SF private school students could have priority for admission to Lowell. Public school families are concerned | Tech US News


Teachers at San Francisco’s academically elite Lowell High School and public school parents across the city fear a return to achievement-based admissions next fall will give private schools an advantage on test scores over 8th graders enrolled in district.

Public school students who want to attend Lowell are graded on state standardized test scores they took as 7th graders last spring. Private school students take a separate exam, held in January 2023, for fall admission.

While that’s how the process worked before the district temporarily adopted lottery admissions during the pandemic, school faculty and parents say it’s just not fair this year.

When public school students took the state test, they were still reeling from the pandemic and didn’t know the test would count toward admission to Lowell because the school board didn’t resume the merit-check process until after the school year ended in June, he said. Rebecca Johnson, chair of Lowell’s social studies department, in a letter signed by all Lowell department heads to district officials.

Educators have called for all students — public and private — to be allowed to take Lowell’s entrance exam in January, which district officials have so far rejected because of cost, staffing and access concerns.

District officials notified families Wednesday that the district is evaluating scores and looking into “a COVID adjustment” to the state test score cutoff for admission to Lowell based on concerns.

“We are aware of the concerns that (the state test) was administered to public school students before Lowell’s admissions policy was reinstated and in a year that was greatly impacted by the pandemic,” district spokeswoman Laura Dudnick said. “We ask for the community’s patience as staff carefully review academic performance data to assess how to incorporate these concerns into the admissions process.”

She encouraged all students interested in Lowell to apply by the school’s Dec. 16 application deadline.

Lowell University’s admissions process has divided San Francisco for years, with one side claiming it provides an academically rigorous option for families while the other side supports a lottery system to increase diversity and ensure all students have access to one of the top-performing schools. public schools in the country.

The issue was a factor in Tuesday’s election, with two board members voting to restore merit-based admissions and a third likely to win as well, showing how Lowell has become involved in San Francisco politics.

Parent Sara Hall just wants the process to be fair and says it’s frustrating that neither students nor families knew the state test would matter to individual students, including her son, who is now in 8th grade.

“We got the test results back and I don’t think we even looked at them,” she said.

As a strong supporter of public schools, Hall said she worries that private school students could have an advantage. She also noted that the pandemic and district dysfunction had a major impact on students last year. Her son’s English teacher was chronically on leave due to health reasons and problems related to the payroll fiasco, leaving a series of substitutes to teach the class.

Private school students will take the test in January, in an environment further removed from the pandemic.

“If for some reason Lowell isn’t right for my child, that’s totally fine,” Hall said. “But I wouldn’t want public school kids to be at a disadvantage getting into public school.”

Johnson believes they will be at a disadvantage after taking what they thought was a low-stakes exam in the spring compared to private school students who have had an extra nine months to recover from the pandemic and realize how important the entrance exam will be in January.

“Many SFUSD students, teachers and families have been told that their (state test) scores will not be used for anything meaningful,” she said, adding that students are still recovering from learning loss after more than a year of distance learning.

“Thus, comparing the performance of our SFUSD students as seventh graders to the performance of private school students halfway through eighth grade will perpetuate the exact inequality and inequity that we as a school district are trying to disrupt,” the letter continues.

Superintendent Matt Wayne responded to teachers Monday, saying offering the January test to all students would be a logistical and costly challenge, while also disadvantaging students who couldn’t participate.

“While we could strive to get those furthest from the opportunity to take the test, experience shows that not all of those who would want to will be able to for a variety of reasons (i.e. transportation),” he said in letter.

Jill Tucker is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @jilltucker


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