Last Updated on September 17, 2020
Fairfax County, Virginia’s School Board is planning to scrap admissions tests at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School in favor of a “merit lottery” system meant to admit more “diverse” students.
According to a news release from Fairfax County Public Schools, Superintendent Scott S. Braband told the board to change admissions policies at Thomas Jefferson High School, a magnet school rated as the best in the nation, to “promote access to historically underserved students.”
The release bemoaned the fact that despite hiring a specialist to recruit minority students and previously altering admissions standards in 2011, a “significant impact” has yet to be made on “student demographics.”
“Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has made a series of changes to the admissions policy in order to promote greater diversity at the school. Since 2011, it has hired an outreach specialist to recruit minority students from middle schools across the county, and revised the student information sheet, implemented a problem-solving essay, and new tests. The changes have not made a significant impact on the application pool or admitted student demographics
Currently, the admissions policy includes that candidates have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) in core classes, be taking Algebra 1 in eighth grade, take the admissions test, submit teacher recommendation letters, complete a student information sheet, write a problem-solving essay, and meet minimum math and science GPAs. An application fee of $100 is also required.”
Under current admissions standards, Asians make up 68% of Thomas Jefferson High School students. 21% are white, while 2% are black or Hispanic respectively. Under the board’s new plan, a “merit lottery” will replace admissions tests and lottery pathways will be awarded to students based on geographic location to help create a student body the board finds more racially desirable.
“Selection to TJHSST will be made by merit lottery. Pathways have been designed to ensure equitable access for students across all regions in FCPS and participating jurisdictions: Arlington County, Falls Church City, Loudoun County, and Prince William County. These changes will remove many barriers now faced by students from culturally and ethnically diverse socioeconomic backgrounds while ensuring that TJHSST maintains its top-tier academic standards. The proposal would implement the new process for the next admissions cycle.”
In addition to scrapping admissions testing, the board plans to overhaul social studies courses district-wide, injecting so-called critical race theory into the classroom. District officials say that “anti-racism” and “anti-bias” materials added to coursework will “focus on diverse perspectives, invite students to use their voice, and activate their own perspective, and also empower students to examine bias.”