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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Merit' is not the antonym of 'equity'

Four more Virginia high schools failed to tell students they'd won a National Merit commendation, at least not in time to list the honor in college applications. At least seven Fairfax and Loudoun County high schools, including Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), an elite magnet, withheld the commendation letters.

Asra Nomani learned her son was a commended student two years after his 2021 graduation from TJ, she write in City Journal. Apparently, administrators had been withholding the commendation letters -- the only notice students receive -- for years. Most of those earning honors are racial minorities with "most coming from immigrant families whose parents speak English as a second language," she writes.

A TJ parent, Shawna Yashar, learned her son had been denied his commendation letter and exposed the policy, writes Nomani. Brandon Kosatka, the dean of student services, told Yashar in a phone call: “We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” adding that he and the principal didn’t want to “hurt” the feelings of students who didn’t get the award.

"How dare you tell students that their hard work doesn't matter," said the Fairfax County Parents Association in a letter. "How dare you pretend that students who manage to be in the top 3% academically among seniors nationwide have not achieved an accomplishment of which they should be enormously proud? How dare you tell these students – most of whom do not come from wealth – that it doesn’t matter whether they are able to note this achievement on college applications, or applications for academic scholarships that could help pay for college?”

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, has announced an investigation to determine whether schools are practicing “unlawful discrimination.”

Progressives seem to believe that merit is the antonym of equity, writes Washington Post columnist George Will. TJ used to have a "national reputation for excellence," he writes, but recently "it has earned an alarming reputation for extremism in pursuit of 'equity,' understood as equality of outcomes among racial or ethnic groups."

Fairfax County schools paid nearly half-a-million dollars to a California consulting firm that says its aim is “equal outcomes for every student, without exception,” Will notes.

Administrators "reconfigured its admissions policies to address the 'problem' of too many successful Asian American admittees: 73 percent of the student body in 2021," writes Will. TJ's principal said the goal was to "close the equity gap." The result was to lower the percentage of Asian Americans by nearly one-third.

The focus on equal outcomes above all is "maniacal," said Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a TV interview. “We have to allow students to run as fast as they can to dream the biggest dreams they can possibly dream and then go get them.”

The number of schools that failed to notify students of merit awards has risen to 13 in three counties.

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