In order to meet the local school district’s new “equal outcomes for every student, without exception” strategy, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) in Alexandria, Va., has been withholding National Merit awards from students and their families.
Even though doing this has deprived many students of the opportunities that these achievements bring, including boosted chances of college admission and scholarship opportunities, at least two administrators at TJ hid them away while issuing “equitable grading” to all students.
At TJ, students can no longer receive a grade of 0, for instance – they all receive 50 percent just for showing up. For assignments not turned in, students at TJ receive a cryptic code of “NTI” rather than an actual failing grade.
Meanwhile, top performers at TJ who actually put in the work are being deprived of high scores. And we now know that, thanks to TJ parent and lawyer Shawna Yashar, that principal Ann Bonitatibus and director of student services Brandon Kosatka were hiding away the National Merit awards that would have propelled these top performers even further ahead of other students.
Yashar, we are told, has a son in TJ’s advanced studies program, which is one of the top-ranked schools in the country. He took the PSAT to determine whether he qualified as a prestigious National Merit scholar, which he did, though he did not get because he never received any award.
It turns out that Bonitatibus and Kosatka failed to tell the Yashars that their son had ranked in the top 3 percent nationwide, making him one of about 50,000 students in the entire country to earn that distinction.
Over the course of five years, some 1,200 other students at TJ were also deprived of their National Merit scholar awards, all in the name of equity. (Related: The term “equity” is a scam just like “diversity” and “climate change”.)
“Keeping these certificates from students is theft by the state,” Yashar said.
Recognition of National Merit, it turns out, is how many students, especially those whose families are in lower income brackets, are able to attend college or university. The scholarships afforded through the program make it possible for students who excel to continue with their education.
By depriving thousands of students who received National Merit recognition of that recognition, Bonitatibus and Kosatka deprived these same students of their education – all because they are smarter than other students which creates “inequality.”
In a call with Yashar, Kosatka admitted that the goal at TJ no longer involves teaching and passing students who actually achieve. It is instead about creating an environment where everyone is treated exactly the same, regardless of how well or poorly they perform.
“We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” Kosatka admitted, adding that Bonitatibus chose not to hand out National Merit awards because doing so might “hurt” the feelings of other students who did not receive them.
Fabio Zuluaga, an assistant superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools where TJ is located, took a different approach by publicly claiming that the decision to withhold National Merit awards at TJ “was a mistake, to be honest.”
Zuluaga also said simply dropping the awards callously on student desks, which had also taken place at TJ, is inappropriate as well.
“We have to do something special,” he explained. “A commendation sends a very strong message to the kid, right? Your work is meaningful. If you work hard in life, there are good benefits from that.”
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