Lowell High School to return to merit-based admissions after San Francisco school board vote

  • The San Francisco Board of Education voted on Wednesday for Lowell High School to return to academic-based admissions after two years of using a lottery-based system.
  • Lowell employed the random lottery system for the 2021 school year as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The system aimed to help improve the school’s diversity after complaints of the school’s “racist culture.”
  • Board officials decided to make the new system permanent in 2021, but a judge ruled that the board had violated the state’s open meeting law.
  • The school board approved the creation of a task force to examine San Francisco Unified School District high schools, including their admissions policies, as a way to improve the district’s high schools.

The San Francisco Board of Education voted the city’s top ​​public high school to return to academic-based admissions after two years of using a lottery-based system.    

In a 4-3 vote on Wednesday, the board’s decision will restore merit-based admissions for Lowell High School’s incoming freshmen in fall of 2023. Applicants must once again meet a designated grade point average and standardized test score criteria to qualify for admission to the school.

Lowell employed the random lottery system for the 2021 school year as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic after the district claimed that there was no adequate criteria to judge students due to distance learning. 

Board officials also decided to make the new system permanent the same year. However, a Superior Court judge ruled that the board had violated the state’s open meeting law, which requires public officials to provide comprehensive information about their resolutions during board agendas.

The lottery system also aimed to help improve the school’s diversity after complaints of the school’s “racist culture.” Asian students make up half of Lowell’s student population at 50.6%. White students make up 18.1%, and Hispanic students follow at 11.5%, while Black students represent 1.8% of the student population. 

The decision also played a role in the removal of three board members after a recall election in February 2021. The ex-members, who controversially focused on re-naming 44 schools, were criticized for “misplaced priorities,” including what many felt were anti-Asian policies. 

Wednesday’s vote rejects Superintendent Vince Matthews’ recommendation to employ the lottery system for another year. 

The admissions policy of Lowell has led to a widespread debate among residents. While supporters of the merit system argue that removing it would compromise Lowell’s legacy, those who oppose the system said diversity has increased at the school under the lottery-based admissions. 

The school board approved the creation of a task force to examine San Francisco Unified School District high schools, including their admissions policies, as a way to improve the district’s high schools. 

Featured Image via KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

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