Home African Americans Fairfax County NAACP Announces Support for “Merit Lottery” Changes to “TJ” Admissions...

Fairfax County NAACP Announces Support for “Merit Lottery” Changes to “TJ” Admissions Process

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From the Fairfax County NAACP:

Supporting Changes to the TJ Admissions Process

Fairfax, VA (October 2, 2020) – The Fairfax County NAACP announces its support for the changes to the TJ Admissions process proposed by FCPS at the September 15, 2020 meeting of the School Board. The merit lottery plan not only projects to improve admissions numbers for Black, Latinx, and economically disadvantaged students, but would also lessen the emotional burden of both being accepted and of being rejected from TJ. Suddenly, an element of chance is involved, making the rejection less of a referendum on a child’s self-worth, and the acceptance less a badge of exclusive excellence.

The merit lottery will demand that each of our public high schools look at its own STEM offerings, curricular, and extracurriculars. With this change, we stand to improve the culture of our whole school system. We support the elimination of the admissions test, teacher recommendations, and the inclusion of honors and awards in the admissions process. Each of these elements has been associated with biases based on race and income.

We support the carefully crafted questionnaire by which students could convey their aptitude and passion for the rarefied STEM instruction provided at TJ, thereby filling the merit lottery pool with exceptional candidates. The insights also gathered in this questionnaire offer FCPS a wealth of information to support the creation of additional offerings in base high schools for all children.

We reject the outcry that these changes will dilute the talent and rigor of TJ. The current process has brought in many students who state they were overwhelmed and underprepared for TJ and have required remediation to graduate. The principal of TJ has herself rejected these concerns as unfounded. This process could rather improve the selection mechanism by finding students with real passion and aptitude for STEM, rather than students who have learned to master the test. Remediation and support will be available to these new students as it has been available in years past for those students who need it.

We reject any changes to the proposal that include the removal of the merit lottery, any admissions test, and any inclusion of teacher recommendations, lists of honors, and extracurriculars. We reject any proposal that includes delays for further data gathering and study, community input, task forces, or any such tactics that would protract this process. We support the fine-tuning of the process to improve representation from all of our pyramids to ensure that we have representation at TJ from all corners of our division.

We wish to express our thanks to Superintendent Brabrand and the FCPS School Board for proposing changes to the TJ admissions process. We recognize that this is not a guaranteed solution but believe the proposed changes represent a huge step toward equity and inclusion at TJ.