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January 14, 2023

School District of Philadelphia delays its lottery for special-admissions schools

The process which was supposed to take place Friday has been postponed while families that were ruled ineligible appeal their decisions. There has been no rescheduled date for the lottery beyond sometime in January.

Education Admissions
School District special admissions lottery postponed Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The School District of Philadelphia postponed the lottery for its special admissions schools before results were supposed to be sent to students Friday. There is currently no new date, as the district continues to work through an appeals process for students who were ruled ineligible for the process.

Students and their families waiting to learn whether or not they had been selected into one of Philadelphia's special admission schools were notified that the school district had postponed its lottery process.

letter was sent to families on Thursday noting that it has taken longer than expected to go through appeals of applications deemed ineligible. The district said it has begun sending responses to those families and will continue to do so before sending lottery results.

There is currently no timeline for when students will receive lottery results, although the school system's website notes they will be available sometime in January 2023.

Last school year, the process for admission into the district's magnet schools was reworked to be more equitable. Before that, school principals had an influence on students who were admitted into their schools. Some people said the selection process did not match Philadelphia's demographics and disproportionately was not representative of Black and brown students.

The new system provides preference to specific zip codes in the city, especially in North Philadelphia, to increase admissions and enrollment of Black and brown students. This year's lottery promises students living in zip codes 19140, 19139, 19134, 19121, and 19133 spots at Carver High School of Engineering and Science, Central, Masterman, and Academy at Palumbo as long as there are open spots available. To be eligible for the 22 magnet programs at the city's high schools, most students are required to have grades consisting of As and Bs, with some schools allowing an occasional C. There are also standardized test requirements in English and math. Some schools even require students to have an attendance record of 95%.

Superintendent Tony B. Watlington Sr. told the Inquirer, "I think when you make tests one of the multiple measures, which I believe strongly in, that's the way to go."

The new lottery system, which was announced in the Fall of 2021, was a surprise to families of students in middle school programs because there was the belief that they had special admissions preferences for already being in magnet programs.

On the contrary, Karyn Lynch, the district's chief of student support services, told WHYY at the time, "there's a process that takes place in each of these schools to be admitted to the high school. It's called the school selection process."

In August of 2022, the school district said it encourages all high school students to apply to the lottery admissions process. Data revealed that 65% of eighth graders met the minimum requirements to be eligible for the lottery during the 2021-2022 school year. The report also stated that 3,993 eighth-grade students submitted at least one application to criteria-based schools. Of those who applied, 85.7% received at least one acceptance to a criteria-based school. 

Once the lottery takes place, students will be notified of their results. Applicants will have three business days to make a selection and send a response. Receiving an offer does not confirm the choice of school.