Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: Statement of Robert “Bob” Frye in Washington Post Article about Black Student Applicants Unnecessarily Offensive and Counterfactual

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), is a Fairfax County, Va., high school that focuses on science and technology. Admission to the public high school is through an admissions process. It is a school which has been a topic of a few posts on this blog.

In the Washington Post, on March 31, 2015, there was another article about the composition of the class at TJHSST, particularly that the number of Asian students had increased. The article did not mention that the number of White students has been on a trend of general decline since the class of 2015.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Number of Admitted Students
Race Class of 2019 Class of 2018 Class of 2017 Class of 2016 Class of 2015
Asian 346 323 317 308 273
White 102 117 123 126 161
Black 8 10 5 7 6
Hispanic* 12 8 15 13 13

*The term “Hispanic” represents national origin, not race.

Fairfax County, Va. (population: 1,137,538 (2010 Census)

Race Percentage of population Number
White 67.2% 764,426
Asian 18.8 213,857
Black 9.9 112,616
Native American 0.7 7,963

admitted student table 2

The issue of the paucity of Black students at TJHSST has been a concern. “Outreach” is usually provided as the solution; however, mere outreach is not necessarily needed because an earlier post showed that many Black students were passing the admissions test, yet very few were being admitted.

So, upon reading a statement of Mr. Robert “Bob” Frye, a former Fairfax County School Board (FCSB) member (said to be “one of the longest serving black members” of FCSB), I took exception to it as–

  • the statement at once presumed that concern about Black student admissions rate is equivalent to “lowering standards” and
  • the statement is contrary to the admissions data (presented in the charts above).

Mr. Frye is quoted as saying–“‘I have no interest in lowering the standards at TJ,’ said Frye, 78, who served as chairman in 1999 and 2000. ‘I believe even now with the proper amount of preparation and interest the numbers [of black students] could surely be higher than they are now.'”

The numbers have shown a consistent low number of Black student admissions, despite many more Black students passing the test (a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on this latter point is ongoing (since 2012)), so this reality contradicts the suggestion that the answer is that Black students (who want to attend a science and technology institute) need better preparation to pass the admissions test.

Had Mr. Frye simply left his statement that the administration should look at admissions process of TJHSST that, alone, would not have provoked a negative reaction (but, notably, Mr. Frye has made such statements before in the past, yet in 2015, the same request is still being made).

The data provided by Fairfax County Public Schools, cited, in part, in the charts above, are not complete as the composition of the student test passers is not provided. That data are needed to see what the issue of the low Black admitted student numbers. Without it, a fair determination or evaluation cannot be made.

But, undeniably, there is a definite shifting in the TJHSST student body composition. It will be interesting to see if TJHSST remains a public school.