Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hot topic: Lowell

This from a reader:
I like to suggest a new topic about what the breakdown of # of students in middle schools that were assigned to Lowell High School. It appears that this data is not published by SFUSD.


  1. Hi Folks, students aren't *assigned * to Lowell. They apply there separately and must take an exam as part of the application process. The exam results are calculated into a formula along with their GPA, Star test score and ??? resulting in a number that either gains them admittance or not. Not 100% on the specifics but certain Lowell is a separate app.

  2. Hi there - My daughter got in to Lowell. I am also curious to see data on assignments to the school, especially the number of students coming from public vs private school.

    I did find this document which identifies the standards that were used to assign middle school children to the school. The most interesting thing I gleaned was for band 3 and the under-represented schools.


  3. My son made it into Lowell and he is from APG. I see the infomation regarding the calculations (Bands) but cannot find information about the breakdown of which schools the kids are coming from. It would be nice to see this not only for Lowell but for the other schools as well.

  4. PPS should be able to get this info unless SFUSD is actually not willing to release it...

    Clarifying a point in the post by 8:15. Students coming from SFUSD schools don't take an exam as part of the application process. Their standardized test scores are used along with their GPA in 7th and 8th grades. Students coming from private schools (or other out-of-district) take an equivalent of the portion of the standardized tests (the same that the SFUSD students take, that is) at a special testing session in January. (Both my kids applied to and got into Lowell (under protest in my son's case!) but attend/ed SOTA.)

  5. Band 1 admittance, which is 70% of the total, is a tough pull. Assuming top test scores, a kid can't get more than 2 B's in the 3 semesters that count. There is at least one teacher at my kid's school who is known to grade pretty hard--kids who normally get A's or maybe B's get C's or even D's. It's also stressful to push some very bright but not grade-grubby-type kids to keep their grades just high enough (A minus) to avoid the dreaded B semester grade. I recognize the need to make a cut-off given the context, but it all seems very stressful at an already stressful age. My kid may or may not make the cut off (was it 86.5 pts this past year, out of 89 possible?), but also may not want to go to Lowell given the stress that it engenders as early as age 12.

    Just sayin'....

  6. Question for Caroline: It sounds like you can apply to Lowell and SOTA and also list up to 7 lottery high schools and end up with three public high school offers? Is that correct?

  7. "Was it 86.5 pts this past year, out of 89 possible?"

    The 2010-2011 cut-off score for Band 1 was 85.5 points (according to the Lowell Bands Summary info linked below).

    Also.... Aptos and Presidio remained Band 3 schools, but Roosevelt was not on the list this year.




  8. To 12:58 pm

    The HS application process requires that you list Lowell and SOTA on the same application that you use for any of the other public HS. If you put Lowell down on the list, even if it is # 7 on the list, you must get you application in to SFUSD in early December, ahead of the regular deadline if you choose not to apply to Lowell.

    For SOTA (the non-GE side) you also have to contact the school to set up an audition for your child. SOTA will inform you well before the March date as to whether or not your child has been accepted for the arts program. It is possible for kids that apply to SOTA to get two offers, becuase you will also have submitted the application to the district with any other public schools. My daughter has friends who got in to SOTA, learned in February, and then also recieved spots at another public HS as well. And we know some kids who didn't make the cut at SOTA, and didn't get any of their choices off their application, and waited to hear from private schools.

    So long answer - no you won't get 3seperate offers from the SFUSD - the most you'll get is two, and this only if your kid trys out for SOTA.

  9. The interesting thing about the private school kids, is that they take the STAR test for 7th graders half-way through the 8th grade year, which essentially gives them an advantage over public school kids.

  10. 12:58

    I'm not Caroline, and maybe she'll correct me, but my understanding is that you can apply to SOTA separately, and be admitted there and somewhere else, but if you apply to Lowell and make the cut, then you will not be assigned to a lottery school. That means the decision to actually apply to Lowell vs. not is the big question if you are not sure you want to go there and might prefer Lincoln, Balboa, etc.

  11. In the Fall, the SFUSD will send a letter to kids that look like they may have the grades/test scores to get into Lowell, saying you should consider applying to Lowell. No promises made about a spot, but to think about it.

    Interesting point - the first semester grades in the 8th grade is the final data point the district collects when making the decision on who to admit to Lowell. When is that info available? Over a month after you have to submit your application to the district if you want your kid to be considered for Lowell.

    I was concerned that we didn't have the info we needed to even make a decision. I talked to PPS and learned that their is no harm in putting Lowell down first, becuase Lowell is essentially taken off the top of your list, and your second place school, say Lincoln, actually becomes your first choice school. Once I learned this I was less nervous about putting Lowell down on the list. My view is that for expediency purposes, the district has you use their universal form for applying for Lowell, and SOTA, but putting them on the list in a mere formality in essence, becuase the enrollment to those schools is very different.

  12. What the F, why do kids from Hamlin, Cathedral, St. Cecilia's get Band 3 status? Who cares if kids from those schools are under represented at Lowell. They are under represented at Lowell b/c they choose other private schools. Seems hardly fair to public school kids to give an advantage to kids at private schools just b/c they choose to go elsewhere. Am I missing something here?

  13. 2:13 you are correct. It's a huge sop to the already privileged. Too bad they don't base it on SES status, whether individual or collectively at the sending school, instead of underrepresentation. Or give a leg up to those coming from public.

  14. That said, Band 3 isn't THAT easy. Only 15% and fair bit of competition for those few seats. Most private school kids still have to test in as if Band 1, which with the cut-off points is not that easy. I've heard that some private schools are known to go easy on the 8th grade grades in part because of this. Guarantee you Mr. Fong at Aptos is a harder grader for algebra than most teachers in town, public or private!

  15. Lowell skims the cream. It's a magnet school and that's its mission. They were banned from using race as a factor in admissions several years ago so they try to do other things, including the application of the bands, to balance the student body. People who attend private K-8 pay their taxes too--and it's frequently complained that private school parents hurt the commons by depriving the public schools of their supposed resources, political clout, etc., by not attending public school. So now you're saying, "No, no, private families, we don't want you, go away, you're taking up space that our public K-8 kids are entitled to!"

  16. 1:32, I think you're right. That is, if you're accepted to Lowell, that's your assignment school and you don't get an additional lottery placement. At least that's definitely the way it was with mine. But you can get two schools if you apply to both Lowell and SOTA -- lots of students are in the position of being accepted to both and deciding.

    1:31, I believe that the test scoring is somehow adjusted to compensate for the student's exact age, so that advantage for the private school 8th-graders is mitigated. But the private school students taking the test in January are taking it under conditions that are more likely to motivate them, as private-school parents have pointed out to me. To seventh-graders taking their standardized tests, the high school application is still pretty remote, and many many not even grasp that it's connected. The eighth-graders taking it in a room in January are already well into the high school application process, and the stakes are clear to them -- and they're in a room full of peers in the same situation.

    Band 2 is supposed to address SES and giving a boost to students who have faced hardships. I assume the issue with Band 3 and underrepresented schools is that there really was no way to distinguish between Visitacion Valley Middle School or the Voice of Pentecost Academy (to pick a private school that's probably not steering lots of kids to Lowell and Harvard -- sorry to stereotype, but...) and Hamlin.

    This is correct: "...the first semester grades in the 8th grade is the final data point the district collects when making the decision on who to admit to Lowell." -- plus that semester's grades are given double weight over the two 7th-grade semester GPAs. So the Lowell applicant doesn't yet know exactly what his/her profile will be. Then once you get those grades, you can figure out the score on the worksheet, but you still don't know what the cut will be.

  17. No, not at all saying, "No, no, private families, we don't want you, go away, you're taking up space that our public K-8 kids are entitled to!" Just saying they shouldn't get a leg up just b/c they went to a private that is underepresented at Lowell.

  18. Yes the private school parents pay their taxes just like the rest of us folks, yet our children don't seem to be good enough to rub elbows with during the K-8 years. My child went to a non-trophy school for K - 5, to Presidio MS for 6 - 8, and got into Lowell, Band 1 becuase he tested well and maintained a 4.0 in 7th and so far in 8th.

    How many of private school families ultimately choose to send their children to Lowell? That would be good info to have. Several famlilies we know that have sent their kids to private schools K -8 applied to Lowell, got in, and are electing to spend $35k a year for University,LW, etc.

    We have know other families from Presidio whose kids had the grades but didn't get in, and instead are relegated to Mission and J. OConnell. It would seem that the private school families treat Lowell as their "back-up" plan, possibly shutting out many good public school kids out of Lowell who don't have the money to have private schools as their "back-up" schools.

  19. Does Lowell have a waiting list? If kids get accepted, but don't end up going, does that spot get left open, unfilled?

    And of course private parents use the public as a back up. They do it for K too.

  20. I don't believe that Lowell has a waitpool - they probably just over-offer.

  21. We know UHS kids (ex-Hamlin, ex-Live Oak) who didn't pass the Lowell exam.

  22. "We know UHS kids (ex-Hamlin, ex-Live Oak) who didn't pass the Lowell exam."

    And your point is........?

  23. My point:

    You can be an excellent student and *not* pass the exam for Lowell.

    It is *not* a no-brainer.

    UHS is tough to get into, as well.

    Private school kids don't have a free pass.

  24. "Private school kids don't have a free pass."

    Good point!

  25. Private schook kids don't have a free pass, but they get a lower "band 3" bar if they go to an underepresented middle school.

  26. Private kids don't have a free pass (and I can't imagine anyone thinks they do?), but I still don't understand why Hamlin and SH kids (and a few other privates I guess though I think those were the main ones this year) get in an "easier" tier. Shouldn't they have to score just the same as any other kids - I get the low income kids having a slightly easier bracket b/c they have a lot of disadvantages to overcome. But I don't get this. And does it change each year what private schools are in a slightly easier bracket based on how many kids they get from the school the year before? Does Lowell, on a different topic, do the usual fundraising and how successful are they? (I'm a single-sex elementary school parent.)

  27. My recollection is Hamlin was Band 3 recently, but no longer is. So, yes, the list changes annually. In looking at the Band 3 list I'm surprised at how many of the public middle schools are on it. I would guess most parochial 8th graders are targeting the parochial high schools, so seeing so many of them on the Band 3 list isn't as surprising. There really aren't many private independents making the Band 3 list.

  28. Convent
    French-American Intl
    Lycee Francais La Perouse
    Stuart Hall
    The Hamlin School

    These are the private non-parish catholics on the list this year.

    Yeah, those kids at Hamlin and Stuart Hall really need a leg up. Glad SFUSD has lowered the bar for them!


  29. You forgot:

    Cornerstone Academy
    Ecole Notre Dame Des Victoires
    KZV Armenian
    SF Christian Elementary

  30. Oops, I misread the list, looking for Hamlin under "H", rather than "T". I still am under the impression they recalibrate the Band 3 list annually. I guess you are free to get worked up over the injustice of lowering the bar for those privileged kids, but since the schools are underrepresented because not many kids go to Lowell, I don't think those applicants are taking many Band 3 slots away from the much bigger public middle schools on the list.
    (Fuller disclosure, my kid goes to a non-Band 3 private.)

    I do wonder what the percentages needed to end up on Band 3 are, and does it rely on kids admitted, kids enrolled or both?

  31. Just clarifying another point about the requirements. There isn't a pass/fail cut for test scores themselves for Lowell admission. The test results are part of a composite score that also includes GPA. Yes, the school's grading policies can affect this significantly, especially because the greatest weight is given to first-semester 8th-grade GPA.

    (And hear, hear about Mr. Fong at Aptos! His students need "I survived Mr. Fong's class and still got into Lowell" T-shifts.)

  32. @ 9:25, NDV is a parish Catholic.

    11 of the Band 3 schools are public and 4 are charters. Except maybe Aptos, Marina and Creative Arts Charter (I did not look it up), I think they are predominantly low-income populations, so more low income public school kids are getting a leg up than people from fancy privates. Convent, Stuart Hall, Lycee and French-American all have high schools into which many elementary graduates feed so they're probably not taking up a lot of spots at Lowell.

    Also, is the "underrepresented" designation calculated by 8th grade graduates in a school to the number of graduates of that school that go to Lowell? In an average year, our school graduates 10 to 12 8th graders of whom 2 to 4 go to Lowell. We're obviously not a big presence at Lowell, but we're not on the Band 3 list either. Or is there some other mysterious formula for determining what "underrepresented" means?

  33. The issue with band 3 is it is another opportunity for some kids at certain schools to get another pass at Lowell. Band 1 represents 70% of the slots, Bands 2 and 3 represent the balance (15% each). I was shocked to see that Presidio was on the underrepresented list this year, the school where my daughter attends. So if you are a good student (meet the academic requirements)at a public middle school that is not underrepresented at Lowell (whatever that means), you don't get that shot at Band 3. You are out of luck. And if you can't get all the points you need to score on Band 2 (overcoming obstacles/disadvantaged) you aren't getting in. However, if the kid goes to private school, does or doesn't meet the Band 1 cut-off, doesn't meet Band 2, they still have a shot at Band 3, if their school is underrepresented. Remember also, that Band 3 is based upon the principals, heads of school advocating for these students. So that is the other rub, and that can be somewhat subjective - we don't know who else is in the room to make the decision on these kids.

    It would be good to have more transparency with this 3rd band.

  34. It's totally ridiculous that a school like Hamlin would be on the Band 3 list. Totally Ridiculous!
    Furthermore, what is the justification for Aptos being on the list when, say, Giannini is not? They both have a population of disadvantaged students, and they both have strong educational opportunities.
    However this list is constructed, it is obvious that it is subjective to the point of not being fair.
    Maybe Reduced Price/Free Lunch status would be a better 1st criteria to have than which school a student attends.

  35. Band 3 has nothing to do with socio-economics. It has to do with getting students from other than the "usual suspect" schools to apply. Band 2 gives a nod to the "disadvantaged". It is the middle class kids that have the greatest potential of being screwed, especially if you go to certain "oversubscribed" middle schools.

  36. Sorry, 11:01, but I don't think there is anything subjective about Band 3. For whatever reason, a higher percentage of Giannini 8th graders get into/enroll at Lowell than Aptos 8th graders. Hence, Aptos is Band 3 and Giannini is not.

  37. Does anyone know if Lowell takes into consideration that kids are in the GATE program at their middle school? My kid and many of her friends who are very academic, are working hard for A's but occasionally get B's but have a much bigger workload then their classmates who are not in Honors classes and getting A's. Did we make a mistake by putting her in Honors when she could have gotten more A's and had a better chance of getting into Lowell? The kids were told that B's in Honors classes are equivalent to A's in the regular curriculum, but I find this suspicious.

    By the way, I know many people in private who are in private as a back up for public. Not vice versa. It's actually NOT that hard to get into some private schools like Sacred Heart and Mercy. I live in the richmond district, and if my daughter get's a school on the East side of the city and has to take muni all the way home through certain neighborhoods, I will have the private school back up as well. My chances of getting into those schools are actually better. Same thing happened when they were in elementary. Our neighborhood private school was our back up which our kids got into pretty easily. Getting our neighborhood public school was a much bigger challenge.

  38. I don't think getting into private school is necessarily a challenge. Our daughter attends Presidio MS, and is in GATE and got into Lowell. Several of her friends got into Lowell and also were accepted to University and Lick. Some of her friends knew they wouldn't make the Lowell cut becuase of grades, and made it into University and Lick.

    I doubt Lowell distinguishes between honors and regular classes.

    For us private school is not a viable option because of finances. There are several great public HS - if you can get into them. I'd send my kid across town to go to Balboa, or to Galileo.

  39. "Anonymous said...
    Sorry, 11:01, but I don't think there is anything subjective about Band 3. For whatever reason, a higher percentage of Giannini 8th graders get into/enroll at Lowell than Aptos 8th graders. Hence, Aptos is Band 3 and Giannini is not.

    APRIL 8, 2010 11:20 AM"

    I think the subjective part comes in when a Band 3 school’s principal ranks all the Lowell applicants from that school, then sends the ranked list to the EPC. I would think the most objective way to do it would be to look at students' combined scores, and give highest priority to the highest scorers, and when a tie-breaker is needed, look at the essay and other factors as outlined (below) for Band 3 admissions. Is that what happens? (Since that is certainly not clear from the guidelines.)

    For Band 2, each school has a committee, but Band 3 seems to involve only the principal. I do see some oversight of the principal with this: “The District’s Lowell Admissions Committee will reserve the right to challenge the principal’s recommendation.” However, that only speaks to possible over-identification by the principal, not a kid the principal may have undervalued (for whatever reason).

    Also, how do they decide how many spots to allot to each underrepresented school? I guess they first need to see how many students from a given school get in the “Band 1” way, then figure out how many more seats from that school would adequately represent the school’s population at Lowell? (Though there could conceivably be no representation from a given school if there are no Lowell applicants- or if the principal doesn’t identify anyone s/he thinks can succeed at Lowell?)



    Band Three – Criteria for Principals of Underrepresented Schools

    Admission offers yielding to 15% of available seats will be extended based on the following

    • Using the SFUSD developed formula for Band Three, a specific number of Lowell
    admission seats will be allocated to public and private schools that were underrepresented
    in the students admitted to Lowell the preceding year(s) and that have eighth grade
    students residing within San Francisco.

    San Francisco Unified School District Board Approval 10/23/01
    New Lowell High School Admissions Policy Revised 7/1/08

    Page. 4
    • Upon receipt from the District’s Educational Placement Center of the names of Lowell
    applicants from that school, the principal will rank all student applicants from that school
    based on the personal statement and the criteria below. Principals will use the District’s
    Standardized Scoring Sheet for Bands Two and Three when making these rankings.

    • GPA and test scores (not a point value)
    • Extenuating circumstances
    • Socioeconomic status
    • School leadership/service
    • Demonstrated ability to overcome hardship
    • Extracurricular activities (school based)
    • Community service
    • Creative abilities in performing and visual arts
    • Athletics (school based)
    • Participation in peer support/mentoring activities
    • Technological skills

    • The principal will send the SFUSD Educational Placement Center his or her ranked list of
    all Lowell applicants from that school, together with the District’s standardized scoring
    sheets for Band Three for each applicant. The SFUSD Educational Placement Center
    will combine the principals’ list with offers from the other bands and simultaneously send
    out all Lowell offer letters.

    • Principals will only recommend students who will succeed academically at Lowell. The
    District’s Lowell Admissions Committee will reserve the right to challenge the
    principal’s recommendation

  40. 7th grade parent here. Honors middle school classes have in my observation been quite challenging in terms of workload and work expected. There's no skating through these classes! They are moving through the material quickly and are expecting the kids to keep up through doing the work at home. They are also expecting significant projects (term papers, lab reports, book reports) in addition to the normal weekly load.

    My kid is still very not sure about Lowell vs. going for another school. In any case, it will be borderline to make the cut-off due to one teacher who grades more strictly (i.e., it's not just my kid). I wouldn't say unfairly, but it's not an easy A. And a B+--arrgh, so close to an A minus--becomes a round B on the semester grade, which is what counts. Kid currently is courting another B+ in the same subject, which would be the limit, most likely--with then no room for a B or less in 8th grade. (Test scores have always been at 99th percentile so I'm not worried about that.)

    My kid is also just not sure about wanting Lowell. It's clearly got tons of bright, competitive kids, but we've heard better things about some of the departments at the other schools, and we wonder if they also might provide a more well-rounded and less cutthroat atmosphere, and in some cases better academics in terms of teaching (Lincoln's biotech pathway being justly famous at this point, but not the only good thing going on there). We'll for sure be checking out Lincoln, Washington, Galileo, Balboa, and probably Wallenberg just for kicks.

  41. Ok, back to the topic at hand.

    The data on which middle schools Lowell's 9th graders came from and how many from each school should not be that hard to get and would be interesting to see. Vicki from PPS - what do you think? Is this info available? Where?

    But for me, the real question is why does the District continue to have a school like Lowell? If the push is to close the gap between the high and low acheiving students why continue to support a system that accentuates that gap? Why support a school that takes a greater share of much needed resources?

    By taking the highest acheiving 12%(or 9% if you factor in Bands 2/3) and placing them in one school the district concentrates a large amount of resources at one school to the detriment of all of the others. One example is in fund raising. Lowell fundraises far and above what any of the other comprehensive high schools are able to raise, by a factor of at least 10. Another example, Lowell students have a larger range of AP classes to choose from and are permitted to take 7 classes/semester vs. 6 at other schools. Even in sports, Lowell dominates, because it is made up of a selective group of high acheivers vs. a more diverse group of low to high acheivers. Not exactly an even playing field.

    Why not spread the high acheiving students throughout the District's schools and allow all schools to benefit without taking anything away from the high acheiving students? The honors classes at Lincoln, Washington or Balboa and others allow the students that are able to move more quickly through the material and delve more deeply into the subjects. They will still be in classes with others motivated to work hard and do well.

    In reality, the admissions criterea for Lowell is less cut and dried than it seems and any honors student at Aptos or Giannini that doesn't make the Lowell grade can look at their friends from James Lick or Cathedral that did get into Lowell and wonder why it works that way. It does put a lot of pressure on 12and 13 year olds and allows one teacher in 7th or 8th grade (Hello Mr. Fong) to torpoedo the chance to go to Lowell. Without a Lowell, high acheivers will still have opportunites to acheive and the pressure will be lessened.

    It just seems more fair to spread the resources out in a more evenhanded manner, so a greater number of students benefit.

  42. It's a valid question, regarding concentrating the academic achievers in one school -- and the same question can be raised about SOTA and arts achievers too.

    The other view is that it's about meeting the needs of a particular type of student. So it's a balancing act.

    Is this really true about Lowell and fundraising? "Lowell fundraises far and above what any of the other comprehensive high schools are able to raise, by a factor of at least 10." It could be, but I hadn't heard that. With Lowell's high percentage of immigrant parents, I wouldn't automatically assume it. Lowell has some really loyal alumni who undoubtedly donate, but so do other high schools -- Balboa has a powerhouse alumni association, with fanatically loyal members in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

    As to the range of AP classes and the quality and variety of sports offerings at Lowell, that's a result of the school's size rather than its magnet status. There's no logical reason that a school full of brainiacs would be athletes. It's just that they have a very large student population that allows for high selectivity and a lot of teams -- as do Lincoln and Washington. And I'm certain that those schools fight it out and trade titles around -- Lowell doesn't consistently dominate. (I'm not directly in this loop as I'm a SOTA parent, and SOTA has NO sports. But I have many friends who follow the high school teams closely.)

  43. Free and reduced lunch populations:
    Lowell 32.5%
    Washington 44.8%
    Lincoln 47.5%
    SFUSD average 55.5%
    Galileo 57.8%
    Balboa 58.7%
    Mission 60.5%

    Lowell's free and reduced population is much lower than any other high school in the city.

    Check out the standings secton of the high school sports website: http://www.cifsf.org/sports.htm Lowell dominates in every single sport, even against the schools with similarly sized populations.

    The following are the number of AP/Honors courses available at several high schools: (https://doorways.ucop.edu/list/pages/flowcourselist/)

    Lowell 41
    Galileo 27
    Lincoln 24
    Washington 23
    Balboa 13

    I don't see how Lowell meets the needs of a particular student any better than a comprehensive high school with an honors track would. Especially given the inequities that result when you create a system that concentrates more resources at one school. (Not to mention the loss of high school students that go private when they don't get into Lowell, because of the perception that Lowell is the only good high school on the SFUSD)

  44. I can only speak for Presidio MS...

    Presidio used to regularly send around 60 8th graders to Lowell.

    The number dropped to about 30 for the current 2009-2010 school year. Idon't know the number for 2010-2011.

    The sharp drop for 2009-2010 was attributable to the district's "socioeconomic equity" policy.

    Many more Presidio kids were assigned to O'Connor and Mission than in previous years.

  45. 9:11, how was the drop due to the "socioeconomic equity" policy? The criteria for admission to Lowell are clear -- a number based on grades and test scores. Students who apply and who are at or above the cut number are admitted.

  46. I don't think you'd end up with more equity if you tried to eliminate Lowell as a magnet and move its students into big comprehensive high schools with honors classes. A lot of people who could afford private are happy to have their kids go to Lowell and save the $120K because they feel that like a private school, Lowell provides a community of students who are all serious about school and headed to college. Many kids from private K-8s head to Lowell and enjoy the out-in-the-big-world feeling. The "might-get-in-with-the-wrong-crowd" worries at Lowell are minimal compared to a large comprehensive high school. (Did you see the article in SF Weekly several weeks ago about kids at O'Connell skipping class?) Without Lowell, many of the Lowell families in a position to support the school financially would be giving their money to a private school instead. Maybe in some abstract sense, honors track classes in a comprehensive school fill the need as Lowell, but from an actual on-the-ground, in-the-school experience, I kind of doubt it.

  47. "Maybe in some abstract sense, honors track classes in a comprehensive school fill the need as Lowell, but from an actual on-the-ground, in-the-school experience, I kind of doubt it."

    What does that mean?

    Are you saying that the greated academic diversity of the comprehensive high schools make them unappealing simply because all of the students are not high achieving? It is the concentration of high acheivers in one school and all that goes with that (vibrant, active, competitive school body) which makes Lowell feel more like a priveleged club and less like a public school (except for the shabby facility part). That private school families feel comfortable enough to send their kids to Lowell, but not to other SF high schools reinforces that notion.

  48. "Are you saying that the greated academic diversity of the comprehensive high schools make them unappealing simply because all of the students are not high achieving?"

    Pretty much, yes, that is what I'm saying, at least for some people. A lot of parents want their kids in a college prep school, and a lot of kids want to attend a college prep school, not in a multi-track school. My nephew is in a high school (not in SFUSD) with honors track classes and he's brilliant but those honors track classes aren't making a dime's worth of difference for him. After doing well freshman year, he started hanging out with the thugs and now he drives around in his pickup truck with his thug friends getting drunk, yelling racist epithets, and getting Cs, Ds and Fs. He's 17 and already done time. To be fair, there's some very poor parenting going on so his failings are not entirely because of the trashy underachievers at school. Still, had his parents insisted that he go to the available all-college-track public high school for which he qualified, I think his life would be very different than at his current "academically diverse" school. Not saying that will happen to every kid, particularly with attentive parents, but I have seen it happen to kids with attentive parents. You can't stop your kid from failing if they are truly determined to fail, but a school where the socialization is all about academic success is a strong preventive medicine.

    Lowell makes a hard-ass college prep available to everyone in the city regardless of their socioeconomic status. With around 35% free lunch, a lower SES kid and his/her family will not feel like misfit poor relations, which they might feel on scholarship at a private school. I think it's fabulous that SFUSD offers an environment like Lowell for families and kids who want it. BTW Lowell is not the most requested high school--it draws the people who want what it offers. Why ruin a good thing in the name of "academic diversity"?

  49. I'm 10:09 and want to clarify that I don't think every kid should be in Lowell. Some kids' interests and talents make SOTA a better choice, some kids are sufficiently self-disciplined that you'd trust them to a big comprehensive high school that's not the pressure cooker Lowell is reputed to be, and some kids are not honors track material. I strongly oppose the "every child ready for college" approach, because I think it sets up kids who are not strong scholars up to fail. There should be just as much "honor" in training to be a plumber or a hairdresser, and the goal excellence in one's chosen field.

  50. ^In general, I agree with you about honoring good honest work in any field. And that not everyone may be cut out for academic college. The problem these days is that the number of good, family-wage jobs with high school education only is shrinking. Plumber still makes the grade (can't exactly ship those jobs to Bangalore, and they are still union jobs), but the growing reliance on service and retail for non-college grads is part of what is driving the great recession now. What is to be done?

  51. What's to be done? Well, often I hope the Mayans are right and it will all be over in 2012 and I can go to my eternal rest without bothering to learn learn Chinese. . . but meanwhile, I think the US and other developed countries are going through some serious pains as the economy becomes increasingly global. Even jobs that require advanced degrees (lawyers, engineers) are being outsourced overseas, with varying degrees of success, so I don't think college readiness per se is the answer, though for people who have the capacity it should be encouraged. And, I hate to say it, but not all children are equally good at the sort of book learning that leads to a 4-year college degree. Some don't like it, some have types of intelligence that are not well suited to it, and some are less ambitious than others. We either have to live with the fact that people who are hard-driving and choose high-income fields will have more money than other people or we have to make reforms that will equalize wealth enough to make it possible for people who are willing to make the effort to lead a decent life. Given American history and culture, I doubt the latter will happen, even though we have been through many devastating boom-and-bust economic cycles. Not only is the recession driven by the fact that too many people are in jobs that barely sustain them, it's also driven by the fact that those same people were part of a huge cultural failing, facilitated by the government, that encouraged them to become "owners" and buy homes at prices that they should never have paid using mortgages whose payments they could not make. Education is an important piece of the puzzle, but only a piece. The powers that be in our culture are very comfortable with a system that leads to a small percentage of haves and a high percentage of have-nots. It's probably not sustainable in the long run. We are already well on our way to becoming a banana republic with a few wealthy haves on the top of the heap and the rest of us struggling to stay afloat.

  52. Is there any consideration as to students who are accelerated in a subject such as students who take Algebra 1 in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th? So, they might have gotten a B where they would have had an A if they had not taken on that extra challenge? And does PE count in GPA?

  53. PE grade does not count toward the Lowell, nor do art/music class grades. Just the core academic classes.

    I don't know of anyone who is taking 8th grade algebra in 7th--7th grade honors math seems challenging enough in terms of all the concepts they are learning (geometry, algebra, statistical terms). However, I suppose some genius kids might be doing this. In which case, yes, their math grade still counts, and a B would lower the score.

  54. One need not be a genius to take algebra in 7th grade and geometry in 8th. Up and down the peninsula, the top students in the public schools do this as a matter of course.

  55. "One need not be a genius to take algebra in 7th grade and geometry in 8th. Up and down the peninsula, the top students in the public schools do this as a matter of course."

    That option is available to a 7th grade relative in the Central Valley, too, and that valley town also provided him with an actual self-contained GATE class for elementary. But I don’t think that district is as expansive with the “gifted” identification as the SFUSD. At some SF middle schools, GATE and/or Honors identification approaches (and sometimes exceeds) 50% of the student body. ( I know this a smart town and all….but that seems more like tracking.) Our relative is an actual gifted kid, but not a genius.

    I don’t know if those same types of options are available for students needing acceleration in the SFUSD GATE/Honors class, themselves, but I remember hearing (here) about some middle school kids (maybe at Aptos?) attending advanced math classes at Balboa and/or City College. So…. it sounded like it was possible to accelerate, but that the acceleration might not be in-house. Did I get that right? Is that still true at Aptos? Is it true at other schools? I mean, it would seem if the schedule could be worked out, 7th graders (or younger) could just take 8th grade algebra, but the school in the valley had the option of high school geometry within the middle school, itself. Does that option exist here?

  56. There were a couple of kids in my child's Aptos grade that were taking higher level math courses at Balboa 2 years ago. I believe that the parents were motivated (supported by their child's abilities and the recommendation of their middle school math teachers)) to get their kids into the high school math courses, and they made it happen.

  57. Yes, some of the middle schools offer geometry for 8th graders who completed algebra 1 in 7th grade, which is not uncommon. One example is Everett (one of the schools identified as supposedly 'lowest performing')

  58. Most people from private schools who get into Lowell do go there, 270 of 660 came from private last year. Lowell is better statistically than Lick Wilmerding or University, better average SAT Score, admission to college, etc. It's a myth that the rich perpetuate that those schools are better, some don't want their kids to associate with poor kids and Lowell has poor, smart kids, some believe in class segregation, but trust me, no one puts Lowell as a backup.

    Remember, it feels better to say I got into Lowell but chose Wilmerding or University because I think it's better, than to say I got rejected from Lowell so spent my money on LW or U. One rule in this world is many people lie. I have heard people at SFSU say they got into Stanford or Cal but decided SFSU is best. Plain and simple, don't believe them unless they can show you the letter. I doubt they can.

  59. I am a little lateon this but just stumbled to this site. I found all the comments on Mr Fong at Aptos funny because my daughter had him for both 7th and 8th grade. She is going to Lowell but did have to get by him first. She felt that he was a good teacher and she was able to really learn math even if she got a B every now and then. All the kids that made it to Lowell out of Aptos my daughters year are doing really well. Most all were placed in honors math as a freshman. The problem was making it out of Aptos to Lowell. I am hoping to send my youner daughter to Aptos soon and hope she gets Mr. Fong as a teacher. If she can make it out of Mr. Fong's class she can make it through any math teacher. Sorry if OT

  60. My son is on the waiting list for SoTA's piano program (sadly, they had very few spots this year). We heard that another student who had been accepted into the piano program was still waiting to hear from Lowell. Does this other child get to choose between both schools or does his assignment follow the order of preference he designated on his SFUSD form? I'm trying to determine if my son still has a shot!! He's been working toward this for years. Since we moved to San Fran a couple of months ago, we didn't fill out the SFUSD form. So we would have to move outside the city if he doesn't get in.

  61. This is for the 2010-2011 year, but numbers are similar from year to year. This doesn't include private schools, which admit quite a few, I believe 270 total per year, to Lowell. It is harder to get in from Presidio, which is unfair. They should just have a test like Boston Latin does, this system lets in some kids who aren't as good as some kids who do get in, for the most part the best kids get in but 96% are advanced or proficient, and there's no reason that shouldn't be 100%, letting 4% in who can't score advanced on the STAR test is bad for them and unfair to the kids who are advanced at other schools. Lowell is supposed to be for the best, which is the whole point of it. Below are the #s:

    Giannini 84
    Alice Fong Eu 10
    Aptos 50
    Bessie C 2
    Lilienthal 21
    Everett 4
    Francisco 27
    Hoover 76
    Horace Mann 4
    Denman 33
    Lick 31
    Lawton 14
    Marina 36
    MLK 26
    Paul Revere1
    Presidio 64
    Rooftop 18
    Roosevelt 39
    Francisco Community 6
    Visitation Valley 11
    Willie Brown 1

  62. In fairness the best should get in, so that seems unfair, but how can you make it perfectly fair? One individual teacher being easy or hard could make the difference for a kid. Some kids get good grades, but don't test well. I agree, that should be a cut off in SF, if you don't score advanced in both English and Math, we can find someone who can to go to Lowell. Lowell should be 100% in this area, at a minimum.