Fairfax County Association for the Gifted

Fairfax County Association for the Gifted

Building a community of advocates for gifted children and
connecting the people and programs that support them.


The Fairfax County Association for the Gifted (FCAG), is a non-governmental, non-profit organization of parent and student volunteers that supports educational programs for advanced academic students. FCAG has representatives on two advisory committees to the Fairfax County School Board. In addition to advocacy, FCAG hosts meetings with distinguished speakers that are free and open to the public, sponsors math contests such as the AMC 8 and AMC 10, and annually compiles a Guide of Summer Academic Programs and Enrichment Camps. FCAG also publishes newsletters and hosts a free, online, interactive Yahoo discussion group with over 2000 participants. You do not need to be a resident of Fairfax County to join the organization.

Join FCAG to support these efforts!

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Newsfeed and Online Discussion

Visit the FCAG Yahoo Groups Discussion Page.

FCAG testified for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' Budget Hearing for FY 2015.

Fairfax County Public Schools has asked for an increase of $59.4 million, or 2.5% increase overall, in its budget of $2.5 billion over FY 2014, and has requested a $98 million increase in transfer from the county. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has offered a $34 million or 2% increase in funding, leaving a budget deficit for FCPS. On April 10, 2014, FCAG testified for full funding of the FCPS FY 2015 budget while advising that the Board of Supervisors step back from linking the proposed increase in property tax rates from $1.085 to $1.105 to our schools' needs. FCPS is receiving a disproportionate share of increased Fairfax County revenues as decisions may be being influenced by other priorities. These other needs, including pension funding needs, reserve requirements, transportation costs, and debt service, are very important to understand since they are also driving the need for greater tax revenues. It is important for citizens to be informed of the changing financial position of Fairfax County. Here is the testimony.

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TJ Testing Problems Across the County

Fairfax County has released a summary of what happened with the administration of the SIS and Essay. The county notes the new holistic process associated with admissions, but does not acknowledge the change in Policy 3355.4, which now states that Tj is a school for kids with "exceptional quantitative skills".

FCAG has received extensive commentary from our membership across Fairfax County and beyond expressing a high level of frustration with the myriad of problems that occurred during the administration of the SIS/Essay test for TJHSST semi finalists. We have heard a variety of suggestions on how to solve the testing problems, and all proposals had downsides relating to fairness, practicality, or consistency. We don't feel it appropriate to endorse any imperfect solution to a process we see as flawed.

Considering that this year's SIS and the Essay effectively form a four-question essay test, our view is that there are too many essays in the admissions process, and that their importance is overemphasized. While communication skills are important, the quantity and nature of the questions asked in the SIS/Essay diminish consideration of the values described in FCPS Policy 3355, adopted September 12, 2013:

To establish a high school for science and technology where students with exceptional quantitative skills and interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, can pursue higher levels of academic achievement in those subjects in preparation for the pursuit of a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics focused profession.

FCAG believes that the TJ Admissions process needs to be changed. We thought and were even told that certain changes would be made this year, but they appear not to have been effected. The math portion of the TJ test was supposed to be tougher, yet how could it have been if just as many students qualified for the semi-finalist round this year as last year? We were told that the sliding scale had been discarded, yet it reappeared in the late fall and apparently has been utilized. We hoped that there would be some open-ended math questions to test ability to reason using multiple steps, but they were not included. The only changes we saw were reducing the number of essays by one and administering the essay test at a different time. Where is the accountability?

What we seek is meaningful change in the admissions process that will synchronize the selection of students with the goals and policies of FCPS and the mission of TJHSST. The SIS as currently structured does not deserve its title. Changing the process may be challenging for FCPS but the outcome for students and support from the community that results will be well worth the effort.

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TJ Admissions - School Board Approves New Policy

Without a doubt, something has gone wrong in the TJ admissions process. A high percentage of students requiring math remediation impacts the quality of the school as a whole. Clearly, math admission standards need to be raised and the process needs reworking.

In response to these concerns, on September 12, 2013, the School Board voted unanimously in favor of Policy 3355.4, which defines TJ as a school for ``students with exceptional quantitative skills." Revised Part III of Policy 3355 also would give the new FCPS Superintendent, Dr. Karen Garza, authority to cease using the old ``sliding scale" approach to selecting semifinalists.

This vote was preceded by testimony from 10 speakers, all of whom supported the proposed changes to Policy 3355:

http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fairfax/Board.nsf/files/9BHH9Z4770E9/$file/Speakers'%20Testimonies.pdf

According to TJ principal Evan Glazer, who serves on the administrative committee that Dr. Garza formed to revise Regulation 3355, "I support a rigorous process to ensure the students with greatest potential in STEM are not overlooked."

This change has been in the works for over a year. Significant time and energy has gone into the wording of Policy 3355.4, and there is still much work to be done in revising Regulation 3355. Implementation of the new policy can now begin.

Scheduled School Board Work Session-Advanced Academic Program Review Next Steps

On July 15, 2013 the Fairfax County School Board is scheduled to discuss the "Next Steps" following the review of Fairfax County's Advanced Academic Programs. The worksession is scheduled to begin at 10:00 am at the Gatehouse Building, with the AAP agenda item scheduled for 11:00 am. The detailed agenda for this item may be found here.

Supporting Documents:

  • Comparison of AAP Centers
  • Increase in AAP Students in Last Ten Years
  • Resource Needs for AAP Teacher Certification
  • Timeline for Communication Recommendations
  • Plan for Community Engagement
  • Plan for Review of Fidelity of Implementation
  • Documentation pertaining to the review is posted on the FCAG site here.

    Calendar

     

    News

    FCPS has changed to some aspects of the admissions policy at TJHSST. Read FCAG's newsfeed for more information.

    FCPS has proposed deep cuts to deal with a large budget deficit.

     

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