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.