White Parents Successfully Appeal to Gain Acceptance Into Competitive Academic Programs While Parents of Smart Black Children Are Left In the Dark

White Parents Successfully Appeal to Gain Acceptance Into Competitive Academic Programs While Parents of Smart Black Children Are Left In the Dark

Overview

By

Associated Press

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — It’s an annual rite in Fairfax County, which has one of the wealthiest, best-educated populations in America: Hundreds of second-graders troop off to private psychologists for IQ tests to prove they’re worthy of advanced academic programs in the public schools.

The competition is fierce. Acceptance, some parents believe, can be the key to getting into prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school that routinely sends graduates to the most competitive colleges.

“I guess I never made the cut,” said Aaron Moorer, who is African-American and eventually graduated from Mount Vernon High with a 3.8 GPA. “I never made the special class.”

Moorer’s family wasn’t aware that hundreds of families file appeals every year, armed with private exams costing more than $500, to persuade bureaucrats their child is deserving. This system exacerbates a problem plaguing gifted-and-talented programs across the nation: Black and Hispanic students almost never file the appeals that can secure their admission.

Using the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to obtain 10 years of county records, The Associated Press found that fewer than 50 black and Hispanic second-graders have filed successful appeals. That’s less than 3 percent of the 1,737 second-graders admitted through the appeals process, further skewing a program already heavily weighted toward whites and Asians.

Fairfax County has the nation’s 10th largest public school system, with more than 188,000 students. Of those, 25 percent are Hispanic and 10 percent are African-American. But over the last 10 years, Blacks and Hispanics have constituted only 12 percent of the students deemed eligible for Level IV, the most advanced academic program.

Notably, the data show that when Black and Hispanic students do submit intelligence tests, they are just as likely to gain admission as their white and Asian counterparts. The problem is that Black and Hispanic students only rarely submit appeals.

Francisco Duran, the school system’s chief academic and equity officer, downplayed the disparities in the appeals process, citing successful efforts to enroll more Black and Hispanic students through teacher referrals and other means. But he acknowledged that the school system is not where it wants to be in terms of identifying students at an early age who have the potential for advanced academics.