About Central

Central High School is a public high school in the Logan section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Central, the second-oldest continuously public high school in the United States (if one considers schools that were initially private, it is the twenty-seventh oldest public high school), was founded in 1836 and is a four-year university preparatory magnet school.

Roughly 2,400 students attend grades 9 through 12. Central High School consistently ranks among the top schools in the city and state. Central is regarded as one of the top public schools in the nation due to its high academic standards.

Central High School holds the distinction of being the only high school in the United States that has the authority, granted by an Act of Assembly in 1849, to confer academic degrees upon its graduates.  This practice is still in effect, and graduates who meet the requirements are granted the Bachelor of Arts degree. Central also confers high school diplomas upon graduates who do not meet the requirement for a bachelor’s degree.

Due to its authority to grant academic degrees, Central refers to the principal of the school as the “President” of Central High School. The current and fifteenth president of Central High School is Katharine S. Davis, 264.

Central, rather than using a general class year to identify its classes (as in “class of 2018”), uses the class graduating number system (as in “277th graduating class” or “277”). This tradition started shortly after the school’s founding, when it was common to have two graduating classes per year – one in January and one in June. In June 1965, semiannual graduations were replaced by annual graduations. As of the 2024–2025 school year, the current senior class is the 284th graduating class of Central High School.