For decades Fairfax County Public Schools have tried to increase the number of Black students admitted to the highest ranked high school in the nation, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Annandale. The school system has had scores of programs for Blacks and Hispanics, beginning as early as Kindergarten, to prepare them for the TJ admission test in 8th grade. Despite spending many millions of dollars, nothing has worked.
In addition to the test, applicants had to have excellent grades in middle school, particularly in math and science. Teacher recommendations and a problem-solving essay were also required. All of these standards were evaluated and the top students were based on merit, since 1997. (Prior to 1997 TJHSST practiced affirmative action and simply admitted 30 to 40 Black students each year regardless of their test scores and grades. In that year they were sued by parents of White students who had been displaced by Black students who were less qualified. FCPS lost and TJ could no longer practice affirmative action. They were also forced to admit the 27 White students.)
All of that changed last night when the Fairfax County School Board voted to eliminate the admission test for TJ and to replace it with a lottery, beginning this year. There will be 5 geographical areas and 400 of the 500 students chosen will be admitted based on a lottery in each area. Only 100 students would still be admitted based on merit. They also voted to eliminate the $100 fee to apply to TJ. It will be a free for all with far more students applying than the current 3,000 students who apply each year. Will TJ admissions carefully read the applications of all the new applicants? Seems unlikely.
Another part of the new proposal was not taken up. Under that proposal, students applying to TJ will be required to have a 3.5 GPA and to be enrolled in Algebra 1 in the 8th grade. (The problem with that is in most of our middle schools 80% of the students have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and Algebra 1 has been dumbed down so much virtually any middle school can take and pass the course.) Fairfax schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand has promised to have a new proposal for TJ admission in November.
Many are complaining that the changes in admission will change the mission of the school which was established for highly gifted students who excelled at math, science, and technology whose educational needs could not be met at local high schools. Parents and others who object to the changes say this will change with a lottery system. The school will be forced to be less rigorous because students will be chosen by lottery and not merit and many of them will not be able to be successful at the school unless the programs are changed. They won’t have the background or the drive to excel needed to be successful at TJ. The school will have to change to accommodate these students.
Within 5 years TJHSST will no longer be one of the top high schools in the nation but the race of the student body may be more balanced. Currently, TJ is over 70% Asian, about 20% White, and the percentages of Blacks and Hispanics are in single digits. In the minds of the liberals who run virtually all public schools across the nation, and certainly Fairfax schools, race is far more important than any attempts to meet the needs of our best and our brightest students. Which explains why our country must import math, science, and engineering students from around the world to fill our universities. Our public schools are simply not providing rigorous math and science programs that prepare our students to be successful in those programs. Look around at doctors and engineers in this country, how many of them are from foreign countries, many of them in Asia? American students can’t compete, because they are not prepared to compete. ONE school in Virginia is preparing our students to compete in universities in STEM (science technology, engineering, math), and the FCPS will not allow it because of race, too many Asians and too few Blacks. Race is MUCH more important to them.
TJ isn’t broken, it’s the best high school in the country, it doesn’t need ‘fixing’. Leave it as it is, admit students by merit. Admit students who are prepared and have the desire to excel in STEM programs.
More the subject at the Washingtonpost.com.