August 3, 2022

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

The San Francisco Board of Education voted the best public high school in the city to return to academic 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 new freshmen at Lowell High School in fall 2023. Applicants must 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 there were no adequate criteria to judge students due to distance learning.

Council officials also decided to make the new system permanent the same year. However, a Superior Court judge ruled that the council violated the law on public meetingswhich obliges public officials to provide full information on their resolutions during council agendas.

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The lottery system was also intended to help improve school diversity after complaints about the school’s “racist culture”. Asian students account for half Lowell’s student population at 50.6%. White students make up 18.1% and Hispanic students follow at 11.5%, while black students make up 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 former members, who controversially focused on rename 44 schoolswere criticized for their “misplaced priorities”, including what many saw as anti-Asian policies.

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

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Lowell’s admissions policy has led to wide debate among residents. While proponents of the merit system argue its removal would jeopardize Lowell’s legacy, those who oppose the system have said diversity has increased to school under lottery-based admissions.

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

Image selected via KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

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