No math whizzes need apply

After praising a very selective science magnet for selecting students based on “character,” Jay Mathew publicizes the view of an award-winning math teacher, who complains that the prestigious public school is rejecting top math students. For 25 years, Vern Williams has “prepared middle-schoolers for the tough admissions standards at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the most selective high school in America.” The school used to look for top math students. Not any more.

On the first page of Jefferson’s letter to teachers writing recommendations, in boldface type, was the school board’s new focus: It wanted to prepare “future leaders in mathematics, science, and technology to address future complex societal and ethical issues.” It sought diversity, “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.”

. . . Last year, he said, Jefferson rejected one of only two eighth-graders in Virginia who qualified to take the Junior USA Math Olympiad test, six scary problems to be done in nine hours. At the same time, “students who had very little interest [or] motivation in math and science were admitted,” he said. “Some admitted students had even struggled with math while in middle school.”

Williams, who’s black, “doesn’t think rejecting top math students is the best way” to make Jefferson more “diverse.”  Less  than 4 percent of Jefferson students are black or Hispanic.

The solution, he said, is to “get rid of all warm and fuzzy math programs at the elementary school level and teach real academic content to all students.” Textbooks are dumbed down, he said, to accommodate allegedly math-phobic children. Don’t get him started on the overuse of calculators.

Jefferson is rejecting MathCounts stars, while accepting humanities types with little interest in STEM subjects, Williams complains. “And yet how many minorities have this corrupt process scooped up? Barely any!” Williams said.

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  1. According to my memory, that column was the fourth or fifth on the topic of the HS in question (Thomas Jefferson) that Mathews/WaPo has run since this past August. The handwringing over the school’s perceived elitism and lack of diversity is pretty constant. It is reflected in the comments, with not-infrequent calls for the school to be closed, because “these kids will do fine anyway.” One response to this latest article was a very pointed call to to close the school and redirect the money to ESL and spec ed. There is very definitely an anti-intellectual streak in the public and in the ed world (many commenters identify themselves as teachers). Of course, there were also those who called for a second HS like TJ and/or another type of HS for the gifted.

  2. And this surprises anyone because….? Give the ed world any opportunity to lower standards and they will do so reflexively.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    The public is not necessarily anti-intellectual, although as Instapunit says, we might become so watching the parade of dishonest, incompetent bumblers crossing the stage of national government waving their Ivy parchment.
    I would be inclined to wonder if the calls to close, the concerns for elitism, were cover for a certain PC embarrassment.
    However, the news from the Dayton police department would seem to be congruent with this issue.