Top Schools: 2006

The Elite 40

When we compiled our first-ever school rankings last year, we considered private and public schools separately. Almost as soon as we were finished, we began to wonder whether it was possible to identify the best schools in the area by comparing all of them together. To answer the question, we again turned to statisticians I. Elaine Allen and Christopher A. Seaman.

Looking at the available data, they found that by concentrating on academic variables (such as SAT scores and number of AP classes offered) and classroom environment data (such as class size and student-faculty ratio) — and leaving cost out of the equation (due to the difficulty of making private tuition and public-school spending comparable) — they could produce a statistically valid snapshot of our most elite schools regardless of their type.

It’s important to bear in mind, however, that within the list itself, the differences measured are often quite small — any school could fairly exchange places with schools 10 positions higher or lower. Accordingly, we offer these rankings not as the final word on school quality, but as a starting point for parents searching for educational options for their children. Of course, if the reaction to last year’s rankings is any guide, they will be the starting point for any number of arguments, too. (You can find an explanation of our methodology on page 99.)

On the following pages, we’ve highlighted some useful “top five” lists from the main chart and broken out the area’s top public schools by county. We’ve also done a second round of calculations on our data, this time keeping money in the mix, to recognize schools that give the best academic value for every dollar spent.

1. The Haverford School, Haverford
2. The Shipley School
3. The Hill School
4. The Episcopal Academy
5. The Baldwin School
6. The Agnes Irwin School
7. William Penn Charter School
8. Holy Ghost Preparatory School
9. Springside School
10. Germantown Friends School
11. Chestnut Hill Academy
12. Devon Preparatory School
13. Friends’ Central School
14. Akiba Hebrew Academy
15. Academy of Notre Dame de Namur
16. Malvern Preparatory School
17. Germantown Academy
18. Abington Friends School
19. Moorestown Friends School
20. Masterman High School
21. Mount Saint Joseph Academy
22. Conestoga High School
23. La Salle College High School
24. St. Joseph’s Preparatory School
25. Cherry Hill High School East
26. Friends Select School
27. Villa Maria Academy
28. Westtown School
29. George School
30. Merion Mercy Academy
31. Lower Merion High School
32. Strath Haven High School
33. Harriton (Lower Merion) High School
34. Haddonfield Memorial High School
35. Radnor High School
36. Bishop Eustace Preparatory School
37. Upper Dublin High School
38. Unionville High School
39. Country Day School of the Sacred Heart
40. Moorestown High School

How We Prepared the Rankings

Philadelphia magazine researchers first looked at SAT data for all private and regular public high schools in the eight-county Philadelphia region. (We didn’t include technical or charter schools.) Schools whose combined average SATs fell below 1028, the national average for the class of 2005, were removed from consideration. For the remaining 106 schools, we compiled the latest available information for 16 variables for private schools and 11 for public. (Not all variables were used in the final analysis.)

Our primary source for private-school data was school websites; when a number couldn’t be found online, we supplemented with information from Peterson’s Private Secondary Schools 2007. We then called each school at least twice to offer an opportunity to confirm or amend the data; some schools declined to talk to us. Data for Pennsylvania public schools, mainly from the 2004-’05 school year, was obtained from the state Department of Education website, from Standard & Poor’s website, and from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2006 Report Card on the Schools database ( Data for New Jersey, also from 2004-’05, was obtained from the state Department of Education website.

We then sent our data to I. Elaine Allen, associate professor of statistics and entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Christopher A. Seaman, a doctoral student in mathematics at City University of New York. The rankings were calculated using a combined database of private and public schools and validated doing separate analyses for private and for public schools. If a school had no data for a particular variable, the mean of the variable was substituted so as not to bias the analyses. Two factors were identified and combined for ranking: an academic achievement factor that included SAT scores, percentage of students attending post-secondary education, and number of AP courses offered (split between academic achievement and environment), and a school environment factor that included student-faculty ratio, average class size, and number of AP courses (split between academic achievement and environment). To combine these into an overall rank, the achievement factor was weighted 75 percent and the school environment factor was weighted 25 percent. To ensure comparability between variables, all the combined variables were standardized to create the same metric for comparisons. An additional analysis included a third factor, educational costs (day tuition and percentage of students receiving financial aid for private schools, and operational spending per student for public schools), to identify public and private schools that provide both high achievement and many opportunities for students at a reasonable cost. When combined with the other two factors, the weighting was 50 percent for academic achievement, 25 percent for educational environment, and 25 percent for costs.

Top of the Class
Most Expensive Day Tuition
1. The Hill School $25,250
2. George School $24,700
3. The Haverford School $23,200
4. The Episcopal Academy $22,375
5. The Agnes Irwin School $22,350

Top Five Boys’ Schools
School/Affiliation/Overall Rank
1. The Haverford School, nonsectarian, 1
2. Holy Ghost Preparatory School, Catholic, 8
3. Chestnut Hill Academy, nonsectarian, 11
4. Devon Preparatory School, Catholic, 12
5. Malvern Preparatory School, Catholic, 16

Top Five Girls’ Schools
1. The Baldwin School, nonsectarian, 5
2. The Agnes Irwin School, nonsectarian, 6
3. Springside School, nonsectarian, 9
4. Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, Catholic, 15
5. Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Catholic, 21

Top Five Coed Schools
1. The Shipley School, nonsectarian, 2
2. The Hill School, nonsectarian, 3
3. The Episcopal Academy, Episcopalian, 4
4. William Penn Charter School, Quaker, 7
5. Germantown Friends School, Quaker, 10

Highest Combined SATs
1. The Baldwin School, 1343
2. The Shipley School, 1316
3. Germantown Friends School, 1312
4. (tie) The Episcopal Academy, 1310
The Haverford School, 1310

Most Extracurricular
Activities, Private
1. Westtown School, 68
2. St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, 51
3. The Hill School, 47
4. Germantown Friends School, 43
5. The Haverford School, 40

Most Varsity Sports, Private
1. (tie) The Episcopal Academy, 30
The Hill School, 30
2. (tie) Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, 28
Friends’ Central School, 28
3. William Penn Charter School, 27

Top Public High Schools by County

1. New Hope-Solebury
2. Central Bucks East
3. Council Rock North

1. Conestoga
2. Unionville
3. Great Valley

1. Strath Haven
2. Radnor
3. Garnet Valley

1. Lower Merion
2. Harriton (Lower Merion)
3. Upper Dublin

1. Masterman
2. Central


1. Moorestown
2. Shawnee
3. Cherokee

1. Cherry Hill East
2. Haddonfield
3. Eastern

1. Woodbury Junior-Senior
2. Gateway Regional
3. Clearview Regional

Bang for Your Buck
Fifteen high-value schools that offer — based on tuition dollar or tax dollar spent — the best overall mix of high SATs, AP classes, and number of teachers. (• indicates a public school.)

1. •Masterman High School
2. St. Joseph’s Preparatory School
3. •Conestoga High School
4. Holy Ghost Preparatory School
5. •Central High School
6. The Baldwin School
7. The Haverford School
8. The Shipley School
9. The Episcopal Academy
10. Germantown Friends School
11. William Penn Charter School
12. Germantown Academy
13. Devon Preparatory School
14. • Cherry Hill High School East
15. Academy of Notre Dame de Namur