In a district better known for failure, the Franklin Learning Center provides a model for how city schools can be transformed into success stories.
Located in the Spring Garden section, the school was among six local public and private schools named Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.
Franklin Learning Center and Masterman are the only two high schools in Pennsylvania to win the honor. It is the second Blue Ribbon award for each Philadelphia public school.
Nationally, only 304 of 124,000 schools were named Blue Ribbon Schools.
Schools are chosen based on test scores or improvement on tests if more than 40 percent of the student body comes from disadvantaged backgrounds - as is the case with Franklin Learning.
While Masterman has received national attention as a high-performing magnet school with high test scores, Franklin Learning Center's selection may come as a surprise. But it shouldn't.
Franklin Learning was created using effective teaching models culled from schools around the country. The school has created the right atmosphere where teachers have plenty of flexibility to help students excel academically.
Instead of grades, students earn credits and get to choose from four areas of study. Students work at their own pace and are allowed to make up work on Saturdays or during the summer.
The results are impressive. More than 90 percent of its graduates enroll in college, out of a student population where almost three quarters come from poor homes.
The school has caught the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which wants to know the key to its success. The school also made U.S. News & World Report's 2010 list of the best high schools in the country.