‘Diversity’ Mania Attacks A Very Selective High School
John Rosenberg, Discriminations, Jun. 16
I have written before (here) about the concern over a lack of “diversity” at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the highly selective magnet high school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Now they’re at it again.
The concern, tiresomely predictable, is that applicants to the very selective school are not admitted at the same rate from every racial and ethnic group, which results, of course, in the racial and ethnic make-up of the student body being “unrepresentative.”
The limited diversity at Jefferson is “clearly not representative of the bright students in the African-American and Latino communities,” Principal Elizabeth Lodal said.
Most TJ students come from gifted and talented centers in the county’s middle schools. But guess what?
But county-wide, said Langston Hughes Middle School Principal Deborah Jackson, it has been noted that the student populations of GT centers are not as diverse as the school system as a whole.
Since it is taken as an article of faith (or of politics) that any deviation from proportional representation of all racial and ethnic groups in the gifted programs means the selection process is deficient and unfair, here’s something else that will come as a shock: a “blue ribbon commission,” including such heavyweights as the deans of admissions at UVa and Yale, was created to study the problem.
And here’s yet another surprise:
The “blue ribbon” commission charged with studying the school’s admissions procedures concluded that Jefferson’s current admissions process is not only disenfranchising some minority students, but may also be excluding students with more ability and a passion for science and technology than some that are admitted.
The worthies found that TJ has been relying too much on such unreliable criteria as grades and test scores.
Jefferson needs to reduce its reliance on admissions test scores, the commission said, and broaden the application process to consider data like student essays and teacher recommendations for all applicants, not just semifinalists.
“All of us recognize that the best students at the school may not be the high testers,” [Uva dean of admissions] Blackburn said.
Margit Dahl, a commission member and admissions director of Yale University, added that some qualities the school wants are not reflected in test scores.
“Not just the kids that get A’s,” Dahl said. “The kids who are really curious . . . and get that mental spark, I think you want at TJ.”
Since high grades and test scores seem to have such little correlation with what the “blue ribbon commission” regards as being a really good student, perhaps the problem is not with the selection criteria at TJ but with the grading criteria used throughout the county . . . and the world. Even, I daresay, at UVa and Yale.