The School Without Walls is consistently recognized as the top high school in Washington DC due to the high academic performance of the students who attend. This selection of students comes from the application process, which for years has included an entrance exam as well as an interview. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in addition to diversifying the school, Walls has eliminated its entrance exam for the 2021-2022 school year applicants.
One of the goals of removing the admissions exam was to diversify the school. However, to the surprise of many, the school did not actually get any more diverse. Each year, Walls gets the most applicants from ward 3- the wealthiest ward in the District. During the years of 2014-2019 , Walls had an overall 37% increase of white students and a 35% decrease in black students. With removing the admissions exam, Walls hoped to diversify the school and allow people from lower income families or families from other wards who might’ve been at high risk to give the school a shot.
When this change was first announced, there were many concerns regarding how the admissions process would look without the entrance exam, but Walls found an alternative where they considered higher GPAs and the interviews remained the same. Because of this, there were a lot more applicants this year, and instead of inviting roughly 250 students to the interview, Walls invited 500. When it comes to exams, people tend to prepare for the worst, however for the freshmen this year, they didn’t have to prepare for the exam. They simply had to pass the interview.
There were different perspectives circling this case, with some who supported the entrance exam and others who praised its removal.
Sophomore Alex Lamb, who took the test as a part of his admission process, said, “I think the admission test is pretty fair. If you’re attempting to go to Walls, a school with a faster pace and higher opportunities for classes, like the dual enrollment program, it’s important that the kids of the school are able to properly handle it.” He continues to say “I feel like an entry test is a good judge of that.” The test is a good determination of where you stand with your knowledge, but because of safety concerns it was better to take it down.
Zoe Fisher, a freshman, noted that the math content on the quiz may be a challenge for those who have not taken specific course levels, even though Walls is not a magnet school for math. She says, “I felt very thankful that I did not have to take it because I felt as though I may have not gotten in.”
Other magnet schools like Benjamin Banneker or McKinley Tech do not require an entrance exam; instead they ask for a letter of recommendation, an essay, and an interview. Each school has their own requirements and Walls has chosen an exam for years. Though there may be opinions on which is better - an exam that tests your knowledge, or an essay that can go more in depth about you as a person - the question still remains: did we meet the right goal by eliminating the exam?
The Walls admissions team, which consists of Walls faculty and Assistant Principal Ms. Grant, are still in the process of revising the admissions requirements. No matter what the case will be with the exam, the Walls admissions team will ensure that it will benefit every applicant by attempting to seek in more ways to allow the individuals to showcase themselves and their knowledge.