Class Acts

Top-notch academics? That’s pretty much a given at Philly’s private high schools. It’s special programs — inside and outside the classroom — that make a certain place stand out as the perfect choice for your child. From advanced science and technology offerings to international exchange and in-depth community service, here’s an honor roll of schools that excel in eight major areas

Liberal Arts/Classics

George School
Co-ed day and boarding, grades 9-12; day tuition $29,300, boarding $39,600. 1690 Newtown-Langhorne Road, Newtown, 215-579-6500,

One of only three boarding schools in the United States to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, George School belongs to a global community of 645,000 students in 129 different countries. Why IB? According to head of school Nancy Starmer, it not only challenges students with an internationally recognized “comprehensive curriculum,” but also complements the school’s Quaker values. Every year since adopting IB in 1985, George School students have scored higher than the international average on the program’s assessments. That’s not easy: The full IB diploma requires mastery of six subject areas, a 4,000-word research paper, extracurricular activities and service, and a class in theory of knowledge. Students who don’t opt for the full diploma can still earn IB certificates or AP credit in individual courses. — B.S.

St. Joseph’s Preparatory School.
St. Joe’s Prep requires its boys at least to sample Latin, but for those itching for a more epic treatment, it offers both AP Vergil and Lyric, multiple levels of Greek, and a unique course combining classical archaeology and mythology. Boys-only day, grades 9-12; tuition $15,300. 1733 West Girard Avenue, 215-978-1950,

The Hill School. With a curriculum steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Hill teaches directly from the canon — from Shakespeare and Dante to Plato in the original Greek. Co-ed day and boarding, grades 9-12; day tuition $29,000, boarding tuition $42,000. 717 East High Street, Pottstown, 610-326-1000,

Germantown Friends School. Every spring, GFS runs the “Essentially English” program, a series of electives that sound more like graduate-level seminars. Last year’s courses included “Bob Dylan, the ’60s, and American Cultural Change,” “Visions from the Apocalypse,” and “Melville’s Moby-Dick: Loomings and the Leviathan.” Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $21,991 to $22,377. 31 West Coulter Street, Germantown, 215-951-2300,

Westtown School. At Westtown, they teach you to write. The English department holds an advanced writing seminar and spring electives, like last year’s “Reading and Writing The New Yorker,” that emphasize the power of the pen (or keyboard). Co-ed day and boarding, preK-12; day tuition $25,300, boarding $40,250. 975 Westtown Road, Westtown, 610-399-0123,

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  • Debbie

    Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown has been a top performing school for 150 years, how did you over look them on this list? They produce typically 9 National Merit finalist each year and have a tremendous community outreach program as well as athletic state champs in many sports programs. I feel that the intern who wrote this article perhaps didn't have quite enough education himself to report the facts correctly! Next time leave it to a seasoned professional to do the reporting of major articles that impact the community.

  • Jen

    The tuition at these schools, save Girard, is more than my college tuition was, and I finished my Bachelor's degree in 2007 (from a public college in NJ). My family could never have afforded to send me to these schools. The one school they could have afforded, Girard, would nat have accepted me because I have two parents, still married. Are kids from stable two parent families with modest incomes going to loose their edge in life because they don't have mountains of either cash or emotional hardship?

  • Michael

    I found the article "Class Acts" edited by Timothy Hass full of bias and elitism. As a former teacher in both public and private institutions, I would like to know why Mr. Haas advertised only the outstanding academic departments of private schools and ignored public schools. It is interesting to note that no mention was made of the relatively few elite students private school educate as opposed to the number of students in the fifty top public schools. Why was the measurement criteria "Bang for the Buck" only reserved for comparing public institutions? My guess is that after one pays private school tuitions of between $26.000.00 to $39,000.00 per year, you need to find a place to live that squeezes every cent out of the public school taxes so they remain low as possible. The follow up article by Tom McGrath makes some excellent points about how we need to prepare young people for the world of the 21st century. Mr. McGrath concludes his article stating that Bill Gates' "educational

  • Kathleen

    Philadelphia Magazine has consistently ignored Mount Saint Joseph Academy, despite the fact that it outperforms many of the other schools listed. The fact that Philadelphia Magazine bases it's private school ratings on "buzz" rather than objective criteria seriously decreases it's credibility in my eyes.

  • chris

    I love this school its a little pricey but its worth it