Opinion: Editorial: What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Male, 60 percent; female 40 percent; less than 2 percent poor; less than 2 percent African American; less than 2 percent Latino.

If these are the demographics to something, you know it needs to be fixed, no matter what “it” is. Especially something paid for with public dollars.

Male, 60 percent; female 40 percent.

Less than 2 percent poor.

Less than 2 percent African American.

Less than 2 percent Latino.

These are the demographics of this year’s freshman class at our Governor’s school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, known as TJ.

We also know that there are geographic disparities (some middle schools have many more students admitted than others; some have none).

State Sen. Scott Surovell represents a part of the county that tends to be under represented at Thomas Jefferson, and he is kicking off what no doubt will be a lively discussion by introducing SB787, Governor's Schools; enrollment, which would use both economics and geography to change the admissions dynamics at Jefferson.

Summary:

“Requires any academic school Governor's School that has a focus on math, science, and technology and that has an overall enrollment of over 1,000 students to accept for enrollment (i) a sufficient number of students eligible to receive free or reduced price meals such that the total of such students is at least 50 percent of the weighted average of the participating divisions' percentage of such students in the previous school year and (ii) at least five students but no more than 15 students from each middle school in each school division eligible to matriculate students to such Governor's school who have completed at least two full years at such middle school.”

The school divisions currently participating in TJHSST are: Arlington County, Fairfax County (includes City of Fairfax), Falls Church City, Loudoun County, Prince William County.

We’ve said this before, because these demographics have been trending in this direction for more than a decade.

Fairfax County Public Schools has a single elite magnet school, Thomas Jefferson, and TJ is frequently referred to as the top high school in the country. Dramatic disparity in the makeup of admissions at TJ is an indicator of disparity in early identification of students as gifted and talented, of access to advanced classes and enrichment, and in the basic education that the Fairfax County Public school system offers to all of its students.

School leadership can’t continue to act like there are things they can’t do anything about. Surovell deserves credit for giving an incentive to get started.

Learn about the referral and screening and selection process for full-time (Level IV) and school-based (Levels II-III) Advanced Academic Programs at www.fcps.edu/registration/advanced-academics-identification-and-placement.

— Mary Kimm

kimm.mary@gmail.com

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