Yes, you can transfer … even in high school

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Not happy with the school you are in? It is possible to transfer, even if you are already in high school.

There are four major avenues. The first and by far the most widely used is the voluntary transfer program. For high school students, this is similar to the regular application process for 8th graders. Students can apply from September through the final Friday in October and learn in the spring whether they are accepted, with the choice made by the school after reviewing the student’s record.

A 9th grader hoping to get into a different school for 10th grade should start the process soon after he or she arrives. Eighth grade records and test scores are what the desired school will look at.

The second avenue is an emergency transfer, officially called transfers due to extenuating circumstances. This most often occurs when students feel unsafe or are threatened in their home school. These transfers must be approved by the principal and regional office and are generally backed by documentation, such as a police report. They can be effective in a matter of weeks, but are relatively rare.

The third avenue is through No Child Left Behind; students in schools designated as “persistently dangerous” by the state are entitled to transfer at any time to others not on that list. But high school students cannot transfer to selective schools without meeting their admissions criteria. Twenty high schools and five middle schools are on the 2009-10 state list. Transfer requests are also processed within a few weeks.

The fourth avenue is also under NCLB, which guarantees the right of students in schools that have not met performance targets for two or more years to transfer out. Last year, about half the District’s schools fell into this category; the list of which schools made Adequate Yearly Progress is made public shortly after school starts.

However, there are only a few schools designated as receiving schools, and so the number of slots limits the number of students who are approved for these transfers. Under NCLB, students who do not transfer out of these schools are entitled to special services, including private tutoring. The District is required to notify parents by letter of their options.

The District’s Director of Student Placement LeTretta Jones offers the following tips to high school students who are considering transferring:

  • Students who did much better in grade eight than grade seven – and continue to do well in high school – have a better chance to be admitted to a more selective school as a 10th grader.
  • Students who want to transfer should do research through the High School Directory and consult a counselor for help. It may also be possible to visit the school and shadow a student. Regardless, said Jones, “I would also talk to students in the school I am interested in attending.”
  • Those who are interested in vocational programs should transfer by 10th grade since these are three-year programs.
  • It is much more difficult, but not impossible, to transfer in 11th and even 12th grade.