Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology: Effectiveness of tjInspire Focuses on Appearance of Applicant Pool Only, No Effect on Admissions; TJ is a Technical Institute & Should Not Be Viewed as a General High School

In a previous post, I described the effort of Michael Wattendorf, president of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) Black Student Union (BSU) and members of the BSU to mentor young students at elementary schools with high minority populations to apply for admission to TJ. The hope is that with more applicants from these student bodies there would be a greater likelihood of more students being selected for admission.

I do not agree with this argument. Simply getting more non-White applicants does not mean that there would be a greater likelihood of more admitted students (unless the selection was picked at random from a pile of papers). What tjInspire ultimately hopes to get the number of minority applicants up, which will make TJ look facially better, but the true test would be how many actually get admitted (and not how many apply—the focus of tjInspire).

The TJ admissions outreach PDF (page 14) also points toward this conclusion. There is already a good pool of Black and Hispanic applicants (I don’t think that this is necessarily an issue (barring any structural barriers)); however, there are low numbers of admitted students from these groups.

I think TJ is a very specialized high school focused almost exclusively on students who are precociously intelligent (take time-pressured, word-problem, and multiple-choice tests extremely well) and know from eighth grade that they want to devote their lives to scientific work. TJ is the place for them; however, TJ should not be lauded as the so-called best high school when it is really a technical institute in a high school setting.

If a student has a typical 14-year-old’s academic development (and does not want to focus on science and math exclusively), I think it is OK to go to another high school to complete their education.