Judge rules to allow Thomas Jefferson High School to adjust admissions process

Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — On Tuesday, a Fairfax County judge ruled that Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology could continue to adjust its admissions policies, including standardized testing. The state-chartered STEM magnet school, which has been ranked as the top public high school in the country, requires an admission test and a $100 application fee.

Circuit Judge John M. Tran said, “The debate over standardized testing belongs to educational professionals on the national, statewide, and local levels, and should not be decided by the courts.” 

Last fall, the Fairfax County School Board voted to eliminate the test and the fee in order to expand the freshman class and “remove barriers and inequities historically faced by students from culturally and ethnically diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.” It also voted to raise the minimum GPA and course requirements. A group of parents sued. 

Applications for the 2021-22 school year are now available on the school’s website. Meanwhile, the co-founder of the Coalition for TJ, Harry Jackson, says they’re also filing a federal lawsuit. He’s confident it will succeed. 

Jackson says the coalition was founded to “seek diversity and excellence in STEM” at TJ in opposition to the proposal. He agrees that TJ has struggled with diversifying its student body, not because of its admissions process, but “due to the lack of recruiting minorities and the lack of funding for after-school academic enrichment programs.”

He says the proposal is watering down TJ’s standards while disenfranchising gifted students who are not from low-income families. “If you’re a parent of a child that doesn’t get admitted to TJ, why would you not file an appeal based off of that your child was denied simply because of race, or simply because you’re middle class,” he said. “Because most of this effort is under the assumption that all of these parents are sending their kids to test prep programs, which is not the case.”

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