Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has slammed the decision by seven Fairfax County schools to withhold from their students whether they received a prestigious national merit recognition as ‘maniacal’.
Only awarded to 50,000 of 1.5million high schoolers who score well on the PSATS, the prestigious award can help students compete for scholarships, honors accolades, and college admissions.
The schools – which include America’s best-performing public school, Thomas Jefferson High – have explained their decision to keep the results secret as a form of ‘equity.’ They insist it’s part of a new school strategy meant to provide ‘equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions.’ – but parents are furious.
As a result of the deception, pupils who had been named ‘commended students’ by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation were purposely left in the dark so as to not ‘hurt the feelings of’ other students.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has expressed his concern about the impact of seven Fairfax County schools decision to withhold national merits from students which often aid scholarships and college admissions
But however well-intentioned, the explanation doesn’t wash with GOP Governor Youngkin, who has mooted potential criminal charges against staff involved.
He has also criticized the Fairfax County Schools Superintendent for using taxpayer money to hire equity consultants, and believes the issue is a systematic problem in the schools.
Youngkin criticized Michelle Reid, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent for spending large sums of taxpayer money on equity consultants
Equity is a favored buzzword among woke disciples and means helping everyone achieve the same outcome, rather than offering the same opportunity to do so. Supporters say it helps those who’ve struggled to reach their potential because of societal racism and unfairness.
But detractors say it often works by lowering standards for top-performing students to create the impression of equal outcomes, rather than uplifting students to excellence.
‘They have a maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs. And at the heart of the American dream, is excelling, is advancing, is stretching and recognizing that we have students that have different capabilities,’ Youngkin told ABC 7.
‘Some students have the ability to perform at one level, others need more help, and 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.’
Youngkin clinched his surprise gubernatorial election victory in 2021 by targeting woke school measures, with his latest vow likely music to many local parents’ ears.
The admission by the schools of failing to notify their students of any national merit recognition they may have achieved means students will miss important college scholarship and admissions deadlines.
The high schools involved include Annandale, West Potomac, John R. Lewis, Edison, Thomas Jefferson for Science and Technology, Westfield, and Langley High Schools.
These seven schools account for 25 percent of the high schools in Fairfax County. and Youngkin appeared angered by the schools’ decision to act in such a manner.
The withholding of the merit results has been flagged with the Virginia Attorney General, Jason Miyares, who has now begun a formal investigation into the schools’ conduct
How National Merit Scholarships recognize top students
The National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) is a scholarship program that recognizes and rewards academically talented high school students in the United States.
Among students taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) each year, about 50,000, or the top 3 percent, qualify for NMSP recognition.
About two-thirds of those 50,000 students are awarded letters of commendation, while the remaining third qualify as semifinalists and can apply for a National Merit Scholarship.
The Fairfax County schools say they failed to notify Commended Students of their status in a timely manner last fall.
Though Commended Students are not eligible for the scholarship program, the recognition is an academic honor and could bolster a college application.
Commended students are typically recognized by their high schools with a special ceremony, and could also gain an advantage in applying for other academic scholarships.
The program is administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a not-for-profit organization.
‘It impacts students ability to apply to college for scholarships, and in this idea of a golden ticket as it is called was withheld from them and it seems to have been withheld from them for the purpose of not wanting to make people feel bad who didn’t achieve it. And all of a sudden, we see it spreading around to the rest of Fairfax County.’
Youngkin took aim at Fairfax County’s Superintendent for spending large sums of taxpayer money on equity consultants.
‘The reality is that we have a superintendent in Fairfax schools who has explicitly stated that her top objective is equal outcomes for all students, regardless of the price,’ said Youngkin.
‘Now we know the price includes paying $450,000 to a liberal consultant to come in and teach the administrators in Fairfax County how to do this. What it appears happened is that principals in schools decided that they were going to systematically withhold accolades and a path to college admission and scholarships from high-performing students.’
The Superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, has met with parents at Thomas Jefferson, Westfield, and Langley high school to address their concerns and says she committed to being transparent with the results of their ongoing review.
‘In each case, it’s my understanding principals sign certificates and pass those to staff who distribute them,’ Reid told parents last week, seemingly skirting the issue.
Reid said in an email to the community that as Fairfax County Public School carries out its own review, she is committed to being transparent with the key findings.
The withholding has now been flagged with the Virginia Attorney General who has now begun a formal investigation into the schools’ conduct.
The impact on students and their families can be significant, as some scholarships and grants can be worth over $90,000.
‘Only three percent of high school seniors get recognized. It’s a huge issue,’ Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares told 7News.
‘We actually know of some schools that give a full four-year scholarship if you are one of those who get recognized a national merit award commendation,’ he said.
Youngkin says he is committed to turning Virginia’s education around for the better
‘How you pay for college can be as stressful as getting into college. The idea that sometimes these are $90,000-100,000 plus benefits of scholarships that were never going to be told that these students are eligible to apply for. That’s wrong,’ Miyares said.
Youngkin says he is committed to turning Virginia’s education around for the better.
‘We funded through the largest education bill ever in Virginia history, raising teacher salaries, funding, equipment, funding infrastructure, but also launching lab schools. We have been driving curriculum to be the best curriculum in the nation so that we will teach all of our history, the good and the bad, we want it to be the best.
‘This is a moment where we have to recognize that educating our children so that they are equipped to take on not just the challenges, but to take on confidently the pursuit of their dreams is at the heart of education and equal outcomes for all students at any cost is a cost too much for Virginia.’
The decision by brass at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Virginia, was reportedly part of a new school strategy meant to provide ‘equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions’
Parents of students at one of the nation’s top-ranked high schools are demanding its principal be fired after she and other officials delayed informing students that they had qualified for an award that helps them compete for scholarships, honors programs, and college admissions
One of the schools involved in the deception, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Virginia, said the school strategy was meant to provide ‘equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions.’
Many parents say that simply can’t be achieved and that equity-obsessives should focus on helping children who are less academically minded into an area of learning or practical work they’ll enjoy, and at which they may be able to excel.
Last month, parents called for the axing of principal Ann Bonitatibus and Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka – alleging they are responsible.
One mom seen at the procession, along with dozens of others, demanded ‘action’ against the pair be taken immediately.
‘Let it be known that we are not for fake meetings – we are for real action,’ Shawna Yashar told Fox 5 DC, visibly irate over the school’s decision to keep the awards under wraps.
Yashar, one of the parents who were part of the effort unearthing these allegations against the Fairfax County Public School system, reportedly said that Kosatka admitted to her that the understated approach to informing students about their academic honors was intentional.
Yashar said the director owned up to the allegations when she him about it by phone, spurring the senior school staffer to tell her the truth behind the school’s decision.
She said the confrontation transpired in mid-November after her son was awarded a letter of commendation – two months later from when the awards are typically handed out in September.
Yashar’s said that her son and other pupils received the letters on November 14 – spurring her to contact Bonitatibus directly about the delay. However, the principal was apparently not available, with Kosatka being the one to field the inquiry.
When questioned, Kosatka, according to Yashar, explained the school’s side – that staffers had wanted to hand the letters out ‘discreetly’ to avoid hurting the feelings of students who failed to garner the distinction.
‘There’s not a lot of kids who didn’t get either award, and we didn’t want them to feel bad about it,’ Yashar credited Kosatka as saying.
Only learning of the distinction a few months ago in the fall, the student body and their families are irate – and were seen outside the school last month airing their displeasure
It is not the first time officials with the Fairfax County Public School network – which encompasses 198 schools and centers – have come under fire for guidance touted as ‘progressive’.
In 2021, the school and its board found themselves in federal court after it changed its admission requirements to limit the number of Asian-American students enrolled to improve the chance of admission of other students regardless of academic ability.
Once again, billed as a means to boost equity, the guidance immediately sparked controversy for scrapping merit-based admissions – and was subsequently found to be against federal law.
Last February, a federal judge ruled Fairfax County school officials guilty of racial discrimination however plans to overturn the woke rules have been put on hold thanks to a successful legal challenge by their supporters, with a court set to consider an appeal last this year.