Fairfax releases demographic data on Thomas Jefferson Class of 2026

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Admissions officers at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology have sent offers to an more diverse group of students for the second year in a row, according to data released Wednesday.

The Class of 2026 at TJ, as the school is known, will include 550 students accepted from a pool of 2,544 applicants. Of the offers sent to eighth-graders, about 60 percent went to Asian students, 21 percent to White students, 8 percent to Hispanic students and 6 percent to Black students. Roughly 33 percent of offers went to low-income students and 51 percent went to female students.

The incoming class is the second under a controversial admissions system established in late 2020 that divided parents and alumni and spurred a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. That suit, which is ongoing, recently drew the intervention of the Supreme Court.

The demographics of this year class closely resemble last year, although the percentage of Asian students increased slightly, while the percentage of Hispanic students decreased slightly. The percentage of White students and Black students receiving offers remained about the same. The percentage of low-income and female students rose.

“The Class of ’26 offer data shows us that the revised admissions process, developed to create a more accessible, merit-based and race -neutral process for students, continues to be effective at breaking down barriers to TJ,” Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman Julie Moult said in a statement.

TJ, a prestigious magnet school with a heavy focus on science, engineering, technology and math, is often ranked the best public school in the nation. But it has long enrolled single-digit percentages of Black and Hispanic students – meaning they are underrepresented compared to the county – while enrolling large numbers of Asian and White students.

Two years ago, hoping to boost diversity, top officials with Fairfax County Public Schools revised the admissions system by removing a notoriously difficult test and a $ 100 application fee. The changes led to the acceptance of the most diverse class of students in recent memory.

The Class of 2025, the first to be admitted under the system, was about 54 percent Asian, 22 percent White, 11 percent Hispanic and 7 percent Black. Roughly 25 percent of students receiving offers were economically disadvantaged.

Supreme Court lets Thomas Jefferson High School admissions policy stand

Over the past five years before the admissions changes, between 65 and 75 percent of offers typically went to Asian students, while between 17 and 22 percent of offers went to White students. Hispanic students accounted for between 1 and 5 percent of offers, while Black students accounted for between 1 and 2 percent.

The county at large was 60 percent White, 20 percent Asian, 17 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Black in 2020, according to Fairfax government data.

The revised TJ admissions system is the subject of a parent lawsuit that alleges it discriminates against Asian Americans. In February, US District Judge Claude Hilton ruled that the admissions process constitutes an illegal act of “racial balancing” and barred Fairfax schools from using it. Fairfax appealed that ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now considering the matter.

Hilton had also ruled that Fairfax could not employ the system for the Class of 2026, although school officials had already begun assessing this year’s round of applications when he gave his opinion. Fairfax appealed that part of Hilton’s ruling all the way up to the Supreme Court, which in late April intervened to say that Fairfax could keep using its admissions system for this year.

The court did not explain its reasoning. But three justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M Gorsuch, noted their disagreement.

The average GPA of the thousands who applied to TJ was about 3.8. The average GPA of students offered spots in the Class of 2026 was 3.95.

Students across Northern Virginia are eligible to apply to TJ, including those living in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, as well as Arlington and Falls Church City.

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