The following is an excerpt of an email-based interview with Admissions Director Tanisha S. Holland with Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST). We are publishing this as an addition to Patch's three-part series on admissions at the highly competitive high school in Annandale.
Holland provided some details on efforts to ensure a diverse student body and official answers about the multi-step application process.
For more on admissions at TJHSST, see:
Patch: How many people are involved in the TJHSST admissions process of selection applicants?
Holland: The number of readers is based on the size of the semifinalist pool, which varies yearly.
Are the people who review the TJHSST applications employees of TJHSST either as administration or staff?
Readers are school-based and central administration personnel, such as teachers, counselors, or administrators, from FCPS or from the cooperating school divisions.
How long does the entire TJHSST admissions process take?
The process begins with the application in October and ends when final notification letters are mailed on April 1.
Has the admissions office noticed any trends in the latest applicant pool of students over the last five years?
The applicant pool is increasingly competitive and according to Regulation 335.10, the admissions office may admit approximately, 480 ninth grade students each year.
Is there anything new the TJHSST admissions did this year compared to previous years? Have you discovered anything new or different about this year’s class compared to previous years?
The TJHSST admissions process did not change this year as a new process was implemented in 2009-2010.
Did the language on any of the forms change?
The Admissions Office included the School Board’s broad definition of diversity on the teacher recommendation form.
Can you talk a little about the school’s efforts, if any, to increase diversity among the applicant pool?
In late July 2010, the School Board approved the creation of a TJ admissions outreach specialist position to focus on developing and implementing strategies to ensure a diverse student body. This position is now filled.
A more proactive and robust outreach plan for 2011-2012 is being finalized. The focus of the robust outreach plan is to identify prospective underrepresented students early and provide additional opportunities and resources for students and to obtain more information about TJHSST and the admissions process.
The TJ Admissions Office has partnered with Instructional Services to prepare students beginning in elementary school for rigorous high school course work in mathematics and science. This emphasis on increasing rigor for our students is also instrumental in closing the achievement gap. Thus this powerful strategy will open up opportunity to all students not just those who want to go to TJ.
There’s been a lot of push lately to get girls invested in science and technology education. Has that been one of the goals at TJHSST?
Admission to TJHSST is governed by School Board policy, Policy 3355.3, which states, in part:
It shall be the policy of the Fairfax County School Board to operate a high school for science and technology for qualified Fairfax County Public Schools students in order to provide increased educational opportunities for those who have demonstrated high achievement, aptitude, commitment, intellectual curiosity, and creativity in mathematics, science, and technology.
The School Board recognizes the importance of preparing future leaders in mathematics, science, and technology to address the robust exchange of ideas and is an important factor in developing leaders who will be prepared to address future scientific and technological challenges. Diversity is broadly defined to include a wide variety of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), geography, poverty, prior school and cultural experiences, and other unique skills and experiences.
Looking at the statistics of the admissions years from 2005 on, there are certain schools where the admissions numbers are highest or consistently higher compared to other schools. Are there any factors from the admissions perspective you’d attribute to that such as more promotion or admissions seminars?
Outreach is conducted by the admissions office throughout Fairfax County and the participating school divisions.
Are there any misconceptions about the TJHSST process you hear often from parents or applicants?
One common misconception is TJHSST is only for FCPS students.