Eliminating 'Racist' Entrance Exam Led to More White Students, Fewer Asians at Top High School

District 'hellbent' on making Thomas Jefferson High School 'white again,' parent says

Thomas Jefferson High School / Google Maps
June 24, 2021

The number of white students admitted to the freshman class of the nation's top high school skyrocketed—and the number of Asian students plummeted—after district officials nixed the school's entrance exam in an attempt to boost black and Hispanic enrollment.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, admitted nearly 16 percent fewer Asian students and 43 percent more white students after eliminating its merit-based entrance exam, according to demographic data released Wednesday for the class of 2025. While Asian students accounted for 73 percent of the class of 2024, only 54 percent of next year's freshmen are Asian.

"Fairfax County Public Schools are hellbent on making Thomas Jefferson white again," Asra Nomani, the vice president of the group Parents Defending Education and the parent of a 2021 alum, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Prestigious high schools across the country have eliminated entrance exams in recent months as part of a nationwide call for diversity and inclusion. San Francisco's Lowell High School scrapped its admissions exam, which the school board said "perpetuates the culture of white supremacy." In March, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) scrapped admissions tests for several selective middle and high schools.

Fairfax County Public Schools in October eliminated the entrance exam and application fee for Thomas Jefferson as part of a district-wide effort to promote diversity. Two months later, the district adopted a different entrance system, placing a cap on the number of students each middle school can send to Thomas Jefferson.

A parent group called "Coalition for TJ" sued Fairfax County Public Schools in March, saying the updated process unconstitutionally targeted Asian-American students. Three Fairfaix middle schools known for fielding students to Thomas Jefferson have predominantly Asian-American populations.

Though the case is ongoing, the district was allowed to admit students for the Class of 2025 using the standards adopted in December.

Under the new system, the school admitted 39 black students—a marked increase from the class of 2024, which has less than 10 black students. The updated admissions process increased the number of Hispanic students within the freshman class by 287 percent.

In a statement to the Free Beacon, Thomas Jefferson parent Harry Jackson pointed out the racial impact that removing the test had on the Asian-American community.

"Congratulations to all the students who were admitted," said Jackson, who recently became the first black man chosen as president-elect of Thomas Jefferson's parent association. "But I want to point out the racial impact of what happened. The white community had an increase of 43 percent and Asian community decreased by nearly 20 percent."

When asked for comment, a Fairfax County district official directed the Free Beacon to a video statement from Superintendent Scott Braband.

"Last year, Fairfax County Public Schools made a move to ensure increased access and opportunity for students with an aptitude and passion for STEM," Braband said. "In making these changes, we're standing in unity with many other institutions across the country. They have eliminated standardized tests to help broaden the talent pool for these kinds of elite programs."

Braband insisted Thomas Jefferson High School admissions continue to be "race-blind."

Coalition for TJ said in a statement that the district has "broken the hearts" of students "by waging a crusade against Asian American students" at Thomas Jefferson.

"School district leaders eliminated the merit, based, race-blind admissions test to the school and replaced it with a race-based admissions process that targeted Asian students with discrimination," Coalition for TJ said on its website. "We seek fairness for all families and students, and we reject the racism of the ideology of 'critical race theory' that promotes admissions lotteries and race quotas while killing merit."