‘Fractured’: Parents fight elite school’s lottery used to increase diversity

By Around the Web

By Reagan Reese
Daily Caller News Foundation

Philadelphia parents are pushing back against a prestigious high school’s lottery admissions system aimed at increasing diversity among students, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the 2021-2022 school year, Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School, a top-rated magnet school that frequently places graduates at Ivy League universities, shifted along with other Philadelphia special-admission schools from a merit-based admissions process to a lottery system, according to the WSJ. Parents within the district are challenging the new admissions process, releasing a 51-page-report detailing how the school district is being “systematically dismantled” from the switch.

“The Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School is being systematically dismantled,” the report from the Masterman Home and School Association stated. “Long established academic pathways have been severed and the school has been split in two. The long history of rigor and enriched curriculum is fading. The identity of the school and its purpose and mission are in disarray, leaving a fractured community.”

Since the school district changed to the lottery system, the Masterman middle school axed accelerated-math and language classes, while benchmark assessments dropped as teachers struggle to “accommodate students with a much wider range of preparation and ability,” the report stated. Masterman High School usually admits students who begin in the middle school, however, since the new system has been implemented, many eighth graders are not being chosen for the high school.

“It just turned our whole family upside down,” Liza Gonzalez told the WSJ after her daughter did not receive a lottery spot in the high school.

Students who scored in the 88th percentile on a Pennsylvania standardized test were considered for Masterman under the merit-based admissions process, the WSJ reported. The lottery system now allows students who meet attendance and grade requirements to enter lotteries for Philadelphia special-admission schools, while children from targeted underrepresented areas receive first preference to Masterman, despite potentially lower test scores.

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“The only compassionate way to bridge the achievement gap is to focus on raising the floor to help the students who are falling behind, not lowering the ceiling for the few who are thriving,” Eric Santoro, a parent of two Masterman students, told the WSJ.

The Masterman school district adopted the lottery system to “eliminate subjectivity” and under the lottery system the number of Black or Latino students who qualified for admissions to Masterman increased from about 30% to nearly 63%, according to the WSJ.

“I think we need to get back to the mix of demographics that it was, but there’s a better way to do it,” Rahul Ganesan, a parent of a fifth grader at Masterman, told the outlet.

The school district has hired consultants to work with the community on perfecting the lottery system, which Philadelphia schools Superintendent Tony B. Watlington Sr. said increases equitable access, the WSJ reported.

“I want to address the issues in a way that we all get better,” Dr. Watlington told the outlet. “It doesn’t have to be an inherent us-versus-them scenario.”

In 2022, four families sued Masterman, alleging that the lottery system is racially discriminatory against Asian students because their enrollment numbers had dropped, the WSJ reported. The families are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that the process wasn’t created to discriminate on the basis of race.

“The psychological and emotional trauma my daughter and her friends went through was very heavy,” Sherice Sargent, a parent who sued the school, told the WSJ.

Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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