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

Science & Technology

[sidebar]The Agnes Irwin School
Girls-only day, K-12; tuition $25,200.* Ithan Avenue and Conestoga Road, Rosemont, 610-525-8400, agnesirwin.org

The mix of intensive classes and extracurricular opportunities that comprises Agnes Irwin’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program promotes the sciences as viable career choices for women in the face of societal pressures telling girls otherwise, says science department chair Darin Katz. Students can pursue independent science research experiments in laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova and Bryn Mawr; recent years have seen girls conducting projects in marine biology, analytical chemistry and molecular biology. Irwin also fields a robust robotics club that competes in Annapolis every year — it’s one of only a few all-girls teams that participate in that competition, and it consistently reaches the finals. — C.B.

Chestnut Hill Academy. Eco-science is hot, and Chestnut Hill is in the forefront with its soon-to-be-completed LEED-certified science facility, complete with solar panels and a wind turbine. Boys-only day, preK-12; tuition $24,550. 500 West Willow Grove Avenue, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-4700, chestnuthillacademy.org.

Holy Ghost Preparatory School. Holy Ghost Prep is a playground for robotics enthusiasts — the electronics course is taught by a Drexel professor, and the school’s TEAMS program, with around 50 participants, frequently wins county- and statewide electronics competitions. Boys-only day, grades 9-12; tuition $14,100. 2429 Bristol Pike, Bensalem, 215-639-2102, holyghostprep.org.

La Salle College High School. The advanced computer science training offered to students at La Salle has led to the school’s certification as a Microsoft IT Academy program — one of the only schools in Pennsylvania, private or public, to earn the distinction. Boys-only day, grades 9-12; tuition $14,600. 8605 Cheltenham Avenue, Wyndmoor, 215-233-2911, lschs.org.
Athletics

Malvern Preparatory School
Boys-only day, grades 6-12; tuition $23,550. 418 South Warren Avenue, Malvern, 484-595-1100, malvernprep.org

The Malvern Prep Friars make it look almost too easy. With 95 percent student participation in athletics, the Friars won league championships in baseball, golf, cross country, football, swimming, lacrosse and track this past school year, tallying a record 61 points in interleague play and garnering the Inter-Academic League’s all-sport Heyward Cup for the second year in a row. To help the school’s young superstars reach their potential, a certified specialist oversees their workouts at an 8,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center. The school even houses indoor rowing tanks, where last year’s undefeated varsity quad trained before taking first place at nationals. Malvern Prep, however, doesn’t deserve a jock-school image, says communications director Jim Mack — athletics here serve to “balance an excellent academic tradition.” — B.S.

The Baldwin School. This fall, Baldwin is boosting its already impressive commitment to girls’ athletics: Its brand-new sports facility comes complete with squash courts and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Girls-only day, preK-12; tuition $24,775. 701 West Montgomery Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-525-2700, baldwinschool.org.

The Episcopal Academy. Fulfilling the “body” part of its “mind, body, and spirit” credo, Episcopal unveils extensive new athletic facilities this fall as part of its move to Newtown Square. Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $25,400. 1785 Bishop White Drive, Newtown Square, 484-424-1400, episcopal-academy.org.

Germantown Academy. The baseball squad defeated nationally ranked Malvern Prep 9-3 to win the state title last year, and the school enjoys an annual all-sports showdown with William Penn Charter on GA/PC Day — or is that PC/GA Day? Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $24,280. 340 Morris Road, Fort Washington, 215-646-3300, germantownacademy.net.

William Penn Charter School. They may attend the world’s oldest Quaker school, but Penn Charter’s athletes have plenty of fight in them; the football program trained this year’s highest-drafted quarterback, Matt Ryan, before he hit the big time. Co-ed day, K-12; tuition $23,220. 3000 West School House Lane, 215-844-3460, penncharter.com.

Visual Arts

The Shipley School

Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $26,500. 14 Yarrow Street, Bryn Mawr, 10-525-4300, shipleyschool.org

At Shipley, art is more than just a class — it’s a life skill. The program emphasizes what department head Chris Wagner calls “creative problem-solving,” which can be applied both inside and outside the classroom. (And her students have done just that, in some unexpected ways: One alumna, for example, now works with the FBI as an art theft expert.) Unlike many other art programs, Shipley’s boasts measurable results: Its students have been responsible for 69 percent of all of the 5’s in AP Studio Art among Pennsylvania non-public-school students over the past 20 years. The secret? A quartet of gifted upper school instructors, says Wagner, who guide students as they create the 29 pieces required for the AP portfolio. — B.S.

Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.
Students learn from the masters here. Taught in conjunction with art history, the program trains students in the methods of such artists as Vincent van Gogh and Louise Nevelson, developing appreciation for past talent while forming a strong base for personal creativity. Girls-only day, preK-12; tuition $14,400. 480 Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-527-3915, cdssh.org.

Friends Select School. As if studying the Renaissance in Milan during a two-week exchange isn’t enough, students also develop original theses at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and present them during a class-guided tour. Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $23,925. 17th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway, 215-561-5900, friends-select.org.

George School. At George, the arts receive the super-intensive International Baccalaureate treatment in every discipline, including two levels of video production and woodworking, and a course in alternative photographic processes ranging from antique methods to the most up-to-date digital technologies. Co-ed day and boarding, grades 9-12; day tuition $29,300, boarding tuition $39,600. 1690 Newtown-Langhorne Road, Newtown, 215-579-6500, georgeschool.org.

Westtown School. The Arts Center at Westtown stays open outside of class time so students can work not only on assignments, but also on independent projects, some of which end up next to professional work in the school’s exhibition gallery. Co-ed day and boarding, preK-12; day tuition $25,300, boarding tuition $40,250. 975 Westtown Road, Westtown, 610-399-0123, westtown.edu.
Performing Arts

Girard College High School
Co-ed boarding, grades 9-12; free. Eligibility restricted to children who have lost one or both parents and demonstrate financial need. 2101 South College Avenue, 215-787-2617, girardcollege.com

Girard students have the opportunity to work with two professional dance troupes in residence, the contemporary Miro Dance Theatre and Three Aksha, which performs classical Indian dance. Now in its third year at Girard, Miro — whose approach to dance informs the structure of Girard’s own student company — conducts open studio workshops in which students hone their skills and forge relationships with the pros. — C.B.

Chestnut Hill Academy and Springside School. Boys from Chestnut Hill and girls from Springside work together in a coordinated theater group, Players, to put on performances. The program starts freshman year and employs the same faculty and resources for both schools. Chestnut Hill: Boys-only day, preK-12; tuition $24,550. 500 West Willow Grove Avenue, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-4700, chestnuthillacademy.org. Springside: Girls-only day, preK-12; tuition $23,500. 8000 Cherokee Street, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-7200, springside.org.

Sanford School. At Sanford, the kids control the airwaves, taking song requests, broadcasting talk shows and covering sporting events on a student-run radio station. Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $20,500. 6900 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 302-239-5263, sanfordschool.org.

The Haverford School. Haverford’s theater program consistently wins Cappie awards (the high-school equivalent of the Tonys) in the Best Play and Best Musical categories for its fall plays and musical productions. Boys-only day, preK-12; tuition $26,700. 450 Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, 610-642-3020, haverford.org.

Kimberton Waldorf School. Founded eight years ago, Kimberton’s circus program is an integrated part of phys ed for younger students and an elective in the upper school. All PE teachers are skilled in circus activities — unicycles, gymnastics, juggling — and students perform in an annual circus. Co-ed day; tuition $17,530. 410 West Seven Stars Road, Phoenixville, 610-933-3635, kimberton.org.
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, georgeschool.org

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, sjprep.org.

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, thehill.org.

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, germantownfriends.org.

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, westtown.edu.
Exchange/International Programs

Country Day School of the Sacred Heart
Girls-only day, preK-12; tuition $14,400. 480 Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-527-3915, cdssh.org

Bryn Mawr’s Sacred Heart may be a close-knit community — there are fewer than 400 girls total in grades pre-K through 12 — but students have a national campus at their fingertips through an internal exchange program with 20 other Sacred Heart schools around the country. If your teen wants to study marine biology, off she goes for a six-week term on the beaches of Miami. If her heart is set on politicking, the D.C.-area program will put her front and center for all things political. While away, students live with host families or, if possible, relatives. Thanks to this national network of schools, Sacred Heart also offers a leadership conference in Texas, community service projects in Chicago, and, among many other coast-to-coast opportunities, the chance for citified gals to spend a week on a Sacred Heart farm in upstate New York. “This world really isn’t that big,” says Laurie Nowlan, director of admissions. “We’re closely connected. It’s very enriching.” — Jenna Bergen

Kimberton Waldorf School. Your travel-hungry 10th-grader can be swapped with a student from another Waldorf school around the globe — think Spain, France or New Zealand — for two to six months. A bonus: Almost all students return fluent. Co-ed day, pre-K-12; tuition $17,530. 410 West Seven Stars Road, Phoenixville, 610-933-3635, kimberton.org.

The Hill School.
Through a partnership with School Year Abroad, students here have the opportunity to spend an entire year immersed in another country’s native tongue, whether it’s the romance languages of Europe or the Mandarin dialect in China. Co-ed day and boarding, grades 9-12; day tuition $29,000, boarding $42,000. 717 East High Street, Pottstown, 610-326-1000, thehill.org.

The Hun School of Princeton. Let your child reap the benefits of exchange without the long plane ride. Each year, the Arthur Rozas International Student Program brings about 40 students — a significant portion of Hun’s boarding population — to the school’s classrooms. Co-ed day and boarding, grades 6-12; day tuition $28,390, boarding $41,265. 176 Edgerstoune Road, Princeton, 609-921-7600, hunschool.org.

Wilmington Friends School. Students at Friends, the other area partner of School Year Abroad, can live and study for a year in China, France, India, Italy or Spain. Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $19,775. 101 School Road, Wilmington, 302-576-2900, wilmingtonfriends.org.
Community Service

Academy of the New Church
Co-ed day and boarding, grades 9-12; day tuition $11,348, boarding tuition $16,256. 2815 Huntingdon Pike, Bryn Athyn, 267-502-4200, ancss.org

An attitude of charity and service is encouraged but not required at this Swedenborgian school, yet students have made Delta Mu, a club dedicated to community service, the most popular on campus. With opportunities ranging from volunteering at Interim House (a residential rehab for women and children) to a Thanksgiving collection for Hope Prison Ministries to spending a work weekend at a Salvation Army camp in the Poconos, there’s virtually no limit to the ways students can begin to make service a part of their daily lives. — Jordan Hickey

La Salle College High School. La Salle students take part in the nationally recognized Community TechServe Program, which helps bridge the digital divide by bringing together families, schools and organizations in need of help with technologically savvy volunteers. Boys-only day, grades 9-12; tuition $14,600. 8605 Cheltenham Avenue, Wyndmoor, 215-233-2911, lschs.org.

Malvern Preparatory School. Through Malvern’s mandatory Christian Service Program, seniors can spend two weeks in the American South — or South Africa — working on community service projects. Boys-only day, grades 6-12; tuition $23,550. 418 South Warren Avenue, Malvern, 484-595-1100, malvernprep.org.

Moorestown Friends School. Moorestown students engage in service learning projects in locales from Mexico to Tanzania, providing immediate help while also studying root causes and potential solutions. Co-ed day, preK-12; tuition $20,250. 110 East Main Street, Moorestown, 856-235-2900, mfriends.org.

Nazareth Academy High School.
Students at Nazareth log a staggering 15,000-plus hours of community service annually, and homerooms compete in a yearly four-week Bread Basketball food drive that nets more than eight tons of staples for the needy. Girls-only day, grades 9-12; tuition $9,000. 4001 Grant Avenue, 215-637-7676, nazarethacademyhs.org.
Learning Differences

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

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, academyinmanayunk.org.

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, hilltopprep.org.

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, thephelpsschool.org.

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, woodlynde.org.

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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