San Francisco school board restores merit based admission system to elite high school


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The San Francisco Unified School District’s board of education has voted to restore a merit based admission system.

In a 4–3 vote on Wednesday night, the board voted to re-implement the merit based system two years after switching to a lottery-based system that the board said would address concerns about alleged racism, lack of diversity, and lack of data caused by remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote comes months after voters in San Francisco recalled three progressive school board members after a push from parents voicing concerns that social justice goals had become more important to the board than academic goals and reopening schools. 

“The city of San Francisco has risen up and said this is not acceptable to put our kids last,” Siva Raj, a parent who helped launch the recall effort, said after the February recall election.  “Talk is not going to educate our children, it’s action. It’s not about symbolic action, it’s not about changing the name on a school, it is about helping kids inside the school building read and learn math.”

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Lowell High School principal Andrew Ishibashi (right) walks across Eucalyptus Drive along with some students and staff to make a statement to the media regarding a poster that referred negatively to black students and Black History Month on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 in San Francisco, California. 
(Photo By Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The board’s vote was a rejection of Superintendent Vince Matthews’ recommendation to keep the lottery system for another year and supporters of the lottery say it makes the school more diverse.

“It is not just for one ethnic group. It’s for all students who choose to make Lowell their home,” Virginia Marshall, President of the San Francisco Alliance of Black Educators told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The skyline of San Francisco, California showing the Transamerica Building framed by the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge is pictured at sunset Feb. 27, 2008. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

The skyline of San Francisco, California showing the Transamerica Building framed by the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge is pictured at sunset Feb. 27, 2008. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

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The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that the new merit-based system could face legal challenges due to a state law regarding academic criteria being used in admission to comprehensive high schools.

Last year, a judge prevented the school board from making the lottery system permanent after critics filed suit claiming state law was violated when merit based criteria was removed from the process.

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Devon Cunningham, 15, looks over his progress report during an Algebra 2 summer school class, part of the San Francisco Unified School District credit recovery program, at Lowell High School on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. 

Devon Cunningham, 15, looks over his progress report during an Algebra 2 summer school class, part of the San Francisco Unified School District credit recovery program, at Lowell High School on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. 
(Photo By Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The board also voted on Wednesday to overturn a previous board decision ordering a mural of former President George Washington to be painted over at George Washington High School due to allegations of racism for its depiction of American Indians. 



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