San Francisco’s best public high school reinstates merit-based admissions after a lottery system produced miserable failure

June 24, 2022 • 1:00 pm

In May of last year I described the situation at Lowell High School in San Francisco, which had decided, for reasons we all know, to drop the merit-based admission system adopted in favor of a lottery system. Previously, Lowell was San Francisco’s best high school, the sixth best in California, and #82 in the national rankings.

You already know what happens when a school like Lowell prioritizes equity above merit in admissions. I quoted a yahoo! article at the time:

San Francisco’s Lowell High School, regarded as one of the best in the nation, is seeing a record spike in Ds and Fs among its first batch of students admitted in fall 2021 through a new lottery system instead of its decades-long merit-based admissions.

Of the 620 first-year students admitted through the lottery, nearly one in four (24.4%) received at least one letter grade of D or F in the said semester, according to internal records obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. This marks a triple increase from 7.9% in fall 2020 and 7.7% in fall 2019.

Principal Joe Ryan Dominguez attributed the rise in failing grades to “too many variables.” Last month, Dominguez announced his resignation from the school district, citing a lack of “well organized systems, fiscal responsibility and sound instructional practices as the path towards equity.” [JAC: Donguez took over only last fall!]

The lottery system was born out of a long, contentious battle that began in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Proponents of the new system argue that the merit-based system was racist as it resulted in an underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students, while opponents say it would harm Asian students – who make up the majority of Lowell’s population – and undermine the benefits of a competitive academic environment.

Discussions regarding a long-term policy are still being held. Outgoing District Superintendent Vincent Matthews has proposed an extension of the lottery system, while critics such as Members of the Friends of Lowell group and Lowell’s own Chinese Parent Advisory Council continue to lobby for the return of the old system.

The San Francisco School Board, which introduced the lottery system at Lowell, saw three of its members removed in February after a recall election initiated over misplaced priorities, including what many felt were “anti-Asian” policies.

The school’s principal resigned after only one year on the job.

Now sf.gate reports that the year of trial has resulted in a return to the system of merit-based admissions (click on screenshot):

An excerpt:

Lowell High School will return to academic-based admissions, the San Francisco Board of Education decided Wednesday evening in a 4-3 vote.

The board’s decision restores merit-based admissions for the 2023-24 school year at Lowell, which had been suspended during the pandemic in favor of lottery-based admissions.

The board had decided in early 2021 to make the lottery-based admissions permanent, but a Superior Court judge ruled late last year that the board had violated California’s open meeting law. The judge’s ruling came too late for the 2022 academic year.

The board’s vote on Wednesday turned down a recommendation from Superintendent Vince Matthews to keep the lottery system in place for another year.

The vote was pretty close, but still. . . .  What with the recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chelsea Boudin, maybe we have a glimmer of sanity peeking through the darkness.

What this vote and policy change means is what we all know: pure equity is incompatible with a merit-based system, simply because minorities don’t perform as well in schools, and thus don’t have credentials good enough for admission. As someone who favors some forms of affirmative action, I suggested some ways in my earlier post to make the system a bit more equitable, but I’m not fully happy with any of them. What will solve this problem is only one thing: setting in place equal opportunity for all at birth. And we’re decades away from that.

h/t: cesar

14 thoughts on “San Francisco’s best public high school reinstates merit-based admissions after a lottery system produced miserable failure

  1. … simply because minorities don’t perform as well in schools, …

    Some minorities do fine, indeed they do better than average, better than whites overall. A fact that rather torpedoes a lot of woke ideology on the issue.

  2. “What will solve this problem is only one thing: setting in place equal opportunity for all at birth. And we’re decades away from that.”

    This is impossible. Different groups have different culture. We all know some culture leads to kids wandering on the streets or playing basketballs in public parks, and some culture makes kids stay home doing homework.

    Unless you force all groups have the same culture, you will have some groups have more scientists and some groups have more sport stars.

  3. Woke progressivism is a one-way ticket to religious evangelical Republican administration. San Francisco just put a stick in the heart woke radicalism.

  4. IIRC university admissions in the Netherlands used a weighed lottery system . All with 90% or more admitted , and below that a lottery. The better your marks, the higher your chances (the more ‘lottery tickets’). There was quite a bit of criticism, but it appeared to work more or less. I’m not sure the system still exists.

  5. Maybe I am reading this wrong, but the statement does not read to me that they walked back the lottery system because it was failing. They walked it back bc of a technical procedural error. I don’t think that sanity has necessarily been restored.

  6. It looks to me like the real problem is that the woke fundamentally misunderstand the reasons for the problems they are trying to fix.
    I suspect their ideology will prevent them from ever really understanding these sorts of things.

  7. The Woke want to drag everybody down to the lowest common denominator. Kurt Vonnegut foresaw such world in his short story “Harrison Bergeron”.

  8. correction: “Chelsea Boudin” should be “Chesa”, as in “San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled from office on June 7, 2022.”

  9. Quotas are the most reliable solution to ethnic differences.

    Meritocracy is like telling incels they can buy sex dolls and being astonished thereafter that they still don’t feel appreciated enough.

    Accept that woke people have different goals, and their methods appear less crazy.

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