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Report: Top VA School Administrators Hid Merit Achievements From Students, Parents In The Name of “Equity”

Report: Top VA School Administrators Hid Merit Achievements From Students, Parents In The Name of “Equity”

“This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of ‘equal outcomes for every student, without exception’.”

This Orwellian DIE nonsense has to stop. In the latest outrage, top administrators at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) allegedly have been hiding academic achievements from students and their parents because ‘equity.’

The New York Post reports:

For years, two administrators at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) have been withholding notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s families, most of them Asian, thus denying students the right to use those awards to boost their college-admission prospects and earn scholarships.

This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.” School administrators, for instance, have implemented an “equitable grading” policy that eliminates zeros, gives students a grade of 50 percent just for showing up, and assigns a cryptic code of “NTI” for assignments not turned in. It’s a race to the bottom.

An intrepid Thomas Jefferson parent, Shawna Yashar, a lawyer, uncovered the withholding of National Merit awards. Since starting as a freshman at the school in September 2019, her son, who is part Arab American, studied statistical analysis, literature reviews, and college-level science late into the night. This workload was necessary to keep him up to speed with the advanced studies at TJ, which US News & World Report ranks as America’s top school.

Last fall, along with about 1.5 million US high school juniors, the Yashar teen took the PSAT, which determines whether a student qualifies as a prestigious National Merit scholar. When it came time to submit his college applications this fall, he didn’t have a National Merit honor to report — but it wasn’t because he hadn’t earned the award. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a nonprofit based in Evanston, Illinois, had recognized him as a Commended Student in the top 3 percent nationwide — one of about 50,000 students earning that distinction. Principals usually celebrate National Merit scholars with special breakfasts, award ceremonies, YouTube videos, press releases and social media announcements.

But TJ School officials had decided to withhold announcement of the award. Indeed, it turns out that the principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, have been withholding this information from families and the public for years, affecting the lives of at least 1,200 students over the principal’s tenure of five years. Recognition by National Merit opens the door to millions of dollars in college scholarships and 800 Special Scholarships from corporate sponsors.

Asra Nomani, the Post article’s author, describes how she found out her son had been recognized for merit achievements.

I learned — two years after the fact — that National Merit had recognized my son, a graduate of TJ’s Class of 2021, as a Commended Student in a September 10, 2020, letter that National Merit sent to Bonitatibus. But the principal, who lobbied that fall to nix the school’s merit-based admission test to increase “diversity,” never told us about it. Parents from earlier years told me that she also didn’t tell them about any Commended Student awards. One former student said he learned he had won the award through a random email from the school to a school-district email account that students rarely check; the principal neither told his parents nor made a public announcement.

This alleged conduct is indeed completely outrageous. But it’s also exactly how the radical leftists insisting on DIE think. It does not occur to them to build up students who are under-performing; their solution is always to tear down and destroy.

Only when everyone is equally impoverished, ignorant, and living in squalid submission to their destructive ideology will they be satisfied.

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Comments

A National Merit award is a tangible benefit. It leads to scholarships, other assistance, and other opportunities for a young person seeking to enter college. Withholding this thus, I suggest as a non-lawyer, a tort. That’s a tort that can and should be litigated.

A school may not be required to pass on a notification of an award from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation; but if so, they’re obligated to inform the corporation of that fact so that the corporation can make alternative arrangements. To refuse to pass along the notification, and to refuse to convey that fact back, causes harm to the student.

Sue the principal. Sue the school district. Make it hurt. Schools have obligations that they’ve traditionally accepted; either meet those obligations or proclaim publicly that one won’t any longer do so.

    Blaise MacLean in reply to stevewhitemd. | December 25, 2022 at 9:34 am

    A similar thought along these lines had occurred to me, specifically related to the idea of “fiduciary duties” and “fiduciary relationships”. Are teachers, or at least administrative officers, in a fiduciary relationship with the students? Parents? They certainly purport to be professionals, and claim to have their students as a top priority. They are in a special relationship since they have specialized knowledge (otherwise why would it be obligatory that students go to school?) and power. I think a lawsuit including a claim against these particular individuals (who, no doubt have it on THEIR resumes that they teach…ok work…ok are employed…at this prestigious school) and the school for breach of fiduciary duty would be very interesting. Also, the claim for legal fees should be made against those two malignant individuals personally.

    Darkitect in reply to stevewhitemd. | December 25, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    I was awarded an automatic $16K scholarship by the state of Florida for being a National Merit Semi-Finalist. Most of the nearly two-dozen other Finalists and Semi-Finalists in my graduating class (public academic magnet school, diverse in all metrics except intellect) also used this benefit to attend public universities in Florida. This scholarship, along with the Florida Bright Futures and Florida Prepaid, allowed me to graduate undergrad without debt. It subsequently allowed me to take on loans to attend an Ivy League graduate school, which has opened so many additional doors for this former blue-collar kid. I am sad for the students who missed out on similar opportunities because of ill-considered social-engineering efforts.

Not sure it’s a winning case, but the optics of defending it have got to be bad.

    alaskabob in reply to filiusdextris. | December 24, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    One can show that which school one attends has added value. This is worth …ah… millions and add to that numerous students and this is a favorable class action suit. There will be equity… all those that withheld information will be all in the same bind.

“equal outcomes for every student, without exception.”

This is insane, people are not equal in a multitude of ways. There cannot and will not be equality, regardless of their attempts to impose such.

The school board should be recalled, the superintendent fired, along with every other person in the school which was involved,

This can only be stopped by taking scalps, there has to be severe consequences.

Why is this a student’s only notification? Why does the corporation not notify the winners directly?

    Dathurtz in reply to Milhouse. | December 24, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    I agree with you. It’s crazy. Many procedures in education world are bonkers. It is pretty standard that notifications like this occur using the school.

      jaudio in reply to Dathurtz. | December 25, 2022 at 11:14 am

      Maybe because it is absolutely preposterous for anyone to believe that someone in education wouldn’t inform. It goes against every natural instinct of someone who truly wants to build a young person up in education.

      Hypothetical here: if I were to infiltrate a school admin with the intended purpose of eroding high achievers and demoralizing students, would I incorporate the tactics of these administrators into my plan?

    BierceAmbrose in reply to Milhouse. | December 24, 2022 at 9:10 pm

    IDK why this, exactly…

    BUT, these things are encrusted in all sorts off arcane, varied, and varying rules and procedures.

    “Back in the day”, one got declared a “National Merit Semi-Finalist” automatically, based on PSAT score. Being so notified, a defined response was required from the parents / family, which would automatically advance one to “National Merit Finalist”, in the mix for the awarded actual scholarships.

    None of the National Merit organization, one’s particular school, or Colleges about to attent were required to inform, say, a student, that the next, admin step had not occurred. Time. passes, and the oppy is silently lost.

    henrybowman in reply to Milhouse. | December 24, 2022 at 11:50 pm

    Could be real simple, like: the board doesn’t have anything other than the student’s name and school name.

      Mind you my son attended private Catholic school, however I cannot believe they do not have the same process. Son is freshman in college so the process I describe is recent. 9th grade they take their first PSAT (yes, you can take them each year, only the one in 11th grade counts). Homeroom teacher walks the class through setting up account of College Board website. Gives them school code for the school. You can view the scores, their standings and any awards there. Goes all the way through the SAT and includes multiple sets of scores if you take SAT more than once. It’s also how you sent those scores to colleges though that is also tied to the school’s account and once you ask for the scores to be sent the school verifies and sends onward along with pertinant school data.

        kyrrat in reply to kyrrat. | December 25, 2022 at 12:41 am

        Bleh ACT I meant ACT. Anyway. SAT has a similar website too.

          kyrrat in reply to kyrrat. | December 25, 2022 at 12:43 am

          Gah, I’m sleepy. Anyway, both sets of tests have websites. MIT actually still requires the scores. Pretty much everyone else made them optional for the past two years.

        BierceAmbrose in reply to kyrrat. | December 25, 2022 at 11:09 pm

        Well, having the interwebz imporved something.

        Doesn’t mean schools, parents, or communities are requried to, or will, provide the heads’ up.

    SC Reader in reply to Milhouse. | December 25, 2022 at 11:05 am

    I cannot answer why this is done. I can attest that it seems to have always been done this way. In the late 1960s, when I was a National Merit semifinalist, and two of my classmates along with me, the school was notified. However, my small town high school celebrated our achievement. But that was nothing compared to the celebration that occurred when I and one of the others were named finalists. Do they still name semifinalists and then finalists, I wonder?

    diver64 in reply to Milhouse. | December 26, 2022 at 7:09 am

    I’m a little baffled at this too. Still, those two need to be fired immediately.

This type of procedure needs to be conceptually tied to a previous article on LI. I believe it was about “hollow” kids or similar.

Kids are lost because they don’t have anything. They suck and they know they suck and they are mad at a system that makes them suck more instead of less. It breaks the poor kids.

These administrators rob students of their pride in themselves. “Positive self-efficacy” they call it. So many don’t seem to realize that confidence and self assurance come from facing real challenges and overcoming them.

Wow. Deliberately keeping the information from the Student and their Parents is cray cray. There are very tangible benefits to becoming a National Merit Scholar. That’s a whole lot of easily proven financial damage in lost scholarships.

Then there’s the foregone lifetime opportunities in admission to higher tier Universities attributable to the lack of the award on the application. Let the jury decide if they believe damages exist and how much.

It’s like they see the wicked witch in fairytales as the good guy. “For equity, my pretty..”

This is fraud plain and simple.

I look at that photo of Brandon Kosatka, and my mind keeps superimposing Jen Psaki’s fuzzy pink commie hat.

A good example why diversity and excellence cannot be used together.

Equity to Marxists is everyone to the lowest common denominator

Sue the pants off of them. This is inexcusable.
.

“It does not occur to them to build up students who are under-performing; their solution is always to tear down and destroy..” Turns out it’s a whole lot easier to tear down the outstanding students than try to educate the uninterested lackluster students. Never let it be said that school administrators took the hard road.

“Feel good” treatment of individuals, completely unhinged from notions of merit, praise/criticism, ambition and competence — that’s what the Dumb-o-crats’ corrosive “equity” conceit represents. Giving everyone a seat at a table, when the seat hasn’t been earned.

This conceit melds perfectly with the feel good jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court, that yielded Obergefell, Bostock and other wretched opinions born of judicial narcissism, caprice, fiat and arrogance.