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Thomas Jefferson HS adds summer classes, help sessions for struggling students

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Local,Virginia,Education,Lisa Gartner

The leaders of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, aka TJ, are adding emergency help sessions before final exams and creating summer programs to help the one-third of freshmen who are struggling in math, science or both.

The Washington Examiner first reported that one-third of freshmen needed remedial help in math, science or both at the elite Alexandria magnet school, ranked the No. 2 public school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The admissions director at TJ told The Examiner that she is investigating the admissions process.

Now, school officials are holding closed meetings with TJ parents to help the students. In a letter to the parents of the class of 2015, Principal Evan Glazer said that following a May 23 meeting, he is creating two extra help sessions -- one Wednesday evening, another Saturday morning -- before final exams, and distributing a survey to students seeking ideas to improve their experiences.

Officials also will analyze the results of final exams and post summer practice items based on that analysis. Meanwhile, students who do poorly in their fourth quarter of Algebra II/Trigonometry will be required to take an online trigonometry course over the summer. Incoming freshmen can take a voluntary algebra test over the summer that would place those who do poorly in an August "boot camp."

"Teachers are working overtime in evening and weekends and even have committed to working in the summer," Glazer told The Examiner on Monday. "We've got teachers pouring out their hearts to nurture our students so they understand the material."

In a letter obtained by The Examiner, seven TJ math teachers wrote that "one-third of our freshman class is at risk and has been recommended for remediation in math and/or science." Two teachers analyzed the math portion of the admissions exam and found that the average question is on the sixth-grade level, "almost two grade levels too low."

TJ officials have scheduled another meeting Wednesday evening to discuss interventions for struggling students. But the nature of the meeting -- closed to anyone who is not a TJ parent or staffer -- is drawing ire from some members of the Fairfax County School Board. The intent of "closing" the meeting, Superintendent Jack Dale said in an email, is to keep out reporters.

"We are a public school system, using public dollars for the public's benefit," wrote back School Board member Elizabeth Schultz, who represents the Springfield District. "To intimate that tackling difficult topics should be less subject to scrutiny -- whether the public, press or School Board -- is eschewing accountability."

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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Lisa Gartner

Examiner Staff Writer - education
The Washington Examiner