FCAG's TJ Updates

Recent News about Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

TJ Testing Problems Across the County

Fairfax County has released a summary of what happened with the administration of the SIS and Essay. The county notes the new holistic process associated with admissions, but does not acknowledge the change in Policy 3355.4, which now states that Tj is a school for kids with "exceptional quantitative skills".

Fairfax County has announced that semi-finalists will be invited to redo the SIS and Essay at home, during the dates February 6 to February 11. Below is the FCAG statement regarding the January 25 SIS/Essay technical issues.

FCAG has received extensive commentary from our membership across Fairfax County and beyond expressing a high level of frustration with the myriad of problems that occurred during the administration of the SIS/Essay test for TJHSST semi finalists. We have heard a variety of suggestions on how to solve the testing problems, and all proposals had downsides relating to fairness, practicality, or consistency. We don't feel it appropriate to endorse any imperfect solution to a process we see as flawed.

Considering that this year's SIS and the Essay effectively form a four-question essay test, our view is that there are too many essays in the admissions process, and that their importance is overemphasized. While communication skills are important, the quantity and nature of the questions asked in the SIS/Essay diminish consideration of the values described in FCPS Policy 3355, adopted September 12, 2013:

To establish a high school for science and technology where students with exceptional quantitative skills and interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, can pursue higher levels of academic achievement in those subjects in preparation for the pursuit of a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics focused profession.

FCAG believes that the TJ Admissions process needs to be changed. We thought and were even told that certain changes would be made this year, but they appear not to have been effected. The math portion of the TJ test was supposed to be tougher, yet how could it have been if just as many students qualified for the semi-finalist round this year as last year? We were told that the sliding scale had been discarded, yet it reappeared in the late fall and apparently has been utilized. We hoped that there would be some open-ended math questions to test ability to reason using multiple steps, but they were not included. The only changes we saw were reducing the number of essays by one and administering the essay test at a different time. Where is the accountability?

What we seek is meaningful change in the admissions process that will synchronize the selection of students with the goals and policies of FCPS and the mission of TJHSST. The SIS as currently structured does not deserve its title. Changing the process may be challenging for FCPS but the outcome for students and support from the community that results will be well worth the effort.

September 16, 2013 Meeting Summary

Here's the meeting summary between Terri Breeden, FCPS Asst. Superintendent, and Beverly Jurenko, FCAG President.

TJ Admissions – School Board Approves New Policy

Without a doubt, something has gone wrong in the TJ admissions process. A high percentage of students requiring math remediation impacts the quality of the school as a whole. Clearly, math admission standards need to be raised and the process needs reworking.

In response to these concerns, on September 12, 2013, the School Board voted unanimously in favor of Policy 3355.4, which defines TJ as a school for “students with exceptional quantitative skills.” Revised Part III of Policy 3355 also would give the new FCPS Superintendent, Dr. Karen Garza, authority to cease using the old “sliding scale” approach to selecting semifinalists.

This vote was preceded by testimony from 10 speakers, all of whom supported the proposed changes to Policy 3355:

http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fairfax/Board.nsf/files/9BHH9Z4770E9/$file/Speakers'%20Testimonies.pdf

According to TJ principal Evan Glazer, who serves on the administrative committee that Dr. Garza formed to revise Regulation 3355, “I support a rigorous process to ensure the students with greatest potential in STEM are not overlooked.”

This change has been in the works for over a year. Significant time and energy has gone into the wording of Policy 3355.4, and there is still much work to be done in revising Regulation 3355. Implementation of the new policy can now begin.

Fall, 2012 TJ Admissions Update

November 12, 2012 Work Session Update

On November 12, the School Board decided to ask the School Board's Governance Committee to draft changes to Policy 3355 that would increase the emphasis on academic ability and achievement in admitting students to TJ.  These changes to FCPS Policy 3355 will be brought to the School Board for a vote this winter or spring of 2013. 

School Board members talked about putting greater emphasis on aptitude and achievement in the first paragraph of the policy and incorporating language the State uses about a Governor's School, which can be found on the FCAG here.

September 24, 2012 Work Session Update

At the Sept. 24, 2012 work session, the School Board asked its Governance Committee to take a look at the current TJ policy 3355.3 to see if it needed to be changed in light of community concerns. The Governance Committee met on Oct. 1, 2012 and talked about the ambiguity of a few terms in the regulation and asked FCPS staff to provide working definitions of terms for the School Board by the Nov. 12, 2012 work session.  The definitions can be found here.

Summer, 2012 TJ Update

The School Board had a work session about TJ admissions on July 19, 2012. Eight School Board members supported making changes to the TJ admissions process for 2011-12 to reduce the percentage of students admitted who need remediation in TJ's required math and science classes: Sandy Evans (Mason); Tammy Derenak Kaufax (Lee); Ryan McElveen (At Large); Megan McLaughlin (Braddock); Ilryong Moon (At Large); Patty Reed (Providence); Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield); and Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon).

Options will be considered at a public work session in September. In addition, FCPS staff will be producing further information about the TJ admissions process, to inform that discussion. If you have any thoughts or concerns about TJ admissions, you can email all School Board members at SchoolBoardMembers@fcps.edu. If you would like to email specific School Board members, their email addresses are available here.

Relevant documents about TJ:

  • Letter From TJ Math Teachers About Remediation
  • Washington Post Article by TJ Teacher Dr. Dell
  • Washington Post Editorial About Middle School Math Teacher Concerns About TJ
  • Washington Post Editorial Concerned that Wrong Student May be Getting Into TJ
  • On TJ Admissions
  • TJ Principal's Powerpoint from the Town Hall Meeting from June 2012
  • Media Response

    Update (7/29/2012) - The following articles were published in response to the School Board Work Session

    TJHSST Archive Access

    FCAG has collected a large repository of data about TJ .

    Community Input

    Useful Links