Posted on June 28, 2022
Categories: equity, school selection, system trends

All eighth-grade students in Philadelphia are encouraged to participate in the School Selection Process (SSP) to choose a school for ninth grade. Many of those eighth grade students use this opportunity to apply to one of 21 criteria-based (CB) high schools and programs (formerly known as Special Admission schools and programs). These schools and programs all have minimum requirements for students’ grades in core courses and for attendance. In addition, some schools have specialized requirements (e.g., an audition as part of an application to a specialized performing arts program, prior course completion, or a minimum score on a writing test). Previous reports have looked at the SSP process over time, including a three-part series of research reports that takes an in-depth look at four years of ninth-grade admissions (2015-16 to 2018-19) and summarized applications and admissions to ninth grade during the 2020-21 selection process (for the 2021-22 school year).

In the fall of the 2021-22 school year, changes were made to the School Selection Process, particularly with respect to rising ninth graders applying to criteria-based high schools for the 2022-23 school year.

Major changes included:

  1. Removal of admission criteria based on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)
  2. Revised tiers of course grade requirements
  3. Use of school-level lotteries (conducted centrally by the District) to allocate initial offers of admission
  4. Use of two years of student data (due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this practice was first put in place for the 2020-21 SSP, and was retained for 2021-22)
  5. Seats for designated student groups, including students who are receiving special education services, have a physical disability plan, are English Learners, and who live in six priority zip codes

This series of reports takes an in-depth look at ninth-grade admissions for the 2022-23 school year.

The first 2021-22 School Selection report focuses on the early phases of the 2021-22 School Selection Process for eighth graders enrolled in District schools (and does not include external applicants, including students enrolled in charter schools). First, it explores the number and distribution of rising ninth grade students who met the qualification levels. Second, it explores the extent to which these students exercised their options to submit applications to CB schools. Findings include:

  • Almost two-thirds (65.0%) of District eighth graders met at least the Minimum eligibility requirements for criteria-based schools (more than triple the rate in 2020-21).
  • Almost two-thirds (also 65.0%) of District eighth graders submitted at least one application to a criteria-based school. Over 99% of students with High Qualifications submitted an application to a criteria-based school.

The second 2021-22 School Selection report focuses strictly on outcomes of the lottery process and the distribution of initial offers of ninth grade admission across all criteria-based (CB) high schools and programs. In particular, we examine eighth grade student applications, whether they met the eligibility requirements, and whether they ultimately received an initial offer of admission. Findings include:

  • 3,993 District 8th graders submitted at least one fully eligible application to a CB school, and 85.7% of those students received at least one lottery-based offer to a CB school.
  • At four CB schools, the percent of offers extended to students residing in one of six prioritized zip codes was higher than in prior years in which those zip codes were not prioritized.
  • Lottery offers were randomly distributed, as expected. Eligible applicants belonging to different student groups were equally likely to receive admission offers through the lottery.

The third 2021-22 School Selection report focuses on admission offers from both the lottery and waitlist processes from criteria-based (CB) high schools and programs to eighth grade applicants. In particular, we examine how many eligible applications eighth grade students submitted, whether the eligible applications received an offer of admission through either the lottery or the waitlist process, and student responses to those offers. Findings include:

  • 3,993 District 8th graders submitted at least one fully eligible application to a criteria-based (CB) school, and 89.6% of those students received at least one admission offer to a CB school. In the previous year, under different conditions, the rate was 88.3%.
  • 98.5% of District 8th graders who submitted four or five eligible applications to a CB school received at least one offer. Among students who submitted four or five eligible applications to schools with High Qualification requirements, 97.7% received at least one offer from those same schools. In the previous year, under different conditions, the rate was 98.6%.

Future 2021-22 School Selection reports will summarize:

  • The overall number of applicants and acceptances (external and internal, all grades) (in progress)
  • Fall enrollment in 9th grade with school and demographic breakdowns (planned for Oct/Nov 2022)

FAQs about School Selection Research and Data

Where can I find information about high school applications for this year (2021-22 school selection process for 2022-23 admissions)?

In addition to the reports above, you can find information about this year’s applications, offers, and offer acceptances in the 2022-23 Application Details open data file, and you can find summary demographic information on the applicants in the 2022-2023 Applicant Demographics open data file, both available here.

Where can I find information about high school applications and enrollment for previous years?

All research briefs and reports can be found at this link and downloadable data files are available at on our open data website at this link.

What information is available about student applications, offers, and enrollment by student home zip code?

The 2021-22 school selection process was the first time that zip code was used to prioritize offers of admission for criteria-based schools. Information about enrollment by zip code for previous years is available in this research brief.

When will reports be available about fall 2022 enrollment based on the 2021-22 school selection process?

We expect to have a report summarizing fall 2022 enrollment in criteria-based schools by December 2022.