Fairfax Co. schools aim for long-term fixes to diversity problems in top programs

The Fairfax County School Board is still working on proposed changes to the admissions process at Alexandria, Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School, but now the board has also approved a resolution that it hopes will address some of the issues spawning that concern in the long term too.

A resolution introduced by Lee District Rep. Tamara Derenak Kaufax instructs Scott Brabrand, the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, to “establish a plan for student talent development” that will help identify more students of underrepresented races who might excel in the county’s Advanced Academic Programs and even be eligible to enroll at Thomas Jefferson High School.

“This motion is intended to address systemic issues that impact diversity at TJ,” Derenak Kaufax said. But she made clear it’s not proposed in lieu of changes to the admissions process there.

“It’s intended to address the system issues that impact TJ, not only TJ but also our AAP programmings,” Derenak Kaufax said.

Watch Thursday’s Fairfax County School Board meeting below.


Some of the ideas discussed in the meeting would see the county reevaluate the math and science curriculum taught in elementary and middle schools.

Derenak Kaufax said another possibility would be to look at funding Advanced Academic Resource teachers “in all remaining elementary schools” as well as boosting them in more middle schools too.

Brabrand said that last suggestion would prove popular with principals who didn’t have one in their schools.

“If you ask principals last year, Title 1 principals, the biggest change last year was the addition of the AAR teacher,” Brabrand told the board.

“Listen, this resolution is really the best of,” he said. “It’s the best of strategies we know can work.”

Ultimately, it will be up to Brabrand to come up with a plan to increase equity and diversity in the county’s top academic programs, and the board passed the resolution knowing it will come with a cost and require buy-in and investment.

“We at FCPS must take responsibility for this imbalance,” Derenak Kaufax said.

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