Top U.S. School Sees Record Drop In Grades Following Equity-Based Admissions

Top ranked school, Lowell High, saw steep grade declines following a new and controversial equity-based admissions policy.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Lowell High

There is a contentious debate in regards to equity in schools, and the discussion is only growing. Equity, unlike equality, is a growing notion that everyone should have the same outcome despite how much effort is put in. Much of the call for more equity in schools came about in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. However, not everyone believes it is fair, or even a useful education practice. Now, a prestigious top-ranked high school is furthering opponents’ claims, as it sees a record dip in grades following the new equity-based admission policy at Lowell High School.

Lowell High School, one of the oldest and most distinguished schools in all of America is seeing an unusual amount of failing grades this school year. According to reports from Yahoo News, this finding coincides with the district’s decision to do away with the longstanding practice of merit-based admissions this school year, in favor of equity-based entries. Of the 620 first-year students who were admitted this year through the new lottery system, nearly one in four, or 24.4% of them received at least one letter grade of D or F. 

Furthermore, these findings signify a triple increase in such grades shelled out to students in the past two school years. In 2019, only 7.7% of students received D’s of F’s. And in 2020, only 7.9% received low grades. All of that was during a time when Lowell High school used merit-based admissions, and also when the school was battling pandemic obstacles. 

Lowell High school has remained a central topic in media headlines across the United States because of its controversial decision to do away with its staunch admission policy. After an extensive scuffle within the district following the death of George Floyd, the equity-based lottery system was born, doing away with GPA and test-based admissions. Proponents of the new system see it as a way to admit more Black and Hispanic students into the prestigious school and give them more opportunities.

But on the other hand, defectors say it will only harm Asian students’ chances of advancing their academic achievements. Notably, the majority of the local population is Asian. SFGate reported that many parents were caught off guard by the district’s decision, as they continue to fight the new equity policy. In the wake of the debate, Lowell High school’s principal similarly just resigned, hinting at more trouble. 

Lowell High School Principal, Joe Ryan Dominguez announced his resignation last month. After a short-lived stint as the head of the school, he attributed his departure to a lack of a “well organized system.” Within his resignation letter, he also noted that the district had poor management of financial responsibilities and “sound” instructional practices in their “path towards equity.” 

Lowell High

The school did, in fact, suffer from major budget cuts this past year. As public school attendance numbers drastically diminished, so did statewide budgets that were tied to student numbers. Lowell High had a funding freeze on its Advanced Placement program, which was likely what the departing principal in part was referring to. However, Dominguez sidestepped blaming the new equity admission policy for his reason to leave, insinuating that there were many factors at play for the decline in grades.

AP courses and merit-based admission policies are disappearing all across the nation. Some see this as a path towards racial equality, while others see it as a slippery slope into the decline of public education. Despite the debate, more schools like Lowell High will likely continue to abolish old admission policies in the name of equity