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Lowell High School

The oldest public high school west of the Mississippi, Lowell High School is demonstrating marked success in serving San Francisco’s best and brightest. A public magnet school, Lowell admits students based on academic achievement. The school’s efforts to support high achievers is reflected in the 98.1 percent graduation rate and student test scores that nearly double state average performances across subjects. For instance, in 2009, 94 percent of Lowell students were proficient or better in 11th-grade English language arts (compared with the state average of 40 percent proficient), and 87 percent of Lowell students were proficient or better in geometry (compared with the state average of 26 percent proficient).

In 2010, the school received accolades for outstanding performance, including being ranked 28th by U.S. News & World Report and 49th by Newsweek. Lowell’s other honors in previous years include recognition as a California Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon School.

Katherine Melvin, who teaches environmental, attributes the school’s success to its motivated students, dedicated teachers and supportive administration. More than a third of students come from low-income, immigrant families. These students “understand if they go here and they do well, they will be going to college,” she says. To ensure they receive the best academic preparation possible, Melvin works closely with a colleague who also teaches environmental science. “We’re constantly getting together to share information,” she says. “We definitely have a lot of support within my department and within my discipline.”

Lowell offers a huge selection of courses that students eagerly take advantage of. Besides biology, chemistry and physics, the school offers classes in biotechnology, anatomy, physiology and environmental science. Students interested in visual and performing arts also have plenty of options: band, orchestra, studio art, music theory, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, photography and drama. Students also can choose from several languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew and Latin. “Students will find something they find personally interesting and take a lot of it,” Melvin says. Sometimes, “students take three languages not because they need to, but because they want to.” The love of learning that students bring with them to Lowell only grows once they get there.


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