Philadelphia’s public school system is in crisis. Less than 60% of students who attend district-run high schools graduate in four years. Among students who earn high school diplomas, fewer than 4 out of 10 immediately enroll in college—and more than half never will.
Philadelphia schools are also faced with a unique set of challenges that includes:
• Chronic absenteeism. On any given day, more than 1 in 10 students city-wide are not in school.
• High levels of school violence. During the 2008-2009 school year, 12,486 safety incidents were reported, but the Philadelphia Inquirer’s recent Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation suggests that underreporting hides even more school violence.
• A history of non-performance. More than two-thirds of Philadelphians and school parents rate the city’s public schools as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’. Only 59% of the schools made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2010.
• A ballooning district deficit and resultant budget cuts. The Philadelphia School District is nearly $300 million dollars in debt.
• Low city-wide level of educational attainment. Among the nation’s 50 largest cities, Philadelphia ranks 41st in terms of educational attainment. In vast stretches of the city, fewer than 1 in 5 adults is a college graduate. In some neighborhoods, that figure hovers around 1 in 20.
• A large achievement gap. In Philadelphia, a stark gap in educational opportunities falls along lines of socioeconomic status and race. High school drop-out rates, which already surpass national averages, are worse for minority students. Whereas 33 percent of whites over the age of 25 have bachelor’s degrees, only 12 percent of African Americans can say the same.
In short, the situation is dire and the time for action is now. We believe that the extraordinary efforts we make at KIPP Philadelphia Schools are a necessary response to the extraordinary challenges facing Philadelphia’s public school system.
Source: Except where otherwise noted, these figures are taken from the Pew Charitable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative 2011 State of the City report, available here.