Revise Admissions Policies

I am writing in reference to the article, "TJ Admissions Policy Criticized" [Metro, June 8] by S. Mitra Kalita and Christina A. Samuels. The article was well-written, although it could have emphasized that the blue ribbon commission was established by a unanimous resolution of the school board.

My concern is with the parents quoted, who you state "have watched and weighed in on the debate over admissions." Jesse Jones has not participated in the PTSA, PTSA diversity committee or school board advisory committees that have debated the issue.

He stated, "The community fought those policies," referring to proposals to modify the admissions procedures. This is inaccurate in several respects. First, it assumes that there is a monolithic "community" on one side of the issue, which is incorrect.

Second, it does not reflect the current debate or the current recommendations. The board of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology PTSA approved a resolution that stated that "the Fairfax County School Board should permit consideration of factors relating to diversity of the TJHSST student body in the admissions process at TJHSST." The blue ribbon commission report recommends expanding efforts that the PTSA diversity committee has been undertaking, including outreach toward under-represented minority students and parents, providing information about the admissions process and test preparation.

Few people can oppose the proposals to expand outreach and evaluation efforts. I also believe few would have qualms regarding the proposed admissions procedures, which would bring Thomas Jefferson in line with the procedures at most highly competitive magnet schools and colleges. The proposal suggests reducing the over-reliance on one single factor, the admissions test, and adopting a holistic approach that takes into account other criteria.

More weight would be given to factors that better reflect the students' interest and ability in science and technology. For example, the reduction of the weight of the verbal section of the test may benefit immigrant students who may be outstanding mathematicians and scientists.

This proposal would enable the admissions panels to select students who are truly interested in science and technology, thus strengthening the principles on which Thomas Jefferson was founded.

Luis Fierro