SF’s Top Public High School May Ditch Good Grades for Lottery Admission

Lowell High School

In an attempt to “reflect the diversity” of the city’s students, a leading high school in San Francisco might soon remove grade and testing requirements in its admission process.

Instead, Lowell High School will leave an applicant’s future to chance through a random lottery system, as proposed in a resolution presented Tuesday.

Lowell, among the nation’s top public high schools, has a current population of 2,871 students. Of this number, 50.6% are Asian, the majority of which are Chinese.

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The next biggest group is white students at 18.1%. Hispanic students follow at 11.5%, while Black students are the least represented at 1.8%.

In its resolution, the San Francisco School Board noted that Lowell’s admission process has “created a school that does not reflect the diversity of SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District) students and perpetuates segregation and exclusion.”

Overall, the district’s 52,778 total enrollment is 33.4% Asian, 28.2% Hispanic, 14.9% white and 6.4% Black.

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To get to Lowell, an applicant must have a competitive grade point average and pass the admissions test. No other public high school in San Francisco has admission requirements, save for the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.

“I hope to get to a place where all of our high schools are high schools that students want to go to, that students dream of going to just like Lowell. I think they should all be at that level,” Commissioner Gabriela Lopez told ABC7 News last October.

But current physics teacher Richard Shapiro feels the move is politically motivated. “They have an agenda they’ve politicized what I would say is victimhood or victimization and they’ve turned it into politics,” he told the outlet.

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Tuesday’s meeting saw a clash between those in favor of and against the lottery system. “All my years at Lowell, I was labeled loud, ratchet, obnoxious, and a whole bunch of other derogatory names towards the Latinx community,” an alum named Fatima said.

Current student Amy Chang believes in meritocracy. “Lowell is a beacon of hope for low-income students like myself. It means that if you try hard enough, you can receive an education on par or better than elite private schools. The lottery system is inherently flawed.” 

Lowell already employed a random lottery system for the school year 2021-22. But this was a temporary measure in response to COVID-19 restrictions, according to NBC News.

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The school board could vote on the resolution on Feb. 9.

Feature Image Screenshot via KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

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