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

Learning Differences

Delaware Valley Friends School
Co-ed day, grades 7-12; tuition $33,000. 19 East Central Avenue, Paoli, 610-640-4150,

Delaware Valley Friends School’s ABLE program, with courses structured on adventure-based learning experiences, takes students with ADD, ADHD, dyslexia and other learning differences outside the classroom. Whether through backpacking across Costa Rica’s remote highlands, cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks or a 185-mile bike tour along the Chesapeake, teens at DVFS build self-confidence, self-esteem and a sense of teamwork. “Students who have been the most challenged by the educational world end up being my best students,” says Ken Sinapius, a former Outward Bound instructor who now leads the program. “These kids are working extremely hard — harder than most — to get into college. This provides opportunity for great success that they haven’t had too much of in the classroom.” — J.B.

Academy in Manayunk. The area’s newest high school for learning differences — the program starts this year — works in conjunction with the pioneering Lab School of Washington. The focus is on individualized instruction, a hands-on approach to learning and immersion in the arts to raise self-esteem — and that GPA. Co-ed day, grades 1-9; tuition $26,500. 169 Conarroe Street, Manayunk, 215-483-2461,

Hill Top Preparatory School. Hill Top’s mission is to prepare bright students with learning differences for higher education — and thanks to rigorous academics and a well-guided mentoring program, almost 100 percent of students go on to college. Co-ed day grades 6-12; tuition $33,600. 737 South Ithan Avenue, Rosemont, 610-527-3230,

Phelps School. Each child at Phelps receives a custom-designed education program that lays a foundation of decision-making and time-management skills he’ll use well into college. Boys-only day and boarding, grades 7-12; day tuition $19,000, boarding $32,000. 583 Sugartown Road, Malvern, 610-644-1754,

Woodlynde School. Ninety-five percent of Woodlynde graduates pursue higher education, benefiting from the mix of small classes (most have a 5:1 student-teacher ratio), a college-prep program that emphasizes organizational skills, and a dedicated learning specialist for every grade. Co-ed day, K-12; tuition $25,500. 445 Upper Gulph Road, Strafford, 610-687-9660,

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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