What’s a school to do? Virginia’s ultra-selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology—the best high school in the land, says U.S. News—can’t
seem to get its minority population above 4 percent. (That number would
have to be more like 33 percent to be demographically-representative of
the region from which TJ draws students.) Why? Admissions decisions
generally don’t take ethnicity into account, and initiatives to swell
the pipeline of qualified black and Hispanic students have flopped. For
example, Young Scholars, the only comprehensive program offered to
would-be students of TJ, works with over 3,000 targeted youngsters in
K-8. Sounds great, but next spring, when the first Young Scholars cohort
receives their diplomas, only one will be a TJ grad. This project alone
is clearly insufficient to offset the socio-economic, family, and
cultural factors that result in such a limited pool of qualified
applicants of color. It’s time that Virginia officials cross the river
into D.C. and see what charter schools like KIPP are doing to prepare
minority students for real academic rigor. They’ll find that it takes a lot of hard work—starting way before high school.
“Black, Hispanic students dwindle at elite Va. public school,” by Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, October 30, 2010.