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Insights

May You Live in Interesting Times: TJ’s Merit Lottery

“May you live in interesting times”: a blessing to some and a curse to others.  But there is no doubt, we are living in interesting times.  We are fortunate to live in a country with so many opportunities for people who take the initiative to prosper.  And while our country is reeling under the challenges of Covid-19, quarantine, protests, riots, and economic turmoil, some in our own community have the following response to these challenges.

Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent, Scott Brabrand, with the goal of increasing enrollment of underrepresented minorities at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology (TJ), proposes that admissions become a merit lottery.  A merit lottery would eliminate the three-hour long TJ admissions test, teacher recommendations, the $100 application fee, and would use a minimum student GPA of 3.5 as the sole measure of merit.  The lottery would allot seats by region and necessarily admit more students from areas of the county that have not be represented at TJ historically.  Some groups are delighted by this proposed change; others are outraged.  This proposal is likely to pass if for no other reason than it gets the county off the hook for testing 3000+ students during a pandemic.  It’s a great time for another experiment in education.

There will be a town hall regarding the proposed admissions policy changes on Wednesday, September 23, beginning at 7 p.m.  Families and community members can watch onlinesubmit comments and questions or call into the town hall live at 1-800-231-6359

Additional details about the plan are available here.

Here are some links to other news stories and opinion pieces.

AP News: PTA clashes…

Washingtonian: Thomas Jefferson High School Could Switch to a “Merit Lottery”…

WTOP: [TJ] student speaks out against… 

fcps.edu: Superintendent Presents Recommendations…

Advocacy Group in Favor of Lottery

Advocacy Group Opposed to Lottery

If you would like to comment, visit our facebook page.
2020-09-20T11:42:06-04:00

How to Get into TJ – Update

We posted a blog entitled How to Prepare on Your Own for the TJ Test several years ago.  The general recommendations are still good, but it is time for an update.

 

Here are the components for admission to TJJSST (Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology):
  • Grades and course work
  • Math, science, and reading test in November
  • Teacher recommendations
  • SIS essay with math prompt

 

Grades and course work:

Top grades are vital, and a GPA lower than 3.0/4 will disqualify an applicant.  Most of the students who gain acceptance have completed geometry by the end of 8th grade, and students only taking algebra 1 in 8th grade are at a distinct disadvantage.

 

Math, ACT Aspire Reading and Science:

The math required for the test is basic math, algebra, and geometry.  In the past, we have used old SAT tests from 30 years ago augmented with select problems to mimic the Quant Q.  In order to adapt to the changes, we will increase the number of permutation and combination problems in response to students’ observations about the math last fall. Past materials from ACT Reading and Science for college admissions  have served us well and were easier to locate than the ACT Aspire.

 

Teacher recommendations:

Assuming you make the first cut, you will need to get two teachers to write recommendations.  It is important to remember that a teacher can only write about what he/she has first hand knowledge of.  Your English teacher cannot mention that you won the math counts competition (unless she is the math counts coach).  On the other hand, if he/she counseled you on the written aspect of a science fair project, that would be first hand knowledge.  Don’t wait until the last minute to develop a relationship with your teacher. Be respectful and considerate in your interactions with all your teachers and ask thoughtful questions when appropriate. Remember to listen with courtesy when your classmates speak. Make sure to volunteer to help as needed and show you are the sort of student who is mature enough to handle the demands of TJ.  Finally, make sure the teachers who write your recommendations have a successful track record.

 

SIS essay with math prompt:

Writing well is important, but the topic of your essay is crucial – you need something to write about.  TJ has two ways to see your commitment to STEM: teacher recommendations and your SIS.  To provide proper preparation for the SIS, start get involved with STEM now.  If your family can afford it, go to STEM summer camps.  Even without summer camp, you can still develop your STEM interests by working on projects on your own via the internet.  Your local library also affords opportunities to pursue STEM interests.  If you can’t get to the library on your own, get a friend or family member to take you once a week so you can check out books on a variety of interests.  That sort of dedication to learning can translate to a compelling SIS prompt response.  In addition, make sure to capitalize on your personal interests; a strong essay from a passionate author will regularly trump “preferred” essay topics.

What about the math prompt on the SIS?  The last three years have seen the addition of a complex math problem on the SIS.  Inspiring Test Preparation’s Youtube channel has explanations to two of the problems and a third is on the “drawing board”.  Check out the videos there and then seek out other videos online for similar challenging problems.

 

What can you do with Inspiring Test Preparation?

Take our free at home math test for an first look at how well you do compared to the competition.

Sign up for a free 25-minute consultation to see what you need to do to get ready.

Come to our math drills on Tuesdays starting in February 2019.

Enroll in our geometry review/preview class the summer of 2019 — date to be announced.

Get essay writing instruction with Dr. Weinstein.

Enroll in one of our fall comprehensive TJ preparation courses.

Take our one-day SIS workshop in January.

Take our 3-hour diagnostic quant q, science, and reading test.  Call Kate at 703-203-5796 to schedule.  $100 fee.

2020-05-21T22:14:53-04:00

ACT/SAT Reveal Concordance Table

SAT vs. ACT – The classic battle between the two giants of standardized testing has long since been a concern for any student making their foray into preparation for college. After years of conflict, the SAT redesigned its test in 2015 to make it more similar to the ACT’s model. Despite this, ACT did not allow convergence from the new SAT due to the lack of data.

College Board developed and posted a concordance when it first released its latest SAT, but ACT objected to the unilateral effort because ACT believed there was insufficient data to draw conclusions. After two plus years of data on the new SAT, the ACT organization has decided that it has been long enough, and an ACT/SAT concordance table has been published on the ACT website. You can find the link here. This means that there is now an official ACT/SAT way to compare the two standardized tests. The table below shows a sample of the data in the convergence tables.

Note: For the sake of brevity, only ACT Scores from 26-36 will be shown. For information such as other scores and subject-specific convergence tables, please view the full document here.

SAT Total Range ACT Composite
1600-1570 36
1570-1530 35
1520-1490 34
1480-1450 33
1440-1420 32
1410-1390 31
1380-1360 30
1350-1330 29
1320-1300 28
1290-1260 27
1250-1230 26
In effect, this joint effort by the ACT and the SAT reduces the stress placed on the student by making them choose between the two tests. To all the folks at the ACT and the SAT, well done.
2020-05-21T22:11:26-04:00

Ready, Set, Go to the ACT

 

Day of the ACT Check Sheet

 

Are you taking the ACT test this Saturday?

First, let us wish you the best on this day. May the stars align and may you mark all your bubble sheets correctly, read all the questions accurately, remember all the formulas necessary, keep moving with proper pacing, and recall all your punctuation rules.
In the spirit of positive thinking, the night before the test, get the following ready:

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2019-02-20T18:38:21-05:00