A proposal is on the table to move to a merit-based lottery system at one of Northern Virginia’s elite magnet high schools.
The proposed move for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County would have the lottery system take the place of an entry test, which has long helped determine how students are admitted to the school.
While Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said the change would create a more diverse student body, not all current students are on board with the plan.
Krushi Bhaswith Suresh, 16, is a junior at the school, and he said that while he, too, would like to see more diversity at the school, taking the test out of the admission process is not the answer.
“The STEM education we get doesn’t really exist with all this randomness that they’re proposing,” Suresh said.
The proposed plan would allow students with a 3.5 GPA and an algebra background to enter a lottery, which would determine admission. Brabrand, in announcing the proposal, said the plan removes barriers that students from culturally and ethnically diverse socioeconomic backgrounds face.
Suresh believes the test allows for incoming students to be on the same level as their peers when they begin learning at the school.
“I don’t think that anyone is barred from reaching that level, but we definitely do need to have something to assess that,” Suresh said.
One criticism of the test is that while some students have more access to preparation resources for taking it, such as private tutoring, others can’t afford the same.
Suresh began a website to help students who are preparing to take the test, and he feels initiatives, such as his, taken by the school system would better help achieve the goal of a more diverse school community.
“I don’t think that someone needs to spend a lot of money and a lot of time preparing for this test,” Suresh said.
He believes having a place where students can practice the material and connect with current students at the school would be more beneficial for students who would want to attend the school.
“I do believe that we can have equality in all aspects and also the high level of education that we have now,” Suresh said.
Suresh is urging the school system to slow down its plan for bringing about the change, and he plans to vocalize his concerns at a virtual town hall meeting scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Suresh said that while he opposes the lottery system, he does support Brabrand’s call for a $100 application fee to become a thing of the past.
The school is known for its focus on science, technology, engineering and math, and it has consistently ranked among the top high schools in the U.S.