Circling back to one of the non-COVID related problems from this fall in the overly-large school district.
After just about everyone rejected the superintendent’s lottery idea to improve the racial makeup of the Jefferson HS student population, the school board approved a “‘holistic review’ admissions system” for the school.
You might well ask what the hell that means.
Under the new rules, Fairfax will first identify all eighth-graders who meet certain academic criteria: those who achieve an unweighted GPA of at least 3.5 while taking Algebra I or a higher-level math class, in addition to math and science honors courses and either an English or social studies honors course.
Qualified eighth-graders will be invited to complete a math or science problem-solving essay, as well as a “Student Portrait Sheet.” Fairfax staffers will review these, taking into account “experience factors” including whether students are low-income, have special needs or come from households that do not speak English.
Ultimately, 550 middle-schoolers will receive offers each year to attend the prestigious STEM school, which is often ranked the No. 1 public high school in the nation. In a bid to ensure geographical diversity, a certain number of seats will be allotted to every middle school in Fairfax County, to be filled by eighth-graders at that school who meet criteria.
They also dropped the infamous admissions test, which also kills a bunch of Jefferson test-prep businesses in the area, and the $100 application fee.
So will this make the student body at Jefferson look more like the Northern Virginia community it’s supposed to serve (rather than the 70% Asian, with the rest mostly white that it is currently)? “Time will tell.”, according to the board Vice Chair. Maybe, although I doubt it, according to me.
However, we still have the central question from my earlier rant, as to whether this school should exist in the first place.
When Jefferson was first established in the district, high school principals were told not to worry about draining the best students out of their buildings. The magnet would improve all schools by developing and spreading innovative ideas that would improve instruction at all levels.
It didn’t happen. There is very little that is “innovative” about Jefferson. The school is far better known (and praised) for the high SAT and AP test scores than for it’s creative teaching or the flood of tech entrepreneurs that was supposed to flow out the doors.
As I said before, the far better solution would be to close Jefferson, drop the outdated idea of “magnet” schools altogether, and instead offer a variety of learning opportunities to all students in every high school in the district. Ones that reflect more of their personal interests and talents than a ridged curriculum tied directly to college admissions.
Again, is that too simple?
Recycling the photo of Jefferson’s front entrance, courtesy of The Washington Post archives.