Magnet High School Principal Celebrates Remedial Math ‘Achievements’

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora & Harry Jackson | March 5, 2024

(Washington Examiner) — Last Friday, the principal of Thomas Jefferson High School, Ann Bonitatibus, sent an email to the school’s families boasting that all of its freshmen are on track for algebra I proficiency by the end of the year.

But that’s not much of a brag, Bonitatibus. Let us tell you why.

Bonitatibus is a longtime cheerleader of racial balancing and an equity-based rather than merit-based admissions system at Fairfax County’s magnet school. On June 7, 2020, she sent an email to the school’s families lamenting that TJ does not “reflect the racial composition of [Fairfax County Public Schools].” As a result of Bonitatibus’s activism and a social justice-minded school board, TJ’s admissions policies changed significantly in 2021.

Last week, we explained that TJ’s new equity admissions policies that Bonitatibus supports (explicitly aimed to reduce the number of Asian Americans at the school) undermine the academic integrity of the school. They are comparable to a swim team selecting athletes who can’t swim and require life jackets at the expense of swimmers who are highly proficient in all four strokes.

In her email last week, Bonitatibus essentially admitted to families that the life jacket swimmers, TJ’s freshmen struggling in algebra I, haven’t learned to swim just yet — but that she hopes they will by the end of the year. She has made it quite public that not only are some of this year’s freshmen at TJ two years behind previous merit-based cohorts in math, but that the once flagship school for STEM education had to provide them with remedial “algebra mastery assignments through ALEKS, a digital resource that provides personalized learning.”  

The principal’s email is alarming, particularly for a magnet school that prides itself on producing some of the nation’s most talented STEM graduates. Prior to TJ’s admission changes intended to “racially balance” the school, most entering students had completed honors geometry in eighth grade — and notably, honors algebra I in seventh grade. At that time, such remediation under a merit-based admissions system was not only unnecessary but laughable. 

Bonitatibus’s email proves that merit is dead in TJ admissions, and that there are likely better options for gifted education in Fairfax County — particularly in private schools.