Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
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Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST, TJ, Jefferson) is a public magnet school in Alexandria, Virginia, with a focus on science and technology. It is operated by Fairfax County Public Schools, but enrolls students from most of the school districts in Northern Virginia. The magnet school program was founded in 1985 through the cooperation of state and county governments, as well as corporate sponsorship from the defense and technology industries, and occupies the building of a previous non-magnet Thomas Jefferson High School (constructed in 1965). As a publicly funded and administered high school with selective admissions, TJHSST is often compared with other notable public magnet schools such as New York City's Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx High School of Science, Montgomery County, Maryland's Montgomery Blair High School, the Bergen County Academies, and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. TJHSST is one of 16 Virginia Governor's Schools, and a founding member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology.
Admissions and enrollment
Every fall, the TJHSST Admissions office solicits applications for freshman admission from rising eighth-graders who live in eligible parts of Northern Virginia. After paying a registration fee, all applicants take an admissions test, which consists of a standardized reasoning test and two essay questions.
The reasoning test scores are combined with the student's middle-school GPA to form an overall, objective ranking; the Admissions office will designate the top scorers as semifinalists, a group generally about twice as large as the planned freshman class. The semifinalists will submit further information, including teacher recommendations, awards, and a personal statement. This info, along with the student essays written during the admission test, is reviewed by the two selection panels who will pick the next year's freshman class.
While most of the local high schools base their class size on the number of rising eight-graders, Jefferson is able to control its freshman class size through its selective admission process. Of the over 2500 freshmen that apply, only about one in five are admitted. This target class size has slowly grown through the history of the school, beginning at 400 students per class in 1988. The class of 2009 contained about 450 students. For the upcoming freshmen classes of 2010 et seq., the enrollment has been increased to about 500 students to reflect the growing population of its constituent communities in Fairfax County and other participating localities, as well as to place it in accordance with the recent affirmative action initiatives the Fairfax School Board has promoted.
TJHSST has been criticized for its lack of minority representation and ethnic diversity. While Asians are well represented, other minority groups, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics, comprise a smaller portion of the student body than would be expected from the populations of the participating localities. The school's largest racial groups are Whites (at about 61.4%) and Asians (at about 30.4%.) Despite this criticism, TJHSST includes students from a great variety of social, ethnic and economic backgrounds, and the school is largely free of any ethnic or racial tension, with members of various ethnicities intersocializing freely.
In 2004, the Fairfax County School Board commissioned a study to determine what steps, if any, should be undertaken to remedy the underrepresentation of certain racial or ethnic groups among enrollees. Prior to the study, although admissions decisions were based mainly on middle school grades and students' scores on the admission examination, the administration nonetheless ensured that underrepresented minorities were admitted in higher proportion than quantitative scores alone would determine. In recent years attorneys working for Fairfax County Public Schools published an interpretation of law that restricted such "soft affirmative action" and which led to a severe decline in enrollment among black students in particular (to the extent that only two or three black students enrolled at TJHSST in certain incoming classes). The commission concluded that a program of affirmative action is necessary to mitigate the underrepresentation, which caused controversy about what course of action should be taken based on this conclusion. Despite efforts, the percentage of minority students has not conspicuously increased. During the 2004/2005 school year, the Black population of TJHSST reached 1.24% and the Hispanic population reached 2.42%.
While the school is part of the Fairfax County Public Schools system (which serves residents of Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax), residents of Arlington, Loudoun, Fauquier, and Prince William counties and the City of Falls Church are also eligible to apply for admission, with a particular number of admission slots allotted to each participating locality. In March 2006, the Alexandria School Board voted 7-2 in favor of allowing a maximum of two students from Alexandria to attend the school. Each school district shares in the cost of operating the school. The independent cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, although located within a participating county, have declined to purchase spaces for their students.
TJHSST offers an extensive mathematics and science curriculum, including courses in organic chemistry, neurobiology, marine biology, DNA science, and quantum mechanics. All courses at TJHSST are taught at the Honors/GT, Advanced Placement, or post-Advanced placement level. All students are required to complete an introductory Java computer science course. Starting with the class of 2008, the computer science course must be completed before junior year. Students are also required to participate in the Senior Technology Laboratory Research program, in which seniors are required to complete a year-long research project or an off campus mentorship through one of the school's several research labs, devoted to fields including robotics, microelectronics, computer science, chemistry, prototyping, optics, computer aided design, astronomy, oceanography, energy systems and biotechnology.
The school also offers a strong humanities and foreign language curriculum. Japanese, Chinese, and Russian are taught in addition to the more traditional German, French, Spanish, and Latin. Every other year, the Russian class goes to Russia, and during the other years, Pskov State Pedagogical University students from Russia come to TJ.
TJ also offers its IBET (Integrated Biology, English, and Technology) program to ninth graders. Students spend nine class periods a week with the same group of peers, and the IBET teachers work together to produce an integrated curriculum. The technology aspect of the program (formally known as Principles of Engineering and Technology) stresses drafting, CAD, and basic electronics skills. Integrated Humanities courses are offered in 10th and 11th grade, with several integrated programs available for seniors.
Students at TJ are not given a class rank because the administrators of the school determined that such competition among the student body would not promote the educational and developmental goals of the school. Moreover, the vast majority of the students at Jefferson were among the top 5% of their middle school. The concept of "rank in class" among such already highly competitive students is immaterial.
The 8th Period Student Activities Program is a required part of the school day. Students sign up for clubs and activities through the school Intranet. Students may study, participate in clubs and teams, attend assemblies, tutor outside the school, and have social gatherings.
All students attending TJHSST must pursue a special TJ Diploma. The TJ Diploma requirements duplicate those of the Fairfax County Advanced Studies Diploma with additional mathematics, computer science, earth science, and engineering requirements.
Awards and Distinctions
TJHSST has fielded more National Merit Semifinalists than any other high school in America for most of the 1990s and 2000s. From 2000 to 2005, it fielded more USAMO qualifiers than any other high school in America and has a distinguished history of U.S. Physics Olympiad Team members and medal winners.
TJHSST was recently ranked as the top public high school in the nation by PrepReview. TJHSST also has the highest average SAT score among all American high schools. Each year, over a quarter of its graduating class accepts admission to the University of Virginia. Other graduates attend Ivy League schools and high-ranking public schools across the nation.
In the 2006-2007 school year, TJHSST also had 5 semi-finalists for the Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition. No students were selected to be regional finalists (Announced 30 October 2006).
For schools with more than 1,000 students, TJHSST was cited as having the highest-performing AP Chemistry, AP French Language, AP French Literature, AP Government and Politics: U.S., and AP U.S. History courses among all schools worldwide in its size range. No school had a greater proportion of its student body succeed in these subjects.
President Reagan's visit
Ian Anderson's visit
Ian Anderson of the classic rock band Jethro Tull visited the school on October 12, 2005, bringing with him classical violinist Lucia Micarelli. He answered questions from students about his work, being on tour, and illegal file sharing. The visit was the subject of articles in the Washington Post as well as the Washington Times.
Mandy Moore's visit
In 2000, Mandy Moore performed a concert at TJHSST as a result of a radio contest sponsored by now-defunct local radio station WWZZ (Z104). The contest was conducted via online voting on the Z104 website. Students were allowed to vote for their school as much as once a day, for the duration of the contest. However, because the voting system had no way of verifying who was voting, several TJHSST students wrote a number of various computer scripts that generated rapid, automatic votes for TJHSST, randomly choosing a member of the student body to vote as. Lake Braddock Secondary School students followed suit and wrote their own vote-generating script to compete with TJHSST.
In an attempt to crack down on these questionably ethical attempts to manipulate the contest, Z104 announced that computer-generated voting was no longer allowed, and that any high school found violating the rule would be disqualified, removing a number of votes from TJ and several other schools that had taken a similar tack. However, when it became apparent that policing such a restriction would be nearly impossible, the organizers of the contest seemed to give up, allowing the votes to count, and giving TJ the victory by a wide margin of votes.
Jesse Jackson's visit
In the Winter of 2001, Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the school. He gave a speech to the entire student body about the recent 9/11 attacks and the need for unity among the people of the nation. His speech culminated in Jackson leading the student body in a chant of his famous line, "I am somebody."
French Ambassador's visit
In 2005, Ambassador Jean-David Levitte visited the school. He gave a speech to the French and government classes.
On November 15th, 2005, the school hosted a downlink with the crew of International Space Station Expedition 12. Astronauts William McArthur and Valery Ivanovich Tokarev fielded questions from students in both English and Russian. United States Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was also in attendance for the event.
Bulent Atalay's visit
In March 2004, TJHSST announced a partnership with nearby George Mason University. Among the proposals set forth in the partnership are the relocation of TJHSST to the George Mason University campus, and instruction by university professors at the high school. In the 2005-2006 school year, a small group of Thomas Jefferson students piloted a program in which they took college-level courses at GMU's Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering.
Addition of learning cottages
In response to increasing student enrollment and admission, 12 "learning cottages" (trailers) were placed in the back of the school's campus in May 2005, occupying approximately 80 student parking spaces. In August 2006, 10 more learning cottages were added on top of two of the six tennis courts in an effort not to lose any more parking spaces.
Japanese exchange program
TJHSST celebrated the tenth-year anniversary of its sister school relationship with Chiben Gakuen High School in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan in 2003. Each year TJHSST and Chiben Gakuen exchange several students for language and intercultural development.
Retirement of Elizabeth V. Lodal
In a letter sent to the superintendent of schools Jack D. Dale, Principal Elizabeth V. Lodal announced her retirement effective July 31, 2006. This occurred not long after publicly associating Asian students with cheating and theft that had recently occurred at TJ. After incessant pressure from a group of Asian TJ parents, Principal Lodal issued an apology. In an interview, she stated that her retirement had nothing to do with her remark regarding Asians. Beginning 2006, she will be serving as a delegate from Virginia on The Education Commission of the States. Dr. Evan M. Glazer, former director of Roanoke Valley Governor's School for Science and Technology, was chosen to replace her.
Duke University enrollment
The class of 2010 at Duke University contains more alumni of TJHSST than of any other single high school.
School features and activities
The school maintains a schedule of eight class periods on Monday and block classes the rest of the week, with the final eighth period on Wednesday and Friday devoted to a variety of extracurricular activities. This means that students at TJHSST participate in several activities, which reflect the interest of many students in not only the scientific and mathematical topics, but also their pursuits in athletics, the humanities and performing arts such as the marching band, cross country and lacrosse intervarsity sports teams and language clubs. There are also activities that are solely made to serve as places to relax, do homework, or play games. Every Thursday, the school day begins a half hour later than usual (9:00 as opposed to 8:30) to give teachers time to have conferences and for students to get some extra studying in or sleep later before coming to school. This is called a Jefferson Learning Community (JLC) day.
Computer Systems Lab
The Computer Systems Lab (CSL, often shortened as the "syslab") at TJHSST is one of a very few high school computing facilities with a supercomputer. In the late 1980s a team from the school won an ETA-10P supercomputer in the SuperQuest competition, a national science competition for high school students. Unfortunately, the ETA-10P was damaged by a roof leak in the 1990s. Cray Inc. donated a new SV1 supercomputer to the school in December 2002, which is still functioning today. The supercomputers have been used in research projects by students and may be used in a course for students taking the advanced computer science class, entitled Supercomputer Applications. This supercomputer's speed has been overtaken by several of the new servers that have been added to the Systems Lab.
One of the interesting aspects of this lab is the large encouragement of student involvement. Since the early 1990s, designated student system administrators (often referred to as "sysadmins") have maintained the lab's workstations and servers (currently running Debian GNU/Linux and Scientific Linux), including the upkeep of the school's E-mail, web site, files, and intranet, among other services. Over the years, students in the Computer Systems Research course as well as the sysadmins have worked to improve the computer resources in the school.
One notable project developed in the "syslab" is the TJHSST Intranet. This large web application was an early venture into PHP, and is known for bringing Rasmus Lerdorf, the original creator of PHP, to the school for a visit. It was made as a replacement for the aging mechanically-based Eighth Period scheduling system, but now it also provides features such as access to files on the school's intranet and the student directory. In recent years, the Intranet2 project has been developed in order to redesign and reimplement the Intranet system with Object-oriented programming and modern versions of PHP in mind. Intranet2 was released on May 18th, 2006, but will still continue to be developed indefinitely. It will be used as a teaching device for students who would like to learn more about PHP, MySQL, and Object Oriented websites.
The drama program performs three major plays each year. The independent Shakespeare Troupe student group additionally performs three Shakespeare plays each year. Every other year, the drama department puts on a musical, complete with singers and live pit orchestra.
The choir program holds several concerts over the course of the year, the largest of which is the Spring Show. The Spring Show is usually held towards the end of the school year and involves both curricular and extracurricular singers.
The orchestra program performs in four concerts over the course of the year, including their Spring Festival in which they are rated by a panel of esteemed judges. For the past several years, the orchestra program has achieved the rating of "superior" at every annual Festival. In addition, they are well-known for their fundraising Viennese Balls. At these Balls, the symphonic orchestra plays waltzes (punctuated at various interludes by swing music from the Jazz Band) for those students who prefer some good old-fashioned dancing to today's grinding. Perhaps the highlight of the orchestras' history, the symphonic orchestra won the title of "Best Overall High School Orchestra" at the 1991 International Quebec Music Festival. Both orchestras that Thomas Jefferson houses, 'symphonic' and 'concert', consistently win at competitions into which they are entered. The orchestras are conducted by Allison K. Bailey.
TJ's band program performs in five concerts over the course of the year, one of which is Spring Festival (see the note on orchestra) and the last of which is the Jazz Cabaret, at which the curricular and extracurricular Jazz Bands show off their stuff to an appreciative audience in a less formal setting. The marching band, or TJMC (TJ Marching Colonials) as they are called, begins practicing in the early summer and continues with their season through November. They perform at many competitions and are repeatedly awarded high standing. In addition, TJMC also performs at every home football game.
In addition to the Chiben Gakuen student exchange, TJHSST also hosts the annual week long Jefferson Overseas Schools Technology Institute during the summer for American-based overseas school educators. Also, guest instructors from overseas frequently teach at TJHSST for an academic year, and have hailed from countries such as Germany and Latvia over the past decade.
The quizbowl team at TJHSST is one of the best high school teams in the nation, often winning tournaments at the state and national levels. Its skill level is comparable to those of College Bowl teams, as the team has performed quite well in the college tournaments in which it has participated. In high school tournaments, it boasted a 38-game winning streak at NAQT's High School National Championship Tournament, taking 1st place for three consecutive years (2003, 2004, 2005). Moreover, it also won the 2005 PACE National Scholastics Championship, the first team to win both prestigious national tournaments since State College's wins in 2000. The team often produces some of the top players for the Virginia team at the Panasonic Academic Challenge which Virginia has won three times in a row (2003, 2004, and 2005) in addition to 1994.
Teams from the school also compete well in the It's Academic high school quiz tournament and television show produced in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. In addition, Thomas Jefferson consistently performs well in the United States Department of Energy's National Science Bowl.
Mathematics teams from TJHSST are perennial contenders at the American Regions Math League competition and have won the tournament four times, in 1993 and 2002-2004.
The school has won the Virginia Regional High School Science Bowl five years in a row and the National Science Bowl four of the last five years.
The school's Odyssey of the Mind teams are also perennial competitors in regional, state, national, and international contests. In 2006, TJHSST sent four teams to the world championships held at Iowa State University.
TJ's chess team has also won the Virginia State Championships for the past 7 years in a row.
Model United Nations
The Model United Nations club is the largest regularly-meeting organization in the school, with a mailing list of over 300 names and roughly 150 regular participants. Its Officer Corps includes over 20 members, including the Secretariat (Secretary General, Under-Secretary General, Senator, and Arbitrator). The club has been extremely successful in national competitions, regularly winning or competing for awards at conferences run by the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Pennsylvania. TJMUN is also well-known for its winning streak at local conferences, such as those hosted by Fairfax High School, Hylton High School, Gar-field High School, and Yorktown High School. TJMUN also hosts its own conference each spring, TechMUN, aptly named for the school's reputation.
TJHSST and George Mason University have been chosen to host the 2007 NCSSSMST Conference, to take place October 18-20, 2007 between the two campuses. The conference is currently in planning by a small group of students at TJ. These students are led by Milde Waterfall, an English teacher at TJ, and a Director on the NCSSSMST 2004-2005 Board of Directors. Dr. Barbara Wood, Ph.D., a TJ biology teacher, was Secretary of said Board.
Jefferson's nickname is the "Colonials". They play in the AAA Liberty District and the Northern Region of the Virginia High School League after playing in the AAA Concorde District for over a decade as well as a stint in the AAA National District for football.
Highlights of Colonial Athletics
The Colonials consistently field strong crew, cross country, track and field, tennis and swim and dive teams, and also have a rising football team as well, which went to the 2004 Division 5 Northern Region playoffs. Colonials crew has been a dominating force in Virginia rowing winning 10 of the last 11 boys eight varsity state titles. Both the girls and boys teams have won medals at the prestigious Stotesbury and SRA regattas. The tennis team has won 13 district championships in twenty seasons and the crew, cross country, and swim and dive teams have won multiple state championships in recent years. A tongue-in-cheek bumper sticker associated with the school states "we came for the sports".
VHSL State Championships
The Colonials have won nine VHSL state titles in athletic activities, all in the AAA level, which are:
- Three in AAA Girls Swimming and Diving: 2002-2004
- Two in AAA Boy Cross Country: 2002, 2004
- Two in AAA Boys Swimming and Diving: 1997, 2002
- Two in AAA Girls Indoor Track: 1997, 1998
The Colonials have been state runner ups four times, which are:
- Two in AAA Boys Cross Country: 2003, 2005
- One in AAA Girls Cross Country: 2002
- One in AAA Girls Swimming and Diving: 2001
The Colonials have been third in state competitions once, which is:
- One in AAA Boys Cross Country: 2006
Notable alumni of TJHSST include:
- Mark Changizi '87, Neurobiologist, noted in Discover, June 2006 article.
- Holly Harrison '90, first woman in Coast Guard history to be awarded the Bronze Star Medal
- Ehren Kruger '90, screenwriter, Arlington Road
- Jamie Weiss '91, winner of 1990 Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, contestant in 2005 Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions.
- Chris Colin '93, author, What Really Happened to the Class of '93 : Start-ups, Dropouts, and Other Navigations Through an Untidy Decade (ISBN 0-7679-1479-1), which profiles twenty alumni
- Dustin Thomason '94, co-author, The Rule of Four. Also co-creator and writer for ABC tv show, "The Evidence".
- Ian Caldwell '94, co-author, The Rule of Four
- Jose Llana '94, Broadway actor: The King and I, Rent, Flower Drum Song, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
- Ivana Ma '94, contestant, The Apprentice 2
- Vandana Madhavan, '94, 2nd place in 1996 College Jeopardy tournament
- Daniel Rubén Odio-Páez '94, profiled on the front page of the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal in July, 2004
- Josephine Durkin '98, Internationally recognized sculptor
- Greg Harrell-Edge '99, deemed the "Laziest Man In America" by the TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live
- Conor Lastowka '99, founder of National High Five Day
- Eric Froehlich '02, formerly the youngest ever winner of a World Series of Poker event
- S.R. Sidarth '03, referred to as "Macaca" by George F. Allen
- Ben Gelb, '04, Kings of Chaos co-creator
- Aman Gupta, '04, Kings of Chaos co-creator
- Nick Meyer, '04 Kings of Chaos co-creator
- Rocco Repetski, '04, Kings of Chaos co-creator
- Christo Landry, '04, United States representative in the World Cross Country Championships
- David Banh, '05, received media attention for graduating from University of Virginia with degrees in mathematics and physics in only one year.
(for alumni of Thomas Jefferson High School (open from 1965-1987) see this page)