The percentage of Asian students and boys admitted to Fairfax’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology rose this year, while the proportion of white students and girls fell, according to a demographic outline of the Class of 2016 released last week.
The elite magnet school opened its doors to 480 students out of more than 3,400 applicants in a selection process involving a standardized test, teacher recommendations, math and science grades and other measures.
About two-thirds of the incoming class is Asian, while about one-fourth is white. That’s a dramatic shift from five years ago, when white students made up more than half of TJ’s freshmen.
(Countywide, about 19 percent of students are Asian and about 43 percent are white.)
Meanwhile, the proportion of Latino, black and poor students admitted to TJ — all groups that have traditionally been underrepresented at the school — did not change appreciably.
The Class of 2016 includes seven black students and 13 Latinos — a total of 4 percent of all admitted students. (The two groups comprise 32 percent of students countywide.)
The school also has relatively few impoverished students. More than 400 students from low-income families — who qualified for a reduced or waived admissions fee — applied to the school. Six were admitted — about 1 percent of the freshman class, compared with about 25 percent of kids living in poverty across Fairfax.
The gender gap, meanwhile, continued a long, slow widening. Five years ago, the proportion of boys who were admitted to TJ mirrored the proportion who applied — a little over 54 percent. Now boys make up 59 percent of the freshman class.
TJ’s demographics have long been a topic of debate and frustration in Fairfax.
The school system tinkered with the admissions process several years ago in an effort to create a student body that more closely reflected the county’s entire population.
The new numbers show that the new system hasn’t “had the desired impact,” said Louise Epstein, a former PTSA president at TJ who now serves as chairman of the Fairfax Education Coalition.
George Becerra, a Fairfax parent and member of the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee, agreed. He said that while he doesn’t favor racial quotas in the TJ admissions process, he would like the school system to consider geographical quotas as a measure to boost diversity.
School Board Chairwoman Jane K. Strauss declined to comment on whether she considers TJ’s demographic balance a problem. But examining the admissions process is already on the calendar and will be examined at a work session in July, she said.
“Obviously, we’re going to take a look at this,” she said. “It is a conversation that we’re going to have to have.”