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Lower Merion School Rankings: Are You Impressed?

Philadelphia Magazine pegged both district high schools in the area's top 5.

When Philadelphia Magazine this month ranked the top 100 public schools in the Philadelphia area, both Lower Merion High School and Harriton High School made the top 5.

Using graduation rate, test scores, student/faculty ratio, spending per student and other factors, the magazine ranked Lower Merion No. 2 and Harriton No. 5. Rounding out the top 5 were Masterman in Philadelphia (No. 1), Unionville (No. 3) and Conestoga (No. 4).

So we ask students, parents, teachers and taxpayers:

  • Are you impressed by where Lower Merion's schools ranks? Are you surprised?
  • Do you think of Lower Merion as better than Harriton or vice versa?
  • Taxpayers: do you feel you get your money's worth from the school district's performance?

Tell us in the comments.

Susan of Wynnewood October 07, 2012 at 11:34 AM
I am proud of our schools, but as a tax payer I was struck by our cost per pupil. It is so much higher than similarly ranked schools in the same vicinity.
Mary Coyne October 07, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Perhaps it includes the large number of students with special needs.
Susan of Wynnewood October 07, 2012 at 05:08 PM
$16, 661 per student for Lower Merion - $10,788 per student for Conestoga - $12,026 per student for Radnor - $6,516 for Masterman While special needs might account for some of the difference, a little fiscal discipline may be in order as well
Carol October 07, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Teachers and staff of the Lower Merion School district are working without a contract. Put pressure on the school board to come to the table instead of sending their lawyers.
kithg October 07, 2012 at 07:31 PM
We have two brand new high school buildings. I'm sure that has contributed to the cost.
Lois horn October 07, 2012 at 07:41 PM
I'm not ipressed with some of the results. First while Masterman had a much lower cost per student ( the same cost for all Philadelphia district students) you have to apply and be accepted to Masterman-just like a private school. There are no students that score below basic or proficient on PSSAs at Masterman. There is no equality in putting Masterman into the mix. I am not impressed with both Lower Merion schools being in there either. At a much higher cost per student they should have higher results. Also given the demographics of the area they have a much lower number of students whole fall into the lower income area. Higher income families have the benefits of being able to afford preschool, tutors and technology to help their students achieve and the students are expected to achieve, unike school districts that have a much higher rate of lower or middle income families and families that have never had a person go to college before.
Kate Campbell October 07, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Remember that Masterman is SELECTIVE - so they are naturally going to have a lower cost per student, since they can put all their money towards a rigorous curriculum and enrichment.
amanda meiler October 08, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Unlike the former writer, I am proud of our schools! Bravo!! to the hard working students and teachers and parents who offer support by encouraging students to do well in school. Forget the tutor (I don't believe in them) good grades from my home comes from independent work. I pat the students and teachers on the back for being superb! These students do not have it any easier than students from other districts, in fact, I think there might be quite a lot of pressure on these students. The schools ought to be congratulated for their achievements. If these schools fall into the category of being top-notch, it's because they earned it. So never mind the cynics out there, you don't get my ounce of attention. Rather, I feel very strongly about the fact that supportive teachers who really know and enjoy what they are teaching are those who will help the students succeed, along with a home that doesn't mind good grades either--or at least a child who is doing well in some part of the school. What do I say to the report on this school district? Bravo!! Bravo!! Bravo!!
Lynn Friedman October 08, 2012 at 11:12 AM
I believe the cost per student is (in part) so high because we ave to account for each student in the district including those who attend private schools. When we don't count those students in the enrollment, it looks like we are spending more. My daughter attends LMHS. I have been impressed with every aspect of the school. The teachers are very invested and willing to help each student. I chose to move here and be "house poor" to provide her with a great education. I have not been sorry. A good education is the greatest gift we can give them to launch their own future.
Susan of Wynnewood October 08, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Actually the students in private school are not enrolled in LMSD and are not accounted for in the cost per student. Keep in mind their parents still pay taxes even though their children are not enrolled in LMSD. If the private school children would leave private schools and enter the LMSD, our taxes would sky rocket even more. I give the school district the benefit of the doubt that there is a reason, but I would like to hear the reason(s) our costs are so much higher per student and what we are doing to get the cost more in line with other high ranking schools in similar neighborhoods. Remember Radnor is about $12 per student. $4K per student is an awful lot of money. Where does that go? As a tax payer, I would some transparency on the numbers.
Mary Coyne October 08, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Transportation is a huge cost assumed by the school district for all students, public or private. I am not sure of the current number, but at one point LM busses traveled to more than 122 schools.
brian sutcliffe October 08, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Mary is correct busing is a big cost public and private students use and is incurred by LM
Susan of Wynnewood October 08, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I am sure transportation is a large cost, but we are talking a difference of $4K per student cost as compared to Radnor. Radnor likely has a similar transportation demographic with large transportations costs for both public and private students as well.
Jepsontwin October 08, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Susan, if we play one of these things is not like the other, the thing that sticks out with Lower Merion schools is that it has TWO high schools. Had the District gone with a one school option, there would have been significant savings. Two high schools means DOUBLE everything. Of course, that also means much more opportunity for the public school children on a per/student basis. This is land of milk and honey for students. No other schools in the area offer the same level of programming and opportunities per student. Not even close; you decide whether that's good thing or bad thing i dont know, but in my book these should not be GIVEN to you in PUBLIC SCHOOL! you should have to PAY for these things (ie PRIVATE SCHOOL). Other factors are LMSD's comparatively high special education and transportation costs. But with 80% of annual budget tied up in teacher salaries and benefits there's not much they can do short of closing Harriton high school to really cut costs here.
Phillyjazz October 09, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Without the reputation of our schools, our property values would PLUMMET! We bear the brunt of having "special needs" families move in, and then from time to time SUE our schools to fund sending their kids to PRIVATE facilities if ours cannot accommodate them. Parents here EXPECT our Public schools to behave like Private ones, That costs money. Our taxes are low. I gladly pay what I do for the benefits we receive. My son started at a private University last year, and is doing EXCEEDINGLY well vs. his peers. He credits the LM system with preparing him better than them.
Ellen November 15, 2012 at 05:37 PM
I wonder if the cost of renovating a number of schools in the district in recent years was taken into account in the cost per pupil. If so, it would certainly be higher.
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