The percentage of Asian students offered admission to an elite Virginia public school decreased by nearly 20% following the elimination of its standardized testing requirement, The Associated Press (AP) reported Thursday.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), often ranked the best public high school in the country, eliminated its admission test and $100 application fee in the fall of 2020 in an effort to address a lack of diversity. The policy change resulted in an increase in students of every race, except for Asians.
COMING UP: Tonight we’ll learn more about Thomas Jefferson High School’s Class of 2025, following changes to the admissions process.
“It’s a change he’s hoping will provide more equity from an ethnic, economic and demographic perspective.” https://t.co/uqAQPD9w7b
— Anna-Lysa Gayle (@AnnaLysaGayle) June 23, 2021
Of the 550 students offered admission to the school in the fall, the percentage of black students increased from 1% to 7%, the percentage of Hispanic students increased from 3% to 11%, and the percentage of white students increased from 18% to 22%, according to The AP.
Asian American students, however, saw their representation decrease from 73% to 54%.
Throughout the Fairfax County School District, 38% of students are white, 27% are Hispanic, 20% are Asian and 10% are Black, according to The AP.
Instead of standardized tests for admissions, the school district decided that slots would be set aside for the top 1.5% of students at the county’s middle schools.
While school board members argued that the admission policy change would improve racial diversity, opponents of the change have called the new policy discriminatory toward Asian American families.
A parents’ group has sued the school board in federal court over their concerns that the school’s admissions policies were discriminatory. Attorneys for the Fairfax County School Board urged a district court judge to to dismiss the lawsuit in May, calling the policy “race-neutral,” NBC Washington reported.
However, U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton disputed the claim that the policy was race-neutral, allowing the lawsuit to move forward, but denying an injunction that would have prevented the admissions policy from applying to the incoming freshman class, according to NBC Washington.
“Everybody knows the policy is not race-neutral, and that it’s designed to affect the racial composition of the school,” Hilton reportedly said. “You can say all sorts of beautiful things while you’re doing others.”
Harry Jackson, the first black president to be elected to the TJ Parent Teacher Student Association, told the Daily Caller that the new process has little transparency in how students are selected for admissions, but says the school is using a quota that also takes into account GPA and whether a student is an underrepresented minority.
He added that parents are concerned about an achievement gap potentially limiting opportunities for higher-performing students.
“Non-gifted learners will probably take longer to learn material,” Jackson said, speaking from his perspective as a parent. He explains that the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion group doesn’t agree with the strategy of “ability grouping” children to optimize the learning experience based on the academic needs of students, which could lead to “heterogenous grouping,” or grouping all students together regardless of their learning level.
“I think you’ll see students who are exceptional that need a TJ, that require it because they are special needs. Gifted students are special needs. There’s no empathy for these children or how they can be placed at risk if they’re not sufficiently challenged,” Jackson added. “They have a greater rate for depression and other behavior.”
Wai Wah Chin, charter president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York (CACAGNY), compared TJ’s new admission policy and those like it at other schools to the “Asian Exclusion of the 21st century” for its impact on Asian-American families.
“The adverse impact on Asians is devastating. It’s an injustice to target and exclude Asian students from Thomas Jefferson for being Asian,” Chin told the Caller.
“It is the same injustice that we see in New York, where Asian students are similarly targeted for exclusion from the specialized high schools for being Asian, and the same we see in many other institutions coast to coast.”
When asked for comment on the demographics of the students who were admitted to TJ and the significant decrease in Asian American students, a school representative sent a link to a news release on the district’s site.
“The students accepted for the Class of 2025 are high performers and are well prepared for the school’s academic rigor,” the statement said. “At 3.9, the average GPA for applicants is higher this year than it has been in the past five years. The average GPA for students offered admission remains extremely high at more than 3.95.”
The statement says the new admissions process resulted in a “significant increase in access for groups who have faced barriers to entry,” and emphasized that the policy is race-neutral.
“The new admissions process continues to be merit based and is race blind. Students are allocated a number by which to be identified during the process. Admissions evaluators do not know the race, ethnicity, or gender of any applicant.”
Admissions policies at multiple elite schools across the country have been reformed, often from merit-based admissions to a lottery system in a purported effort to address racism. Lowell High School in San Francisco, where half of the nearly 3,000 students are Asian, is among the schools to have changed its policy. (RELATED: Meet The Opponents Of Critical Race Theory The Media Does Not Want You To See)
In Boston, the school committee passed a measure to change the admissions process for the district’s elite school by eliminating an admissions test, ultimately leading to more students of color gaining admission to multiple prestigious schools for the fall. An advanced program at the district was suspended in February after district officials determined the program would not promote “antiracism” due to the disproportionate number of Asian and white students.