School Board Chooses Holistic Review as New Admissions Policy for TJHSST

December 18, 2020

The Fairfax County School Board has voted to change the admissions policy for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) to maintain a holistic review to improve diversity at the school, but will eliminate the admission test and application fee. The process will no longer require a teacher recommendation and will instead implement experience factors as part of the application. The top 1.5 percent of the eighth grade class at each public middle school meeting the minimum standards will be eligible for admission. The new process will be used to select the class of 2025 at TJHSST. Established in 1985, TJHSST is a governor’s school offering a comprehensive college preparatory program emphasizing the sciences, mathematics, and technology. 

“The Board sought to develop an admissions policy that recognized historical inequities and addressed racial and socioeconomic barriers to students while maintaining the high standards for which the school is known,” said School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson. “The process which resulted in several bold decisions by the Board—after very careful deliberation—included input from known experts and internal stakeholders, and examined the admissions policies of similar magnet schools and a review of the literature.”  

A holistic review will be done of students whose applications demonstrate enhanced merit; 550 seats will then be offered to the highest-evaluated students. Students will be evaluated on their grade point average (GPA); a portrait sheet where they will be asked to demonstrate Portrait of a Graduate attributes and 21st century skills; a problem-solving essay; and experience factors, including students who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, special education students, or students who are currently attending underrepresented middle schools. 

The new admissions policy also includes sending recruitment communications to all eligible students, targeted recruitment of underrepresented students, presentations to students and parents, and a virtual open house, all available in multiple languages.