly posted. This data was presented by the BOE and can be viewed at: http://www.haddonfield.k12.nj.us/eblast/SAT..AP_Report_to_Board_November_20_2008.pdf Would this change the ranking to #4?

  • Anonymous

    Check and see how Father Judge does in international competition at thee annual United Nations “Mock Debates. I believe that I am correct that they have won three or four of the last five years against schools from all over the globe. They should have been spotlighted in your article for this achievement.

  • John

    Garnet Valley was the 12th ranked High School in 2008, and is not in the top 50 for 2009, why is that?

  • Bob

    Based on the lack of published data for review and some of the top schools missing from the rankings , I think PM should recall the entire article .It is like the Phillies missing from the baseball standings . You know something is wrong with the data .

  • Ellen

    We moved to Moorestown for their reputable school system. After a few years there, we transferred to Episcopal Academy. There is no comparison.

  • Anonymous

    The little guy makes the cut…couldn’t be more ecstatic than to see Pitman High School in the top 15, and rightfully so!
    Congratulations to the students, staff and high school administrationkeep striving for academic excellence and ALWAYS making the community of Pitman proud!

  • Nina

    Very confused about how we were left off the list especially since we were top 20 last year…Why?

  • Anonymous

    Though we broke out the component scores for the printed chart, for ranking purposes we used only the combined score. Accordingly, the mistake did not affect Haddonfield’s position in the ranking.

    — Tim Haas, Online Editor

  • Jerry

    I have never seen any of the Archdiocesan High Schools, city or suburban, included under your listing of the “best”. I find it kind of odd that they are not academically on par with any of the 50 high schools you include under public or private (they have always been a kind of hybrid). This year, lo and behold under private schools, you list St. Pius X, again the first time I recall seeing any Archdiocesan school. Funny thing – it is slated to close and merge into a new high school over the next several years. Oh well.

  • Kevin
  • H

    How can they not be in the top 50 this year?

  • Patricia

    You acknowledged cheerleading, cafeterias, choir, clubs, but failed to mention BASEBALL! How can this be? Didn’t Philly just win a little thing called “The World Series” (If you are wondering it is baseball). Maybe you have heard of it. I hear they even play it in high school! Does America’s Favorite Pastime not merit acknowledgment in Philadelphia Magazine?

  • j

    Phila Mag: Do the right thing. Inform your readers of Moorestown’s ranking.

  • Jenn

    Shawnee High School in Medford, NJ was not mentioned. However, other schools within the district were mentioned.

  • Francis

    Wow! I can’t believe it,some heads are gonna roll on this error.Yo Herb look into this problem!

  • Carol

    North Penn H.S. doesn’t make the top 50 in the area — why?

    This article needs to have a detailed explanation of how the rankings were compiled.

  • ss
  • Jocelyn

    yeah Thomas! We love youuuu. :]

  • lois

    How did we go from 5 to 15 in 1 year? Great school district and only getting better.

  • Lois

    I find it hard to believe that this year’s list is so different from last year.

  • Anonymous

    go judge cheerleaders.let”s take first place this year

  • arlene

    Garnet Valley was 12th last year and is not in top 50 this year…how was the list compiled???

  • E

    I’m with the others in trying to understand why Garnet Valley can drop from 12 to below 50 within a year when they’ve done nothing but get better. Calls into question whether this whole ranking means anything. Very poor job, Philadelphia Magazine.

  • Heather

    Congrats to Judge cheerleaders. I have seen them compete and they are very good. It just seems funny that the squad is made up of “mostly St. Hubert’s” girls, shouldn’t it be ALL St. Hubert’s girls. Every other school squad is made up of girls from that school only. Since Hubert’s is the sister school to Judge it should be Hubert’s girls only. By the way Hubert’s has a good squad too!

  • Allyn

    You should be ashamed of yourselves. Your article was neither thoughtful, nor informative, nor balanced. There are many Great schools in the Philly area but you wouldn’t know it from your “survey”. I suggest putting some time in to get to know each school and write an informative article that is actually useful.

  • Anonymous

    Pennsbury School District was never mentioned, like the last comment, you should be ashamed of yourselves, there are other great schools in the “Philadelphia,PA” area that where not mentioned at all. My advice to whom ever wrote this article needs more thorough and accurate information put together instead of throwing a bunch of bull together. Hope you don’t call yourself a real writer or a publicist……..

  • William

    I’m not a student, grad or Masterman parent, but I can’t why Masterman is not number 1, or at least in the top three. Their SATs and percent of grads to college are top ranked.

  • Kendra

    Science Leadership Academy is a very popular school one of 2 i am considering ! ( Central is second )

  • Sheila

    I’m a parent of a school who did not make the list. I love my district, was hoping for a mention, yet am not offended that there is no reference to it. Folks, let’s keep the big picture in mind. Just because a school is highly ranked elsewhere doesn’t mean it would necessarily be included here. I read this article focused on the EXCEPTIONAL things that area schools offer their students and community. If your school excels in academics, sports, and/or community service but is not mentioned here, it does not mean that it is an inferior educational institution. Please take a step back and appreciate the wonderful examples of student achievement instead of focusing on your hurt pride.

  • Dodge

    Haverford School can shove that breakfast up their asses.

  • Namir

    The attitudes of the people here just show why your schools are ranked lower. Honestly, *surprise* that the school u or ur kids are in aren’t the best. There can be only 1 best, and I’m not from it, but you don’t see me cursing at the editors for simply organizing data that is ALREADY OUT THERE. Don’t think that YOUR school is any better than any other just because your big paycheck pays for it.

    Masterman is rightfully not #1 because it ruins the urban system. Obviously when you take the top students from a city and put them in one place, they are going to have higher scores. Imagine taking the top 5% of any of these schools and making another school. THINK ABOUT IT. Given their student pool, honestly, their scores are less than impressive.

  • Cynthia

    How can it be that you are Philadelphia Magazine and it is the Best of Philadelphia yet you name schools in the suburbs and in New Jersey? Lets stick to Best of Philly if we are to present accurate information.

  • Carly

    Can anyone point me towards rankings for elementary schools? Thanks!

  • anonymous

    I just got a flyer from my school district stating “we are no. 1 again”. Then, I see th 18K+ spending per student (my taxes) compared to ther school districts that are lower. Then, it blows my mind how it can be weighted 10%. It also blows my mind how food in the criteria can even be a category. I would rather see specific programs in Math, Science, or Technology. Who is best in these programs I am interested irregardless of the cost per student and free lunch.

  • Ned

    To sell this rag of a magazine just like US News & World Report does with their college edition. Only Sports Illustrated’s bathing suit issue sells more which is where these school ranking issues all belong…in the gutter. There really is no objective way to rank a school.

  • Nicholas

    No disrespect to the Agnes Irwin School, but Holy Ghost Preparatory School has won the Pennsylvania High School Speech and Debate State Championship 13 times in the last 15 years.

  • Gary

    Take a look at the methodology link. Only 75 schools were considered — those with the highest SAT scores (no doubt a significant piece of data, but hardly the only one that should matter).

    After assigning what can only be described as highly subjective weighting to each of several factors (several of which can reasonably be argued to be meaningless or even counter-indicative of school quality and an unspecified number of which are self-reported by the schools themselves), a statistical “Z-score” is determined. Are those Z-scores reported, so that one might assess how significant the differences are among the selected schools, even after applying this highly questionable methodology is applied? Of course not.

    What a waste of everyone’s time.

  • Mister

    I find it hard to believe that the largest school in Pennsylvania isn’t even on the list. Where’s Upper Darby at?

  • Ellen

    Hi:

    I can’t find the list. Can anyone please post a link to the actual list of top schools? Thanks!

  • james

    The same 5 are alwasy in teh top 5. Many schools are not included this year. Ridley School District has 80% who go to college. The social demographics of teh area show that many male children go into unions and the trades. There are many ways to slice the data.

  • Anonymous

    Truebright Science Charter School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City School District — Serving Middle School grades 07 – 10.
    It is very unfortunate that Philly residents have no clue about the real purpose of these institutions such as Truebright Science Academy! These are Islamic fundamentalist Abdullah Gülen founded organizations for solely making propaganda and spreading poison throughout the nation… open your eyes and start investigating. There are about 150 to 200 Turkish charter schools such as Truebright operated by an Islamic cult managed by Imam Fetullah Gulen all over the US. Imam Gulen’s well known statement to his followers goes as follows “Travel within the arteries of the system without being noticed, and wait for the right time for action. Bride the courts, bribe the judges to win your case even if you need to spend millions of dollars to do so. This Imam expelled by the Turkish government now lives in the US. They abuse the immigration system to get 100s of Turkish teachers to teach at these charter schools while the American teachers flip burgers unemployed. Turkish teachers pay a percentage of their salaries back to the cult, seems voluntary, yet mandatory. So American tax payers pay these Turkish…