Dear Editor, 

I am Anshu Sharma, an Asian American and a 2017 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. I support the proposed merit lottery system and encourage it to be adopted as soon as possible.

Although I am thankful for many aspects of my TJ experience, much improvement is needed. The admissions process failed to differentiate between students who applied because they wanted to and students who applied because their parents wanted them to. Mental health support was greatly lacking. “Sleep is for the weak” was a common slogan during my time. The TJHSST Class of 2021 has seen two suicides at TJ within three years. Students with low GPAs are pushed out while repeated cheaters stay.

Too many TJ community members undervalue the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The student body is unrepresentative of low-income students and racial minorities because of a privilege-favoring admissions process and hostile school environment. Because of the lack of diversity and interdisciplinary appreciation, TJ fails to prepare students to combat complex crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

None of these things will be fixed by a merit lottery alone, but losing the test will help cultivate a more inclusive, supportive, holistic learning environment. I’m glad the Fairfax NAACP and Sookyung Oh of NAKASEK have come out in support of admissions reform, and I hope the Fairfax County School Board does too.

Anshu Sharma

Annandale, VA

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