At least a dozen more Virginia high schools under fire for delaying National Merit awards

Administrators have also been accused of equity-driven attempts to level the playing field for students who didn't qualify for the scholarships at the expense of higher achievers.

Leaders at a dozen more Virginia high schools are under fire for delays in notifying students of National Merit recognitions.

The revelations have drawn the ire of the state’s Republican leaders, who have launched a state investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools, the district in which the postponed notifications were initially discovered late last year at Thomas Jefferson High School, widely considered one of the nation’s top public high schools. Administrators in Loudoun County Public Schools and Prince William County Public Schools have acknowledged similar delays.

Some parents and politicians have said the withholding of PSAT scores prevented students from listing National Merit recognition on their college applications. Administrators have also been accused of equity-driven attempts to level the playing field for students who didn’t qualify for the scholarships at the expense of higher achievers.

The problem first surfaced at Fairfax’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, which was recently ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. After several more high schools reported delays, Fairfax County schools Superintendent Michelle Reid apologized to the community and said the district is investigating the matter.

“Each and every student, their experience and success, remain our priority,” said Reid, the 2021 National Superintendent of the Year. “We understand and value the hard work and dedication of each and every student and the families and staff who support them.”

In ordering a state investigation, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin described the delays as “an egregious, deliberate attempt to disadvantage high-performing students at one of the best schools in the country.” In a statement, he said, “I believe this failure may have caused material harm to those students and their parents, and that this failure may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act.”

Administrators have blamed the delays on administrative errors, including, in Thomas Jefferson High School’s case, insufficient postage on a package of notifications that were sent to the school by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

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Apologies have also been issued by several Fairfax County principals, including Pamela Brumfield at Edison High School, Shawn DeRose at Annandale High School, Tanganyika Millard at West Potomac High School and Alfonso Smith at Lewis High School.

All sent a similar message to their districts, explaining that students were informed as soon as the problem came to light and staff members were also contacting the colleges to which the affected students applied. A Prince William County spokesperson acknowledged to 7News that National Merit notifications had been delayed at two of its 13 high schools.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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