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oliver_babish t1_jacog4x wrote

As someone who has parented two kids through these schools:

  • Private school doesn't matter nearly as much until 6th/7th grade, when the rigor and individual attention matters more. You need to talk to Bache Martin parents about their experience, because it may well be good enough for your kids to learn the fundamentals. And you're not only saving money but adding that many more hours to the time you spend with your kids, while they develop friendships (as do you) in the neighborhood. It is not fun to pick up your kid from a sleepover in Malvern.
  • This is the most important thing I want to say: there are many great private schools out there and you need to find the best fit for your kids, and it may be a different one for each of them. GFS, as others have said, has the reputation for being the most rigorous ... but also for burning kids out and a developed recreational drug culture to cope with it. There are other schools with sterling reputations which will educate your kids well, given then outstanding individualized attention, and prepare them for (and have the reputation to get them into) great colleges -- among the Quaker schools (and these are all stereotypes with some basis in fact) Friends' Central is like GFS, but more progressive and less pressured; Penn Charter is more jockish, Friends Select is progressive and great but doesn't have the facilities of suburban campuses, etc. And then there are non-Quaker schools -- someone else talked about SCA; there's the single-sex schools like Baldwin and Agnes Irwin which are fantastic if that's the experience in which your daughter will thrive, and so on. And there's Shipley, Haverford, Barrack Academy ... look, it's a lot. You have to visit. (Added: to be clear, obviously there are some teenagers doing drugs at all these schools. They are teenagers. But it's from GFS parents that I most often hear complaints of a systemic problem with academic pressure and coping, and it's been for years.)
  • Going back to bullet one: among the public schools, Masterman and Central are outstanding schools. I've heard good things about Science Leadership Academy. Your child will not get the same individualized attention, but will develop a sense of grit and a connection to this City that is intense. And the top graduates will wind up at the same elite colleges as kids who went to GFS.
  • Even if you do choose the private school route for your kids, you can go with something closer in the earlier years (Friends Select, The Philadelphia School, etc) before one which imposes a longer commute on your child and more of a hike for you for parent-teacher night, athletic events, etc.

nayrb1523 t1_jactyrh wrote

Excellent points all around. We lived in South Philly for some years and had one of our kids at PC and even that distance anything outside of school sucked to deal with for us, and our daughter missed out on some friend events due to travel, etc. Totally a shame. We did move closer to the school during the pandemic and it's been night and day. Great call out, and a key for people thinking of living in CC and putting their sons in Haverford, and whatnot. Even CC to SCH constantly adds up, so closer to home is a key IMO.


oliver_babish t1_jaczbgq wrote

I've seen families in Society Hill / Queen Village send their elementary school kids to schools on the Main Line and ... why? It's one thing to do that when your kid is old enough to take Regional Rail back and forth every day (which itself is great for fostering independence), but I can't justify 12 years of it.


nayrb1523 t1_jad0g02 wrote

Completely agree. I former colleague's sons attend Haverford and live in CC, and between driving to an outpost for a shuttle pickup and the like, it's about 2.5 hours a day in communing for early middle schoolers. TPS is right around the area for them and is great until you decide what the next move.


Lunamothknits t1_jacwafv wrote

I live near PC and the amount of PC cars I see on my way back from SP where I take my teen cracks me up. I wish we could all connect and trade pick up/drop off routes. xD


nayrb1523 t1_jaczj8g wrote

Would have been nice! For a year and a half she took the school bus and it was a 6:10 pick up to get her out to PC and a rough go all around.


BigShawn424 t1_jacu3e8 wrote

Palumbo is also a great school, great teachers and administrators. There are no midterms or finals as well. I attended a private school from 3rd to 8th grade and found the content to be all all over the place and difficult to understand. Not to mention teachers who didn’t care about rampant bullying in their establishment.


puppyfartzz t1_jaf4te7 wrote

Best tip about picking up your kid from a sleepover in Malvern 💯 it’s crazy how much I underestimated commuting and quality of life until starting the school search!


fritolazee t1_jadjj48 wrote

I'm curious, do most people pay the sticker price at your school?


oliver_babish t1_jadkwd8 wrote

Most do at all these schools, but all of them have significant financial assistance available.


fritolazee t1_jadll58 wrote

Wow that is amazing to me as a kid who went to a Midwestern public magnet school lol. Thanks for sharing and kudos to you for making that much paper. I looked up the full tuition of GFS and it is about 2x my mortgage payment 😭


snooloosey OP t1_jacz7wc wrote

this is chock full of great info, thank you. Can you elaborate more on the drug use? are you talking about serious opioids or stuff like weed? Not that I'm comfortable with any of it but just trying to get a sense.


oliver_babish t1_jad0umw wrote

I haven't heard of opioid abuse -- in high school, that comes in more through athletic injuries if they're overprescribed/not weaned off correctly -- but definitely weed and ... look, I don't want to disparage or be unfair here, so talk to contemporary parents or parents of recent grads.


monoglot t1_jacl5y6 wrote

Philly public school parent here. If your child is safe and the classrooms are reasonably free of distraction, I'm not sure the choice of elementary school matters very much. Kids in good private schools have smaller classrooms and generally nicer facilities, so that's what you're paying for. But kids with supportive and motivated parents are likely going to do fine anywhere (with the above caveats about safety and distraction).

Edited to add that Bache-Martin absolutely qualifies as a perfectly fine place to send your kid.


gijyun t1_jad1cm5 wrote

>kids with supportive and motivated parents are likely going to do fine anywhere

This is the most realest and direct and important thing that any parent would do well to internalize regarding school choice in Philadelphia.


dochim t1_jacbcz7 wrote

GFS is a fine school.

I’m a CHA (now SCH) alum and even despite the recent“troubles” in the um… faculty, that education has been the foundation for my successes.

But there’s nothing wrong with Penn Charter too. Lots of friends went there.


TheWAlexJonesShow t1_jack3ai wrote

CHA alum too! Yeah crazy how they only caught that guy bc he uploaded child porn to this school account.


raredad t1_jacbjby wrote

If your looking for the truth your going to need to find that on your own. Asking a parent who sends there kids there will of course have a positive view. Even if you ask a public school parent, they would report their school doing well compared to the others.


oliver_babish t1_jad1cvi wrote

I think most parents are forthcoming about the schools' flaws, even if they lean towards justifying the decisions they've made.


WahWahBaby t1_jac7neo wrote

I live in the neighborhood and it seems really nice, I think the extra $$ it costs over other friends schools goes to them having a lot of athletic facilities, as well as other areas of interest outside of the regular classroom.


Froggy1789 t1_jaceuay wrote

What you pay for at GFS more than anything is it’s reputations and connections to college admissions. It’s easier to get into the school when you are younger so the longer you send your kid there the easier.


WahWahBaby t1_jaci4w3 wrote

Lol, I have no real opinion here, as I could never afford to send my son there or anywhere comparable, but what you are saying is true of every private school in the country and not unique to GFS.


swampyankee22 t1_jacnnma wrote

Used to work in admissions, including with GFS, and the advantage is true at the margins and for private schools with good academics whose profile kinda fit the college. So we were kinda crunchy, and GFS students were a good fit, so if a kid were at the margins we'd take them bc we wanna keep getting GFS kids and they probably know what they're applying to.

But it really made no difference if a kid was clearly over the bar or not, there were other ways of getting in if they were borderline, and we wouldn't lay out for just any old private school.

In short, I would not spend 50k a year from middle school on to "game" the system. Just get your kid to study and they'll be fine.


Series_G t1_jacx8w3 wrote

Thanks for those last two sentences. That's really where it's at, for me.

Even at our very challenged public school, the kids who have grit and drive end up at Harvard, Brown, and so on. The amount of money people are spending to stay in their bubble is a headscrstcher to me.


psuedonymously t1_jaciurt wrote

> but what you are saying is true of every private school in the country

No it isn't. Not every private school in the country has the same reputation and connections to college admissions.


WahWahBaby t1_jacjnis wrote

I guess I’ll have to take your word for it, but as someone who can’t afford private schooling I see them all as not merit based and solely people paying for the best long term outcomes for their children. There is no judgement, I get it.


oliver_babish t1_jacot1l wrote

These schools may be sending their top students to Ivy-level schools, but they're still also sending graduates to Penn State, Villanova, and Temple every year as well. You still have to perform well at these schools for college admissions purposes.


psuedonymously t1_jacjz47 wrote

> but as someone who can’t afford private schooling I see them all as not merit based and solely people paying for the best long term outcomes for their children

Ok, fine, but that's a completely different thing from what you were saying a second ago.


monoglot t1_jackbnx wrote

Do you think this about neighborhood Catholic schools, for example?


WahWahBaby t1_jacln40 wrote

I do, while it might be an exception, this Jewish kid was sent to nearby catholic school by his parents for 3 and 4 grade till they moved to a better catchment.


monoglot t1_jacm7g7 wrote

Did going to Catholic school for grades 3 and 4 help you get into college? Would it have if you'd gone through high school? Just not sure I understand the argument that any private school gets you the same level of connections and reputation for college admissions.


WahWahBaby t1_jacrh90 wrote

I can’t say for sure obviously, but I loved going there and kept in touch with a couple of friends who both went to prestigious catholic universities.

Edit: to be clear my parents didn’t send my brother and I there because they wanted us on a college track of some kind, my brother was in several fights in our public elementary school and they pulled us out and it was the quick option I guess.


snooloosey OP t1_jac9w6o wrote

Yeah I was wondering why it’s ranked better than the other friends school in cc too


WahWahBaby t1_jaca43s wrote

They do open houses, go check it out. It seems lovely. I’ve known a few graduates through the years and they are all very bright and personable.


bernea t1_jac7vnr wrote

The short answer is YES! Please DM with any questions. Former student and current parent.


cielorossa t1_jaco712 wrote

I had kids attend girls' private schools on the Mainline, public & magnet public schools in Philadelphia. Your kid will be fine either way.

If money is no object whatsoever, GFS is a great school.


Spiritual-Flan-410 t1_jacsf9c wrote

My kid went to Abington Friends School. He started there when he was little -- 2.5 years old) and graduated 12th grade.
We could not have been happier with his education, sense of culture, sense of community. 100% of their graduates go on to college. My son has had zero difficulties adjusting to the rigors of college academics. Literally, none. Despite the cost, if we had to, we would do it all again. One of the best decisions we have ever made. A Friend's School education/experience is unlike anything else. 10/ 10 !


Different-Gur-563 t1_jae95bh wrote

Second this! My daughter went to Plymouth Meeting Friends School until 6th and Abington Friends School 7-12 and it could not have been a better experience for her. Not every child is ready for the testing and study rigor of a GFS in the middle schools years and PMFS and AFS were the perfect fit for my daughter’s emotional needs and educational pace. Of course, every child is different, but I would recommend Quaker education and value system to any family that can afford it and can commute it (we were CC to Jenkintown, so no problem there). My daughter graduated from a top-tier college in ‘21, is working in her chosen field, and is going to business school in Philly for her CPA soon. All while living on her own with no $$ support from mom and dad. AFS fostered her independence, intellectual curiosity, and respect for others with a beautiful campus, sports opportunities, and 6 to 1 student teacher ratio. She could have gone anywhere after college (she had internships in Italy and Japan) but she wanted to come back to Philly and live her life here. I think that says a lot about the impact AFS had on her. 10/10!


avo_cado t1_jaceovu wrote

I know a number of people that are alumni that are probably better off for having gone, but absolutely hated it


ambiguator t1_jad4ko1 wrote

At this point there's a large mountain of evidence that, basically, parental income is the primary factor in determining your child's educational outcomes.

Just send your kid to the neighborhood school. It's a great school, and you'll get to know your neighbors.


Callipeartree t1_jadi4r4 wrote

If you are looking at GFS then you might as well look at Greene Street Friends. Right across the street, half the price and Pre-K though 8. I had 2 kids go through there and on to public school.

Someone said above that private school doesn’t matter until 7/8th grade. I take the opposite POV. Friends school for elementary and middle school has been great for my kids to build community with a small group of people, and build up their confidence and independence. By the time my kids got to public school, they were so ready for a bigger place where they could explore, excel and care for their community, but also be secure in themselves.


HaggardSlacks78 t1_jadze3g wrote

I went to a Friends School for HS. They are worth every penny. I would give to my HS over my universities any day.


AwesomeHorses t1_jacfqje wrote

I transferred there from SCH. The academics were much more rigorous at GFS, and the students at GFS took their schoolwork much more seriously. It wasn’t easy, but I’m ultimately glad I transferred to GFS. I was able to get into a good college and get a high-paying career.


snooloosey OP t1_jacuohl wrote


I heard another user talk about a developed recreational drug culture. was that your experience?


AwesomeHorses t1_jacxkqx wrote

I didn’t see much drug culture when I was there. I think it’s something you need to seek out to find.


Lunamothknits t1_jacwof0 wrote

Lots of people are pro GFS. I fully understand looking outside of public school here if you're not in a good catchment, but I find it more than borderline offensive when people move into a good catchment area and then still don't use the school.

In case it's not clear, you're in a good catchment.


oliver_babish t1_jad2ri8 wrote

Think of it this way: every in-catchment parent who sends kids elsewhere frees up a slot for parents who can't afford the real estate to send their kids there. Bache-Martin is half out-of-catchment, while Meredith only has space for 50-70 out-of-catchment in the whole school.


Lunamothknits t1_jad4fdr wrote

If only that actually worked that way. It removes funding from the rest of the kids instead.


oliver_babish t1_jad4slm wrote

How? Everyone pays taxes into the school district regardless of where their kids go to school.


Lunamothknits t1_jadbvxh wrote

The basic version is lower enrollment jeopardizes a school when existing. Look at Germantown High and the excuses for why they closed it.


oliver_babish t1_jadhgo6 wrote

But that's not what we're talking about when it's parents in desirable catchments like Meredith and Greenfield sending their kids elsewhere. I absolutely agree that schools which can't replace that enrollment with students from outside the catchment will suffer.


cielorossa t1_jaeq6m8 wrote

I'm surprised Meredith has any space left over. When I lived there, everyone was in catchment.


snooloosey OP t1_jacyrm9 wrote

you shoudln't be personally offended by where I send my kids to school


Lunamothknits t1_jad4ldr wrote

It’s just the blatant privilege that bothers people. No worries!


l1vefrom215 t1_jacjbvw wrote

Part of GFS is the education which is top notch, but it’s just as much the community and culture of the students. I think almost 40% of the class goes to Ivy League schools. Compared to the other private schools in the area (which are all fine), the student body is smarter/harder working.


SeltzerConnoisseur t1_jacuxg4 wrote

Couldn’t it also be that the parents most likely to send their kids there are legacies at Ivies? I’d be interested in that data. It might not be that the students are smarter or harder working.


Series_G t1_jacye5h wrote

Yes... parent education attainment and SES are huge drivers of kids' educational outcomes. Many of those kids, with those parents, would've done pretty well, no matter what.


mailchucker t1_jad101j wrote

But, that is also part of the community experience. The parents are highly successful and your child is friends with those types of children.


l1vefrom215 t1_jad6aen wrote

There are a multitude of factors which aren’t mutually exclusive. Legacy status, tutoring, money, role models, expectations, schooling, parental support and involvement all are at play.

GFS is not an affluenza school for dumb rich kids though. Being smart and hard working are necessary for success there. What I’m trying to allude to though is it’s not the type of high school where it’s cool to have low expectations, good off, and be “dumb”. That’s just not the culture there.

They will absolutely kick you out if you don’t maintain your grades (after giving you an opportunity to improve).


oliver_babish t1_jadiwc0 wrote

And, look, this is a key thing which distinguishes the private schools: they don't have to educate each kid. They are free to expel (or not invite back) anyone who isn't meeting standards academically or behaviorally.


l1vefrom215 t1_jadjoew wrote

Yeah, there is definitely a selection bias in private schools. They get to admit and remove who they want.


banana_toilet t1_jad6mf8 wrote

We live in the Bache Martin catchment (on its block in fact) and there is a LOT of community support/parental involvement that makes the school so special. We wouldn’t hesitate to send our son there (who’s an infant) but the increasing crime (not just targeted, but reckless, random events) is causing us to move to a different neighborhood. Our neighbors send their kids to GFS, and perhaps I can ask them why, over Bache specifically.


nudedecendingstairs t1_jae52wc wrote

I went to GFS myself and have a 23 yr old who went to GSFS and then Masterman starting in 5th. I was not willing to send a kid to GFS. I can go into more specifics in DMs, but broadly speaking, GFS has not evolved socially since the 80s and is miserable when it comes to social emotional issues, and the academic rigor, while truly special, can also be found elsewhere. I'm also in the child development field and disagree with other posters that high school is more important than elementary. They're equally important, for different reasons. Private elementary can set your kids up to love learning and support their social emotional foundations, which they will have ingrained by the time they get to high school, when they need to become independent. It's only one kid, but when I tell you I never had to tell my child to do his homework one single time, I'm not exaggerating. I attribute that to his elementary / childhood learning experiences and being in a home where learning and curiosity were encouraged.


MagnusUnda t1_jacp0ss wrote

Lower School GFS parent here too. Happy to answer Qs over DM.

Each private school has a different culture and, if cost is of equal consideration across them, you pick the one that fits your family.


ToniColletesDog t1_jac3vqr wrote

If money isn’t an object I’d say go for Penn Charter down the street. GFS is a fantastic school though.


nayrb1523 t1_jac9y79 wrote

Not a GFS parent but I am a Penn Charter parent and can answer any questions about PC. DM me if you’d like.


[deleted] t1_jac9nu9 wrote



snooloosey OP t1_jaca0p2 wrote

We have not. We love the Quaker philosophy around kindness etc


rednib t1_jadimzd wrote

OMC is an extremely good school too if you can get in, its in Chestnut Hill and tuition is pennies compared to GFS. Its a small school though without many extra resources, but the education the kids get is top notch, the 8th graders go on to the school of choice, usually with a full scholarship to whatever private high school they applied to the year prior. Last year the graduating class was small, only 16 kids, but they had over $450k in scholarships, its also a blue ribbon school. Also its not like CCH or GFS in which if you're not already super wealthy, your kid(s) won't be the poor one(s) with all of the rich kids. Nothing sucks more than being asked why don't we have a vacation home too? or why can't we go to Europe for the summer like Sally and her parents...


Lower_Wall_638 t1_jadu089 wrote

I went to GFS and then my son goes there. I didn’t wanna send my son there because I had a hard time. I took part in the drug culture and struggled greatly until I decided to stop using drugs. That said, college was easy after high school and I was able to make good grades at an Ivy League school with relatively little effort. That said I always had some resentment towards the school so we started my son at another quaker school. After three years there we decided that the level of academic expectations was too low for what our child was capable of attaining. It was as if they were quite content with students being above average rather than great. He transferred to GFS and has done very well because he is naturally focused and capable of guiding his own education. He’s the type of kid that has never had to be asked to do his homework.


Lower_Wall_638 t1_jadu9o3 wrote

A few things I forgot. 10% of my graduating class went to Harvard. If you’re not an excellent student it can be a really hard place not only scholastically but emotionally from feeling less than capable.


cielorossa t1_jaeqh3m wrote

This has been my experience with friends that have sent kids there. My concern is the pressure. I know too many kids on antidepressants/stimulants.


jea25 t1_jadxnlt wrote

My SIL went there in the 90s and her story was similar.


[deleted] t1_jacx4yc wrote



oliver_babish t1_jad36uh wrote

When you say you went to a certain local Preparatory school, do you mean it was not The Preparatory school?


fritolazee t1_jadihzx wrote

I'm assuming that if it's a local school that the admissions staff will be familiar with the extent to which the overall student body is or isn't a competitive place, wouldn't they? And then make adjustments in their assessment of a student? Maybe less so if you are coming from a random school in Kansas or something.


chelbell_1 t1_jacxis3 wrote

PC alum here, definitely a great option and just down the street from GFS. PC is better if you're looking for your children to get into sports.


craftyangie t1_jadri9d wrote

Parent at Bache Martin here. Feel free to DM.


HyruleJedi t1_jaca7l4 wrote

Good god, thats what kids paid to board at Choate(where JFK and countless others went) when I was in HS.

My tuition to Exeter (a top 3 high school in the country did not cost that much)

Wild times


punks0da t1_jadjd5j wrote

Is there demographic information for all these schools. I'm also new to the area and cringe at the thought of sending my kids to all white schools.


oliver_babish t1_jadlw27 wrote

You'll find it for all of them on their websites, and none of them are all-white or even close.

People have talked about Open Houses, but I think it's just as important to send your kids their to shadow another student for a day or even half-day.


anonymous_lighting t1_jac517q wrote

any school would be better than philly public


ScottishCalvin t1_jac74jf wrote

that's not quite true, places like Meredith (and nearby Nebinger these days) are pretty decent, although your mortgage payment will be so much higher that you may as well be paying school fees.

Except you'll build equity up and get that money back when you go to sell

If an area is expensive, it's almost entirely because the school is decent and there's competition from parents with kids to live in that area. It's why once an area starts to gentrify, it moves fast as incoming families mean that the school performs better which makes it more attractive still, in a positive feedback loop.


SaltPepperKetchup215 t1_jacaoi2 wrote

I see Meredith mentioned in here all the time like it’s the answer. But that’s an elementary school. What happens for high school? You’re still going to be stranded and have to pay private or catholic for high school regardless. Meredith is also rated 7/10 or 8/10 depending where you look and still behind most suburb elementary schools. So while it’s a great option for people who can afford society hill housing it’s not the answer forever.


jea25 t1_jacibo4 wrote

I assure you that the majority of Meredith graduates go on to public magnet high schools.


a-german-muffin t1_jacx2le wrote

Those school ratings are overwhelmingly based on standardized test scores, which is an absurdly narrow view of things.


SaltPepperKetchup215 t1_jacxqqc wrote

They’re not tho. You can go on the website and see the full breakdown. No system will ever be flawless but progress and math and reading proficiency etc is a good gauge.

I’m not here to argue school ratings. The point I was trying to hammer home is even the best elementary school kids are still looking at private schooling or charter magnet if they’re lucky at some point no matter what.


ScottishCalvin t1_jad5nkh wrote

I think by the time kids are older, the parents too are older and more keen to move to the suburbs rather than needing to be able to go out in the city midweek. Most of the reasons for being in a city are things that appeal to you a lot when you're 20-something but less so a decade later


jea25 t1_jadjutx wrote

I am one of those parents that will soon be going through the high school application process with my kid and frankly, once you’ve been in the city with kids long enough, you have learned how to navigate the school system, your kids are old enough to get places on their own without you needing to drive them everywhere, and by that point the suburban lifestyle really lacks appeal. There are plenty of people that bail early when their kids are in early elementary, but I think they probably always planned on leaving. I think you can talk yourself into anything, but every time we have seriously considered leaving the city, we just couldn’t find a place we thought we’d be as happy.


wntjd5864 t1_jac8vg4 wrote

Recommendation for rittenhouse sq?


JesusOfBeer t1_jacigvg wrote

Greenfield ES is just one of the highly touted public options. The district actually has a lot of solid options. If you want the reality, in the end the only difference are the connections and fabricated prestige from attending private schools so if you’re into spending money for no reason other than ego… go private