SF Board of Education Approves Maintaining Current Admissions Criteria for Lowell High School for 2022-23 School Year
San Francisco (December 17, 2021) - The San Francisco Board of Education approved a resolution (4 to 3) to maintain the current admissions criteria for Lowell High School for the 2022-23 school year, which is currently the same as other comprehensive high schools.
Under the policy, proposed by San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, SFUSD will utilize the same choice-based admissions policy for Lowell High School for the 2022-23 school year as it uses for placement at its other comprehensive high schools while the SF Board of Education considers alternatives.
In February 2021, the SF Board of Education adopted Resolution No. 212-2A1 which provided that the regular admissions process for SFUSD comprehensive high schools would be used for future admissions to Lowell High School. This Resolution was the subject of litigation and on Nov. 17, 2021, a court ordered the Board to set aside Resolution No. 212-2A1, adopted at its Feb. 9, 2021 meeting. The Court found that although the Board placed Resolution 212-21A1 on the Board agenda for action, and the Board provided a copy of the Resolution, it nevertheless failed to provide adequate notice that it intended to change the Lowell admissions policy. However, in the same order, the Court noted and explained that the Board could cure and correct this procedural error by placing the Resolution on a board agenda with proper notice.
Per the Superintendent’s resolution, students applying to Lowell for the 2022-23 school year will use the same application form used for SFUSD’s comprehensive high schools. The application for Lowell will have the same deadline as all other comprehensive SFUSD high schools –– Feb. 4, 2022.
“Implementation of the any selective admissions policy for the 2022-2023 school year is logistically impossible which is the heart of why I recommended that students who live in San Francisco and wish to apply to Lowell High School will use the same application form used for all District comprehensive high schools for the 2022-2023 school year,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Mathews.
Under the Superintendent’s resolution, students who live in San Francisco and wish to apply to Lowell High School for the 2022-23 school year will submit the same application form used for SFUSD’s comprehensive high schools. Students may list as many high schools as they like and will be assigned to their highest ranked request as long as there is space at the school. If there are more students applying than there are openings at a school, choice assignments will be made by looking at a series of tiebreakers. Unlike elementary schools, comprehensive high schools do not have an attendance area, meaning all high schools are city-wide schools.
Background on Previous Lowell Admissions’ Policy
Except for this school year, admission to Lowell High School has been different from the admission process for all other District high schools. In previous years the application and admissions process set forth in Board Policy 5120.1 required a student seeking admittance to Lowell to submit the following: (1) a Lowell Application; (2) a personal statement; (3) sealed transcripts with grades from the entire 7th grade and the first semester of 8th grade; and (4) standardized test scores. Board Policy 5120.1 also set forth three different qualification methods (bands) for admission, all of which required students to meet certain academic criteria;
In order to administer the process set forth in Board Policy 5120.1, staff collected transcripts for all eligible applicants from over 100 public and private middle schools; administered a Lowell admissions test; reviewed personal statements of applicants; analyzed transcripts and standardized test scores; and facilitated a District Level Lowell Admissions Committee to review non academic criteria, such as principal recommendations. In addition to these steps, middle school principals and other school staff actively supported their students with the preparation and submission of the materials needed for the applications.
This labor intensive application process requires approximately three months after the submission deadline to process. Accordingly, under Board Policy 5120.1, the application window for Lowell opens in early October and closes in mid-December, a month to six weeks earlier than the deadline for all other high schools.
In contrast to the Lowell Admissions Policy, Board Policy 5101 prescribes the student assignment policy for the District’s comprehensive high school admissions and contains no required academic criteria, personal statements or recommendations from principals.
Board Policy 5101 assigns students to comprehensive high schools using a process that considers the applicant’s ranked preferences and other factors including whether the applicant has an older sibling in the high school; the applicant student graduated from Willie L. Brown, Jr. Middle School and were enrolled in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades; and/or the applicant lives in designated census tracts in San Francisco.
The application process under Board Policy 5101 opened to students on October 23, 2021 for the 2022-23 admissions cycle and is less labor intensive, requires fewer resources, and takes far less time to administer than the Lowell Admissions Policy.
On March 16, 2020, the District ceased face-to-face instruction in response to the declaration of a health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. District schools closed for in-person learning for all students for the remainder of the school year, and, for most students, remained closed for in-person learning for the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year. On March 18, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order to suspend the State’s Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) standardized testing for students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 28, 2020, the Board of Education adopted an alternative grading system for Spring 2020 which changed the grading procedure from letter grades to a “credit/no credit” mark.
As a result of the suspension of standardized testing and the implementation of an alternative grading system, the District determined that the process for Lowell Admissions could not be implemented as required by Board Policy 5120.1.
Increased Demand and Diversity for the 2021-2022 School Year
During the 2021-22 school year, when the comprehensive high school admissions policy (Board Policy 5101) was used to assign students to Lowell, the number of applications to Lowell rose by nearly 1,000 students. Additionally, more students attending public school applied to attend Lowell in 2021-22 than in prior years and the applicant pool was more diverse than in prior years. More Black and Latinx students enrolled in Lowell’s 9th grade class than ever before and while still a small percentage of the overall student population, the number of incoming ninth grade Black students enrolled at Lowell increased by 77% over their 10th grade peers, and the number of ninth grade Latinx students increased by 66% over their 10th grade peers.
Latinx and African American students now make up one-fourth of Lowell's incoming grade 9 enrollment, with significant increases for Latinx students. All program factors (students who are identified as English Language Learners, in Special Education, Low SES, experiencing homelessness) saw positive increases in their representation among Lowell's incoming grade 9 enrollment. Asian students continue to make up over 40% of Lowell's incoming grade 9 enrollment.
The following slides illustrate the freshman enrollment at Lowell High School over the past five years by student demographics and programs.
*Charts show changes in Freshman enrollment at Lowell High School. In years 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21, Lowell utilized a merit-based admissions process using state test scores, essays and grades. In 2021-2022, Lowell High School utilized a choice-based lottery admissions process. Not shown here is the total enrollment for Lowell High School, which also includes grades 10, 11, and 12. Native American, Samoan Pacific Islander, and Arab student enrollment is too low to report. Duplicated counts in the number of students can exist across program categories. For example, a student can be counted in EL and SPED if both programs apply.