SFUSD High School Task Force:
Color Me Disappointed
• • • • • • • • October 4, 2023 • • • • • • • •
The final report of the San Francisco High School Task Force on high school admissions leaves me profoundly disappointed.
The controversy over selective admissions at Lowell High school is one of the longest and most emotional debates in the history of SFUSD. It has all the elements of an ongoing tv series: race, diversity, equity, rich, poor, entitled, privileged. You name it and someone will share a point of view.
Without even holding a task force meeting, anyone engaged in school politics would know that there are really three different approaches:
- Maintain the existing selective admission policy and implement the outreach requirements to underrepresented communities. This outreach requirement has been ignored by the SFUSD for years.
- Tweak the existing policy with hopes that the changes will create more diversity.
- Abandon the commitment to meeting the needs of high performing students and introduce a lottery.
...the soft bigotry of low expectations. The Task Force recommendation ignores whether the student is proficient based on state standards and just wants to look at grades from multiple teachers who use many different grading criteria.”
What was the Task Force asked to do?
The Task Force shall examine admissions policies for both selective admissions and comprehensive high schools. The Task Force’s recommendations shall take into account the District’s failure to close persistent achievement gaps and advise how the District can elevate the quality of education and improve outcomes for all students.
What did the task force recommend? The soft bigotry of low expectations.
The Task Force gave the superintendent two choices:
- A lottery
- A tweak to the admission policy that essentially disregards whether a student is high school ready and proficient.
I will repeat that second alternative because it reeks of the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Right now, Lowell admits students based on grades and grade level proficiency based on the statewide CAASPP tests. The Task Force recommendation ignores whether the student is proficient based on state standards and just wants to look at grades from multiple teachers who use many different grading criteria.
This is a sad commentary. Task Force members know that many of these students fail to meet proficiency standards. Well then, let’s throw out the test. Diversity is more important than competence. Forget that ignoring proficiency means non-proficient students will get more D’s and F’s.
Absent from the Task Force recommendation is the choice that most people want: Keep and implement the selective admission policy.
Look at the data!
If I had been on the Task Force, I would have demanded a deep dive into the data to see how well Lowell is serving its students.
How well is Lowell educating students?Lowell is ranked as one of the highest performing public high schools in California and has been recognized 4 times as a National Blue Ribbon School, 8 times as a California Distinguished School, and one time as a Gold Ribbon School. Lowell has been consistently ranked #1 in the Western Region for the number of Advanced Placement Exams given.
How well has the selective admission policy created diversity?
Lowell’s diversity has dramatically increased using the present admission policy.
It is more diverse.
Which ethnicities have the highest percentages of high school ready students admitted to Lowell?
The controversy over selective admissions is driven by what the school board asked the Task Force to do:
The Task Force’s recommendations shall take into account the District’s failure to close persistent achievement gaps and advise how the District can elevate the quality of education and outcomes for all students.
No one should adopt recommendations crafted to accept that Black and Latinx students can't meet proficiency levels.
Carol Kocivar is a children’s advocate and lives in the Westside. Feedback: email@example.com
October 4, 2023