Authority for Philadelphia's school system, the seventh largest in the nation by enrollment, is vested in a nine-member board of education appointed by the mayor. The city was one of the first in the nation to recognize the needs of gifted children, and it supports a range of special admission schools providing programs for students ranging from academically gifted to talented in the creative and performing arts.
In 2004, the District in cooperation with the Microsoft Corporation broke ground on the School of the Future, ushering in a new era of technology and education. The school, which is the first of its kind designed to be a model for improved instructional development through the use of technology, is expected to open in 2006.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Philadelphia public schools as of the 2003–2004 school year.
Total enrollment: 196,309
Number of facilities elementary schools: 175
junior high/middle schools: 43
other: 55, including 43 neighborhood and magnet high schools, vocational-technical and special schools
Student/teacher ratio: 19:1
Teacher salaries average: $53,390
Funding per pupil: $7,669 (elementary)
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia oversees one of the largest parochial school systems in the country, with more than 250 elementary and secondary schools in the city. About a third of elementary and secondary school students attend these and other private schools run by a variety of secular and religious groups such as the Society of Friends. Philadelphia is also home to the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Public Schools Information: The School District of Philadelphia, 21st and Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1099; telephone (215)299-7000
More than 80 degree-granting institutions operate in the Philadelphia region, offering the highest concentration of colleges and universities in America. Nearly 30 of them are located in the city. Suburban to Philadelphia are prestigious Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr colleges. The Philadelphia region's six medical schools graduate nearly 20 percent of the nation's physicians. Degrees are offered in many disciplines, including nursing, dentistry, biological sciences, business, law, and design.
The University of Pennsylvania, which provides more than 100 academic departments, is rated among the top three schools in the United States.
Philadelphia's public library, the Free Library of Philadelphia, consists of the Central Library, 54 branch libraries throughout the city, Homebound Services, and a Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Collections number more than 8 million bound volumes (more than a million of which are in the Central Library), and more than 6 million non-book items, including photographs, maps, microfilms, manuscripts, government documents, and other materials. The staff supports service to nearly a half-million registered borrowers; circulation totals almost 6,500,000 items annually. A $30 million expansion of the Central Library underway in 2005 will offer an additional 160,000 square feet of space, including a 600-seat auditorium. Notable special collections in the Central Library include the Automotive Reference Collection; the Theatre Collection of more than a million items; the Edwin A. Fleisher Music Collection, reportedly the world's largest library of orchestral scores with complete parts; the Rare Book Collection, which includes several original manuscripts of Edgar Allan Poe; and the Children's Literature collections, including the Beatrix Potter Collection. The Free Library of Philadelphia serves the area business community with comprehensive collections of resource materials. In particular, the Central Library and Northeast Regional Library provide specialized information services relating to business, industry, and finance.
The Philadelphia area is rich in special library collections on the topic of American history. Examples of these are the Library Company of Philadelphia, founded in 1731 and holding more than 450,000 volumes on pre-1860 Americana and Philadelphia subjects; and the library of the American Philosophical Society, holding 230,000 volumes and 5 million manuscripts on Americana and the history of American science. Philadelphia is also home to many institutional collections on the subjects of medicine, pharmacy, and science and technology, as well as corporate special libraries dealing with such topics as insurance, law, finance, computers, chemicals, and transportation.
From Ben Franklin's studies on electricity in the 1740s to the development 200 years later of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the world's first electronic digital computer, Philadelphia has enjoyed a long tradition as a leader in research and technology. Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and other area educational institutions support a total of more than 100 formal research centers. Several dozen of these specialize in the medical sciences, although a variety of other studies is also pursued, ranging from insect biocontrol to federalism. Philadelphia is also known for its corporate research activities, such as those of the Philadelphia Electric Company.
Public Library Information: Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103; telephone (215)686-5322