The Ivy Coach Daily

July 17, 2022

Lowell High School Admissions Process

Lowell High School in San Fransisco is the oldest public high school west of the Mississippi.

In a sign of the times, Lowell High School, arguably the top public high school in the city of San Fransisco, has done away with a lottery-based admissions process it put in place during the pandemic. The school has reverted to a merit-based admissions process, one based on students’ grades and standardized test scores. Like at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, this marks a victory for students and parents who fought to restore the merit-based system, a system detractors argue hurts the chances of underrepresented minority students from attending the oldest public high school west of the Mississippi.

As Bloomberg’s editors write in an an op-ed entitled “San Francisco’s School Decision Is Reason to Celebrate,” “The dispute in San Francisco concerned the admissions policies of Lowell High School, whose alumni include three Nobel Prize winners and a retired Supreme Court justice. In October 2020, the city’s school board scrapped Lowell’s policy of admitting students on the basis of grades and standardized test scores, citing the difficulty of administering exams during the pandemic. The merit-based system was replaced by a citywide lottery, a longtime goal of progressives who say that selective admissions policies disproportionately harm Black and Latino applicants. In the first year of the lottery, the share of Latino and Black students in Lowell’s entering freshman class rose, while the proportion of Asian students fell.”

This extremely divisive issue — whether to instate a merit-based admissions system or more of a lottery-based system to top public high schools — has come to a head in recent months not only in San Fransisco and northern Virginia but also in New York City. The former system is largely supported by white and Asian American families, while the latter system is largely favored by Black and Latino families. Might we suggest a fair compromise — an admissions process that is both merit-based but also one that supports diversity? Perhaps certain slots in each of these schools can be designated for lottery seats while the vast majority are determined by students’ grades and standardized test scores?

What do our readers think? We’re sure you won’t be shy. Let us know your thoughts on the matter by posting a comment below. Why do we have a feeling the comments are about to skew super-conservative?

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