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Published:March 28th, 2006 21:42 EST
Change in admissions standards causes outrage at nation's oldest all-girls high school

Change in admissions standards causes outrage at nation's oldest all-girls high school

By Laurie Salem

Western High School is once again in the eye of the public. A recent decision to lower standards outraged many parents, officials and students. In order to accept 125  freshman who have been rejected in the past, officials lowered necessary standards for these girls.

Founded in 1844, Western is the nation's oldest all-girls public high school.

The outrage is in the fact that there is talk that many qualified students had to be turned away because spots were already filled by these other students. Western has a 100 percent college acceptance rate. Despite this, they lowered the standards for 125 of the 250 girls admitted to the class of 2010, because they didn't have enough qualified applicants.

Anthony Williams, Western's PTA president, says that the decision sets up both the school and the unqualified students for failure. "Girls who can't keep up with Western's rigorous academic standards are sent bacl to their zone schools," Williams said.

Western High School alumni Darlene Copeland thinks back to her time at Western.

"I remember working my tail off because I knew my teachers would not accept anything but my best. Western has taught me life skills and how to always keep my best foot forward."

Ms. Copeland is now an elementary school teacher who thinks this problem is citywide.

"As persons in the educational system, we think it helps the child when we allow them to pass to the next grade without getting what they needed from the previous class. In all actuality, we are setting them up to only be average, and in some cases, less than average achievers," she said.

Latisha Burnette, also a Western alumni, graduated in 2001. "It bothered me when I heard that Western might be closing due to a low admission rate. But when the school starts lowering standards just to get her numbers back up, we take away from what she stands for and all the people in the past who have walked her halls and worked hard to become who they were."

Its distinguished graduates include Judge Sarah Tilghman Hughes, who swore in Lyndon B. Johnson as president; Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah; Broadway actress Trazana Beverly, a Tony award winner; and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who has a MacArthur "genius" grant and is now featured on The West Wing.