Fairfax Co. tweaks options for admission to prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School

It’s clear that admission to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is prestigious and sought-after — what hasn’t been clear for years is how students should be admitted.

In September, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand proposed a radical overhaul of how it admits students to the elite magnet school, located on Braddock Road, in the Alexandria area of the Virginia county, in an effort to develop a more diverse student body.

The proposal spurred complaints from some that the change would lower academic standards and be unfair to high-achieving students.

Monday, Brabrand and school officials presented the School Board with two final options — a lottery system or a so-called “holistic review.”

In both scenarios, eighth-graders would need to have a 3.5 grade-point average, write a math or science problem-solving essay, and submit a “student portrait sheet,” which details extracurricular activities and the student’s achievements.

Previously, the board approved the decision to drop a school-specific admissions test and a $100 application fee.

School staff would consider a student’s “experience factors,” including whether they are low-income, learning English, special needs, or from a school that hasn’t historically sent many students to TJ.

Under the lottery option, the 100 “highest-evaluated” students would be admitted, while the remaining 450 students would be chosen by lottery.

Under the “holistic review” option, all 550 students would be chosen through the evaluation process.

During a Monday virtual meeting, the school system’s Chief Operating Officer Marty Smith said if the lottery system was chosen, students wouldn’t be made aware of how they got admitted.

“We wouldn’t let a student know ‘you were chosen in the first 100, and the others were chosen by lottery,'” Smith said. “Students would just get a letter of invitation to TJ.”

The school board is expected to vote on its choice later this month, with the new admissions policy beginning immediately for the upcoming TJHSST Class of 2025.

Watch the Fairfax County School Board Meeting discussion on TJHSST’s admission policies:

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Fairfax County Public Schools’ chief operating officer.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up