Fairfax County amends proposal to change admissions at elite Thomas Jefferson High

A proposal to change how students are admitted at an elite high school in Virginia’s largest school system has been amended following outcry from multiple groups, including alumni.

The revised proposal to reform the admission process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in the Alexandria area of the county will reserve 100 of the 500 slots for the highest-evaluated students based on a holistic review of their applications. The remaining 400 seats will be filled by merit lottery.

Thomas Jefferson High alumni gathered Sunday outside the school for a rally to change the way students are admitted. They said the change would allow for greater inclusion and equity among the student body.

The school is regularly ranked among the nation’s top high schools, but Black and Hispanic students have been woefully underrepresented in the school’s student body, The Associated Press reported.

An earlier version of the proposal would have eliminated the admissions test used to judge applicants, as well as the $100 application fee. Instead, students who meet the qualifications — a 3.5 GPA and an algebra background — would be admitted on a lottery basis from multiple geographic regions within the county.

A primary concern with the earlier proposal was that it may have prevented some top performers from gaining entry into the school.

The school board will have a work session on Tuesday, and the revised proposal will be presented to the board on Thursday.

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