New TJ Students Failing Math Even After Standards Lowered
June 13, 2022
ALEXANDRIA, VA—A federal appeals court granted a request from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to continue using a challenged admissions policy while it appeals a ruling that found the policy discriminates against Asian-American students.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling Thursday, March 31, that Fairfax County Public Schools can continue to use its new race-based admissions policy, reports FOX5.
U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton rejected the new policy back in a February ruling, saying that impermissible “racial balancing” was at its core. Commonly known as “TJ,” Thomas Jefferson is ranked as one of the best public high schools in America because it’s 72% Asian-American.
Now, TJ parents, students, and alumni are sharing a frank email that Math 4 TJ teachers sent to students last Thursday addressing a crisis, reports Asra Nomani.
Teachers said the average score for their final exam for Math 4—trigonometry—was “in the low 70s with a substantial minority scoring below 50%,” calling the results “the lowest scores we’ve ever seen,” even after “lowering the standards” for Math 4, according to Asra Nomani.
“These scores are deeply disappointing, and are the lowest scores we’ve ever seen as Math 4 teachers on a Final Exam,” teachers wrote.
Thomas Jefferson’s math teachers pointed out the final exam was “substantially easier” than final exams given to past students admitted to the school based on merit. The teachers stated the students had “unprecedented supports provided to you this semester, including extra practice quizzes, bonus quizzes, practice worksheets, and a practice final exam, all things that were not given to previous students.”
“We expected to see scores rise, not drop, with our lowering of standards.”
The Math 4 spring semester course has students from the Class of 2025, admitted through the new race-based admissions process as well as some Class of 2024 students, the last class admitted through the merit-based admissions tests, reports Asra Nomani.
As a solution, teachers stated: “We will curve the exam by 10 percentage points (which means 7.5 points, out of 75), but you should know that this curve is artificial and not deserved.”
In the email, teachers criticized students for not attending after-class tutoring held during 8th period and also scolded them for not submitting test corrections.
“This indicates to us that you either didn’t study, or you studied poorly. Even worse, the preponderance of evidence indicates that many of you weren’t willing to change how you learned or studied since the start of Math 4,” teachers wrote.
One former TJ parent said: “Looks like the teachers have had it. ‘Our lowering of standards.’ ‘Either you didn’t study, or you studied poorly.’ ‘This curve is artificial and not well deserved.’ ‘This time, it’s on you.’ WOW.”
Congratulations on completing the TJ Math 4 course. We want to be transparent with you about the Final Exam. The average score across the board was in the low 70s with a substantial minority scoring below 50%. These scores are deeply disappointing, and are the lowest scores we’ve ever seen as Math 4 teachers on a Final Exam. The test that you took is substantially easier than the Final Exam given to previous students. Most questions were procedural, and very few were word and application questions. Plus, there was already a built in curve of 3 points. This is in the context of unprecedented supports provided to you this semester, including extra practice quizzes, bonus quizzes, practice worksheets, and a practice final exam, all things that were not given to previous students. We expected to see scores rise, not drop, with our lowering of standards.
Less than 10% of you came to an 8th period tutoring session this year.
More than 75% of you did not submit test corrections, and lost the opportunity for retake points.
Many of you even forgot something as basic as the double angle identity. You just had to memorize it!
Most of you struggled on problems that you yourselves created on the Practice Exam. Given you’ve already seen the problem, frankly, there was no excuse for forgetting how to do these questions.
This indicates to us that you either didn’t study, or you studied poorly. Even worse, the preponderance of evidence indicates that many of you weren’t willing to change how you learned or studied since the start of Math 4. We know that it is a pastime of students (I know because one of us went to TJ, and one of us went to Stuyvesant HS) to blame external factors like teachers, the exam, the pandemic, etc. for this. But this time, it’s on you.
We are not saying that you should spend hours and hours studying. That will not help you. Spending the time better will. If you are putting the work in as the course goes along, and not waiting until the night before the test to try to learn everything, we believe you will be more successful and actually enjoy your math classes more.
Here’s some ways you could have spend your time better:
Reconsider how you used your homework assignments and the posted keys during this course. Did vou check your work carefully with the key?
Did you go back and look at example problems for the problems you do wrong and then do some similar type problems until you felt confident?
Did you ask questions about those problems in class? Did you highlight those problems as ones to review before the test?
Did you use your tests and quizzes as a study resource? Did you make sure you UNDERSTOOD how to solve the problems that you lost points on? Many of you made the same mistakes on the final that you did on your unit assessments. Did you try reworking the problems you got wrong? This is the point of doing corrections – we don’t just encourage you to do these so that we have more things to grade!
How did you use the extra resources posted in Schoology? You had access to videos on every lesson we taught, most of them by a different teacher (who may well say something in a way that clicks for you if you didn’t get it when your teacher explained it.) You had access to EVERY quiz and the cumulative problem sets from our virtual year. These were basically practice tests.
Speaking of practice tests, we took an entire class period for you to write questions for a practice final, and then several hours compiling and formatting those questions. Did you use the practice final and the key? Many of you missed questions on the final that looked amazingly similar to questions on the practice final.
A curve is usually given when teachers mismatch the levels between what students are expected to master, and what students are capable of. For this final exam, it was simply not the case. We will curve the exam by 10 percentage points (which means 7.5 points, out of 75), but you should know that this curve is artificial and not deserved. Your subscores, and therefore second chance eligibility points, will remain the same. If you scored below a 50%, that curve will be applied to your actual score, not from 50%.
Finally, some advice:
Pre-Curve, if you scored below a 60%, we strongly suggest that you retake TJ Math 4. You are not ready to move onto TJ 5. Please speak with your teacher about this.
Pre-Curve, if you scored between 61% to 80%, you will have a difficult time in TJ 5 unless you change the way you study, and chance the way vou learn. You need to submit test corrections for every exam. You need to sign up for every 8th period with your teacher.
Pre-Curve, if you scored above 80%, we are confident that you have the skills to succeed TJ5.
If all you’re taking away from this email is “We’re getting a curve!’ and you immediately start calculating your grade, then you should know that you’re taking the wrong experience from TJ. You will not have a happy 4 years.
We still believe that every single one of you belongs at this school and can succeed. Our disappointment and doubt lies in your attitude towards learning, not your capability to learn. Attitudes can change, and we expect that they will, in your next math class.