The Ivy Coach Daily

June 23, 2023

The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology Admissions Process

A metal, circular sculpture with the words "Thomas Jefferson Science & Technology" inscribed beneath it stands behind a dirt patch at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology was victorious in recent litigation in which the school had to defend the legality of its admissions process.

In late May 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the legality of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s admissions process. It was a decision that disappointed many families in Northern Virginia, notably those of South Asian and East Asian descent, who hope to send their children to the elite state-chartered magnet high school ranked #1 by US News & World Report in its high school rankings. So what does the ruling mean for these families, who sued the school under the name Coalition for T.J., and what does it mean for the future of the magnet school?

Background on the Change to the TJHSST Admissions Process

As Ivy Coach has previously reported, in November 2020, a group of parents sued Fairfax County Public Schools for eliminating its standardized test in its admissions process. T.J.’s move was designed to increase Black and Latino representation at the magnet school — a school whose student body, up until then, was primarily comprised of young people of South Asian and East Asian heritage.

The change to the admissions process led to a sharp rise in Black and Latino students at T.J.: the percentage of Black students rose from 1% during the 2020-2021 school year to 7% in the 2021-2022 school year, and the percentage of Latino students rose from 3% to 11% over that same span. Even white representation increased from 18% to 22% during this time. But, of course, these jumps came at the expense of students of South Asian and East Asian descent.

Appellate Court Rules Against Parents Who Sued T.J.

And while the parents of these students whose representation plummeted at the school sought relief through the courts, the justices did not agree with their argument. Now, the case is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court — just like the cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As Stephanie Saul reports for The New York Times in a piece on the alleged discrimination at T.J., “The appellate court, in a 2 to 1 ruling, round that there was not sufficient evidence that the changes were adopted with discriminatory intent. Writing for the majority, Judge Robert B. King, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, said that the school, widely known as T.J., had a legitimate interest in ’expanding the array of student backgrounds.’”

Ivy Coach’s Crystal Ball Predicts Supreme Court Victory for T.J.

Loyal readers of Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog know that we have a crystal ball — and it’s highly accurate. So what does our crystal ball forecast about the future of the case brought by the Coalition for T.J.? Drum roll please…

Ivy Coach’s famously accurate crystal ball hereby forecasts that our nation’s conservative Supreme Court, a court our crystal ball predicts will outlaw Affirmative Action in the coming months, will uphold the U.S. Court of Appeals decision in this particular case. While we love our T.J. families (we at Ivy Coach have worked with more families from T.J. than any other high school in America after one of our students completed a clean sweep of all eight Ivies, Stanford, and more some years ago), their case does not seem strong.

The Fairfax County Public Schools can eliminate a test from its admissions process. T.J. can ask applicants to write an essay instead. It may seem unfair, but unfair is not unlawful.

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