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Best Schools in Philadelphia 🏫👨‍🏫 | Top Philadelphia High Schools, Elementary Schools & Private Schools

Last Updated on: 11th January 2024, 08:25 pm

Choosing the right school in Philadelphia can feel like an insurmountable task. With more than 300 schools in the School District of Philadelphia alone, not to mention private schools in Philadelphia and top school districts in Philadelphia suburbs, where should you start?

This guide covers the best schools in Philadelphia broken down into three categories: Philadelphia high schools, elementary and middle schools in Philadelphia, and private schools. We’ll stick with only schools in the city, not the suburbs, to help you choose the right neighborhood for your family.

What Are the Best Schools in Philadelphia? An Overview of School Types

Choosing a good school can be challenging, especially when you encounter confusing terms like “charter” and “magnet” schools. As you explore Philadelphia high schools and elementary schools, it’s helpful to know the difference between school types.

The School District of Philadelphia (PHILASD) operates public schools within the city limits. The Philadelphia school system is one of the nation’s largest school districts with more than 200,000 enrolled students. The district operates 57 high schools, 16 middle schools, 151 elementary schools.

You can choose from several types of schools:

  • District citywide schools are open to students in any part of Philadelphia.
  • District catchment or neighborhood schools only accept students in a designated neighborhood.
  • Philadelphia magnet schools are criteria-based or special admission schools with an application process.
  • Philadelphia charter schools are operated independently of PHILASD.
  • Charter neighborhood schools are only open to students in a catchment or neighborhood boundary. 

Because the best Philadelphia schools are notoriously difficult to get into, you may find it helpful to review the School Selection Process for PHILASD and learn about the admissions process for magnet schools in Philadelphia which was recently overhauled.

Best High Schools in Philadelphia

Central High School

The country’s second-oldest public high school, Central High was founded in 1836. It’s ranked #2 among high schools in Philadelphia (fifth in the metro area) and it’s one of the top magnet schools in the country.

As one of the top-rated Philadelphia magnet schools, Central High has a 100% math proficiency rate (60% state) and 100% reading proficiency (70% state) with 100% of students being economically disadvantaged.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • Recent graduating class earned $25.6 million in awards, scholarships & prizes
  • World-renowned music program
  • Prestigious science research team that has earned 81 awards

Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School

Julia R. Masterman Secondary School is ranked #1 among top high schools in Philadelphia and the entire state. It’s not just one of the best Philadelphia magnets, it’s among the top 10 magnet schools in the country!

With a 7% middle school acceptance rate and a high school acceptance rate of just 3%, it’s one of the hardest schools to get into in the U.S.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • National Blue Ribbon School
  • 100% college acceptance rate
  • Extensive AP courses

Girard Academic Music Program(GAMP)

For students interested in musical and academic excellence, there are no better magnet schools in Philadelphia than Girard Academic Music Program High School. The school is divided into instrumental and vocal departments, but students can participate in any performing ensembles. Through partnerships with local professional organizations, students benefit from workshops, master classes, and live performances.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • 2021 National Blue Ribbon School
  • Community partnerships with the Mann Music Center, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia Orchestra Association & Astral Artists
  • Annual musical theater production
Philadelphia Magnet Schools

Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA)

Ranked #1 among performing arts high schools in PA and one of the Best High Schools in Pennsylvania, CAPA high school is one of the most desirable public high schools in Philadelphia for students interested in the performing arts. Students benefit from a rigorous creative and academic experience that allows them to deeply explore their artistic interests and skills.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • Arts majors include Instrumental Music, Visual Arts, Theater, Creative Writing, Dance, and Vocal Music
  • College-prep curriculum with a world-class arts department
  • 95% college acceptance rate

George Washington Carver High School of Engineering & Science

Carver HSES frequently ranks high in Philadelphia high school rankings and it’s one of the top Philadelphia magnets. Designed for academically advanced and college-bound students, this magnet school focuses on the math and science fields with classes and AP courses in Computer Science, Engineering, Psychology, Bio-Med, Advanced Mathematics, and Environmental Science. Students enjoy a well-rounded experience with extracurriculars like robotics, Mock Trial, chess, and more.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • 100% college acceptance rate
  • US News Best High Schools in America Commendation 2012 to 2017
  • 2019 National Blue Ribbon School
  • Academic competition winner including SeaPerch Competition, ACE Design, MESA National Engineering Design & Citywide Calculus Competition
  • Partnerships with US Army Corps of Engineers, Women of Tomorrow, Outward Bound, and more

Philadelphia High School for Girls

Girls’ High is one of the best public schools in Philadelphia and one of the hardest to get into. The school was founded in 1848 as one of America’s first public schools for young women and prepares students for college and leadership in a nurturing environment. Students are encouraged to participate in Dual Enrollment, AP courses, the International Baccalaureate Program, and extracurriculars.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • 98% college acceptance rate
  • National and international travel opportunities
  • Diverse courses including World Languages, STEM/STEAM, Robotics, and Dance
  • Student interest organizations and athletics such as Lacrosse

Academy at Palumbo

Ranked #3 among Philadelphia high schools and #24 in the state, Academy at Palumbo is one of the best Philadelphia magnet schools for academically gifted students, especially those interested in public speaking, writing, and music. The school partners with local organizations and higher education facilities to help students transition to college and achieve their aspirations.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • Partnerships with Penn School of Law, Immersion Science Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, VIEW with Villanova, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and more
  • 18 AP courses and on-site dual enrollment through Arcadia University
  • National competitor in speech and debate, 4-time Philly Youth Poetry Movement champions, 2nd place state chess champions, and All-City Choir and Orchestra Members
  • Robust selection of extracurricular activities and athletics

MaST Community Charter School

MaST is the highest-rated charter high school in Philadelphia for students interested in technology, science, and mathematics. Using a STREAM (STEM plus Arts and Robotics) model, the school has earned numerous awards and designations in its short 20-year history. The school has been called “Philly’s coolest school” and a “high-tech heaven” with numerous extracurricular activities including a Girls in STEM program, STREAM Camp, and Technology Nights.

Stand-out achievements & programs:

  • Exceeds state average on all standardized tests
  • 2017 National Blue Ribbon School & Title I Distinguished School for High Achievement in 2015 and 2016
  • 2007 National Charter School of the Year (US Department of Education)
  • Dual enrollment through college partners and AP courses

Best Middle & Elementary Schools in Philadelphia, PA

Russell Conwell Middle School

Conwell Middle School is an inclusive Philadelphia magnet that immerses students in programs with high expectations. A 3-time winner of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teachers, students receive a well-rounded education that includes community service and service learning projects and attendance and honor roll incentives.

Meredith William M School

Students who live in the catchment area for the Meredith William M School benefit from one of the best elementary schools in Philadelphia. The school uses a workshop model to strengthen skills in math, reading, and writing with a great visual and performing arts curriculum and technology used in every classroom. The school has achieved very high proficiency rates on the PSSA exam far exceeding state averages.

Albert M Greenfield School

Located in the heart of Center City in the prestigious Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, Greenfield is one of the top middle schools in Philadelphia where students learn to think critically, analyze the world around them, and understand their role in society. Greenfield uses the Singapore Math Curriculum and offers students a robust academic and athletic experience. It has been named a National Green Ribbon School by the US Department of Education.

Penn Alexander School

At Penn Alexander School, students learn the social, technological, and academic skills they need for a rewarding and successful role in society. As one of the best elementary schools in Philadelphia, Penn Alexander provides a research-based curriculum to deliver the best learning and teaching strategies for the diverse learning needs and strengths of its students.

Penn Alexander School was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2016 and offers a range of special programs including technology, art, and music.

Franklin Towne Charter Elementary School

One of the top Philadelphia charter schools, Franklin Towne Charter fosters a positive learning experience where students get the support they need to grow and stay challenged. It’s been ranked as one of the 5 Best Philly Charter Schools by Metro Newspaper, named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014, and it recently earned a School Performance Profile score of 91.3, the highest of any Philadelphia charter school.

Top Philadelphia Private Schools

There are more than 210 private schools in Philadelphia PA serving over 45,000 students, not to mention even more independent schools in surrounding suburbs! Here are a handful of the top choices including highly rated and affordable private schools in Philadelphia.

Penn Charter

Penn Charter is one of the oldest and best private schools in Philadelphia and one of several top Quaker schools. It’s also the oldest Quaker school in the world and founded in 1689. The pre-K to 12 school is now located in Philly’s East Falls neighborhood on a 47-acre campus. 97% of students attend their top-choice college!

Friends Select School

Center City’s only pre-K to 12 Quaker school, Friends Select School uses local science institutes, universities, cultural organizations, and businesses to enhance education. The curriculum focuses on writing, research, and oral presentation with a foundation built on Quaker values.

Germantown Friends School

This co-ed Quaker school in the Germantown neighborhood serves students in preschool through 12th grade with a focus on Quaker values, art, social justice, and community involvement.

The Waldorf School of Philadelphia

Located in Germantown, the Waldorf School of Philadelphia delivers an organic and vibrant learning experience where students learn creative problem-solving. Small by design, students receive an immersive pre-K to 8 education at what is widely considered one of the best top private elementary schools in Philadelphia. Half of graduates attend prestigious public magnet schools with high acceptance standards!

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

SCH Academy is the largest independent Philadelphia private school for pre-K to grade 12. Located in Chestnut Hill, the school provides single-sex elementary and middle school education with a co-ed high school experience. The curriculum focuses on robotics, athletics, arts, and entrepreneurship with a unique outdoor program.

St. Joseph’s Preparatory School

St. Joseph’s is a boys’ Catholic preparatory school that helps students develop character and academic success in an immersive college prep environment. It’s one of the most prestigious Christian high schools in Philadelphia, PA.

Map of Best Schools in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Schools FAQs

How many Philadelphia magnet schools are there?

There are 39 magnet schools in the School District of Philadelphia.

How many charter schools are in Philadelphia?

There are 85 independently operated, public charter schools that are authorized by and accountable to the School District of Philadelphia.

Are charter schools free in PA?

Philadelphia charter schools are public schools with no tuition. Most funding is received from the school district.

How many schools are in the Philadelphia school district?

The School District of Philadelphia (PHILASD) has 339 schools in Philadelphia serving more than 200,000 students. This includes 151 elementary schools, 16 middle schools, 57 high schools, and 85 independently operated charter schools.

What are the best high schools in Philadelphia?

Top Philadelphia high schools include Central High, Masterman School, CAPA School, Carver HSES, Girls’ High, Academy at Palumbo, and MaST Community Charter School. Magnet schools usually top Philadelphia high school rankings followed by charter schools.


With so many good high schools in Philadelphia to choose from, not to mention highly rated private schools, narrowing down your options can be overwhelming. Most of the top-rated schools are not catchment schools and are open to students anywhere in the city – albeit with very competitive admissions standards. However, you’ll also find many highly rated schools open only to students in certain neighborhoods.

Once you’ve made a list of your top choices and chosen the best neighborhood to live in Philadelphia, Suburban Solutions is ready to help with the move. Whether you’re moving from outside the state or within the city, give us a call to discuss your relocation and get started with a free, personalized moving estimate!


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