The San Francisco Unified School District has released some numbers on the incoming ninth grade class at Lowell High School, now that the school will no longer have merit-based admissions but will operate on a lottery system.
The school has been at the center of a controversy about admissions and racial equity, which came to a head late last year when the SF Board of Education announced that they would temporarily suspend merit-based admissions due to the pandemic — and due to the fact that the next class applying to Lowell would be missing grades from the all-important spring semester of seventh grade.
Many alumni and parents of prospective Lowell students voiced objections to the change, saying that merit-based admissions was responsible for creating the academically challenging and high-test-scoring environment at the elite school — which is ranked among the best public high schools in the country
Ultimately, the school board voted in February to make the change permanent, saying Lowell would no longer have merit-based admissions after this year, and its student body would be based on the same lottery system used by other schools in the district.
As a result, as the Chronicle reports Wednesday, the racial demographics of the school will likely change somewhat in the coming years — and demographics of the incoming class are more closely reflective of the overall racial makeup of the city itself.
At last count, according to the California Department of Education, Lowell had 51% Asian students, 18% white students, 12% Latinx students, 6% Filipino students, and just 2% Black students. Meanwhile, in the SF Unified School District, only one-third of students are Asian, 15% are white, 28% are Latinx, and 6% are Black.
Per the Chronicle, the incoming ninth-grade class at Lowell, based on those who've been placed there, could be 22% Latinx, and almost 5% Black, while there will be 6% fewer white students, and 4% fewer Asian students.
The class is going to be about 200 students smaller than previous classes admitted, because the school is trying to rebalance after over-enrolling due to the merit-based system in several recent years. The district says that more students may be admitted to the class by the fall.
Also, the demographics may change slightly depending on students accepting their school placements.
Lowell Alumni Association Executive Director Terry Abad said he expected fewer Black students would want to attend the school due to a recent history of racist incidents. "Wow,” he said to the Chronicle, regarding the numbers, adding that they were "tremendously surprising, but surprising in a very good way."
Abad does not completely support the lottery system, saying there are better ways to diversify a school, he tells the paper, "I certainly like the fact that the entering class looks like it will more closely approximate the student population in San Francisco. I think that’s an excellent thing."