Today is the last day for parents to register their children in the enrollment lottery for the Penn Alexander School, located at 42nd and Spruce streets.
The school is one of the top elementary schools in the city and places well-above the state average in standardized test scores. Nineteen percent of students at the school are children of Penn faculty members.
But other than its reputation, why should you concern yourself with Penn Alexander?
1. Penn gives a ton of money to Penn Alexander
Penn is a generous supporter of this local school.
The University currently gives Penn Alexander $1,330 per student, which translates to about $700,000 per year. It also leases property to the school for virtually no money at all, charging only $1 each year for rent.
This partnership started in 1998, when Penn, the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers came together to found the academically excellent school in order to ease overcrowding in the district. The building, which houses students in kindergarten through eighth grade, opened its doors in 2001.
2. It’s a really, really ridiculously good school
Parents are sometimes desperate to enroll their children in Penn Alexander, partly because the school places above the Philadelphia average in math and reading state exams given to third through eighth graders.
The school has a 17:1 student-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten and a 23:1 ratio for all other grades. It is equipped with a well-staffed library, three computer labs, two gardens and full-time technology and arts specialists.
The closest elementary school to Penn Alexander is the Lea School, located at 47th and Locust streets, which has dramatically different test scores. Lea performed lower than the Philadelphia average in state-administered exams in all categories except for sixth grade math and seventh grade math and reading.
The school reported 39 suspensions during the 2012-2013 school year, while Penn Alexander reported only one suspension. Lea also reported six “serious” incidents last year, while Penn Alexander reported none.
3. Admission is competitive
Because Penn Alexander is such a prestigious school, there is a high demand for enrollment that typically exceeds the number of spots available.
Parents who want to enroll their children at Penn Alexander must live inside an area called the “catchment zone” and must register for a lottery system, which ends today for the 2014-2015 school year. Names will be drawn on March 5, and families will be notified of the decisions by mail the week of March 10.
The admissions process used to be different though.
Last January, the system changed dramatically when Penn Alexander switched from a first-come, first-served basis to the current lottery process.
In prior years, parents camped out for days outside of the school in order to secure spots for their children.
Last year, the first year the lottery system was in place, 78 children were given spots in the kindergarten class and 10 families were placed on the waitlist. Ultimately, all the students on last year’s waitlist were granted admission to the school.
Given that admissions has a rocky history at Penn Alexander, it’s clear that ...
4. Penn Alexander is no stranger to controversy
Beyond the possibility of enrollment qualms, Penn Alexander has been the subject of other local controversies.
While students enrolled in Penn Alexander are required to live inside the catchment zone, the Philadelphia Daily News reported in January that 34 Penn Alexander students live outside the zone.
Three of these out-of-zone students are the children of Kevin Johnson, who was considering a run in next year’s mayoral election when the article came out but announced his decision not to run earlier this month.
The Daily News reported that Johnson, who was known for being an “outsider” candidate at the time, was close friends with former school superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who had the power to place students in Penn Alexander.Comments powered by Disqus
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