School hides National Merit awards for students to promote "equity"

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Located in Fairfax County, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has long been ranked as one of the premiere high schools in the nation. It’s a “magnet” charter school that focuses on the sciences and STEM curricula. But for several years now you wouldn’t have guessed that based on the school’s record of students receiving National Merit awards. That’s because none of the students reportedly received those honors. Except that’s not true at all. The top students in the school did indeed receive National Merit awards, but two administrators at TJ have been withholding notifications of the awards from students. They reportedly did this as part of their “equitable grading policy.” And the parents of students who were not credited with those achievements are seeing red.

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For years, two administrators at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) have been withholding notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s families, most of them Asian, thus denying students the right to use those awards to boost their college-admission prospects and earn scholarships. This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.” School administrators, for instance, have implemented an “equitable grading” policy that eliminates zeros, gives students a grade of 50 percent just for showing up, and assigns a cryptic code of “NTI” for assignments not turned in. It’s a race to the bottom.

An intrepid Thomas Jefferson parent, Shawna Yashar, a lawyer, uncovered the withholding of National Merit awards. Since starting as a freshman at the school in September 2019, her son, who is part Arab American, studied statistical analysis, literature reviews, and college-level science late into the night. This workload was necessary to keep him up to speed with the advanced studies at TJ, which U.S. News & World Report ranks as America’s top school.

This isn’t just a matter of some students not receiving a certificate to hang on their walls or not being cited during a school assembly. Those National Merit awards look very good on a college application and can help the highest-performing students get accepted to the nation’s top universities.

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The student mentioned in the excerpt above took the PSAT and achieved a score that placed him in the top three percent of students in the nation, along with winning a National Merit award. But he couldn’t list that on his college applications because he was never informed that he received it. This year, after being caught, the school did eventually distribute the awards, but they waited until after the early college admission deadline had passed.

The principal of the school and the director of student services reportedly conspired to withhold the awards for years, impacting as many as 1,200 students. Under their “equitable grading policy” described above, almost no student will ever fail and they get a 50% grade just for showing up. This is being described as a “race to the bottom,” which definitely sounds accurate.

As we’ve seen with other charter schools in California, efforts have been underway to eliminate merit-based achievements. In the opinion of the progressives pushing such “reforms,” too many of the “wrong” types of students were getting the awards, most commonly students from Asian families. To correct what they see as an “unfair” system, they keep lowering the standards until everyone reaches equality. Tragically, it’s an equality of poor performance. This barely disguised racism should not be tolerated and it’s a mystery why Thomas Jefferson High School continues to employ the administrators who were responsible for this plot.

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 25, 2024
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