Less than 2% of all Asian American high school students in the five participating school divisions attend Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (aka TJ). Yet, admissions reform is associated as an “Asian American issue,” primarily because the anti-reform efforts are led by Asian Americans who describe the discussion as “anti-Asian.” It makes for an easy soundbite because it is sensational and provocative. But it is wrong. Labeling the proposed educational reform efforts aimed at furthering racial and economic equity as “anti-Asian” misses the mark and trivializes the very real racial biases and structural racism that our communities face.
Calls for admissions reform are driven not by anti-Asian sentiment, but by the shocking disparities made plain by enrollment data. Across the five participating school divisions, 30% of high school students are economically disadvantaged, compared to 1.9% at TJ. Black and Latino youth make up 11.6% and 27% of all public high school students compared to 1.7% and 2.7%, respectively, at TJ. This pattern of under enrollment not only fails to reflect the greater diversity in Northern Virginia, it also extends to English language learner, disabled and female student enrollment. Consequently, one of admissions reform’s intended consequences should be to ensure more equity in terms of access to TJ.
A public school like TJ belongs to the public, and measures to offset the unearned advantages enjoyed by applicants from higher-income families is much needed. The overemphasis of a single test is flawed. It promotes the demonstrably false concept of a fair system, sets up unnecessary mental health anguish, limits young people’s imagination of who they can be, and justifies socioeconomic/racial/gender inequity.
NAKASEC Virginia supports reform of the admissions process to TJ.
For further detail, please read our complete analysis here.