School system touts change to elite magnet school admissions

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FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Virginia's largest school system is proposing a radical overhaul of how it admits students to an elite magnet school in an effort to develop a more diverse student body.

The proposal touted Tuesday by Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand would eliminate a high-stakes admissions test used to judge applicants for the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Instead, students who meet qualifications that include a 3.5 grade-point average and an algebra background would be admitted on a lottery basis from multiple geographic regions within the county.

The school is regularly ranked among the nation's top high schools, and many families plan their children's educational careers around gaining acceptance to TJ. But Black and Hispanic students have been woefully underrepresented in the school's student body.

The proposed changes are similar to changes being those considered statewide for 19 selective “Governor's Schools” across Virginia, including TJ.

Opponents of the change say it would dilute the quality of education that TJ could offer its students. Some also have criticized the changes as anti-Asian because Asian American students now represent about 70 percent of the TJ student body and would likely see diminished representation under the new plan.

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