District keeps controversial lottery, brings back test scores in choosing magnet students

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The School District of Philadelphia has modified the process by which students are selected for much-sought-after seats in special admissions schools.

After criticism that students in the top criteria-based schools were too often white or Asian, the district last year gave preference to qualified students applying to magnets from six underrepresented ZIP codes.

This year, the 19135 ZIP code in the Lower Northeast is out, and 19139 in West Philadelphia is in. Students from 19140, 19134, 19132, 19121 and 19133 will continue to receive preference.

The district is still using a lottery for admission to its criteria-based schools, but no longer will students applying to five magnets have to take a computer-scored writing test. The PSSA standardized test is required again, but it will be weighed along with grades and attendance.

“There is a place for the PSSA as a standardized measurement criteria for the school selection process, but we realize that it’s just one test score achieved on one day,” Superintendent Tony Watlington said in a statement. “Multiple measures of student performance are always preferable.”

Applications for special admissions schools are open from Sept. 16 to Nov. 4. The district is planning to hold three town halls to explain the modified process:

A virtual meeting on Aug. 25 at 5 p.m.;
An in-person town hall on Aug. 30 at 5 p.m.;
And a virtual town hall on Sept. 1 at noon

A location has not yet been named for the in-person meeting.