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The Shame And Horror Of The B-Minus Student

Pity poor Matthew Nuti, who dared to be only good. Weep for all those students at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology who, like Matthew, managed to maintain only a B-minus average and who therefore have been summarily given the heave-ho from the Fairfax school.

To be admitted to TJ--by some measures the highest achieving public school in the nation--you must score exceedingly well on the entrance exam. And now, to stay at TJ, you must maintain at least a B average. Apparently, TJ students, by virtue of their extraordinary skills and unmatched work ethic, are by definition A students. Those who fall short obviously do not belong.

As The Post's Jay Matthews reported this weekend, Matthew, a 16-year-old rising junior, is one of five students at the school who failed last year to stay at or above a 3.0 average, and, as principal Evan Glazer wrote to families last summer, anyone who cannot make that grade should be "placed in a learning environment appropriate to their academic challenge and motivation level."

Never mind that Matthew was a Gavel Award winner on TJ's victorious Model United Nations team, or that he was a starting lineman on the school football team, or that by all accounts, he's a smart, witty kid.

As in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, TJ is a place where the idea that a student could fall below a B is abhorrent, a violation of the illusion that a child is a perfectible product. A TJ child is the ultimate expression of that perfectibility.

Above all, parents must be shielded from the fact that even the exalted TJ is home to geniuses, the merely brilliant, and yes, a fair number of kids who are bright but not wildly so, or who somehow manage to find things other than academics about which to be passionate in their middle teen years. The school's self-image requires that its students be perceived as having been scientifically selected to stand far above a nation whose schools slouch ever more precipitously into mediocrity.

There is nothing wrong with a school that caters to an intellectual elite; to the contrary, high-end education is one of the things this country does best, though hardly consistently. But there is something wrong with catering to the craven credentialism of those who believe children are successful only if they attain perfection as measured by grades, scores and other such clumsy indicators of achievement.

For the past four years, the leaders of Princeton University, no stranger to an intellectual pride that can strike outsiders as overbearing, have been fighting a virtually solitary war against grade inflation. To the horror of some of its students, the university has pressured its professors to restrain their desire to please the bright little pups and their preposterously entitled parents (yes, there are parents of college students who grade-grub on behalf of their precious babies) and reduce the portion of kids who get A's from about half to something more like a third.

If you're going to have grades, they ought to mean something. They ought to be a useful guide for teachers, colleges and graduate schools, employers, parents--anyone who might want to figure out how a kid is doing. One way we make such judgments is to compare a student's performance to that of his peers. In a selective school, the range of talents and performances will be higher than elsewhere, but there is still a range. In any group of people, no matter how rarified, there is an arc of achievement. You might believe that the differences at a place like TJ are so slight as to be not all that meaningful, but you'd be wrong: Grades don't always accurately reflect it, but in any population, there are those who stand out, those who do just fine, those who perform below their potential, and those who just shouldn't be there.

Grades are a means of communication and motivation: If Matthew failed to meet deadlines or did mediocre work, his middling grades were his teachers' way of saying it was time to buckle down. Turning those mediocre grades into a death penalty moots the basic notion that a school ought to spur people on to the hard work of studying and learning.

Was TJ right to toss Matthew Nuti? His average was barely below the ridiculous cutoff the administration established. More important, the range of grades at the school is so narrow as to be nearly meaningless.

If TJ, eager to present itself as a school that means business, seeks to cull kids who won't commit themselves to the idea of school as academic boot camp, that's fine. There ought to be room for such a school in a society that has so many schools with a completely opposite, utterly slacker sensibility. But first, the school needs to confront its students and parents with a grading system that rejects the fiction that nearly everyone is so wonderful, so brilliant and so hard-working that they all deserve A's.

Any institution can be improved by lopping off the bottom-most rank, but a numerical, mechanized definition of the bottom denies the turbulent, mercurial nature of adolescence. A smarter path would be to eschew numerical cutoffs and dare to look at the whole kid. I don't know Matthew Nuti, but I hope some TJ teachers do, and I'd be far more impressed by a system that let their collective judgment determine who stays and who goes rather than see a 16-year-old's future defined by a fraction of a grade point. Maybe kids like Matthew will find it hard to keep up with their peers, but maybe he's just a 16-year-old who took his eye off the ball for a while and would come back strong. A B-minus isn't flunking out in anybody's eyes. Defining it as an unacceptable, shameful performance only means this school's sense of judgment is way off.

You'd think the folks at TJ might be smart enough to figure that out.

By Marc Fisher |  July 28, 2008; 8:50 AM ET
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Sorry TJ should be eliminated. The best and brightest dont need Fairfax County's best teachers and more money spent on them than other students in the system. The best teachers and additional assets would be better spent on all Fairfax County students. The best teachers can motivate the B student who is just sliding by and doing the minimum required to get Bs and maybe an A or two. Its discrimination and the rest of the Fairfax County parents should sue.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 9:36 AM

Actually, if you look at the courses, like phys ed, where he got A's, his grades are really lower than stated and some college admissions offices would recalculate. Good point on the lack of any real curve at that school though

Posted by: Chuck | July 28, 2008 9:39 AM

As the parent of a DC student I regularly use the highly rigorous TJ in examples of what our school system is failing to live up to. I absolutely believe that TJ should exist as-is, but I'm a little surprised there isn't a one-semester grace period on the GPA. I'm sure, however, that the kid with a 4.0 at another high school who has been on the waiting list for TJ is absolutely overjoyed at this turn of events. That's really what people need to keep in mind, that there are kids who are willing to do what it takes to get into that school and it would be ignorant to disallow people to maximize their achievement in life. In fact, the decline of American schools has a LOT to do with parents falsely claiming that kids' lives need to be well-rounded. Kids who excel at one single thing to the point where they're world-class in that thing, should be encouraged to be world-class. Not every kid needs to be brought down to their parents' level Mr. Great Santini.

Posted by: DCer | July 28, 2008 9:41 AM

In the original article he blames Ms. Gecan for his woes. She was my 10th grade history teacher, and tough but fair. I graduated form TJ in '00.

Yes, nevermind that Nuti was a MUN award winner and a witty football player. Almost all of us had extracurriculars and were able to maintain GPAs well over 3.0. Nuti should have buckled down and worked on his grades first and foremost, and his dismissal potentially provides a spot for someone who will take advantage of the opportunities that TJ provides.

Posted by: AT | July 28, 2008 9:52 AM

His average was only just below the cut-off because he got three 'A's in guaranteed A classes that bumped up his average. If he had gotten B's and B minuses in the science and math classes, you might have a point. But he obviously was not cut out for it in those areas. Whether that's due to lack of talent or lack of effort, I don't know. TJ is a school for academic excellence, and nearly failing all the academic course but excelling at sports, or debate team, or drivers ed (that gets a grade???) doesn't make up for it. TJ's principal is doing Matt a favor by getting him into an environment better suited to his talents and interests. It seems the ones overly concerned with credentials are you and Matt's family. If he remains at TJ, but doesn't get a good education because he's overwhelmed by the courseload, it appears the rationale for staying is so he can have TJ as a status badge. His education should take priority.

Posted by: alex | July 28, 2008 9:55 AM

Students risk being expelled if they fail. TJ has just redefined failing to be a B-. That a reasonable grade should constitute a fail suggests that TJ has failed to control grade inflation in its programs.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 9:59 AM

Sorry, TJ is in the right here. It doesn't matter that the kid was a good football player or member of MUN. There are other kids in the school who do the same or more, and are still capable of maintaining the necessary GPA.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 10:02 AM

I am the Mother of a child designated as highly gifted who had trouble keeping up with home work in a program like this. She scores 98% to 99% tile, but stresses about heavy work load. We made a switch last year. She is doing better in a less competitive, pressure cooker environment and seems happier about school. She has As and high Bs. Every case is unique, my daughter is artistic. We are emphasizing that talent outside of school to get her into a good art school. But IMHO far too much pressure is put on these kids, there is more to their gifts than their GPA.

Posted by: High School Mom | July 28, 2008 10:06 AM

AT, you mis-spelled 'from'. Nice letter otherwise, but I'm afraid you're expelled. Sorry, but standards have to be maintained. Other posters took the time to spell everything correctly. Loser.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 10:07 AM

Pressures for grade inflation are exacerbated in college vs. high school because students are encouraged by parents and college bureaucrats to view themselves as customers. Over time, though, all things balance out, and the pendulum swings back. The trends of grade inflation and the overall decline of standards on college campuses have fueled the employment sector's demand for even more education, thus the rise of graduate school. College today provides less employment flexibility than the high school diploma of the early 20th century. After another couple of generations of this trend, we'll one day see the PhD required to work at Wal-Mart!

Posted by: college prof | July 28, 2008 10:12 AM

Another white boy crying foul because he couldn't keep up with the asian students at TJ. Before anyone cries racsim, plz remember that I'm black. But take heart. Matthew Nuti could follow the great tradition of other losers like C- student George W. Bush and 394th place out 397th placeholder John McCain and become the next U.S. President.

Posted by: playa | July 28, 2008 10:16 AM

alex wrote: "TJ's principal is doing Matt a favor by getting him into an environment better suited to his talents and interests."

I'm LOL'ing here because Mark gingerly danced around the root cause of grade inflation at most prestigious academic institutions: affirmative action.

If the aptitude/admissions exams required to get into TJ or Princeton are of any valude, then students who scored lower on those exams would have lower levels of academic achievement in the classroom. If graded according to traditional norms, there would be an immediately obvious "disparate impact" on minority students. The easiest way to avoid the ensuing lawsuits is to establish a norm that virtually guarantees every student at least a B. You might think that math and science classes are based on facts, but they're really all about opinions today, and opinions can never be right or wrong. Everyone can take their B and move on to the Ivy League or other prestigious universities where the same principles apply and they continue to slide by without ever actually needing to learn anything. Best of all, no one ever suggests that they find an environment better suited to their talents and interests.

I have no idea what Mr. Nuti might have done to run afoul of TJ's usual generosity (perhaps he played football too semi-competently for their liking?) but a Gentleman's B-minus is the easiest way for the administration to tell him "you are not wanted here" while at the same time subtly signalling to the Beltway crowd who grew up in this system that he's a total and absolute failure.

Posted by: athea | July 28, 2008 10:19 AM

Actions have consequences. Very few children have a solid grasp on that concept in my opinion.

Posted by: This is a good lesson for the kid | July 28, 2008 10:20 AM

college prof- I'd like to see what a high school diploma of early 20th century can really qualify people for in many service and professional positions today, especially those that didn't exist back then (which is MANY).

It's kinda unfortunate that you DO need higher education in many more places today just to be able to live comfortably, but one also has to recognize the fact that the employment sector is much different from even 25-30 years ago, let alone before that. The big concern to me is that in the light of this, there's still a real problem with kids in grade school right now. Luckily, I see a lot of individuals (that work hard) really excel in college, even if they came from a relatively mediocre or worse grade school system... but that's not everyone, and there's still not enough kids getting the proper foundation, and that may become a real employment problem in the relatively near future.

Posted by: Wakka Wakka | July 28, 2008 10:22 AM

Seems to me like this policy will have the opposite effect to what is intended, i.e. weed out the lower performing students. I would be surprised if any teacher at TJ will give anyone less than a B anymore, since the consequence can be expulsion.
I thought that the prestige of an "elite" school was the reward and that college officials would treat a 2.8 from Thomas Jefferson as "better" than a 2.8 from a regular school. Instead, they need to be wary that only A's and B's are going to be given and thus a 3.5 from Jefferson may not be as good as a 3.5 elsewhere.

Posted by: bowiemd1 | July 28, 2008 10:23 AM

Marc did you even read the article before you started pontificating? It sounds like the school put students on notice and offered extra help to the kids who were falling behind TJ's standards. And this kid was either not interested or couldn't keep up with his peers. They note that if he was doing well in math and science which is the school's focus that they could have made some accommodation. But since his grades and interest in those subjects were not so great that they didn't think he should remain in the program. I think they are right that he would likely be better off in another environment which offers a more rounded experience. Frankly I think it is better for kids to not be in these crazy magnet schools that seems to be more for the parents than for the kids. I went to a HS with a broad cross-section of kids in a variety of programs from AP to vo-tech. While most of my time was spent in honors and AP classes I still knew people and had friends across all of the various strata of school society. I think it made me a better person that I would have been in a school full of eggheads try to out-do each other to get into MIT and Yale.

Posted by: Glenn | July 28, 2008 10:35 AM

This kid will be much better off at his "regular" Fairfax County high school. He'll do fine and get into a good college. Give his TJ slot to another grade-grubber.

Posted by: Spectator2 | July 28, 2008 10:50 AM

Whether or not there is grade inflation at TJ is not very relevant. Matthew Nuti was obviously doing much worse than the vast majority of his peers, and even when given a second chance to work hard, he did not do so. Was it because he isn't cut out for TJ? Was it because he had some other distraction unrelated to school? We may never know. As a TJ alumnus, I can say that nearly all TJ students would be mortified to get so many Cs. Participating in Model UN and the football team are not remarkable at TJ and probably wouldn't be a serious factor in the decision whether or not to expel him.

Posted by: William | July 28, 2008 11:05 AM

Marc, your rather biased post here suggests that either:
A) You're deliberately being hiding some important truths.
B) You didn't bother to fully read the original Post article.

I don't know which it is, but you should have taken a look at Matthew Nuti's grades. His GPA, as you correctly point out, is not the most meaningful measure of academic achievement. In fact, in Matthew's case, his GPA was FAR higher than it should have been because his "A" classes were the easy ones anyone with a brain should get an "A" in.

If TJ is supposed to represent what it represents, then obviously it needs a cutoff. Moreover, Matthew WAS given a grace period in which he could improve his GPA. He knew from last summer what his GPA needed to be. Even with his stupid easy classes in there, though, he still couldn't do it.

Finally, on top of that, Marc, you should realize that, with grade inflation, "B" is the new "C". It's very easy to get a "B" in a class. So, having to maintain a 3.0 average (which means that someone could even get some "C"s in classes) is not that hard.

Really, Marc, you need to think more about this stuff and read the articles in their entirety before posting.

Posted by: Ryan | July 28, 2008 11:06 AM

As the mother of an 08 TJ grad, I have to agree with TJ's policy. My son was no superstar at TJ; I rarely saw him do homework, but I know the teachers bent over backwards to help him to be at least a solid B or B+ student. Carolyn Gecan was extraordinarily helpful and I'm confident she tried to be in Nuti's case as well. TJ is a great gift and it has a clearly defined mission. Nuti's academic record in the core courses was abysmal. Someone else out there has worked hard for a chance at that slot and should get it.

Posted by: Jake's mom | July 28, 2008 11:12 AM

Marc - No one is saying this kid was bad or a failure, but there are a very limited number of spots at TJ and they should not be wasted on someone who clearly was cruising. His GPA would have been terrible if it weren't for his high grades in Gym, Drivers Education, and photography. He clearly isn't interested in advanced math and science and appears to have only attended because his siblings attended.

Posted by: Cleveland Brown | July 28, 2008 11:12 AM

Maybe all TJ students should be required to play football, and anyone who doesn't score 10 TDs a season gets cut and sent down to a lesser school.

By the nature of the sport, not player can possibly score that many TDs in football? Well, not everyone can earn As. That's the point - or at least was - of As. Ever hear the term "Gentleman C"? Once upon a time, people who were good but not great at a subject got a C and it was entirely respectable. Indeed, it was often the sign of trying something different. An English major at a liberal arts school might take a Biology course just for the experience. Today, you have students who will specialize in, say, physics as early as junior high, because they're bad at chemistry or art and know if they take those classes they will have a lower overall GPA and - they assume, abetted by overcontrolling parents - that their lives are over if they don't get into Yale. That's the first step in a long road to becoming an anti-social pinhead rather than a well-rounded student and citizen.

Posted by: Rory | July 28, 2008 11:26 AM

Marc Fisher seems to assume that the old assumption about a "curve" on which grades are supposed to fall is still in place. In Montgomery County, Maryland, teachers are not permitted to grade on a curve. They grade on an absolute standard. If all but two in a class attain the standard for an A, then all get A's but two. If only two in a class meet the standard, then only two get A's. The same with the standards for a B, C, and so on.

Now, I must admit that new practices in MCPS, such as requiring reteaching and retesting during lunch, making the lowest failing grade on any assessment 50% and outlawing penalties for late submission of assignments, make it much easier to meet the standard. And, I also must admit that teachers whose students receive too many low grades may find themselves pressured to explain why so many grades are so low.

But, if a teacher can show that a student has failed to take advantage of the opportunities for reteaching and retesting, (a factor which played a part in the Nuti case) in the end, it is the standard and not the "curve" that is supposed to prevail.

Posted by: jrsposter | July 28, 2008 11:50 AM

The thing about TJ is that it's an examination score that gets you in. The thing about an examination is that excelling on standardized tests is a knack. A knack that can be enhanced with test prep. An A average is an accomplishment, but TJ doesn't have a provision for earning your way in through accomplishing an A average. Of course there is grade inflation, but I'm speaking as the mother of a couple of wicked smart C students who didn't come into their own academically until college. Most ways, they were probably more like Matthew in what drove them at the time.

I don't agree that there shouldn't be a TJ, but believe there should be more of them, and I don't quarrel with the idea of a B average requirement to stay there. There should be as many of these schools as it takes to hold the number of A students who would rather be in an environment where academic passion doesn't make you a social leper. And why would those schools have to cost more, anyway? They are the easiest kids on the planet to educate; they pretty much teach themselves, for crying out loud, and often learn more from one another than from their teachers.

Posted by: Joan | July 28, 2008 11:58 AM

The taxpayers in Fairfax County and state-wide pay a large premium for the education provided at TJ. Not least is the 17% premium paid to its faculty for teaching an additional class. The list goes on. In return for this specialized and more costly public education, TJ's students must apply themselves more rigorously than do other high school students. Attending TJ is not an entitlement, it's an earned privilege. Abuse that privilege and it will be lost. TJ was correct in what it did here, and should do the same thing far more often.

Posted by: LoveIB | July 28, 2008 12:02 PM

Marc Fisher writes:
> There is nothing wrong with a school that caters to an intellectual elite ...

True, but it should be a private school. Most of the TJ parents could afford the tuition, and when a student flunked out it wouldn't make the Post.

Posted by: Bill | July 28, 2008 12:02 PM


"You might think that math and science classes are based on facts, but they're really all about opinions today"

Do you really believe that the math classes tought in High school are based on opinions? That the ideal gas law is an opinion? That the 3 laws of thermodynamics are opinions? Maybe I missed your point, or have no idea what is being taught in high school today.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 12:11 PM

Does TJ use the FCPS grading scale? And not the more common 90to 1000 is A etc.

Just get rid of TJ all together. It discriminates since the students there get more tax payer funding and better teachers.

And please having to study harder doesnt make up the difference. What about the C student who studies just hard at LBSS or Woodson! Now if said having to put up with ugly girls that maybe a fairer trade. All FCPS high school students deserve the same spending per pupil and chance for great teachers irrespective of whether they attend TJ or LBSS. if parents want to their spawn to attend TJ then they should be forced to pay tuition.
And remember that kid in votech will enter a program with BMW, Lexus or MB after graduating HS. After 2 years he/she is guaranteed a job at dealership. Starting pay about $50k+. 5 to 7 years down the road they will reach journeyman level and split the labor rate with the dealer. Right now auto techs at your lcoal BMW or MB dealership at the journeyman level are making a $120k+. And there is a shortage of qualified techs. And they dont have a $100k + in student loans!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 12:17 PM

I don't think the school did anything wrong here.

1) They gave Matthew a probationary period in which to get his grades up to par and he didn't accomplish that.
2) It's obvious his interests and talents lie in non-math/science areas so TJ doesn't seem to be the best fit for him given the school's emphasis on those two subjects.
3) This is no different that what he would encounter in graduate school. Your GPA falls below a certain point, you're placed on academic probation and have one semester to bring it back up. Matthew, welcome to the real world!

Posted by: Little Red | July 28, 2008 12:23 PM

TJ kids work very hard for the grades they recieve. Their grades are NOT inflated! They, like all Fairfax County students have to have their grades scored on the extrememly unfair FCPS grading system, Visit . They do not receive any extra weight on their GPA's for taking very advanced classes (unless it is an AP class). My son's work is harder than much of the work I did in College. Yet he is happy to do it in order to stay at TJ!

Posted by: TJ Parent | July 28, 2008 12:28 PM

"Actions have consequences. Very few children have a solid grasp on that concept in my opinion."

They are kids. Their brains do not yet fully grasp such concepts. Though this does not grant them a free pass from consequence, it does grant them a certain amount of leeway.

It is so easy to write that this child should go to a school more suitable to his skill set because he was merely exceptional in "automatic-A" classes. Is this to say that an institution like TJ holds their kids to high standards but not themselves? A school like TJ offers "automatic-A" classes? How can this be? You show me a single gym class where every student received perfect marks and I'll show you an advanced calculus class that can boast same. And what if they child does have a greater inclination to enjoy a class like gym? Such inclinations are too low in ambition to be taken into account in a school like TJ? Why offer classes like these at all then?

Standards, though necessary, can sometimes be arbitrary. Educational Darwinism seems to be the standard here, which seems awful closed-minded for a school that desperately wishes purport otherwise.

Oh, AT, I bet I can do more push ups than you.

And all the harrowing memories of gym class come rushing back. AT, undaunted, begins to recite algebraic equations he memorized for just such an occasion.

Posted by: chickencalada | July 28, 2008 12:28 PM

All FCPS parents need to go to and sign the petition to put your children on an even playing field with the rest of the county. Do it now!

Posted by: FCPS Parent | July 28, 2008 12:30 PM

This pusillanimous attack on the school reflects the refusal to reach out for help from a very supportive faculty as well as a real lack of self-discipline needed to excel at a school where time-management is a make-or-break skill. The whole point of "extracurricular" is that you have your "curricular" in order before committing to the "extra." The school is doing him a favor in the long run, because a poor student from a good school will see no benefit from the extracurricular activities when college admission officers see that horrid core GPA. The real irony is that the Nuti's probably have a "we came for the sports" bumper-sticker on their minivan.

TJHSST is the only redeeming thing about public education in the region. In a country of miserably failing public schools producing high school graduates with the breadth of general knowledge one would expect of an eighth-grader two generations ago, it's hard to be anything but dismayed. It's unfathomable that the idiot-egalitarians like the first poster always are screaming for it's demise. If you listen to the true cry emanating from the vacuum of their souls it sounds a lot like "Four legs good, two legs bad." Just because your kids are idiots, doesn't mean that everyone else's should be condemned to learn at a snail's pace as well.

Posted by: Leesburger | July 28, 2008 12:43 PM

"The real irony is that the Nuti's probably have a "we came for the sports" bumper-sticker on their minivan."

Those heathen sports-lovers and with their sport-specific bumper stickers proclaiming interest in anything but science, math, and social ineptitude ought to get what's coming to them.

They have absolutely nothing on the bumper stickers on my car that proclaim my child's curricular dominance and the resulting honor-roll decal which I display with utmost pride because it proves to ignorant masses that my child is different, my child is special.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 12:53 PM

TJ Parent

And just think they could have a more rewarding and fulfilling career as an auto tech, carpenter, lectrician or plumber than as an electrical engineer, computer software engineer or biologist.

Get rid of TJ and make it a normal high school just because you come from affluent parents and test well doesnt mean you should get the best teachers and more tax apyer dollars. Or you are not a math/science nerd!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 12:58 PM

"You might think that math and science classes are based on facts, but they're really all about opinions today, and opinions can never be right or wrong."

I'll think about that next time I ride an elevator, drive, cross a bridge, get in an airplane, etc. No, cancel that thought, I'd better not think about it, too scary!

I'm just glad that some educators understand that the teaching of facts is still important, and glad that many students appear to understand this without complaint.

Posted by: alex | July 28, 2008 12:58 PM

Also, for those same ignorant masses:

pusillanimous - Showing ignoble cowardice, or contemptible timidity

Don't worry Leesburger, I got that definition from wiktionary, so we should be good. Together, you and I will show the rest of the world how stupid it really is. For now, I'll look up needlessly obscure words in wiktionary. I will then insert them into anonymous comments I make in Fisher's stories to perplex the stupid people who don't know what they mean. What I want you to do is gather all the information that could inform the stupid masses how smart your child is. I know that's a lot of information, so take your time.

Posted by: chickencalada | July 28, 2008 1:02 PM

Hey, Marc
You might write well, but you don't research well. If you DID read the article, you would see that his A's were in liberal arts classes in a Science and Math focused school. It would be as if a math whiz who could barely write wanted to take your job. Would you object?

Posted by: alex20850 | July 28, 2008 2:09 PM

OK, why should I care about whether he is a starting football player or on a debate team of some sort?

Didn't the first paragraph say this was the "Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology"?

The grade requirements were not well known BEFORE the little cherub started classes?

I guess the only accurate way to put this is:

WAAAAAAA !! My little baby is being discriminated against. Everybody owes him something for nothing and they better pay now !!!

Did I get that right?

And to Anon at 12:17PM - if you really think an "A" grade ranges from 90-1000 you may want to take that remedial math course.

Posted by: HadEnough | July 28, 2008 2:10 PM

Obviously, Thomas Jefferson is not hurting for students. It therefore seems to me that its policies must be reasonable, given its mission. If there are students with better grades waiting to get in, then why should they keep students who are just scraping by?
The B average requirement doesn't restrict the school just to genii, necessarily. But it does restrict it to academically gifted students who are willing to work hard at their studies.

Posted by: Charlie Gies | July 28, 2008 2:46 PM

Not to be picky, but the FCPA grading scale, which is more burdensome than almost any other jurisdiction I have heard of, a C+ is an 80-83.9.

Posted by: xtr657 | July 28, 2008 3:21 PM


Posted by: xtr657 | July 28, 2008 3:22 PM

Another white boy crying foul because he couldn't keep up with the asian students at TJ. Before anyone cries racsim, plz remember that I'm black

Help me out, how does your race relate to whether or not you hold racist beliefs about other races? Haven't you proved the DEFINITION of what racism is?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 3:24 PM

Most of the above comments respond to Fisher's column. The real issue is the original Mathews' reporting. The article failed to acknowledge the year-long attempt to get Nuti's average up to a B. I can attest that any student who's in academic trouble is given ample opportunity to get his/her grades up to that B average. And TJ teachers don't get paid 17 percent above other FCPS teachers. We're paid for the extra class we teach, that's all!

Posted by: TJ Teacher | July 28, 2008 3:25 PM

True, but it should be a private school. Most of the TJ parents could afford the tuition, and when a student flunked out it wouldn't make the Post.

Are you saying that MOST TJ parents could pay the $110,000 per child that a 4 year stint at Sidwell costs? Really, MOST TJ parents have $220k lying around dormant for two kids? really? My house cost me $220k, my whole HOUSE.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 3:27 PM

Both my kids attended TJ recently and both were involved in extracurricular activities, including football and MUN. They both took very rigorous class loads, including post-AP classes. However, they have told me it was not that difficult to maintain a 3.0 GPA. If they had difficulty in a section of a science or math course, tutoring and extra teacher help were available. Time management was an absolute necessity, and emphasized. TJ admin sent the notification of minimum GPA requirements with PLENTY of advance notice, and with offers of help. This student for whatever reason did not take advantage of the help. He is better placed to excel at the base school, and his slot should go to a student who truly wants to be at TJ.

Next time, read the complete article.

Posted by: jct | July 28, 2008 3:31 PM

By the way, admission to TJ is not based just on a test score, as one poster said. A high test score is necessary just to get into the first cut. Admission is based on a combination of test score, grades (especially in math and science courses), teacher recommendations, and evidence of interest and ability in science, math, technology, and "other" activities such as musical talent.

Posted by: jct | July 28, 2008 3:36 PM

I know many TJ kids and Parents as a TJ Parent of the last 5 years. I know that Matthew was accepted into TJ with a 2.8 GPA and the school made a point of telling parents not to stress when there kids come home with grades that are not A's. The rule for the 3.0 minimum did not exist when Matthew was accepted. Then while at the school, and without any kind of grandfathering of the rules, he and other students are being told that getting good grades rather than great grades when working 2 to 3 grades above his peers in his base school is not good enough. Because kids at TJ are 2 to 3 grades above their base school peers Matthew will at a minimum need to deal with just finding classes to fill his time for 2 more years. So for people to say that he would be better suited at his base school without knowing anything about his current path to graduation shows that they have no idea what the impact to a good student like Matthew faces because the administration has decided that good is not good enough.

Posted by: Parent of 3 TJ Kids | July 28, 2008 3:57 PM

"Before anyone cries racsim, plz remember that I'm black."

Oh, right, I forgot, black people can't be racist.

Posted by: anon | July 28, 2008 3:59 PM

Glenn, you sound like me (at least, my experience). My high school was the same, and had just added a magnet program for math/science my junior year, but it was still a fully-rounded high school, down to the students who needed the special classes.

And, frankly, it was a great experience, and those that wanted Yale and Harvard and Cornell still got in.

This kid, sadly, is a pawn in his parents' ego trip, though I did have to laugh: complaining about "rote memorization"? Give me a break - that's all college is sometimes, preparing for exams, and if he can't take it why is he at this school? Being good at football and driving (yeah, who gets a grade for that?) doesn't make you a genius; it just makes you competent for society.

Posted by: Me, too | July 28, 2008 4:02 PM

"This kid, sadly, is a pawn in his parents' ego trip", Hey Me,too... how many of your kids have been through TJ?

Posted by: anon | July 28, 2008 4:27 PM

Marc, your article was wonderful. Matthew says you are his hero and high five!

Response to Had Enough: No one has cried discrimination.

To all: No one else will benefit from Matthew's removal. TJ does not replace students who leave.

For the record: We do not have any bumper stickers. Football was never a focus for him although because of his size, 6' 200 lbs, he was a welcomed player.

There was no help from the faculty. There was one conference, where EVERY teacher except one said that they didn't know why we were there, he was not having a problem in their class. The only offer that was made was to use an empty classroom for studying.

Respond to chickencalada: Actions have consequences. What is his crime? All he has done is performed above average in a setting that is comprised of students who are in the top 1% of the country, including him. He is working in some cases 3 grade levels higher than his natural grade, and the work at TJ is on a college level. Again, where is his crime?

Respond to Little Red: There was no probationary period. This is the first year that they have exercised their muscle. His interests do lie in Math and Science. He just finished Pre-Calculus at the age of 15 and he got a B in Chemistry. Getting an A in a subject does not define how much you like or dislike a subject. Let us also keep in mind this is not Graduate School. This is high school and a 15 year old. Also let's point out that Universities don't put their students on academic probation until their GPA falls below a 2.0.

Respond to Jake's Mom: I am very happy for you that the teacher was helpful for your son. She was not for mine. Her statement that she offered help and Matthew turned her down was a complete untruth. I asked for updates, assignments, etc and received NOTHING. But also let us set the record straight, we do not blame the teacher as the article suggested, we are against the administration proclaiming themselves as judge and jury regarding a student who they don't even know. Matthew is my 3rd child at Thomas Jefferson. I have many more years of experience with the school and the ability to compare the differences in the curriculum amongst the three kids. It is not an even playing field.

Respond to Spectator2: Tell me how he would be better off in his regular school. The administration says this as well but has yet to tell me how he would be better off. When we accepted the offer of admission to the school, we knew that he would not be at the top, but felt it was more important to be in an intellectually challenging environment than to "skate" by and do nothing to receive A's. It is the challenge that is important NOT the grade. To get an A without having to put forth any effort is not learning. To challenge yourself is learning. And once again, NO ONE else gets his "spot" once he leaves. TJ does not replace the students.

Respond to BowieMD1: You are absolutely correct. The unintended consequences have been shocking. My daughter used the power of the internet to support her brother. We have received hundreds of e-mails from students, the large proportion of which were in support of Matthew staying. What shocked us were some of the students admitted that they would have to cheat more, others talked about playing the game of switching classes over and over to get the easy teachers and even some admitted that they had wanted to take some advanced placement classes but are now afraid to just in case they "mess up". This is the real tragedy here. One child wrote in and said that the "pressure used to be bearable". She then went on to say, "I've had one of the roughest years of my life and I have made myself sick over my grades...taking it for granted that grades come first, always. And that mindset has nearly killed me." It has become a police state and Big Brother is watching.

Respond to Alex: HE FAILED NOTHING. He is their to be challenged and is not arrogant enough to care about a badge that has very little meaning once you have walked out the doors.

Posted by: Mom | July 28, 2008 4:36 PM

Because kids at TJ are 2 to 3 grades above their base school peers Matthew will at a minimum need to deal with just finding classes to fill his time for 2 more years.

Ahem, you wish.

TJ is a great school and TJ definitely can cover some college-level stuff, but I hired two interns last year who attended TJ and were at, if I remember right, Princeton and MIT and they joked that they were sold a bill of goods on the challenge of TJ classes- they were nowhere near as hard as MIT. I mean, how could they be when you think about it? MIT is a world-class school.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 4:39 PM

Respond to Alex: HE FAILED NOTHING. He is their to be challenged and is not arrogant enough to care about a badge that has very little meaning once you have walked out the doors.

I think over all you will find that posting your response is not going to generate the kind of response you hoped for here. Just a "warning" that these boards are less than... hospitable. It would have been significantly wiser to control the PR about this on myspace rather than to engage in the mud here. Good luck, but um, the internet isn't all that friendly.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 4:43 PM

MR "Ahem, you wish."
Your logic escapes me. He did not say that MIT cannot challange him. He said that his base school may not be able to.

Posted by: anon | July 28, 2008 4:45 PM

Just as standardized test scores are not the only measure of intellectual ability, grades by themselves are not a totally reliable measure of intellectual ability and accomplishment, either. This is especially true at a school which claims that most of its non-AP courses are taught at the honors level but are not credited as honors-level courses. Some of the most brilliant students focus narrowly on certain areas to the detriment of others; too much emphasis on "grade-grubbers" may actually eliminate some of these students - geniuses are often not straight-A students. The school achieved more when it was happy to attract a group of kids with highly diverse and even quirky talents, not a bunch of drones with a uniform set of interests and gifts. The physical shortcomings and emotional problems that often accompany high IQs are not welcome there, either.

Worst of all, the school holds its students up to a standard that it does not apply to its teachers: in addition to some outstanding teachers, there are a number of mediocre ones and a few too many scandalously awful ones.

Posted by: HS Parent | July 28, 2008 4:57 PM

MOM: I was agreeing with you. I was responding to someone else saying that.

Posted by: chickencalada | July 28, 2008 5:06 PM

Respond (sic) to Alex: HE FAILED NOTHING. He is their (sic) to be challenged and is not arrogant enough to care about a badge that has very little meaning once you have walked out the doors.

Then why didn't he take up the challenge? He failed to maintain his grades to the standard, he failed to improve them when warned and put on probation. Did he seek tutoring help in his weak subjects? Did he cut back on extra-curricular activities to devote more time to studies?

Considering his strong points are not in math and science, it seems that TJ is a bad fit for him. So why other than perceived prestige is his family going to the media about this and attempting to keep him at TJ? He can get an excellent education in another Fairfax County school. Why, other than loss of prestige, is the reaction so hostile to the idea of him attending a different school?

There. I believe that was hospitable enough.

Posted by: alex | July 28, 2008 5:22 PM

"by all accounts, he's a smart, witty kid"

Well, except for his actual grades!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 5:22 PM

I just read in comments that there was, in fact, no probation, so I would take that out of my previous comment if I could edit. The original article stated that Matt had been warned by the school and given a period of time to improve, and that he had not.

Posted by: alex | July 28, 2008 5:25 PM

Posted by: High School Mom | July 28, 2008 10:06 AM

"... We made a switch last year. She is doing better in a less competitive, pressure cooker environment and seems happier about school. She has As and high Bs. Every case is unique, my daughter is artistic. We are emphasizing that talent outside of school to get her into a good art school. But IMHO far too much pressure is put on these kids, there is more to their gifts than their GPA."


And, personally, I applaud you!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 6:04 PM

FCPS added the 3.0 minimum GPA requirement after this year's freshman and long after Matt had accepted the spot offered. He was a middle school studnet with a 2.8 GPA and the selection committee reviewing his application saw enough potential to feel TJ was the right fit. However, when he turns out to be a high school student with a 2.8 GPA, he isn't good enough anymore.

All students are under increased pressure. A minimum GPA of 3.0 sends the signal that above average (as defined by FCPS) is failing at TJ. Prior to this year's freshman class, no student or parent weighed a minimum GPA requirement as part of making the decision to committ to TJ. If I were the parent of a middle school student with a 2.8 that was offered acceptance at a school with 3.0 minimum requirement, filled with high acheivers, I would think longer and harder about sending my child to that school. The Nuti's did not get that opportunity and followed the advise of the addmissions experts. The extensive review process by the county admissions committee is the county's chance to choose the right kids. It is not right to force this small number of kids back to a school they have never attended for an error made by the committee.

I believe it should be the choice of the parents and student whether to remain at TJ. They ultimately know their child best. If they are content with their child having a 2.8 and he is not personally suffering, that is their decision. Any consequence of the lower GPA might limit his opportunities beyond high school, but I believe it is there call to make.

34 students were alerted when their GPA fell to 3.2. So to enforce the 3.0 min., students with a 3.2 are now under the gun to improve performance. TJ removed approximately .003% of the student body, a statistical zero. The number of students falling below this threshold is so insignificant that it does not warrant a School Board regulation to solve. Counsel these kids, counsel their families, provide extra help, but let the decision lie with the family.

If TJ feels the need to have a minimum, set it to a more reasonable number in line with those of the rare Gov Schools that require a minimum. At a minimum, pilot the program for several years and follow the progress of students who choose to stay and those that CHOOSE to leave. Maybe that 16 year old has matured a little by Junior year. But at this point the requirement is higher than the most prestigious colleges and universities.

Posted by: TJ Parent | July 28, 2008 7:06 PM

A terrible story -- everybody comes out looking bad! TJ is beyond full of itself -- the comment from the principal that the student would excel anywhere because he was a B- student at TJ may be competitive for arrogant statement of the year. He has no business being in charge of a school. Does he really believe that nonsense? And the attitude that a 16 year old is disposable since there are plenty of other students is one that should be sharply unwelcome.

The teacher looked foolish too, seeming to take a bizarre pride at having been the teacher that pushed him out. See this too often these days -- everything is always somebody else's fault, and she has responsibility for nothing. A student struggling in your class?? Too bad for him! What a tool!

The student looked bad as well, trying to get out from under a problem of his own making, and now trying to politic his way out of it.

I generally support the idea of TJ but remedial manners and decency training is in order. Perhaps a review of the culture at TJ is in order. It sure looks like there is a serious problem. This may come as a shock to TJ, but one's entire life trajectory is not defined by whether a student achieves a 3.0 or higher in freakin' high school.

Posted by: haunches | July 28, 2008 7:11 PM

Marc Fisher's comments and tone reflect complete ignorance and fear of everything TJ is about. The school is nothing like he has portrayed it. And not every TJ student's parent can afford to send them to private school. Stop spreading mis-information and lies. Why does the Washington Post keep putting Matthew Nuti in the martyr box? Try talking to a normal parent who happen to have an exceptionally brilliant student. Oh...right. You only want *controversy*.

Posted by: Parent | July 28, 2008 8:26 PM

Marc Fisher's comments and tone reflect complete ignorance and fear of everything TJ is about. The school is nothing like he has portrayed it. And not every TJ student's parent can afford to send them to private school. Stop spreading mis-information and lies. Why does the Washington Post keep putting Matthew Nuti in the martyr box? Try talking to a normal parent who happens to have an exceptionally brilliant student. Oh...right. You only want *controversy*.

Posted by: Parent | July 28, 2008 8:27 PM

MR "Ahem, you wish."
Your logic escapes me. He did not say that MIT cannot challange him. He said that his base school may not be able to.

The poster I commented on said that TJ students were 2-3 years ahead- aka, taking college-level classes in high school. They are not. My interns, who were smart, said they were told they were taking college-level classes at TJ when they aren't.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 8:39 PM

Paragraph 5: "A TJ child is the ultimate expression of that perfectibility."

Incredible that you are paid to write this nonsense. TJ is not the right school for every bright student. The administration emphasizes this to all parents. Unfortunately, the school has been placed in the awkward position of having to do what's right for the student when the parents are seemingly too self-absorbed to see that there may be a better fit for their child.

TJ exists for the same reason that special ed. classes exist. There are students whose needs are not met by mainstream education. The problems arise when a few parents choose to treat it as an elitist institution. The TJ administration and teachers do not create that atmosphere at the school, in my experience.

Posted by: parent | July 28, 2008 9:15 PM

Given that it is not unheard of for colleges to google applicants, what are Matt's college choices going to think of him? What are they going to think of his parents?

So WHAT if this policy was not in place when Matt was admitted? This is high school, not a legal contract, and there are no grandfather clauses. I remember at my high school, seniors were not required to take finals. Until our class. Our class council went to talk with the administration. They didn't get very far.

As for Matt's Mom: Unhappily, a 2.06 GPA in core subjects is not so hot these days. You were no doubt waving TJ banners at the football games. Where were you after getting the probation letter when you should have been cracking the whip and meeting with every teacher you could find?

Posted by: Gary | July 28, 2008 10:33 PM

The previous poster is arguing that TJ should be eliminated because spending a greater amount of the County's money on it is unfair. Let me assure you that we get the same, if anything less money than the average Virginia high school. We haven't had a renovation in what is approaching half a century. The reason it may seem like we have more money is because the students themselves are active in the fundraising efforts. They apply to large companies and earn grants that go to the bettering of the school. Last year, 2 students got about 200,000 dollars from Sun simply by writing in, making their case, and asking for it. Other schools in the county can do the same if they feel that Fairfax's contributions aren't enough.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 10:56 PM

Sorry, I meant the first poster.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2008 10:57 PM

I think Matt's Mom's post made the point opposed to hers better than anyone could. It is not his point, he does marvelously, the process was unfair, the teachers were awful, and the geography teacher lied and didn't do what she promised. Some of which contradicts what was in the original article, but let that lie.

Matt's parents no doubt care passionately about their son. But to say none, none, none of this was his fault, is garbage. Jeez, so what if the geography teacher didn't send assignments to them? Well, the party of the second part slept under their roof every night and was presumably available for questioning. Even at TJ, it is a parent's job to keep up with those things. They had a year to bring this kid's grade up (is it a stretch to think that this is why he was taking photography?) None of this happened in a flash. They didn't think their precious boy would be transferred out, and they are now all upset and getting revenge in any way they can because it happened.

Time for that helicopter to retreat to a higher altitute and let the kid stumble, work, and triumph without four arms hovering right over his head.

Posted by: Gary | July 28, 2008 11:43 PM

"Pity poor Matthew Nuti, who dared to be only good."

No, after being told he would need a 3.0 to remain, he dared to be LAZY. And then feigned surprise when he was told he'd have to leave.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | July 29, 2008 12:23 AM

You all don't get it. He didn't make the grades. He was given remedial help to make the grades and he still didn't make the grades. He turned in 3 major assignments late. He couldn't be bothered with extra study because of his football and other extra curricular activities. He was asked to leave. It's that simple. Stop whining about what's not fair -- it's absolutely fair!

TJ is a school for ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE, not football excellence.

The parents want him to attend a prestigious school and want to make excuses for his refusal to do the work. Too bad! He can use it as a learning experience and move on.

Typical article form Fischer -- advocating against meeting high expectations. Why don't you get a life?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 12:42 AM

As a TJ student who knew Matt Nuti personally, I find it absolutely right and fair that he was evicted. His failure to "meet the grade" came as a result of his neglecting core academic classes for the sake of extracurriculars. Any competitive, higher-level academic institution will tell you that academics come first, and extracurriculars come second. It doesn't matter if he was good enough at MUN to be Secretary General, or good enough at football to be playing for a state qualifying team; TJ is first and foremost a school for intellectually talented students, and taking advantage of this "privilege" as Mr. Nuti did was a luxury, not a right. He faced the consequences, he appealed, and he remained "expelled". No matter how much of a spin people may put on this incident, I can't agree more with the result.

Posted by: a student | July 29, 2008 1:46 AM

It sickens me to see what has become of my school. Intellectual development is not defined by a number.

He had no F's and one D. He is not a failure by any stretch of the imagination, and yes, that's true for even TJ.

The problem here is that too many of the people are looking at the student involved here and not the rule itself. So the school decides first it wants the school to not have any students below a 3.0, and then it feels that people at a 3.0 are at the bottom, and are bringing down their statistic as the greatest high school. The rule doesn't look at the student, which Matthew Nuti exemplifies.

I believe the article put it quite well how it is wrong to be holding a college/adult requirement to students who are clearly still children; no matter how hard they strive to prove otherwise. Teenagers make mistakes. Teenagers are in the point of their lives where they are supposed to make mistakes. So he made mistakes as a teenager... did he hurt anyone? No harm was done to anyone but himself, and even that is a falsity. All he's done with his "lower than average" GPA is possibly reduce his options for college.

All you people commenting need to lose the stick and realize that this rule puts undue stress on the population at TJ. Most colleges don't have GPA cut-offs at that point, and from being in both environments, I can say the thing that made TJ so special wasn't the badge on the school that says "Our GPA is higher than yours". It was the students who were passionate about what they did, whether it was Math, Science, Band, Crew, Football, Computer Science, etc.... it wasn't just Math and Science. It was the intellectual diversity. TJ isn't a school for "academic excellence", no matter how hard the administration wants it to be.

I also ask, so what if he was lazy in high school? Is it not better to make the mistakes in that environment than any other? I've talked with Matthew, and it wasn't that he blames Gecan for what happened. He was misquoted. All he said is that his grade in history is what hurt him to where this became an issue. Any issues about this grade are between him and the teacher, and I feel it was wrong that it was made into such a big deal on the other article.

To those students who claim to know Matthew and still comment; have the courage to post your name. If you want your words said, I would recommend you put Matthew's skills as a debater to the test. You ask him to defend his actions but won't even defend your words.

To those who comment about him whining: It isn't whining. Not once have I heard about them fighting for his re-admission, but to the contrary, they are fighting the rule for the rest of the population at TJ so students don't need to go to a psychiatrist when their GPA at the "prestigious" school drops below a 3.2.

The bottom line is that this student's case, where a number has put his future at risk (employers and colleges will ask why he was expelled from the high school, and he may or may not get a chance for his own defense). This isn't about revenge, or about re-admittance... it is about restoring TJ to the mindset it had when my class went through. Honestly, how many regular high school students can pass "Quantum Physics"? How about get a C in the class? An A?

The administration has decided that they want their school to output engineers/scientists/mathematicians only.

If a student goes up against the challenges at TJ and maintains a B average, no matter where the grades may lie, then he should not be considered a failure.

I am Drew Nuti, brother of this "failure", proud of the courage he has to stand up to not only the pressure that the school put him under but the criticism of the people who have commented here and on the other article. I graduated with a TJ diploma. I currently attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (#1 Aerospace Engineering university for the past 8 years) a semester ahead of many of my peers, and I am on track to be an Aeronautical Engineer. And here's the kicker...
I would have been expelled from TJ.

Posted by: TJ Alum | July 29, 2008 3:45 AM

The Post/Jay Mathews used the word "failure." Not one online comment from readers refers to him like that. Why the family demanded Post coverage with this situation and make public all his personal information is beyond most readers. Did they really expect readers in this highly competitive region to sympathize with him for not putting in a little more effort to bring up a grade?

Why does the family keep making arguments about how "unfair" this is? A lot of very bright students do not get in to TJ or opt not to attend after being admitted. And they go on to do very well! It is not the end of Matthew's world. Perhaps he really didn't enjoy it there anyway but could not tell his family that it wasn't the best fit for him. Maybe TJ should stop asking applicants if they have siblings who have attended TJ. The family pressure becomes a mess and clouds their judgment.

Posted by: parent | July 29, 2008 6:18 AM

Your family put Matthew in this position. As readers we are entitled to have and express opinions. If you did not want to hear anything against the student, you should not have made this situation into the WaPo/Fisher "sizzle" sensation it has become. Perhaps TJ should extensively investigate the parents of potential TJ students to ensure they get fewer parents like this. Their attitude is "We are entitled to have everything OUR way, and we will raise an ugly stink to get it." Life doesn't work that way, folks.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 6:42 AM

I know I am just a country hick, but we do seem to have an interesting perspective at times.

Us country folk have a web page (complete with secure logon and password) that enables us parents to see every assignment (past/present/future) for every class our child(ren) are attending. This is for all elementary/middle/high school students in St. Mary's County.

The size of the county and amount of students is irrelevant. It's a database using hard drive space, the storage size requirement cost differential between St. Mary's County and Northern Virginia being about $.35.

The point is: All parents have secure visibility of each and every assignment our children have, and what grade they receive.

Being active in the lives of our child(ren) and making sure they apply themselves to the best of their ability is the sole responsibility of the parents.

My wife and I do our jobs.

Where were the parents of Matthew when he needed them most?

Posted by: SoMD | July 29, 2008 7:19 AM

Grading can be subjective. I was initialled turned down for graduate school. After scoring a B in classes that neither then, nor now, have any meaning I was allowed entry and graduated. Still those scars and distrust of faculty remain.

Matthew deserves another chance. Regardless of who his parents are or what they're doing. After all, some kids are orphans.

Posted by: MissV | July 29, 2008 7:31 AM

This is a non-issue here. The student and the student's parents knew of the school's academic policies when the student was admitted to the school. He did not achieve the grades he was expected to achieve and now he is out. The student and his parents do not have a leg to stand on here, and the writer is full of it - cooking the real facts to justify his rant against TJ. You knew the rules, you played the game and you lost. This is life. Now move on.

One last point. Obviously the writer is a puppet for the student and his parents on this issue to try and, with possible bad publicity, publicly pressure TJ to let their son back into shcool. Guess what writer, you failed!

Posted by: Chris | July 29, 2008 7:32 AM

I think Raw Fisher's coulumn missed the point of this whole TJ situation. Matthew Nuti was getting Ds and Cs in his classes!!!!! He was warned and given the opportunity to improve his grades but he didn't have the time to do so. He admitted he was surprised that TJ actually kicked him out! The only one Matthew can blame is himself. Maybe now he will take his academic classes more seriously.

Posted by: Parent of 3 High School Students | July 29, 2008 7:35 AM

I think you missed the point of this whole TJ situation. Matthew Nuti was getting a D in one class and Cs in other classes!!!!!!!!!!! He was warned and did nothing about it. He admitted that he didn't think the school would really kick him out. Matthew Nuti has only himself to blame.

Posted by: A Parent of 3 High School Students | July 29, 2008 7:48 AM

"Drew", do you mean by you "would have been expelled" that you would have blown off your teachers' efforts to help you in favor of activities?

Your brother had a 2.06 core GPA. He took a chance that the administration wouldn't follow through on its promises. He gambled and lost.

I find it shameful that you want teenagers, minors, to post their names in a public forum. Who are you, in this day and age, to ask them to take such risk? Disgusting. Typical of what we've seen from the Nuti family throughout this saga.

Posted by: Gary | July 29, 2008 7:49 AM

What's wrong with dropping him from the TJ program if he can't keep up? That's the whole point of the school is to group the smart kids together to push themselves to achieve learning. This is the real world. If you can't keep up with our job, you can/will be replaced. Why teach our kids to have lower standards so that they can be happy they underacheived? Besides, if he can't hack it, give the other kids on the wait list a chance to succeed. They deserve a chance also.

Posted by: Dave | July 29, 2008 8:24 AM

Hmmm, so then we give him an A- because he is a good ball player... Then we send him to med school?

I have no sympathy... He should have worked harder...

Dr. O

Posted by: Dr. O | July 29, 2008 8:28 AM

Real life is hard. Real life means disappointment and failure. Prepare ALL kids for real life. It's sad to see society as a whole, or should I say hole, is sliding away from personal responsibility and toward the land of "No tag on the playground, and please, at all costs maintain the little one's Self-Esteem."
Will they be in for a surprise when they enter the real world.

Posted by: runningjer | July 29, 2008 8:28 AM

From the way this has been written, it seems that Marc Fisher and the Wash.Post are TJ haters. They are bent on making TJ appear to be unreasonable and elitist. Balanced coverage is definitely not the Post's policy. And they wonder why they are losing subscribers. Teenagers shopping for overpriced bikinis, tabloid-style stories of old crimes, and then bashing a very worthwhile high school and promoting a pushy mother's personal agenda to keep her rather lazy son at the school. All the intelligent people realize you've lost any credibility you might have once had.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 8:31 AM

The Eradicator has a child at TJ. She is stressed out.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 8:32 AM

Let's be clear. WashPost is fully biased against TJ. They would like to have all public schools hit mediocrity full bore.

Posted by: Me - a former journalist | July 29, 2008 8:33 AM

Drew: mistakes have their consequences. Though it may not be "fair", the cost of his repeated mistakes throughout the year for completing assignments late/not doing homework (from what I gather anyway) was his removal from TJ.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 9:11 AM

Fisher, you're crazy. I usually agree with you, but on this one you aren't looking at the big picture. This kid had a year to shape up. His few A's were in dubious courses -- phys ed, driver's ed, and photojournalism. He clearly can't cut it at TJ. It's only fair to make room for another student who can. Nobody deserves to go to TJ -- it's a privilege, not a right, and you need to earn that privilege. There's no shame in going to regular public school. And it is completely fair to boot out this underperforming kid and let a deserving one take his place.

Posted by: Megan | July 29, 2008 9:18 AM

I hope Matt Nuti and his mom read the article on page C1 the same day as his article, about Cedric Jennings, who grew up in poverty and rose up in spite of incredible adversity. Cedric made so much out of so little.And Matt has made so little out of so much. Of course, Matt probably didn't bother to read the rest of the paper. That would be too intellectual for the kid.
It cracked me up that Matt's brother posted "so what if Matt was lazy in high school?" It's fine for kids to coast through high school as long as my tax dollars aren't paying a massive premium for the kids to go to a "magnets" school.
Even if TJ doesn't replace kids who leave, it's still more resources for the kids who are there, and who deserve to be there.
Take a lesson, Matt. Once you get out of your coddled environment, you'll have to step up. It doesn't hurt to start learning that now.

Posted by: What about Cedric? | July 29, 2008 9:30 AM

Good for you, Marc, for calling this one right on.

This kid was treated like garbage by this school district-discarded because he wasn't good enough in their eyes. The parents were quite courageous to make this story public-we all benefit by knowing what is going on in our schools.

This student contributed yo TJ in many ways-in football, UN and other activities. Those ativities take away from time to study but make a huge contribution to the overall "high school experience". Shame on this school and district for their treatment of this kid.

Good luck to you Matt-you will do just fine in life. Promise us, you will write a "tell-all" book about this sometime.

Posted by: takebackourschools | July 29, 2008 9:31 AM

Marc, sometimes I agree with you, and sometimes I don't. When I read this column this morning, I had to go back to the original article thinking I'd had not just a senior moment, but a complete blackout. I think that your column unfairly stated the situation, and concerns me. Have I made judgements based upon other columns of yours that don't accurately reflect the situation? All of that aside, I agree with the posters who write that the child shouldn't be at TJ. All of you who write about this grave injustice, take a minute and THINK. He's not being expelled to Siberia. He's going to Robinson. While not of the same intellectual stature of TJ, it's a FCPS. That means he'll get a decent education. Okay, it means he'll get a decent education if he applies himself.

Posted by: Fairfax | July 29, 2008 9:39 AM

athea writes: I'm LOL'ing here because Mark gingerly danced around the root cause of grade inflation at most prestigious academic institutions: affirmative action.

All wrong and all wet. When the majority can't make the grade, they want to blame the minority. The African-American and Hispanic enrollment at TJ is less than 5% -- statistically insignificant to have any impact on grade dilution.

The REAL CULPRIT is grade inflation. The 3.0 GPA minimum is too high given the grade inflation that is rampant throughout TJ and FCPS. Grade enhancers such as AP, Honors, and extra credit give the advantage to high-performing students who least need it. Also, TJ is forced to support grade inflation since the competition for top college admissions is limited by its concentration of high-achieving students. The best of the best at TJ go on to Yale, Harvard, and MIT while the rest "end up" at UVA in droves. If the same students matriculated at their regular high schools, they would be in the Ivy League instead of TJ-Charlottesville.

Posted by: Truth Will Set You Free | July 29, 2008 9:58 AM

According to the school, this student missed turning in major assignments in his lowest grade class. I'm sorry, but there are consequences to that. If this student were trying harder to keep up, seeking extra help, turning in assignments on time, etc, then I would hope the school would try to work with him, but he didn't do those things. It doesn't matter how busy he was in extracurricular activities or how many awards he won in those -- classwork comes first! Other students may have further excelled in those activities too if they had chosen, as this student did, to devote time to extracurriculars at the expense of their classwork.

Posted by: Silver Spring | July 29, 2008 10:18 AM

To Anon, what does my having children at TJ have anything to do with my comment? Is it not valid because I don't have kids there (or at all, frankly)?

Further, given both his mom and brother chiming in, you don't agree that this kid is a pawn? Do we really care about Matt and whether he can go to his precious magnet school? Or is this about this family's image, and how they've been "treated" by the school?

Before Matt was out, did they decry the way other students were treated? Before the standard went up even further, did they complain that kids below Matt's GPA might've been kicked out?

I'm not sure why this ever made the paper -sorry, Nuti family, you're all living in a bubble if you think this is a crisis and newsworthy. - But, here we are, and perhaps it can serve as comic relief that there are still absurd things going on while most of society deals with actual problems (I second the commenter who suggested reading the Cedric Jennings story).

Heck, read the whole Metro section, for Pete's sake! Just the other day I read a story of a young man shot dead on his porch - someone who had turned his life around, was working with youth groups and making his way out of poverty. He was 29.

Now, please, try to respond that this story is worthy of a national newspaper.

Posted by: Me, too, again: | July 29, 2008 10:20 AM

Hah, Fisher mentioned my college as an example of grade deflation.

Coming from TJ, I think it's pretty clear that Marc Fisher has no idea what the school is like. A gavel? So many kids at TJ got's not too hard. Football? Sure, it's a time commitment, but no student has put football over academics.

What it boils down to is this: Teachers at TJ are incredibly helpful when it comes to getting you a decent grade. You've gotta try to get a C. I should know...I finally got a C 3rd quarter of my senior year, after a whirlwind of class skipping, video games, and drinking instead of homework left my teacher with no choice.

The 3.0 cutoff is a tacit admission to college admissions officers that yes, the administration knows the school is inflated. In the long run, this move will benefit the school...and the few students who are casualties had plenty of opportunities to get above a 3.0.

Posted by: TJ grade, Princeton Student | July 29, 2008 10:44 AM

Calling this a B-Minus is ridiculous. There are no B-minuses in FCPS or TJ, this kid got a C-average in the classes that count and pulled it up some with Drivers Ed (impossible not to get an A), PE, and a photojournalism class that wasn't even a full credit. TJ is not for everyone if you have other interests and you can't do those and school too, then no problem, enjoy them all at your base school. There are over 400 other kids who have varied interests too and they had no problem keeping GPAs above a 3.0. I was a slacker most of my time at TJ and did sports, had a job and other extracurriculars and was never close to falling below a 3.0. On the other hand I never failed to turn in 3 papers in one class. A "D" was a gift, and was the closest thing to grade inflation that I see evidence of in this article. This kid can't cut it at an elite school at this point and that's nothing to be ashamed of, go enjoy football and MUN at Robinson and take it as a life lesson and quit whining.

Posted by: TJ Grad | July 29, 2008 10:50 AM

@TJ grad

actually I didn't get an A in Driver's Ed...but I would be lying if I told you I had >50% attendence ;).

Posted by: TJ grade, Princeton Student | July 29, 2008 10:59 AM

Cry them tears, family members! Life IS tough. Public standards enforced are more of what we need.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 11:44 AM

"The real irony is that the Nuti's probably have a "we came for the sports" bumper-sticker on their minivan."


I once met a TJ parent and asked about those bumper stickers. I was not surprised to hear that the bumper stickers are basically a joke -- no one goes to TJ for the sports.

PS: That would be Nutis, not Nuti's.

Posted by: Spectator2 | July 29, 2008 11:46 AM

The Northern Virginia community should have this debate to decide if a minimum GPA works for a school that provides great opportunity, and puts equally large demands, on the students selected for entrance. It's a healthy process regardless of what side you feel you're on. Because of the articles we've discussed it in our home and have different ideas of what the standard should be. Regardless of your opinion it's important to understand that the idea of starting Thomas Jefferson HS was to promote academic excellence and produce well rounded people.

Though you and Jay Mathews strongly argue for no minimum grades, I just don't see this situation as a good example against it. Digging through both articles there's a key, and very effective, parent responsibility component missing. There's no mention of the Nuti parents contacting and working with Matthew and his teachers when they realized he was having academic problems. They knew of the GPA requirement last summer, they got the interim reports and should have been working with Matthew and his teachers throughout. The best example of this is the lack of interaction with teacher Carolyn Gecan, in whose class Matthew got his lowest grade. She addressed the problem by offering help but indicated Matthew rejected those offers. Matthew denied rejecting offers but you had no reporting on what he or his parents did to try to do with the teacher. Matthew does now, however, blame Gecan for his situation. Most parents would know that working with your student and their teachers is the most effective way to fix a problem.

What the Nuti parents did do was send emails to school officials complaining about how Matthew was being treated and how it was affecting him. Many parents and most school teachers know select parents who see their situations in dramatic terms that can only be fixed by loud demands to the top. They more often look like the "villagers with pitchforks" who have been wronged and asking "good" people to call more villagers to join them in their benevolent cause. I'd suggest the school let Matthew, and his parents, learn their life lesson and continue this debate with other selected students and their parents who are truly working hard at academics and possibly facing a B-. There are too many other students looking to for that opportunity that deserve consideration. Which cause will you call people to?

Posted by: Former TJ Parent | July 29, 2008 11:50 AM

I feel like we are mixing three distinct points: Should TJ have a 3.0 cut-off policy? Should Matt Nuti be an exception? Should TJ exist?

I don't agree with the 3.0 policy in principle. On a curve from A to F, it wouldn't make sense. But TJ, like all schools nationwide, has grade inflation. One of the school's main functions is as a college preparatory program. If it didn't have grade inflation, it would fail in this regard by putting its students at a disadvantage come college admissions time.

Regarding Matt Nuti, neither author (Fisher or Matthews) has given me enough information to make a decent assessment of him as a student. As a TJ grad, I do agree that the classes Matt did well in are easy. As for the extracurriculars, to be a starting lineman on the football team, being 200lbs will do it. Maybe he is a great MUN rep. The point is though no school has grades that will reflect these things. What you are thinking of is an alternative style school, which TJ is not Seems like it has a standard, like all schools, but higher. Which seems reasonable to me as a governor's school. Should there be exceptions to the rule? Probably. But should Matt Nuti be one? Was he trying to do better in his classes? Was he reaching out for help? [BTW, I don't think this is the teacher's responsibility, though I find it hard to believe that they would not offer because this was the norm in my day.] Was he really meant to be a plus 3.0 student when he had a 2.8 GPA previously (as did his brother)?

Should TJ exist? I am one vote for yes. I went there as a geeky, head-in-books kid and came out confident and ready to take on the world. Not just among math and science geniuses, but people talented in loads of different ways, from drama to music to art. Me and most of my classmates were from very middle class backgrounds. While I probably would have ended up in a good university at my local FCPS school, I learned how wonderful it is to strive. I made friends who 10 years later, I'm still great friends with and who I see taking on great leadership roles in the world. We are not the elitists you think of, we were kids who found a home.

Posted by: Christen | July 29, 2008 12:30 PM

TJ did Matt Nuti a favor by sending him to Robinson. There is no way he would get into a VA college with a 2.0 GPA from TJ!

Posted by: parent | July 29, 2008 1:04 PM

What TJ essentially said to Matthew is something like: "You're not cutting it. Here is the benchmark you have to achieve if you really, really want to stay in this school, and we will give you a year to do it."

Schools like this want students who are passionate about their studies (I speak as an alum of a similar school), not just grade-grubbers or whatever. They want students who will extend that passion into adulthood.

There are a bunch of kids who would do whatever they had to do to get in and stay in TJ, hire tutors, drop extracurriculars, wahatever it took. I'm sorry, but Matthew proved that he wasn't one of them. Maybe he can apply for readmission; I dunno.

Posted by: blujay825 | July 29, 2008 1:17 PM

I agree, the parental component here is conspicuous by its absence. There is no indication, no indication whereever, that they worked with Matt and the school on keeping him at the school once they were told he was being put on probation.

To paraphrase New Found Glory:
"It IS your fault, so please stop your crying, now."

Posted by: Gary | July 29, 2008 1:43 PM

This is a copy of what I posted on the Facebook group that was mentioned in the article:

"I was a slacker in High School. My mother has never seen me do homework. I did not spend more than 50 hours total studying for every test that I took in High School including APs, Finals, down to small quizzes. As someone who put in the minimal amount of effort and still maintained a 3.5, I can almost guaranty that Matt put in an astoundingly little amount of effort in to his classes. I have not had a single teacher that hasn't been willing to work with me to improve my grades and not a single class that I couldn't get at least a B in if I gave the minimal amount of effort that was turning in all my assignments, not even necessarily on time. I also participated in extra curriculars and was on the varsity wrestling team all four years. He was given a year to bring his grades up and he didn't buckle down, his loss."

Getting a 3.0 at TJ requires you to meet a minimum standard of turning in your work and being prepared for class. If you can come to class with homework in hand and a basic understanding of what you are doing in that class on any given day then you have met the requirements to receive at least a 3.0 or in my case a 3.5.

Although his parents have stated that there was no "probation" period, the rule was made clear to all students at the start of his second year at Jefferson and yet he went the entire year without addressing the threat or making the baseline effort required to meet the standard.

I spent much of my high school playing sports, playing video games, drinking and partying, and generally slacking off, but when it came time to make the grade or not, it was an easy choice between the above mentioned distractions, and meeting the baseline requirements. I never had a teacher who wouldn't work with me to improve my grades and never met a teacher who graded a single assignment unfairly. Most of my teachers were willing to bend over backwards to help me out as long as I was doing what Matthew Nuti wasn't doing: putting in the minimal amount of effort for my classes.

Posted by: TJ Grad '08 | July 29, 2008 2:08 PM

Hi, this is Matthew Nuti, the person whom this article is discussing. It was not my parents decision to fight this, it was mine. My parents don't have some crazed image of me as a perfect little child. I'll admit I'm flawed, I KNOW I'm flawed. TJ is too, seeing as they enstated this rule in the first place. AND I'm not whining, this isn't supposed to be a "cry me a river" plea. In fact, this isn't a plea at all. This is just drawing attention to a major flaw at Jefferson. I'm not trying to be an exception, I'm trying to get the rule taken away in the first place, because I'm IN the student body, I've SEEN the effects.

Many of you are bringing up how "reality called" and I should accept the consequences of my actions. When has reality consisted of kids, KIDS, getting expelled from his (or her) school for passing all his (or her) courses? When has reality consisted of KIDS being treated like criminal offenders for not meeting an arbitrary academic standard? This isn't a reality I asked for, and more importantly than that, this is not a reality I signed up for. When I was accepted to Jefferson, there was NO 3.0 rule. Now, I'd be happy to explain to all of you why this rule and decision is fundamentally flawed, so you can all understand really what is going on here.
Elitism is always a fun topic. You hear about it a lot in politics, government debates, and other such forums. This is when someone thinks they know better than you, thus should be allowed to tell you what to do. Well, I have fallen victim to an elitist attitude, from a school. In the lovely letter they sent to my home telling me that I didn't meet THEIR cut and informing me that I would be attending my base school next year, they told me that they were taking these actions because it is "in my best interest." My parents disagree. They were present at my appeal (or my trial where the administration was the judge, jury, and executioner) clearly stating that Thomas Jefferson is the best place for me, and they said no. I don't care if my parents are delusional as you all would like to think, they are still my parents, and they certainly know what's best for me much more than a man whom I've had one 15 minute conversation with in my life.
I started a "group" where Jefferson students past and present could discuss the rule (and its application to me.) Of the hundreds of students who joined the group, two have expressed strong approval of the rule, a few have suggested a 2.0 rule, and everyone else stated they strongly disagree with the rule. When I was first informed of my removal from Jefferson, my sister took the liberty of sending out an email request for support from those who know me. In these letters, students have said they avoid AP's and other more difficult courses to ensure they get good enough grades. Others redo their schedules over and over again until they get the easier teachers. Even then, students still have said they are more inclined to cheat to get them that little "edge" to ensure their higher GPA. Does this rule sound like it's producing a great society of intellect to you? It sounds like it's ruining the #1 national ranking that we students have worked so hard to achieve.
I'll talk more specifically on my case now. There is an error in the article; I do NOT blame my history teacher, for my removal from the school. I blame the administration and their rule for my removal from the school. My EXPULSION is bluntly damaging to my future no matter what I choose to pursue, and they have the audacity to tell me this is in my "best interest." I have been wronged, that much is clear, but I don't want your sympathy. "Life's not fair, deal with it," is something we teenagers hear a lot, but just because I got kicked out doesn't mean I can't fight them on principles, which I have and the administration has done a good job of demonstrating that they do not.
So, some people are going to think "we have to kick you out Matthew Nuti to preserve the almighty reputation of Thomas Jefferson." The school has been proclaimed by multiple sources as the number one high school in the country. This distinction was granted to the school before this "standard" existed. The main reason the school is so highly regarded is a result of the collection of students. And yes, this distinction was awarded while I was a student there. No matter how good the faculty is, no matter how bad the facility is, it's us, the student body, that makes this school what it truly is. And, whether or not the administration wants to admit that I brought value to this school, I did. Now the administration wants to introduce arrogance and elitism to an otherwise exceptional student body. So, it seems to me the only truly spectacular part of the school IS the student body, which the administration is working fervently, through its destructive policies, to bring down to their level. I do not believe that Jefferson is improving as a school through this policy. I believe it is becoming a "Stepford" society where the administration can mold the great minds of our youth into whatever they want, in this case arrogant and hypocritical.
"An intervention plan," they say. I wouldn't call their actions that. There were two meetings throughout the second half of the school year, the first was at the beginning of third quarter. At which point, it was essentially too late to raise my GPA to their arbitrary standard. In this meeting, I had a discussion with four of my teachers, two of which said, "Why are we here?" One said, "Partner with good French speakers for group work in French class." (I feel it's relevant to note I have never been strong in French) And then there was my discussion with the history teacher, where she offered her room as a quiet place for me to study. No further help was offered, and at NO time was help EVER denied. (Note: none of these are direct quotes.) Then, in the middle of 4th quarter, FOURTH QUARTER, Dr. Glazer told me I should consider working harder. That is the extent of their so called "intervention." I had no academic probation, no "required tutoring", and no special plan to increase my grades. In fact, because I DIDN'T FAIL ANYTHING they couldn't even put me on academic probation if they wanted. I don't know about you, but it seems to me they didn't help me at all. In fact, it looks to me like they waited until it was too late for anything to be done, and then made it look like they tried.
"All fun and games." I love when people read an article and assume they know everything. To say I didn't do any work is false and quite rude. Ask anyone who knows me and they can tell you that I do more work than the majority of people my age. Oh, and I played football which was "obviously" a major distraction. My grades were better during the season than after. And, if I weren't interested in doing work, maybe I wouldn't be one of the front men of the Model United Nations club, the largest student organization at Jefferson. Maybe I wouldn't have played football? Maybe I wouldn't have joined yearbook? I have a tremendous work ethic and always have, and people who know me beyond reading an article about me in the newspaper can and will attest to that fact.
So, all in all it's quite clear I'm not a very intelligent individual. It's quite clear that I'm not worthy of Jefferson's valuable space. It's quite clear that the school as a whole is much better off without me. A school that demands adulthood out of children is not what the aim of education should be. This is a school that may be gaining statistics, but it is losing its character, which is more important in the real world, which we will be entering soon. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Intelligence plus character. That is the goal of true education." While Jefferson is certainly succeeding in teaching intelligence, their actions demonstrate they are definitely failing in teaching character. Someday, the administration at Jefferson will learn that the real world looks beyond a person's GPA to truly "grade" an individual. They say I'm not deserving of a spot at this prestigious school? I say this breeding ground for arrogance is not deserving of me.

(Still think I'm too much of a moron to stay at the school?)

Posted by: MATTHEW NUTI | July 29, 2008 2:22 PM

I hardly believe anyone who doesn't understand Jefferson's unique environment (combining intense competition for stellar marks with constant stress from being overworked)can make a decision as to whether or not Matt is well suited for TJ. I'm currently a student at Jefferson and have had the opportunity to have some of the teachers Matt had (of note, Ms. Gecan). While Matt did fall behind in his core classes and arguably did not do enough work to keep up with peers, it is a terrible decision to remove him from TJ. TJ is very different from other public high schools-there's no doubt about that. There is a large amount of trust that students receive at the school that is unknown at "base" schools. To become adjusted to such a unique school and then be torn away from friendships, clubs, college level courses (such as biotechnology, DNA science, quantum physics, artificial intelligence, etc.), and even sports teams is a total waste of two academic years. Matt will now be forced to make up the year of history all students skip freshman year for technology courses during the summer or have to sacrifice an elective just to graduate with a fairfax county diploma. While it is easy to dismiss Matt's case as one where a student didn't try hard enough, the fact remains that this is a real teenager's life hanging in the balance. And for those of you who believe these 5 available slots will now be filled with new junior transfer students, guess again. Only one to two new juniors are accepted to Jefferson each year. It is very rare indeed to find a student who has already taken technology courses, an adequate number of language credits, is in higher level math, and can enter the rigorous junior year without hitting a road bump them self. The fact that this rule only applies to a handful of students at our school shows just how unnecessary the how thing is. Overall, try and remember that being kicked out of TJ would be far more traumatic than one would think-especially if you are unfamiliar with the school and its environment. Thanks :)

Posted by: TJ student | July 29, 2008 2:35 PM

The problem that America faces going into the 21st Century is PRECISELY the attitude that many of the posters here have presented - hostility towards successful education, especially in math and science. We think of people who like school as nerds or geeks. It is automatically assumed that such students are one-dimensional. The reality is that most of these "overachievers" are just as involved in sports, music, and other important aspects of the human condition as they are with academics. They manage, and they succeed. What we need to do as a society is to foster and encourage such well-roundedness but ensure it is grounded in academic success. Think about this - there was substantial public outcry that the Large Hadron Collider being built in Switzerland would create a black hole to destroy the Earth. If we had a society that respected science and encouraged people to learn physics and not loathe it, that charge would have been dismissed as ludicrous long before some kook got the chance to file an injunction against CERN. For some reason the public seems to fear science, think the liberal establishment is out to destroy religion and the American way, and associate intelligence with social ineptitude. So we'll lose out to China and India while our politics descends into useless protectionist battles about free trade and globalization and stealing of jobs that don't really tackle the reason why America is losing out. That can only be solved by more respect in our society given to academics, especially to math and science.
TJ is on the right track here. To those who said it should be closed, I say a defiant no. Not only should it not be closed, the American education system should be modeled on schools like TJ. We should support the arts, humanities, sports - a civilized society needs them (and mind you a lot of TJ students partake in them)! However, math and science are just as key to progress. Don't try to pin the blame for this regrettable situation on the TJ model. If he refused to focus on his studies when the going got rough, that was his fault. If we as humans feel the need to lay blame on a larger group, it's not on the administrators or FCPS but on the negative attitude of our society towards school.

On the subject of Mr. Matthews's article, I found a number of inconsistencies with fact. First off, FCPS does NOT have "minuses" in its grading scale, complain as we students may. Secondly, physical education and driver's education are the same class. You take driver's ed one quarter, and that grade is averaged into your P.E. grade for the year. Boasting about having an A in both of those classes struck me as ridiculous - might as well say he got an A in Health (where the hardest assignment was a matching and true/false worksheet on recreational drugs) while we're at it.

Posted by: Anonymous Student | July 29, 2008 2:46 PM

"A school that demands adulthood out of children is not what the aim of education should be."

Kids will always be kids, until they realize they have to grow up. That you are basing some of your argument on the fact that children should be allowed to make mistakes is a fallacy. At a school like TJ, there are standard requirements and responsibilities to meet. You are no longer in elementarys or middle school, you are a rising senior who is a year from college and personal independence.

I also find it troubling that despite your claimed "tremendous work ethic", you still managed low grades. You speak of your work ethic in such activities as football or MUN; did you really come to Thomas Jefferson for the sports or extracurriculars? If so, TJ is not the place for you, good sir. If you came to TJ for the academics, then despite ANY activity you could have possibly invested your time in, you would keep in mind the fact that school comes first; academics come first.

You also mention students who avoid harder classes like APs for the sake of better grades. Now out of curiousity, are these other people high-achieving, academically-oriented students? Despite what you want to make of it, TJ is meant to be and has always been an intellectual community. Not a community of star athletes or students with prodigal oratory skills. You have to meet the grades to make the grade, so to speak.

Though I personally disagree with a strict "GPA Rule" of this sort, I fully agree that actions have consequences, and in your specific case, as unfair as it may be, the school's actions were justified. On a side note, you didn't seem to take the school's warning very seriously by "not expecting them to really kick you out." Thomas Jefferson is not deserving of your ego.

Posted by: Senior | July 29, 2008 2:48 PM


First of all I'm sorry that you've been subjected to this whole situation. I got pretty sucked into the discussion on the original article and I wasn't going to comment on this blog, but there are just a few points I'd like to make after reading your comment/essay/novel.

First, I find it hard to believe that none of your teachers offered you help. And even if they didn't, is it entirely their responsibility to ensure that you do well in their classes? If you knew you were doing badly, why didn't you actively seek help yourself? You've passed the point in your life where you should expect to be coddled and taken care of. The ultimate responsibility of doing well in school lies in your hands, and from what you wrote it seems like you were just waiting for intervention rather than actively seeking it (by the way I am a TJ alum so I know what I'm talking about when I talk about the teachers.)

Secondly, you say that the population of TJ consists of "kids" and that they should not be forced to become "adults" when confronted with this situation. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the fact that the administration treats TJ students with far more trust and respect than at base high schools one of the main benefits of TJ?

You guys are allowed to eat lunch wherever you want, the seniors get a lounge, you have 8th period. I remember when they were going to take away off-campus-lunch (which I think they ended up doing this year) the main complaint I heard was that of "we have more work and more responsibilities, why not more privileges?" Anyways, the point I'm trying to make is that you can't have it both ways. You can attend TJ and benefit from all that accompanies it, at the same time you have to understand that inherent with those benefits is increased responsibility...maturity and adulthood.

Also, for anyone that is interested, here is the official "3.0 rule" (section IX)$FILE/R3355.pdf

And from my understanding the letter sent home with students explaining the rule contained greater detail.

Posted by: ACC | July 29, 2008 3:06 PM

Matthew, I don't blame you for fighting your expulsion (who wouldn't?). I'm troubled, though, by your unwillingness to take responsibilty for your actions. The rule was there, and you knew about it. You say you are "flawed", but don't seem to think you should suffer any consequences for your mistakes. You actually blame the school's lack of browbeating for your poor academic record! Why should the school require tutoring for you? Why should teachers offer more than the suggestions they gave? Did you try working with stronger students as suggested? Did you approach the teachers and ask for extra help? Did you put a good effort into every assignment and turn it in on time? If not, then I think many of us will find it hard to find much sympathy for you.

A little advice: find a way to stop focusing on the perceived unfairness of the punishment, and try to focus on the role you played in putting yourself in this situation. When all is said and done, you are where you are, regardless of whether or not the expulsion was right or wrong. You can only control the future and your own actions. Learn from the mistakes you made and work hard not to repeat them. Get your grades up, and use this difficult experience to form a fantastic personal essay when the time comes to fill out those college applications.

Posted by: Silver Spring | July 29, 2008 3:25 PM

I believe The Post should leave TJ alone. Most of the people who complaint against TJ and provoke others to "sue" are the one who don't genuinely want their kids to excel.
Dr. Evan Glazer, the history teacher, and the entire faculty were fair enough. Of the 34 below 3.0 students, only 5 could not get above after receiving help. Student Matthews is one of them, and unfortunately, he and his family did nor realize how much the school had done for them. Other families when confronted with their children failing grades just tried very hard to hire tutors or do other things to help and not crying. Moreover, Matthews has the advantage that his older sibblings are TJ students too. He just did not try to balance his academic and extracuricular works, and that why he was failing.
Please leave TJ alone so they can do the best in educating our nation's leaders. The Post, by publishing these articles, only send a wrong message to America's students that failing to study hard is OK. This country need more schools like TJ so those top students who are willing to study hard can succeed.
Furthermore, Mr Fisher should be aware that nobody forced Matthews into TJ against his will. He had to apply and take an entrance test for it. If he is failing as a sophomore, he will be sorely lost as a junior. I believe he will be better off spending the last 2 years of his highschool at Robinson.
And again, PLEASE LEAVE TJ ALONE! Those TJ's educators are dedicated and hard working professionals and should be treated with respect. Thank you to everyone who spend time reading this comment.

Posted by: David Tran | July 29, 2008 3:31 PM

Marc, could you be any more anti-intellectual? By now most of us realize that grades mean little in a society that values appearances more than substance. But really, to cite football or wit as evidence of academic merit? As for participating on an academic team....Well, exactly what was the student's contribution? Many (most?) public school students are awarded As and Bs for breathing--reading, writing, and computing is a secondary skill. Take a look at how well the Americans fare on international tests. You'll see that our best and brightest aren't holding a candle to the best and brightest in countries with far less resources and far fewer excuses for underperforming students and their parents.

Posted by: Jeanne Etkins | July 29, 2008 3:48 PM

Every year there are some TJ students who decide to transfer to their base schools. No shame in that.

What people are annoyed with is the attitude of "I-want-things-my-way" (but without putting in the work) that shows in the family's willingness to make such a spectacle about the situation. That is elitism.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 3:53 PM

To answer your direct question: yes, I still think you're too much of a moron to stay at the school. What you wrote is simply immaterial. Do the work, do it properly and well, or go a regular public school. Your entitlement extends only to that, and not to TJ.

Posted by: LoveIB | July 29, 2008 4:03 PM

Before the 3.0 rule was put in place, why were you content with merely passing your courses with Cs and Ds?

Why did you wait for the school to intervene? Why didn't you approach your teachers long before your third quarter?

Do I think you're a moron? No. However, I think you've got an entitlement complex and think a bit too highly of yourself. 98% of the student body was able to maintain a minimum 3.0 average prior to the rule being put in place. Those Cs and that D did not magically appear at the end of each quarter; you would have seen them coming early enough to take action, and could have been proactive in raising your grades. Hopefully you will learn to be a bit more involved and proactive about your grades in the future.

Posted by: To Matt | July 29, 2008 4:25 PM

I am a student at TJ, and I think that the Post is doing the right thing by attacking TJ's new policy. Whether or not Matthew Nuti should be at TJ is a moot point. It's a massively unfair policy for several reasons. Fairfax county counts its grades differently from every other county in the country. Here in Fairfax, 94 or above is an A, 90 - 93 is a B-plus, 84 - 89 is a B, and so on. Many people get a C rather than a B-minus thanks to this policy. Since GPA is based off of letter rather than number grades, Fairfax students are at a huge disadvantage already.

A 3.0 GPA cut-off is ridiculous. No other magnet school in the nation has a limit that high. The second highest is 2.5, a C-plus, and most others are 2.0, a C. TJ already has the mentality that a C is failing, but now it's become a reality. The students at TJ strive for excellence, and we hold ourselves to a high standard. I get one or two C's a year, and they are always crushing disappointments. The whole school thinks this way, even the teachers. This decision shows a shameful lack of judgment in the school board.

Third, there are hundreds of opportunities for students to improve at TJ. We have an eighth period at TJ, two 45 minute blocks, two times a week. This period is reserved for "after-school" activities, though it occurs during the school day. We have this period because people are coming in from many different counties, and transportation to activities becomes a huge problem if you live two or three hours away. If your grades were in trouble, there would (and should) be no problem with pulling you away from your normal activities for tutoring. It's offered by many teachers already, as an option.

I'm entering my Junior year at TJ. This is supposed to be my hardest year, where the double whammy of Physics and AP classes combine to keep me up most nights. Now I have the added stress of this limit hanging over my head. I'm not in any danger of "flunking" out, I've got about a 3.4, but it worries me, and makes me worry for my friends. One friend of mine quit TJ this year because he was so close to a 3.0 that he didn't think he'd make it next year.

Fifth, and finally, TJ is a small, tight knit family. We never reject anyone, and we always encourage each other to do greater things, try harder, and be your best. It's one of the best schools in the country because we care about each other. We cheer each other on, and we're always willing to lend a helping hand. To be told that you're not "good enough" for this school is just about the cruelest thing I could imagine. To be sent back your base school guarantees that you will never see some of your friends again, and can never rejoin our community. If you are sent back, it'll be exactly like moving in the middle of your high school career. And imagine what a college would think if you told them you were kicked out of TJ.

It's a bad policy, and it should be abolished

Posted by: Julie | July 29, 2008 4:26 PM

It's a harsh lesson in life Matt Nuti and every other high school kid has to learn at some point. Choices have consequences. If you don't get your work done you're not going to have a job Mr. Nuti. Your mommy and daddy won't have any pull with your boss. Your boss will simply tell you to pack your personal stuff and leave. Better to learn this lesson at 17 than at 27, 37, or 47.

TJ may have given you the best lesson you could have learned at that school. Take nothing for granted. You're owed nothing. And if you want something then you have to work hard at it everyday.

Posted by: Oh bla de, oh bla da, life goes on kids | July 29, 2008 4:39 PM

Here's some good advice that I think applies here:

"Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too"

Posted by: NoVaFolly | July 29, 2008 4:50 PM

I don't agree with the 3.0 rule. It seems like an arbitrary bar that nobody would have ever thought of when I was attending TJ.

On the other hand, this is the first time I've heard about the rule, and it's supposedly been public information for a year now. Was anyone protesting this last summer? Did parents raise concerns then about getting an action plan in place if their kids were close to the border? Or is it only now that the cards have been played that folks are crying foul?

I sympathize with Matthew for having to change environments right in the middle of high school; it can't be easy to say goodbye to two years of memories and friends. However, knowing that you are in danger of getting expelled and still deliberately not completing assignments in favor of optional activities doesn't sound like the right choice.

The ability to prioritize is something that sets people apart at every walk of life. It sounds like Matthew chose to fulfill his "wants" rather than his "needs" in this case, and the stakes were abundantly clear.

I agree that this particular policy doesn't make a lot of sense. I don't agree with the way that Matthew went about protesting / ignoring it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 5:12 PM

Given that this is germaine to the discussion, I have compiled the grading scales of four different Northern Virginia public school districts, in an effort to let facts come to bear on the claims that the FCPS grading scale is somehow "unfair" in comparison:

Fairfax County Public Schools
A 94-100
B+ 90-93
B 84-89
C+ 80-83
C 74-79
D+ 70-73
D 64-69
F 0-63

Alexandria City Public Schools
A 94-100
B+ 90-93
B 84-89
C+ 80-83
C 74-79
D+ 70-73
D 64-69
F 0-63

Prince William County Schools
A 93-100
B+ 90-92
B 84-89
C+ 81-83
C 74-80
D+ 71-73
D 65-70
F 64 and below

Loudon County Public Schools
A+ 98-100
A 93-97
B+ 90-92
B 85-89
C+ 82-84
C 77-81
D+ 74-76
D 70-73
F 69 and below

Fairly few differences, overall. FCPS's scale is identical to ACPS's and nearly identical to PWCS's with a few exceptions, all but one of which actually make the PWCS scale just a little more stringent.

The only remarkable difference is LCPS, which, except for 93 being the low end of the A scale, is a bit more stringent throughout most of the scale. LCPS is considerably more demanding than the other three with regards to defining what merits a passing grade.

Hopefully this provides some additional, factual perspective to some of the claims made so far.

Posted by: IBMathTeacher | July 29, 2008 5:17 PM

The difference in tone and coherence between commenter Julie's response, and Matthew Nuti's response, is very interesting to me. Where Matthew says he brings something to the student body, Julie discusses what that student body brings to the individual student. This is very telling.

Julie also points out that some of her friends have opted to leave TJ for their base schools, as they do not believe they would be able to cope with the stress and workload. This tells me those students are mature enough to understand that rules will be enforced, and that they have the foresight to remove themselves from situations they deem too stressful to be worthwhile. For all I know, they may end up protesting the rule change--and if they feel it is unfair, they should--but in the meantime they are showing that they have the courage to make an emotionally difficult choice in order to ensure they do not have an expulsion on their records. Good for them.

Posted by: Compare and contrast | July 29, 2008 5:18 PM

Matthew --

"When has reality consisted of kids, KIDS, getting expelled from his (or her) school for passing all his (or her) courses?"

As you go through life, you're going to learn that there's a big difference between passing and excelling. Passing may be good enough for some schools, and for some of the things you do in life. It's not good enough if you aspire to the best - and elite schools like TJ expect their students to aspire to a level of achievement and commitment far beyond just passing.

There's nothing wrong with that at most high schools, and even at many colleges, but TJ isn't most high schools. It demands more of its students. That's one of the reasons that its graduates are welcomed into the nation's best colleges, schools where just passing won't be good enough.

For whatever reason, you didn't live up to the expectations - and that's nobody's responsibility but your own. C's and D's in the core math science classes at a Math/Science intensive school just doesn't cut the grade.

The worst thing that's happened to you now is that you'll be going to a very good school, and have the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and abilities in a less intense and stressful environment. I hope that you'll rise to the challenge and opportunity there and in your future endeavors.

Posted by: Bethesda Dad | July 29, 2008 5:30 PM

I actually read FCPS Regulation 3355.9 which was modified on 7/31/07. Under the Selection Process, they permit a student with a GPA as low as 2.67 to gain admittance-that seems somewhat inconsistent with their demand for a 3.0 for srudents to remain there.

Under the academic standards and procedures section it states that students who fail to maintain a cumulative b- average, will be evaluated for possible return to their student's base school. It states that teachers will develop and document intervention strategies to help students who are experiencing academic difficulty-I don't think offering an empty classroom is a strategy.

I would suggest that this family ask for data on other TJ students who did not meet this B- threshold yet were permitted to stay at TJ. This expulsion was not required by this school-they had some flexibility but chose not to help this student.

Posted by: FCPS Parent | July 29, 2008 6:12 PM

I'm a student in TJ, so I actually know what the environment is, unlike many of other people on this page, who seem to generalize. I agree that TJ is not for everyone. First of all, a 2.8 GPA is a C+ in the FCPS scale. Many have mentioned that the only reason why his GPA is even a C+ is because of his A's in really simple subjects, and I fully agree. What I don't agree with, is some of the comments that try to generate a TJ mentality that DOES NOT EXIST. Try to get it into your thick skulls that attempting to excel in school is NOT A BAD THING. I'm not a straight A student, in fact I have a 3.5 right now. But I have the capacity to realize my limits. I talk to my counselor, teachers, and parents when something is wrong. I have used 8th period blocks to go for tutoring while the rest of my friends enjoy movies or play video games. I have stayed after school to learn and get better. It's obvious that Matthew didn't know his limits, and when he was given a wake-up call, refused to take action and attempt to raise his GPA by getting some B's instead of C's and in some cases, C's instead of D's. Oh no! He has extracurricular activities as well? Welcome to high school people! Everyone has them. And yet, almost all TJ students maintain their 3.0 and above average while doing all of this and taking care of their responsibilities at home. I would say that it's quite impossible to get a D because teachers are so helpful in TJ. Ms. Gecan is one of the nicest teachers I know, and if someone got a D in her class, it's obviously because he didn't do his homework, and didn't show any effort or give a damn. And someone with that kind of attitude does not deserve an environment that seems to bring out the best in many of its students. TJ is a challenge, I'll admit, and that's why it requires more effort. If you don't want to put in that effort, be prepared for an environment that is more suitable for your attitude, and doesn't expel you for not caring. Frankly, all schools should do that. The only splash of reality is Matthew's realization that some people like to enforce their rules after giving a one year warning and tons of help (which Matthew is said to have refused). That side of sizzle is the press's attempt to destroy the reputation of TJ and its students, because it didn't realize its limits, just like the boy it's defending.

Posted by: Some Guy | July 29, 2008 7:07 PM

I'm not trying to fight the decision of the rule regarding me. I'm fighting the rule in and of itself. It's WRONG. Look back at the essay I submitted earlier in response. There is irrefutable testimonies of Jefferson students that this rule damaged the school. There is irrefutable logical reasoning involved that shows this rule is fundamentally flawed. If you can dispute every single point in that essay, I'll be impressed beyond belief, because I don't see it as possible. Until someone can adaquately dispute every point there, I'm right. Plain and simple. And as long as I am acting for the right cause, I will continue fighting until this rule is removed. I'm not whining, I'm not asking for sympathy, I am fighting for the students at Jefferson to have an administration that serves them, and not the reputation. You all think I have an ego issue? It looks to me as though the SCHOOL has an ego issue.

Posted by: Matthew Nuti | July 29, 2008 7:20 PM

I don't think this point has been emphasized enough - where were Mr. and Mrs. Nuti when Matt brought home interims and report cards with Cs and Ds? Of course, there's another story here if Matt didn't ever show his parents said interims and grade reports. Let me tell you that my parents would have taken me to task simply for not showing them these documents even if all they'd see were straight As. A good parent is an involved parent. I'm not suggesting that parents turn into ever-watchful Big Brother-like monsters, granting their children no breathing room. Seriously, though, my parents were way more involved than Matt Nuti's in my education and, perhaps most importantly, guiding me in making proper choices in time management. If I screwed up or procrastinated too long on an assignment, they let me learn the hard way, but they made an effort to help me fight and overcome my natural tendency to procrastinate until the wee hours of the morning. They met my teachers and asked me what I was doing in school. I never felt that was intrusive, and in fact, I felt that it was a sign they cared about me and my future.
I have heard from a variety of sources that Matt's mother made him work shoveling manure (among other jobs) on their family horse farm. I don't see that as an excuse for bad grades in and of itself considering that nearly everyone at TJ has some sort of extensive extracurricular time committment and deals with it. However, Matt said mentioned this job as one of the factors that inhibited his ability to succeed to his full potential this school year. So, Mrs. Nuti, a quick question for you - when you saw his grades were on the decline, why didn't you let him focus on his studies instead of the dung? (I retract this statement if Matthew's inability to work would render your family destitute)
Honestly, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Matthews, Nuti family - where were the parents?!

Posted by: Where were the parents? | July 29, 2008 7:26 PM

I also believe TJ did the right thing. My child coasted through TJ, doing as little AT HOME as he needed to get by. At school, he was fully engaged in the classroom activities and discussions. We met with all his teachers junior and senior years. Some were more responsive about keeping us informed about assignments than others. The bottom line, though, is that our son's effort was his own responsibility, even though we tried to nag and hover to some extent. He knew what was required; however, sometimes he chose not to make the effort. (Despite this lackadaisical attitude, he still managed a 3.3 GPA.)

The consequences were natural: several schools he had wanted to attend had entrance requirements that were beyond his academic accomplishments. He is still going to a terrific college, but here he met reality in a big way. His lack of effort paid off in being academically dismissed. That's when he learned his lesson. One year later, with a proven track record of excellent grades and a new attitude, the college re-admitted him for a second chance. If TJ had told him that he needed to return to his base school, I would have said that was a logical consequence, and still a terrific opportunity.

Also, I take issue with the grade inflation assumption. My son was appropriately penalized for not turning in assignments at times, and he received low grades in some classes for that reason. He was still learning the material, as shown by earning the highest possible AP score on all his tests. I don't see how you can say there is grade inflation when someone receives a C in a class while earning a 5 on the AP test.

Matthew went to middle school in this area. It is not like moving to a new town. There will be plenty of people at Robinson who went to school with him just a few years ago. Most of those kids are also very bright, talented, and probably witty. There will be kids there who could have gone to TJ but chose not to, because their passions lay outside the sci/tech/math sphere. Whether or not it is in Matthew's BEST interest, he will still not suffer from association with these dedicated, well-rounded students, or their devoted faculty. I'll bet their Model UN Club is pretty excited to welcome Matthew, as well.

Posted by: edseeker08 | July 29, 2008 7:37 PM

I just want to make sure one point is made.
a lot of people have cited this as a reason for Matt's expulsion, but that is not how it works. If you're rejected, you're rejected, I'm sorry.

Posted by: tjkid | July 29, 2008 7:53 PM

"Until someone can adequately dispute every point there, I'm right. Plain and simple."
(quoting Matthew Nuti from above)


Perhaps if you spent this amount of energy/effort on your classes that you have spent disputing this decision, you would not have ended up in this situation.

Great advice from silver spring.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 7:59 PM

Drew: I just want to ask you one question. You said that you would have been expelled because you had a GPA below a 3.0 right? Would you still have had a sub 3.0 if you had known about the rule for a year?

Posted by: Oh hi there | July 29, 2008 8:01 PM

Let's do the numbers: ~1000 students (500/year) entered TJ's classes of 2009 & 2010. The 3.0 GPA minimum policy was introduced over a year ago - and 1807 students (and their parents) were informed about it.

35 students were placed on academic probation, but they managed to raise their grades to meet the stated expectations. Only 5 students were asked to leave. That's less than 1% of the combined classes of 2009 & 2010.

Of those 5 students, only one family has chosen to publicly air their grievances.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 8:22 PM

excuse me, " Weep for all those students at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology who, like Matthew, managed to maintain only a B-minus "???
ALL those students? Has anyone else recently heard of the other
The rest of us here know that a rule is a rule, and if you only work a little harder, then you SHOULD NOT get a D in Mrs.Gecan's class. It's not like they made the rule right now, and nobody knew about it. It's not like we came to TJ without knowing that it would be academically rigorous.
The rule is a rule for a reason, and if you can't even respect that, then at least just deal with the consequences.

This is possibly one of the most biased articles. TJ is a respected school all over the nation, and that is for a reason. Oh, he couldn't maintain the GPA that all the other 1000 kids could maintain because he was in MUN? SO IS EVERYONE ELSE!!!

This is just immature

Posted by: tjstudent | July 29, 2008 8:24 PM

"Wow" does not mean: "I'm impressed by your 'irrefutably logical reasoning'."

It means: "I'm appalled at your arrogance and conceit."

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 8:48 PM

What were the Nutis doing when they found out about their son's poor academic performance? According to Jay Matthews, Mr. Nuti is an electrical engineer and Mrs. Nuti is an accountant. Matt has two educated parents to turn to for help, and for that matter, two educated parents who should have felt the need to intervene and lay down the law. What were they doing? It wasn't like "poor, pitiful" Matt Nuti had no support at home! To their credit, his parents did give him encouragement. Unfortunately, it was the wrong sort of encouragement - to point the blame for all of his problems on other people using a very public forum. As an electrical engineer, Matt Nuti's dad must spend a lot of time around computers and the internet. I wonder if he ever once thought of the repercussions of having his son's name tied to laziness and unwillingness to compromise with teachers and plastered all over the internet. Tsk, tsk, Mr. and Mrs. Nuti.
Unfortunately, stories of having it all, throwing it all away, and then blaming it on other people don't resonate like stories about overcoming adversity. There are all sorts of stories about people who come from the dregs of societies, growing up in the midst of drugs and crime with single mothers who haven't made it past the 8th grade, and then managing to succeed. Ever heard of Dr. Ben Carson, the world renowned neurosurgeon at Hopkins who came from poverty in Detroit? Don't blame other people for your inability to succeed - you can do anything you want to if you try hard enough. Isn't that one of the core principles of America?

Posted by: Steve | July 29, 2008 9:02 PM


Re: Your essay

I give you a C+. Overly wordy, poor use of topic sentences. Too many run on sentences and excessive CAPITALIZATION. Incomplete in that it fails to set forth the role of your parents.

Would you like extra help? See me after class.

Posted by: Gary | July 29, 2008 9:22 PM

Again, I ask:

Where was the uproar a year ago? 9 months ago? 6 months ago?

From an outsider's perspective, this rule didn't become "destructive" until your bluff got called.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 9:26 PM

Personally, I believe the school is completely in the right in this situation. Jefferson is not just a school for high-achieving students, it is a school for students who are looking to science, technology, and mathematics as their main areas of interest. Many people treat Jefferson just as the "GT" high school. But it's not. Thus, if Matt had showed some particular interest in science, tech, or math, perhaps he would still be at Jefferson. However, football (especially Jefferson football) and MUN don't exhibit that interest. And extracurriculars aren't an excuse for bad grades. Jefferson was not created to provide students with extracurricular activities. It was created to provide students with an education, which, clearly Matt was not getting despite the best efforts of his teachers. There are plenty of students who didn't get into Jefferson who would have done much more with the opportunity than Matt has done. This 3.0 rule is not about the school's image. The school's image doesn't really change after five students are transferred to their base schools. And truly, the horrors of base school are not as many as some of the previous posters have laid out. There are still high-achieving students at base schools. Especially in Fairfax County, there is no need to worry about the caliber of Matt's education once he starts at Robinson. While he may take some time to adjust, ultimately, this may help him get into a better college than he would have if he had stayed on the track which he was on at Jefferson. Indeed, if he had stayed on that track, his GPA would have probably dipped even lower, due to the rigors of junior year. In my opinion, I believe that Matt needs to take responsibility for himself, admit that he didn't step up to the plate on this one. Also, I think that he needs to stop the immature "take it to the administration" aspect of this. They told you that this would happen in the beginning of the year. Yet, you don't complain about it until it affects you. I have little doubt (after having spent some time in a class with Matt this past year) that had this only happened to other people and not yourself, you would have not cared nearly as much. If you really want to talk about injustice, find something else. It's not here.

Posted by: recenttjgrad | July 29, 2008 9:39 PM

He took this meaningless battle to TV, too. Just watch:

Posted by: wow | July 29, 2008 9:54 PM

If he had written his history essays, he wouldn't have had to write all these comment essays to defend himself. Ironic.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 29, 2008 10:07 PM

Just in case anyone was wondering, perhaps after watching that *delightful* wjla clip, Matt was not quite sports editor for the yearbook. He started out as co-sports editor, but was shifted to "Sports assistant" when he wasn't exactly pulling his weight.

Posted by: anonymous | July 29, 2008 10:25 PM

Holy mackerel! I followed this article with some interest because I live in ALexandria, which has a recurring debate regarding whether to participate in TJ and, if so, to what extent. I have 3 school age children and have advocated that Alexandria try to secure spots at TJ. This event has convinced me that Alexandria should stay far away from TJ. Its kids deserve better. Particluarly troubling is the haughty and pampered attitude of the students, parents, and administration.

I hope for my children grow into intelligent, mature people with a respect for the dignity of others. Obviously, that is in sharp contrast to what TJ stands for. Most of the pro-TJ comments I have seen dismissively decide that Mr. Nuti had it coming, and since he does not contribute to soaring GPAs and SATs, he is not particularly welcome there. A fine attitude in the executive suites at a FOrtune 500 company, but fundamentally inconsistent with an educational mission.

Since TJ has now demonstrated how superficial and image-conscious it is, it is fair to wonder if there is more to the strange demographics of TJ than the school publicly proclaims. How far will TJ go to protect its brand?

Posted by: haunches | July 29, 2008 10:31 PM

"I'm not trying to fight the decision of the rule regarding me. I'm fighting the rule in and of itself."

A fine job you've done here, the only "publicity stunts" I've seen from you specifically pertain to YOUR individual case, and fail to mention a single other student who was also dismissed. You say that you're fighting the rule; how is it that this entire blog is about the poor "B-Minus student?"

Posted by: Senior | July 29, 2008 10:51 PM

I don't know who you are, "haunches", but the fact you take one kid's argument drummed up in the media as justification that all of TJ does not have respect and dignity is ridiculous. Have you heard of Techstravaganza, where TJ's Women in Science and Engineering, TWIST, and other girls in science clubs run a free and wildly popular science fair for elementary and middle schoolers in the TJ area? Have you heard of the tutoring programs TJ kids run at places like Weyanoke Elementary and Holmes Middle? Have you heard of the work of TJ's Diversity Committee, that offers tutoring in math, reading, and writing to extremely talented minority students (poor, African-American, Hispanic, etc.) who have been failed by the regular school system and discouraged from making something of themselves by their counselors? Surely, living in Alexandria, you are familiar with how many socioeconomically disadvantaged kids and new immigrants just waiting for their shot at success live in the areas around TJ. Even if half those kids don't make it into TJ, they at least have learnt that it's ok to enjoy school and learning. From personal experience helping with this program, I know it makes their lives better. These are only a few of the positive outreach programs TJ students run to help their community. Would you care to lodge the same baseless, blanket accusations of "lack of respect and dignity for other humans" against TJ now?

Who's acting haughty and pampered here? Blaming all of your problems on other people when it's pretty clear that you're at least partially at fault is haughty and pampered. Enough said.

By the way, this argument that Matt Nuti was kicked out of TJ because he would drag down TJ's statistics is completely meaningless. For him and the few other students with sub-3.0 GPAs, TJ has, oh, I don't know, 1790+ students who are doing well in those numerical indicators. The statistical impact of kicking out 0.2% of a school's student body is essentially negligible. TJ's performance in GPA and SAT (which can be very flawed indicators of true success, yes) more or less cluster high enough and with enough number that removing a few outliers won't change the mean. I don't think that's the real reason that TJ imposed this rule. You can blame it on school accreditation, grade inflation, or something else that makes sense. I honestly think TJ might be doing it for the good of Matt Nuti (even if the rule seems screwed up and unfair), because junior year at TJ does not get any harder, trust me. There are only so many joke classes you can enroll in to defer the pain. Oh yeah, no more PE, either...

Posted by: uhh | July 29, 2008 11:12 PM

I meant to say that junior year at TJ does not get any easier.

Oh dear, quite an unfortunate Freudian slip.

Posted by: uhh | July 29, 2008 11:21 PM

Just so non-TJ commenters are clear, TJ doesn't have grade rankings or valedectorians. This is for a good reason: so that grades don't become an issue. They should keep it that way.

To all of the TJ kids/grads who had Ms. Gecan, or brag that they got over 3.0 with minimal work: I would like to remind you that you are not Matt Nuti. Just because you liked a teacher doesn't mean he did, and just because you can get by while "drinking" and "partying" doesn't mean he can.

I feel like haunches is onto us when she calls it brand-protecting. I haven't been a huge fan of all of Jay Matthews' work, as he does seem to err a bit on the anti-TJ side. But I am glad that this article made it to the Post, as it's creating some constructive criticism of TJ. (to folks complaining about the relevance of the article in our deteriorating world, shouldn't you be complaining about the "asian plurality" article that was on the front page? This was just the Metro section!) I can only hope that haunches doesn't give up his/her fight to get Alexandria into TJ. Seriously, not everyone has this elitist attitude, and I hope you don't write us off completely.

As for the Princeton/MIT students who dismiss the "college-level" description: they may be right when it comes to the top 3 schools. But I attend a top-10 University, and I've had classes at TJ that are harder than my classes now (namely Physics). I also hear from the vast majority my friends at UVA, the most common TJ destination, that their workloads are significantly lighter.

Posted by: TJ Grad | July 29, 2008 11:36 PM

"uh" -- Thank you for proving the point. TJ surely has a great deal to offer, but some reflection on how you treat each other is in order.

We are a double Duke alum household and saw unfold firsthand how a school can lose sight of its primary mission to protect a brand name, injuring both in the process.

Posted by: Haunches | July 29, 2008 11:52 PM

I honestly don't think that TJ is up to brand-protecting, here. So TJ kicks out 4 or 5 students for poor academic performance after a whole year of warning them. Who cares? Really, all of this wouldn't be a really big deal and a student's explusion for poor performance wouldn't at all mean a darn thing if Matt Nuti and his family didn't proactively try to sensationalize this story in the media. The administration was not out for news coverage in implementing the rule and then actually applying it. If the school wanted no significant publicity for this rule, how in the world is it brand-protecting? (By the way, if say, 50 students or more were to be expelled because of this rule, then maybe your brand-protecting argument could go somewhere.)

The school could go without expelling a few students and still keep its brand; I sincerely doubt that 8th graders applying to TJ or the random visitors from China and Japan that fill TJ's halls regularly would at all doubt TJ's excellence if the student body had a few sub-par students. What, someone is going to think it's unfair that TJ is so well-regarded if ONE person going there isn't doing well? Now perhaps that's an argument for NOT kicking out Matt, but as previous posters have said, junior year does not get any easier. Students who otherwise get As and Bs get their first Cs and Ds (yet, for the record, still pull GPAs above 3.0). Just imagine the damage to a student who usually gets Cs and Ds going through the wringer of physics, APs, and some of the most demanding honors coursework at any school in the world. Would it really help Matt in terms of his future to have a bunch of Fs on his transcript from junior year? Go to Robinson, Matt, excel and be the big fish in the small pond. As many have said, that may actually get you into a much better college and put you on a much better trajectory than if you stay at TJ. Doomed to NOVA staying at TJ versus a shot at getting into UVA from Robinson? Is that even a choice for you, Matt? This is a really golden opportunity for you to refocus your life and enjoy it!

Posted by: wait a minute | July 29, 2008 11:53 PM

Let me extend you an invitation, Haunches. Come to TJ during the school day, sign in at the office, and just roam the halls. Look at all the different groups of people sprawled out across the school floors and outside during lunch. You'll see all sorts of people sitting together. TJ is not a school known for cliques. It's a very close-knit and warm community, as Julie said earlier. Sure, we have lots of academic pressures, but we tackle them together and form really strong bonds at TJ. I remember being able to talk to any senior I wanted to as a freshman, to ask them any question, and get really helpful and kind replies. I was in classes with seniors as a freshman (AP Calc BC) and not once did I feel like I was teased or outcast. I'd like to go to another school and see the senior class be as nice or the student body be as clique-free. I could go on and on about this. Perhaps if you care to see the evidence of what a friendly community TJ is with your own eyes instead of relying on the biased report of Mad Marc Fisher and a clearly disgruntled student, we can have a sensible discussion. I apologize if you found this at all a rude offer, but I personally think it's very reasonable.

Posted by: uhh | July 30, 2008 12:05 AM

Let me extend you an invitation, Haunches. Come to TJ during the school day, sign in at the office, and just roam the halls. Look at all the different groups of people sprawled out across the school floors and outside during lunch. You'll see all sorts of people sitting together. TJ is not a school known for cliques. It's a very close-knit and warm community, as Julie said earlier. Sure, we have lots of academic pressures, but we tackle them together and form really strong bonds at TJ. I remember being able to talk to any senior I wanted to as a freshman, to ask them any question, and get really helpful and kind replies. I was in classes with seniors as a freshman (AP Calc BC) and not once did I feel like I was teased or outcast. I'd like to go to another school and see the senior class be as nice or the student body be as clique-free. I could go on and on about this. Perhaps if you care to see the evidence of what a friendly community TJ is with your own eyes instead of relying on the biased report of Mad Marc Fisher and a clearly disgruntled student, we can have a sensible discussion. I apologize if you found this at all a rude offer, but I personally think it's very reasonable.

Posted by: uhh | July 30, 2008 12:06 AM

Let me extend you an invitation, Haunches. Come to TJ during the school day, sign in at the office, and just roam the halls. Look at all the different groups of people sprawled out across the school floors and outside during lunch. You'll see all sorts of people sitting together. TJ is not a school known for cliques. It's a very close-knit and warm community, as Julie said earlier. Sure, we have lots of academic pressures, but we tackle them together and form really strong bonds at TJ. I remember being able to talk to any senior I wanted to as a freshman, to ask them any question, and get really helpful and kind replies. I was in classes with seniors as a freshman (AP Calc BC) and not once did I feel like I was teased or outcast. I'd like to go to another school and see the senior class be as nice or the student body be as clique-free. I could go on and on about this. Perhaps if you care to see the evidence of what a friendly community TJ is with your own eyes instead of relying on the biased report of Mad Marc Fisher and a clearly disgruntled student, we can have a sensible discussion. I apologize if you found this at all a rude offer, but I personally think it's very reasonable.

Posted by: uhh | July 30, 2008 12:06 AM

My apologies for the triple posting. Stupid freezing browsers and reload key...

Posted by: uhh | July 30, 2008 12:08 AM

"I honestly don't think that TJ is up to brand-protecting, here. So TJ kicks out 4 or 5 students for poor academic performance after a whole year of warning them. Who cares?"

Well, obviously Matthew Nuti cares. TJ should be about the environment and the learning, not about arbitrary GPA cutoffs.

I'll always love TJ, but when it comes down to it, I think it's a shame to say the a kid does not belong or would do better at another school because his grades were below a certain number. It smacks of TJ trying to maintain its reputation, which isn't and shouldn't be the point of TJ.

And I agree that TJ kids usually support each other, but to what extent? To the point that a student puts TJ to a bad light? Go check out the facebook group, kids are ripping him.

And just a point in general -- I think a lot of people are coming to judgement because they consider Nuti to be "lazy" and a little whiny. We should put his personality aside and instead look at the rule and how fair it is. TJ shouldn't be above examination.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 12:28 AM

Haha wow all I can say is, who ever wrote this article obviously knows absolutely nothing about TJ. Absolutely nothing. First of all the part about people's grades at TJ not having a very large range just reinforces the fact that the author knows nothing about the school.. the people that go to my school are driven and committed to learning, if there was a large range in our GPAs wouldnt that look a little strange.. we all work hard and our grades show that.. sure there are some circumstances such as Matthew's where he may be an intelligent kid but he may just not have the time to commit to the work load.. I think that TJ has every right to try to make sure people that come to TJ know that it is a huge time commitment and you have to really be willing to make it your number one priority or you could be taking the spot of a kid who would make it higher on their list of priorities.

Posted by: Natalie | July 30, 2008 1:55 AM

I have to hand one thing to the Nutis -- they've managed to bring this 3.0 issue to the forefront with some help from Matthews and Fisher. Thankfully, the commenters above have already adequately collected the arguments for and against the rule, allowing me to focus directly on Matt.

Matt, I understand your urge to fight against real and perceived injustices in the world; this is a positive quality that you should be sure to hold onto. However, you need to make sure you're fighting the right battle at the right time. Nine months ago would have been a great time to bring this up. Just after you were forced to give up important extracurricular activities for a year in order to successfully bring up your GPA would also have put you in a position of strength. Unfortunately, the reason for the current backlash from both within and outside the TJ community is that you have placed yourself in a position of weakness -- wide open to attack from various angles.

First, if you plan to go anywhere in life, please show nuance and, above all, respect. Acknowledge that not everybody is evil and out to get you. Attack policies, not policymakers. Don't accuse. When implying that others might be "arrogant and hypocritical," keep a watchful eye on irony.

The argument that teenagers or "kids" should be allowed to make mistakes consequence-free cannot be your silver bullet and won't gain you much sympathy. Personal responsibility is paramount now and for the rest of your life. I think most TJ students understand that.

I don't think you're wrong in wanting to fight, but your position and technique both hurt you greatly. I know it's difficult, but remember that attending TJ is strictly voluntary. As someone who fought pretty hard to maintain a 3.0 average for a college program in which I participated voluntarily, I empathize with the struggle, the perceived shame and disgrace, the occasional helplessness. Either way, you come out stronger in the end.

Respect, responsibility, and choosing the right battles. If nothing else, you've shown that TJ is a school worth fighting for.

PS: If all else fails, please try to become a better writer. Even if what you're saying is completely bogus, people tend to pay better attention to you if you pay more careful attention to grammar, syntax, and structure. I'm sure Mr. Fisher would give you that same advice!

Posted by: TJ Grad 2003 | July 30, 2008 2:50 AM

I did not see any indication, in either this column or the original article by Jay Matthews, that TJ is suggesting Matthew Nuti is somehow less valuable as a person because his GPA does not meet the prescribed requirement. Many commenters have implied that students, and indeed all people, should be judged as people by more than just their GPAs and test scores. I cannot agree more with that sentiment, but GPA is a valuable indicator of how an individual performs as a student in an academic environment. TJ is an extraordinarily rigorous academic environment developed for those with high academic aptitude. I do not see a problem with such an institution imposing a minimal academic standard on students. TJ is not the place for students who are not interested in excelling in a rigorous academic experience, and part of excelling academically is achieving a strong GPA. Matthew Nuti was notified of the change in policy at the same time as every other student at TJ. He chose to neglect his studies in favor of other activities. I respect that he concedes he is flawed, but simply admitting that he has erred does not preclude him from having to deal with the consequences of his actions. I would find his argument that he is merely fighting an unfair rule more compelling if he had begun his fight before discovering that he would have to leave TJ. As a TJ grad who at times struggled with achieving the proper balance of academics and extra-curricular activities, I cannot imagine how little effort he must have put forth in his academic experience in order to end up with grades as poor as his were. I found nearly every teacher I had in my TJ experience to be exceedingly helpful when I approached them for assistance, and I managed to pull up poor interim grades by applying myself to my studies. Yes, people are more than the sum of their GPAs and test scores, but given the academic environment at TJ, the administration is well within its rights to require students to be high academic achievers. And the measure of academic achievement is GPA.

Posted by: TJ Alum | July 30, 2008 3:16 AM

In total agreement with the poster "uhh."

"Particularly troubling is the haughty and pampered attitude of the students, parents, and administration." (Haunches) Haunches' assesment of TJ is completely inaccurate and reflects no actual experience with TJ, save what he's being fed by the Nutis and the Post. I am from a different part of the United States, and TJ is about the only sane and supportive community I have encountered in the DC region.

The administration has been placed in the awkward situation of having to make a decision in the best interests of the student. If Matthew had put even a little more effort into his core classes and raised his grades just a few percentage points, he probably would have been allowed to stay at TJ. Given what we have seen of Matthew's attitude here on the comments, I am not a bit surprised they did not have hope he would change his ways. The boy is always right! Haunches, Matthew's attitude is haughty...not TJ's.

Robinson H.S. has some incredibly intelligent students and talented teachers. Matthew will still need to do the work there, because the junior year is more challenging.

The Post, Nutis, and Haunches--you are wrong about TJ in every possible way.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 6:31 AM

"Particularly troubling is the haughty and pampered attitude of the students, parents, and administration." (Haunches)

Can't help you with your delusions, Haunches.

People who enjoy TJ *value* the fact that there are no cliques. Pushy parents can't throw their weight around to get their way. TJ does not operate like the rest of the DC region (thank goodness!).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 8:00 AM

I encourage you to read the entire thread. It does not speak well of how the folks at TJ treat each other, and underscores the adversarial culture at the school. I noted in an earlier posting that the Nuti's also come across poorly in this episode.

Self-reflection is in order. Just an outsider's perspective with 3 children in a jurisdiction considering participating in TJ.

Posted by: haunches | July 30, 2008 8:59 AM

The Post carefully keeps certain topics like the disparities among public schools out of the spotlight. Certain school boundaries, disputes, and the school board members who protect their pet schools are topics that never get addressed in an honest manner. To do so would anger the "wrong" parents.

Instead, the Post seems determined to perpetuate lies about TJ. Someone at the Post clearly harbors a lot of hatred/resentment for TJ, and it's very unprofessional.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 9:33 AM


And if Alexandria chooses not to participate in TJ, I'm sure it will continue as strong as ever! It may be better off, actually, if Alexandria does not. TJ will only hold so many students, and it seems to be doing just fine as is.

Posted by: Gary | July 30, 2008 9:43 AM

"I encourage you to read the entire thread. It does not speak well of how the folks at TJ treat each other, and underscores the adversarial culture at the school."

Haunches, I encourage you to visit the school and see for yourself this so called adversarial culture. As someone who is not involved at TJ in any way, you are not in a position to be basing any arguments off of the opinions of a few students. You seem to forget that a diverse student body exists as it would at any school. There are the academic cutthroat, competing for Harvard/Yale/Princeton, but there are more numbers of "regular" students who aren't in competition with anyone, so I am not aware of such poor treatment among peers.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 9:49 AM

As a current TJ student I am inclined to agree that the public image brought forth by these two articles and several posts is not in any way positive. In many respects, I feel that Fisher and Mathews have lowered their writing capabilities by resorting to such snide and degrading journalism.

TJ is in fact an incredible place. Just like any school it has its own culture, one which is nearly impossible to describe, especially in such a negative context as this sensationalist piece. This situation should never have become a negative one, and it is really too bad that it has managed to seemingly destroy so much in the name of justice. I will not say whether the ruling is right or wrong, because apparently this article has no logical basis for either view. However, I would like to say that TJ students always work to support each other. There is a facebook group which was started by MattÅ› sister which has already 407 members. Many of these people are sympathetic with MattÅ› cause, and even those who feel that the rule should be maintained are not acting directly against Matt. Just the opposite, in fact. TJ is strenuous nnothing to do with thato doubt but to get a low GPA there makes applying to college just as hard as getting a low GPA at any other school. If going to base school would improve the chances of furthering an educational career then that is what should be enforced.

The only time where a TJ student would speak out derisively against someone in this scenario would be if they had in some way seriously insulted TJ. School pride runs very deep for many of TJÅ› students and any attack on the school is often taken personally. This is not an excuse, by any means, but one could say the same for any school or organization. Unfortunately, TJ just ends up in the Post a lot so you, as the reader and public, get to see and hear a lot of negative things about the school.

However, if there is any doubt as to whether or not you would want your children to end up at TJ, you could probably organize a tour or just a time to walk around the school when itÅ› in session. I am sure that what you would see would put to rest any fears you might have.

I hope this offered at least some more information to go on with your comments than this article has provided.

Posted by: SIcily | July 30, 2008 9:53 AM

Haunches--I am familiar with how people at TJ treat each other. My student is at TJ. Nothing that the Post or you wrote about TJ describes my student or our experiences at at the school.

You are welcomed to retain your inaccurate assessment of the environment at TJ, but do not claim you know what it is like if you do not have children there.

If the Post did an article on TC Williams that cast it in an unfavorable light, plenty of parents and students would be up in arms about it. Aren't TJ students and parents allowed to defend their school when it is unfairly attacked in the media? Why is the Post allowed to attack TJ with lies?

There is no "adversarial" nature at the school. Just with people who spread lies about it. I have plenty of self-reflection. Please share that advice with Matthew Nuti and his family. They are in much greater need of it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 9:58 AM

Haunches, there is no adversarial culture at the school. Do you think friendly competition to get good grades is adversarial? Sure, one student may boast to another student what their grade on the latest test was or ask another student how they did, but guess what? Students everywhere for all time have done exactly that, not just at TJ in 2008.

In fact, the culture at TJ is anything but one of constant jockeying for #1 class rank or valedictorian (TJ doesn't even rank its students or have a valedictorian, mind you). Students love to learn from each other and work together. We all root for each other in our accomplishments and are there for each other in our disappointments and failures. Sure, we all harbor a little tinge of jealousy towards the people who became Intel finalists and semi-finalists - that's human nature. Then we realize that these people are all at least our acquaintances in the tight-knit TJ community, if not our best friends. I have neither seen a fight nor bullying in my time at TJ, and other TJ students would back me up on this. TJ's teachers are among the nicest and most supportive people you will ever meet. There are exceptions to this rule, but even when TJ students say a teacher is awful at teaching a subject (e.g. biology), they will then follow it up with "but he's/she's one of the sweetest people I have ever met!" Many of our teachers even had kids who went through the rigors of TJ long before us and provide us with great guidance and advice. I haven't even talked about how much time and effort TJ's teachers put into sponsoring clubs! Many of our teachers become our good friends as well as our mentors.

There are very few disciplinary issues in which the students openly disrespect teachers and administrators. On the flip side, administrators and teachers give TJ students a lot more trust and privileges for even the most mundane things. You can go to the bathroom or go to your locker without a signed pass. Students can eat lunch essentially anywhere in the building they want. In other schools, the administration gets paranoid about these simple activities to the point that an aura of distrust builds up between the students and school. That's when a lack of dignity and respect enters into the picture. I'm not saying that TJ students don't have their fair share of disagreements with the administration, but we air those disagreements calmly and maturely through a structured forum. We treat each other with dignity and respect. For Pete's sake, Haunches, we can leave anything, even brand-new laptops, on top of our lockers, and it won't be stolen.

So this thread has posts from other people at TJ who believe it was right that Matt Nuti was kicked out of TJ for his poor performance (a 2.06 core GPA, forget the 2.8). Let me tell you something, Haunches - the TJ community was all supportive when Matt Nuti got the letter saying he'd been kicked out. The TJ community supported Matt Nuti in his recourse to appeal the decision, and they wrote so many letters to be presented at that appeal meeting to extend their support. He lost the appeal, though. At that point, the TJ community decided that Matt did all that he could and now should have moved on with his life, as unfortunate as the outcome of the appeal was. TJ's community was ready to support him in his transition to Robinson, too!

The support for Matt began to dwindle and these posts condemning him began to appear when Matt used the Washington Post's education correspondent, in-house grievance blogger, and the evening news to trash TJ and say he was treated unfairly. The TJ community only ever treated him fairly and gave him all the support they could give! If you think about it, even the end result of his appeal was fair in the impersonal application of that 3.0 rule. We may disagree with the merits of the rule, but our society is built on the idea that justice is unbiased treatment under the law. We can change the law by going to school board meetings, signing petitions, and talking to the principal. It's usually bad form to change a law by whining about yourself. Why did TJ'ers start ripping Matt Nuti? He was trying to portray our warm and supportive community that we love to live and thrive in as something it isn't.

Posted by: uhh | July 30, 2008 10:19 AM

Please read uhh's post above. It explains everything. Thanks, uhh!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 10:28 AM

You can see that uhh knows how to write an essay, while Matt, judging by his efforts above, does not. I'm thinking TJ made the right decision. Uhh's essay is calm, organized, and reasoned. Matt's is not, and it contains CAPITALIZATIONS for unnecessary emphasis. Well done, uhh! Matt, see me after class.

Posted by: Gary | July 30, 2008 10:33 AM

Matthew --

With an attitude like yours, I can't wait to see what happens when you get to college and they kick you out because you don't meet their rigorous standards either. Will you go whining to the media then, too?

You say that learning is about making mistakes. What have you learned from your mistakes in this instance?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 10:39 AM

Well, according to Matt, he didn't make any mistakes! So he's learned nothing.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 10:42 AM

I recommend a quick look at the facebook group he created. You'll see how TJ's opinion of Matt Nuti changed with time.

Matt Nuti had his chance. I, and people from my class and school, supported him at first. Then a few things happened. First, he refused to submit to logic. Second, he decided pull a publicity stunt. People saw his families true colors then. I don't know where he got his sense of entitlement, but he should lose it. It'll get in the way later.

Posted by: TJ '07 | July 30, 2008 10:50 AM

The Post sure picks strange perspectives to highlight.

Matthew argues on here that until someone refutes every single point in his post, he's right. He also claims that he's fighting the rule for the benefit of all TJ students (because he claims it has damaged the school). Interesting to note, he only started fighting this rule after he was notified he would have to leave (not last summer, when the guideline was announced).

This is simply a lot of posturing with no substance. It seems the rule regarding GPA is simply in place to provide some baseline for assessing efforts in case a student decides to test the boundaries. The school does not appear to implacably kick people out if they are still showing the interest and aptitude for science/math.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 11:01 AM

To counter the suggestion that there may be a cultural problem within the school, there has been a series of ad hominem attacks deriding me as "delusional," suggesting that TJ is better off without Alexandria to save some spots for other folks, attacking the Post for spreading lies (a very serious charge against a newspaper), and mocking Mr. Nuti's academic abilities and blaming him for publicizing a debatable policy, among other things. This is a taxpayer funded school, yet somehow has developed the same attitude as the most exclusive and elite private school, including resentment at any scrutiny or questioning of policies and decisions.

In the great scheme of things, the 3.0 policy is not that big a deal. It is the over the top overreaction to any challenge that is more illuminating.

Posted by: haunches | July 30, 2008 11:21 AM

Haunches: "In the great scheme of things, the 3.0 policy is not that big a deal. It is the over the top overreaction to any challenge that is more illuminating."

Yeah like making a PR mess out of it first. Here's to the Nuti family.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 11:37 AM

So TJ parents and students should allow the Post, the Nutis and the public at large to attack their school, and they can't refute the falsehoods with the truth. Is that what you think, haunches?

If you have read uhh's post and still can't see why TJ folks are a little frustrated with the Nutis/the Post, it's a lost cause. Yes, that's delusional when you claim something to be true for the rest of us and it's not.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 12:30 PM

uhh's posts accurately reflect the community spirit at TJ. If someone is upset with the school based on a few harsher posts here, then that is not fair to the school.

No one can possibly claim Marc Fisher was unbiased in his writing. "A TJ child is the ultimate expression of that perfectibility," and other similar comments that he must have thought were so witty. Get over your TJ hatred, man. You remind me of Mr. Potter's hatred of the Bailey family's savings and loan in "It's A Wonderful Life." Spinning lots of impressive-sounding words, but a bitter heart inside.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 1:04 PM

C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!!!!!!11!1

yes i am doing it right

Posted by: b | July 30, 2008 1:10 PM

As a recent graduate of the school in question, I have had a lot of interaction with the whole Nuti family. I am extremely disappointed by the comments on this post, all of which I have read, mainly due to the quickness of the readers to blame the Nutis for this "stunt." In contrast to what most posters believe, the Nutis have been fighting against this rule from the beginning, but without resorting to the Washington Post due to its lack of credibility. During my senior year, I had a few issues, as most students do, in one of my classes. Although I had a relatively average GPA, it still had the opportunity to affect my graduation. As soon as the Nuti family became aware of my situation, they offered to aid in my appeals to the school administration. No one in the Nuti family is completely in the wrong here. I have personally seen Mr. and Mrs. Nuti volunteering for the clubs, organizations, and teams that their students have participated in/on. I have absolutely no doubts that the Nutis were making every possible out reach to Matt's teachers in hopes of reconciling this situation. I am also positive that the Nutis are only stirring up this issue for the benefit of the student population as a whole, and not for their own personal benefits.
I implore all readers of this blog post, the Jay Matthews' article, and the above comments to not rush to a conclusion or an opinion.
As for the school being at fault, although I am personally opposed to this rule, I am more disappointed in the way the situation was handled. When I applied to TJ (as well as during the multiple times I volunteered at freshman preview events), I was repeatedly told that the decision to leave or stay at TJ was the student and their family's decision alone. My class and the classes following (up until the entering class of 2011) were told that there was no "minimum GPA" which would be needed to continue to attend TJ. After the "3.0 Rule" was instated, there was a mild uproar from the Jefferson community. Those reading this as outsiders will never understand what a true burden this can place on a student, but parents, friends, family, and students all were outraged by this new requirement that just stacked on top of all the others. Although it was not extremely publicized, Jefferson never responded well to this new rule. If anything, this requirement should have been enforced on incoming classes (2011 and all those following), without adding the burden to Jefferson's upperclassmen who have enough things to worry about as it is.

Posted by: TJ Grad '08 | July 30, 2008 1:23 PM

Grad, high school is not a legal contract. Administrations have the absolute right to institute policies for the benefit of all students, such as the 3.0 rule, and apply it to present students. That's just the way it is.

"I have personally seen Mr. and Mrs. Nuti volunteering for the clubs, organizations, and teams that their students have participated in/on. I have absolutely no doubts that the Nutis were making every possible out reach to Matt's teachers in hopes of reconciling this situation."

Parents volunteering for clubs and so forth is really cool. However, the fact that you have absolutely "no doubts that the Nutis were making every possible out reach to Matt's teachers" is belied by the fact that they, nor Matt, has ever so stated. Had they, and given the waiver that they signed, the teacher could have pulled out Outlook Express and said "Look, not a single email from the Nutis. And in this day of litigation and helicopter parents, we keep everything? Think I'm lying? I'll get you a printout from the server." Similar proof could be gotten for phone calls, visits to the school, etc.

Posted by: Gary | July 30, 2008 1:42 PM


Please visit TJ. I cannot even begin to describe to you the level of support and companionship I found at the school. Never would you find a student abusing anyone within the community. The issue came about when Nuti attacked one of our own, a teacher of ours. TJ has been attacked for years and years by those seeing at as a symbol rather than merely a school. TJ is not just a stepping stone to college, but rather what was the best four years of my life, an experience in and of itself. Like any experience, it is not for everyone. I am confident in saying that as indicated by Matt's haste in turning on the school that we all love, TJ was not right for him. Don't try and say that the school turned on him first. There was a rule and he broke it, and was forced to suffer the consequences. Even then we desired that he part on the best of terms with the best of luck, but he turned on us. As a result, we banded together and defended our school, something that we have had to do since TJ existed, and will do so long as it exists. This is not us attacking a classmate, but rather protecting what grew to be our home.

Posted by: JMC, class of 08 | July 30, 2008 3:11 PM

As usual, the wrong question was asked. The correct question is not, "Why was Matthew cut from the TJ team?"...Its "why was he ever let in?"

My own son had a 4.0 GPA in middle school, got two wrong on the entrance test, and led his team in the Math Counts competition (all the others on the team were admitted to TJ). How exactly was Matthew considered at all?

TJ's reasons for not admitting my son aa a freshman was a strangely low score on the essay part of the application test and, (this is a true quote) "he didn't even use all the space in the bloc explaining why he wanted to come to TJ." Its clear that TJ can accept and eliminate anyone they want for whatever convoluted reasons.

Its hard to decide who has the worst of this argument: Matthew and his mom with their clear sense of entitlement; or TJ with its clear sense of "I am TJ and all the rest of you are chopped liver." I agree with someone who suggested that eliminating TJ is the solution to all the TJ entrance problems. Few people, other than some of the TJ students and the TJ faculty actually benefit from its existence. Send all these elite kids back to their base schools and these issues disappear. Since this is not likely to happen, the Fairfax County school Board ought to start investigating TJ's application procedures. The issue is too important to be left to the TJ admissions department.

Posted by: Steve | July 30, 2008 3:12 PM

The Nuti family should accept their son failure and get over with. They are doing their children's school more harm than good.
Matthew is born into a well-heeled family with both mom and dad are working professionals. He should have more way and mean than anybody else to be above 3.0 GPA.
If he spent more time to study, he would not have to spend time to fight the expulsion now. Even if he succeed, there is still an element of shame.
Imagine an UN general secretary who got several zeros on history class!!!!
And stop the assault on TJ. Enough is enough.

Posted by: John | July 30, 2008 3:29 PM

I recommend that you read uhh's post (7/30 at 10:19am) which puts this entire matter in perspective and describes the warmth and mutual support of the TJ community (administration, faculty, and students). What uhh says certainly reflects what I observed as the parent of 2 very recent TJ grads, and as a frequent parent volunteer.

Posted by: jct | July 30, 2008 3:32 PM

Why does everyone without a tie to TJ become so infuriated by its existence? It's not like the school affects you in the slightest. TJ doesn't get a lion's share of the county budget, rather our money comes from students and teachers writing letters and asking for grants from corporations. In response to the parent questioning the application process. As you know quite well, it's a two-tiered operation. The first cut is solely grades and the test, so your child was fine there. The second cut is the essay and resume. If all your child has was Math Counts, which hundreds of kids do by the way, myself included back in middle school, and a poor essay, why should the rejection surprise you? Even if the child should have been accepted, because he was rejected, the school clearly shouldn't exist in the first place? We are not elitist. We were simply willing to arrive early, stay late, and sacrifice sleep for four years of our life. And still not get into as good schools as some of our base school friends. So really, why does everyone care so much?

Posted by: explain | July 30, 2008 3:36 PM

Nuti seems to have a case of "procrastinator's remorse."

Nuti's problems arose not when the rule was introduced, but when it was implemented (in particular, upon him). If he truly had TJ's self-interest in mind, he would have advocated against the 3.0 rule at the time of its inception. Would Nuti have gone to the press with such ferocity if he harmlessly earned a 3.1 GPA and maintained his enrollment in TJ? Probably not. His purely inflammatory remarks regarding TJ are nothing more than an admission of his own guilt.

Nuti now has the following choice before him: to selfishly bemoan the consequences of his own actions, or to overcome adversity and make something of himself. I implore him to seek the latter. It may not be easy (even if he earns a 4.0 at Robinson, he is not getting into UVA or even VT with a 3.4 GPA) but the choice is his and his alone.

Posted by: i agree with uhh | July 30, 2008 4:19 PM

Here's something I have seen few, if any, people mention. Nuti is a football player and should understand about getting cut from the team if he can't bring his A-game.

In sports the coach would bench him for not brining his uniform or playing in the top of his team. He'd cut the player if he continued to forget gear or play poorly consistantly.

Well, TJHSS&T did just that. They cut him from the team after giving him plenty of chances to bring up his scores.

To paraphrase Super-Chicken: "Matthew, you know the school was tough when you applied".

Posted by: Benjamin Abruzzo | July 30, 2008 4:36 PM

TJ is a wonderful school which gives bright kids a chance to enhance their high school experience. And despite what you might think, many of the kids there could NOT afford private school. Most states have magnet schools and any Virginian should be proud to have the best one closeby.
As for Matt, if he couldn't get over a 2.8 in his first two years of high school, he would have suffered far worse grades come junior year--which is by far the hardest. Then he would have had no chance getting into college from TJ. Though it sucks he has to make new friends, it is in his best interest to go somewhere besides TJ.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 5:49 PM

As a recent graduate of the school in question, I have had a lot of interaction with the whole Nuti family. I am extremely disappointed by the comments on this post, all of which I have read, mainly due to the quickness of the readers to blame the Nutis for this "stunt." In contrast to what most posters believe, the Nutis have been fighting against this rule from the beginning, but without resorting to the Washington Post due to its lack of credibility. During my senior year, I had a few issues, as most students do, in one of my classes. Although I had a relatively average GPA, it still had the opportunity to affect my graduation. As soon as the Nuti family became aware of my situation, they offered to aid in my appeals to the school administration. No one in the Nuti family is completely in the wrong here. I have personally seen Mr. and Mrs. Nuti volunteering for the clubs, organizations, and teams that their students have participated in/on. I have absolutely no doubts that the Nutis were making every possible out reach to Matt's teachers in hopes of reconciling this situation. I am also positive that the Nutis are only stirring up this issue for the benefit of the student population as a whole, and not for their own personal benefits.
I implore all readers of this blog post, the Jay Matthews' article, and the above comments to not rush to a conclusion or an opinion.
As for the school being at fault, although I am personally opposed to this rule, I am more disappointed in the way the situation was handled. When I applied to TJ (as well as during the multiple times I volunteered at freshman preview events), I was repeatedly told that the decision to leave or stay at TJ was the student and their family's decision alone. My class and the classes following (up until the entering class of 2011) were told that there was no "minimum GPA" which would be needed to continue to attend TJ. After the "3.0 Rule" was instated, there was a mild uproar from the Jefferson community. Those reading this as outsiders will never understand what a true burden this can place on a student, but parents, friends, family, and students all were outraged by this new requirement that just stacked on top of all the others. Although it was not extremely publicized, Jefferson never responded well to this new rule. If anything, this requirement should have been enforced on incoming classes (2011 and all those following), without adding the burden to Jefferson's upperclassmen who have enough things to worry about as it is.

Posted by: TJ Grad '08 | July 30, 2008 5:52 PM

TJGrad '08, you already posted that whole screed! Wassamatter, nothing new to say?

Posted by: Gary | July 30, 2008 5:59 PM

I apologize for double posting over a long period of time, I accidentally refreshed the page when I returned home and it reposted. Please do not use this error to make light of what my point was.

Posted by: TJ Grad '08 | July 30, 2008 5:59 PM

It's not an undue burden. We've been through TJ. There was no uproar. Why is an appeal necessary if you simply cannot pull off good grades? Why won't Matt take responsibility for the fact that he failed to get As in any of his core subjects? The mystery continues...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 6:10 PM

Obviously Mr. Matt will suffer more junior year at TJ, why stay?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 6:40 PM

Dear Matthew Nuti,
Please stop being arrogant and stuck up and start taking some responsibility for your actions. So after trash-talking TJ on the Post and ABC, do you seriously expect TJ to welcome you with open arms and apologize for all the "wrongs"? Yeah right. Get over the fact that you are not fit for TJ, and you probably wasn't ever fit for TJ, and that the admissions committee makes mistakes sometimes. Just get out and stop polluting the academic waters at TJ. Being at TJ and being able to utilize its excellent educational materials is a privilege that you need to appreciate, and you seemed to have lost that privilege with the lack of time management and just utter failure.

Posted by: Go Away | July 30, 2008 6:49 PM

Why was Nuti fine with earning a 2.8 GPA in the first place? Sure, that's a B- for college standards, but with AP classes (which usually get weighted at a 4.5 or even a 5.0) pervading high schools these days, a 2.8 GPA really does look like a C+ or even a C.

Now, if you are a parent and your son or daughter tried their hardest and earned a 2.8 GPA, then that's a whole other issue. But Nuti, by his own assertion, could have put forth more effort into his classes and earned a 2.8. Not to mention the fact that this 2.8 was skewed in his favor due to classes like PE and Driver's Ed (are those different classes these days? sheesh...)

uhh and others on this thread astutely caught onto this and noted that his core GPA was something closer to 2.0. That's unacceptable at nearly any high school for a student who (presumably) has college aspirations. If I were him, I would be more ashamed in myself than TJ. Not only did very few other students seem to run into the "3.0" problem, but perhaps more importantly, where is his self-motivation? A 2.8 GPA in middle school? Where work is nearly non-existent and teachers practically hand out A's?

In any case, Nuti was warned of the 3.0 rule and continued to earn sub-par grades. In that regard I agree with "I agree with uhh" (where do you people make up names like this?), who stated that Nuti's problem with the rule was simply that TJ kicked him out when he assumed that they wouldn't. He simply made the wrong decision and paid for it.

Nice comments all around

Posted by: surprised | July 30, 2008 7:01 PM

So far, many people have used this article to take potshots at TJ by bringing up irrelevant points. Grade inflation. Elitism. A community of students ready to tear each other apart and an administration that couldn't care less. Not only have I yet to see any proof of any of these things (except in the minds of those intent on bashing TJ, but this comment isn't going to change their minds anyway), all of these things are almost completely irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Let us ask ourselves the important question. Why did TJ decide to give Matt the proverbial boot?

The easy answer would be to say that he had a 2.8 when he needed a 3.0. But the easy answer is hardly ever the correct answer, so let's look a little deeper.

Is TJ trying to desperately protect its image, horrified at the thought of sub-par students (relatively speaking) bringing down the average? Well, considering that only 5 students were kicked out, which is less than 1% of the total student population, I find that a ridiculous reason. In the bigger picture, would anyone actually notice. Matt 2.8 mixed with 2000 other students? Probably not.

Is the administration at TJ delusional, unable to imagine high school students having a bit of trouble as they make the transition from teenagers to the grown up world? I'm positive that many teachers and administrators understand that everyone falls off the horse at one time or another, and are willing to help out in any way they can. In fact, both Ms. Gecan and the administration mention various "intervention" plans they attempted to help raise Matt's grades.

Speaking of Ms. Gecan, is she really a devil-woman intent on kicking Matt out of TJ? Well, the rest of her class managed to do just fine, so lets leave the honorable teacher out of the discussion.

So let us consider a third option. Maybe the administration honestly thought that Matt would do better at a base school and go on to a better future. Is that such an outlandish theory? Various people have claimed that the final decision should rest with Matt's family, but are they in the best position to judge this kind of thing? Self-reflection is difficult; sometimes you need someone on the outside to tell you the things you can't see for yourself.

People have already mentioned that junior year is far more difficult than sophomore year. If Matt's Cs and Ds sunk lower, would that have helped his college prospects? Unless he's getting into college on a football or MUN scholarship, wouldn't better grades at Robinson help him in the end?

Contrary to popular belief, most people involved in education actually care about the students. If the administration thinks that Matt would be better served at another school, then maybe he should just accept the help instead of demonizing anyone involved in the decision.

Posted by: Kro | July 30, 2008 8:04 PM

Marc makes several good points here, but a lot of the posters seem to be basing thier assumptions on experience from "normal" high schools.
I will say up front that I am currently a rising senior at TJ, and my GPA stayed at about 3.6 freshman and sophomore years, but dropped to around a 3.2 my junior year.
The idea of grade inflation at TJ may be true in a few classes, but there are definitly some teachers who do not even begin to feel that they are obligated to give higher grades.
Kids have said to teachers "If you give me that C, I'll get kicked out!", and the teachers just responded with a "work harder". My math teacher has a laminated letter from himself to other teachers pinned on his wall, saying that he doesnt believe anone should give a B to a student that really deserves a C or a D.
While I don't believe that this policy of the school administration is right (especially considering that it was implemented after students started at school, with no prior warning), getting a sub 3.0 GPA in sophomore year indicates that it is qite likely that it would drop to a completely unacceptable level in junior year, when you don't have things like PE and driver's ed to prop up your grade. Maybe Matt will be better off at Robinson.

Posted by: TJ Student | July 30, 2008 9:33 PM

Take heart! When I went to FCPS 23 years ago to have my kid enrolled, the woman at the desk said I should take my child to get her tested in the English language. My question was "why?" and the next thing she asked me was "Do you speak English?". If this was not so hilarious on the face of it, (because it is the only language I know), I would have cringed. I walked out of there and put my child in a private school. Years later, I re-introduced my kid into Oakton Elem. School, where a teacher said, during a PTA meeting that my kid was a solid B student. Not believing in labels for an 8-year old I took my kid out and it was back to private school again. Fast forward, my kid is now 28 years old, has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and makes a comfy 6-figure salary. Moral to the story, Matthew Nuti is this: Don't believe in labels. Know yourself. TJ is not the only game in town. And finally, there are many roads to get to where you need to go. Some of the best minds in the world did not go to TJ. And going to TJ does not mean that you are going to arrive where you need to go. TJ is just the means, but it is not the only means. If you are a good student you should be able to excel anywhere.

Posted by: chayaJ | July 30, 2008 10:12 PM

Well Explain, I wasn't aware that I was infuriated at TJ's existence...I just question its worth to the county that pays for it. I thought that before and after my son's rejection.

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear on TJ's application procedure and why I was astounded at his rejection. for purposes of brevity, I kept my list of his accomplishments to a minimum. He wasn't simply in Math Counts...he led his team and was in the top ten in his cluster. Did you do that well? He had top score in the AMC competition in middle school and three medals in Science Olympics.

When I pointed out to the TJ official that one of the best students in FC was not being admitted, he remarked (another quote)"and that's not an anomaly!" Like I should be placated at the thought that many of the best FC students were not being admitted. Why he seemed so pleased at the idea is anyone's guess.

My main point was that Matt was obviously an average to poor student in middle school. How could he, in any sensible application procedure, be admitted? These sorts of decisions by TJ are what should be investigated.

Posted by: Steve | July 30, 2008 11:10 PM


"My main point was that Matt was obviously an average to poor student in middle school. How could he, in any sensible application procedure, be admitted? These sorts of decisions by TJ are what should be investigated."

As your only "main point", that concern is acceptable. I also ask myself why he got into TJ in the first place, when the signs of his troubled sophomore year began in middle school. It is not, however, acceptable to question the very existence of TJ for the sole reason that your son did not get in and you wonder how such an overly qualified candidate like your student did not get in. If I'm getting the wrong impression, I apologize, but it sure sounds like it. Also, pointing out that your son is "one of the best students in FC" is a bit arrogant, don't you think?"

Your agreement with the commenter who proposed shutting down TJ is ridiculous. Furthermore, your claim that "few people, other than some of the TJ students and the TJ faculty actually benefit from its existence" can be simply addressed with another question: Outside the TJ community, who is harmed by its existence?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 31, 2008 10:25 AM

Well, at least you find my main point acceptable. No one seemed to be asking this question.

I did think I made it clear that my questioning TJ's value has been long-standing. When I discovered for myself that the application process, in spite of the TJ attempt to make it seem objective, was terminally subjective, that merely confirmed my feelings. I prefer to think my opinion of my son's abilities was objective. I was not the only one who thought so. I would have thought that I had brought forth enough evidence to prove that. You should note that the TJ official didn't diaagree, he merely remarked that that was the way the cookie crumbled.

You obviously have no understanding of the adverse affect that TJ has, in both a material and psychological sense. This is exacerbated when students feel that they have not been treated fairly. You may have noted that TJ is changing its application procedure again. The county will be treated to a new diversity driven procedure and a new group of unqualified students and and new group of qualified rejectees.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

Posted by: steve | July 31, 2008 10:59 AM

I hope he doesn't get expelled from Annandale High too!

Posted by: Jennifer | July 31, 2008 2:44 PM

Another reason this publicity effort by Matt Nuti is very unwise: In two years, this kid will be applying for college. A simple Google will turn up all this bellyaching, including Matt's poorly written post. I'm not sure what college will be excited about admitting someone like this. Good luck with that, kid! Better hope a slacker admissions officer reviews your package.

Posted by: Hah, good luck applying for college | July 31, 2008 2:58 PM

...Except colleges have recently stressed "WE COUNT EXTRACURRICULARS AND ACTIVITIES, NOT JUST GPA AND SAT SCORES!!!" in their admissions. I had this screamed at me a hundred times during my college app process.

Plus, he can write his college essay on how he transferred from TJ to Robinson and flourished, in spite of an extended battle about an unfair rule :)

I'm still pretty dissapointed at how this all turned out. This is a High School, not a college, not a company. This focus on grades is not what TJ should be about; TJ is about the environment, the activities, and the learning.

TJ Grad '08 said it well: "My class and the classes following (up until the entering class of 2011) were told that there was no "minimum GPA" which would be needed to continue to attend TJ." That's how it was, and that's how it should have stayed!

And while TJ is less segmented than most schools I've attended, we still have our cliques and bullies, and we always will. That's right, there ARE cliques at TJ, even if they aren't very obvious.

Posted by: TJ Grad | August 1, 2008 12:40 AM

Colleges also count character, when they can get some insight into it. That's what the comment above was referencing -- the lack of character shown by taking this issue to the press -- not his grades.

Posted by: Character Counts | August 1, 2008 3:57 PM

I am not sure whether anyone would wonder how this kid got admitted into TJ, several years ago. With consideration of his grades before and after admission. Most of the grades were not outstanding, and some of them were even quite poor, besides Physical Education and Driving Education which are not likely included in the school admission examination. Unless there was a miracle that he suddenly could master Math and English to such an extremely, inconsistently high level. I believe a lot of other kids, who were denied for admission, were more qualified.

Am I opening another can of worms???

Posted by: Dennis | August 2, 2008 8:48 AM

I wanted to clear up the fact that the class of 2011 was not informed of this rule until well after we agreed to attend. Not only were we not told during the application process, we were also not told until we had sent back the slip of paper accepting admission.

Another thing I want to address is the fact that many of the parents commenting this are bringing their personal opinion of the school based solely upon their bitterness at their child's rejection. If your child is the most brilliant human being to have ever graced our humble planet, as I am sure all parents believe of their child, and is unable to articulate this in two essays, and a personal statement [the latter of which had no time limit] then it is hard for me to believe that you have any reason to complain about his rejection.
Sorry for the harshness, [and the run-on paragraph] but it had to be said.


Posted by: class of 2011 | August 3, 2008 10:49 AM

The bottom line is that TJ wants geniuses, not merely "talented" kids. We are not #1 in the nation for nothing. If you can't handle this level of commitment, perhaps you should leave. If you want to excel in TJ, you can't be a kid--in attitude, in activities, in academics, and in life.

Also, as a TJ student, I can attest that sophomore year was the easiest year I had. I received straight A's while winning awards, including at the national level, and I had excellent extracurriculars.

What seals my opinion, however, is his French grade of C. According to sources, Mr. Beeckman was his teacher in that class. Mr. Beeckman is extremely kind, forgiving, understanding, and personable. To those who struggle in his class, he gives ample opportunities and help to catch up. I defy anyone to contradict me on that statement. Plus, he is such a great teacher that everyone wants to do well in his class, even if they are bad at the subject. Thus Matthew's poor grade in this class is an indicator to me that he wasn't truly trying at the level that TJ expects from him.

Posted by: AnotherAnonymous | August 3, 2008 4:04 PM

I agree with the post above me... Matt didn't seem to be trying very hard at all. I will admit from experience that the yearbook course eats up a lot of valuable studying time, but if he was struggling that much, he should have dropped his extracurriculars. Also, you should all notice that the grades that he received were grades for an entire YEAR, not just one quarter. It was not just one or two bad tests or missed assignments that gave him that D is Gecan's class... and its not like she GAVE him that grade, he earned it with zeros. I have no sympathy for him seeing as he was one of the bottom five in the entire school.

Posted by: Recent TJ Grad | August 3, 2008 4:40 PM

Mr. Fisher can keep repeating that this young man had a B- GPA. It won't make it accurate. He had a 2.4 academic GPA (which is the GPA colleges look at). That's a C. Not a C+, not a borderline C, a C. He was warned. Repeatedly. He clearly didn't want to be at TJ. Let him transfer to one of the (excellent) Fairfax Co. schools in peace, for goodness' sake.

Oh, and not for nothing, but while colleges do look at extracurriculars, unless you're something REALLY special (think Olympic athlete, virtuoso pianist, or published novelist), extracurriculars are not going to get you a second look from the top tier of schools if your GPA is 2.4. Really, grades are the sine qua non of elite college admissions. There's just no getting around it.

BEcause it can't be repeated enough - 2.4. His academic GPA was 2.4.

Posted by: burntnorton | August 3, 2008 7:45 PM

I attended TJHSST when there was not such a rule -- if students struggled, they were encouraged to transfer to their "base school" and finish their high school education in an environment that was more suitable to their academic and personal development. TJ certainly was not easy, and I considered transferring to Lake Braddock, but I stuck it out and graduated.

I see both sides of this debate but tend to support Mr. Nuti -- I take exception to the pot-shots people are taking at TJ, but I tend to think that if a student is bright enough to be admitted to TJ, he or she should be allowed to stay through to graduation, unless his or her GPA falls below an objectively unacceptable level (i.e., one at which he or she would be expelled from another secondary school), or he or she exhibits disciplinary problems of the kind that regularly lead to expulsion at secondary schools. There was not a school-imposed stigma on students who were not high performers at TJ at the time I attended, and the environment, at least when I was there, was supportive and engaging. I had a difficult senior year but had no trouble at all getting into college despite my GPA dropping -- though the institution I attended my freshman year was not my first choice -- and I went on to receive an education at an elite university and two of the top graduate schools in the nation. Many students will find themselves in similar situations. Of my friends at TJ who were toward the lower end of the class in terms of GPA, ALL of us have at least one graduate degree from an elite institution, and most of us have 2 or more, with all possessing either a JD or PhD. I believe that Matthew Nuti would have been better served by remaining with his friends of 2 years at TJ, graduating, and attending a less-than-elite college for at least a year. Shipping him off to his base school, where he knows noone (except maybe some kids from middle school), does nothing but get him "off the books" of TJ, as it were, and allows TJ the luxury of inflating its already impressive resume. God forbid TJ might have to explain why a graduate went to George Mason, James Madison, VCU or -- gasp -- Northern Virginia Community College!!! Much better to expel them before they have the chance to graduate, so they can claim that graduates only go to UVA, W&M, the Ivies, MIT, Cornell, CalTech and Carnegie Mellon.

The admissions committee, principal and others in charge of TJ's policies should be ashamed. Has it really gotten to be so bad that the school itself now must protect its own image, rather than being respected as the best school in the nation as a by-product of selecting the best students and providing them with the tools to make themselves even better? Apparently TJ is no longer about the students -- it is about its own legacy. And in creating policies of this kind, it is encouraging more criticism from the community at large, which, for a variety of reasons, has been hostile to the TJ experiment for years.

Posted by: TJ Grad | August 4, 2008 10:14 AM

For the likes of "Recent TJ Grad" and "AnotherAnonymous" who seem to have gone to TJ and think this decision was correct, I would love to crawl inside your heads to see how you view "success" and "failure" and to see how rose-tinted your glasses really are. I was Jefferson class of '93. I, and at least a half dozen of those in my peer group, would have been booted under this program. To the best of my recollection I earned -- not received, was not given, but earned -- a D- in AB calculus, a C- in chemistry, a C in physics, and a D+ in Russian for good measure. I also got A's in other classes, including most of my "non-core" non-tech classes, but until my senior year I wasn't able to get my GPA above 3.0.

You know what? I went to a good college (where I was middle of the class) and a better law school (where I was also middle of the class), and now work for a top international law firm. Those friends of mine who also spent their time at TJ at the academic margins? They're now all accomplished professors, engineers, or attorneys like me. The only guy I know from TJ who later "failed" at life was brilliant while he was at TJ, got perfect grades, was a leader at UVA, got perfect grades, but then snapped and hung himself in his room on the Lawn as a 4th year. THAT is failure. Mommies and Daddies of current TJ snowflakes, which would YOU like to see out of YOUR kids down the road?

When I was there, the non-science people were what made TJ a great and well-rounded school. They didn't study 100% of the time. They didn't freak if they "only" got into UVA (or god forbid JMU or ODU) and not Harvard. They enjoyed hanging out during 8th period and acting silly as much as they enjoyed coming up with cures for diseases in their bio classes or for traffic gridlock using the supercomputer.

TJ was, and I hope maybe still is, a remarkable institution. It's also a High School populated by kids. By telling those kids that they are all brilliant and perfect, but that they will be swept under the carpet if by some chance they demonstrate that they are, god forbid, human, I have little doubt we are setting them up for crushing failure when they hit the real world and realize that sometimes life requires more than being perfectly book smart to get ahead. For what it's worth, I'd hire the guy in the article because he found a way to balance sports, Model UN, AND get passing grades in his classes, and by all accounts maintain a good humor about it, well before I hired any of the "the best of the best of the best, sir! Only an A is good enough" crowd. Why? Because they're ALL smart and they can ALL get the job done, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that the guy in the article would be a lot more fun to go through the daily grind with than most of the 4.5 GPA crowd.

Some of the folks at TJ will win nobel prizes. Some will solve the great questions of physics and medicine. Some will find solutions to engineering challenges that haven't even been dreamed of yet. What this new policy forgets, and what makes me want to cry at what my old school has become, is that it's OK that they won't all do those things. A TJ of perfect little worker bees devoid of the ability to let their guards down is not what I remember. It is also not a school I would let me children, regardless of how book smart they may be, ever contemplate attending. A 4.0 GPA at the expense of a "normal" childhood simply isn't worth it.

Posted by: Deep Fried Screech | August 4, 2008 11:16 AM

Deep Fried Screech - why are people with good grades necessarily boring to be around?

Posted by: TJ 06 | August 4, 2008 1:48 PM

As a current TJ student, I am horrified by some of the comments posted by my peers, especially "Another Anonymous." Comments like this make the rest of us appear elitist and arrogant, and frankly they are misleading.

TJ is a great school but I think it's nonsense to label it as the best high school in the nation. Arguing about rankings and etc. ignores the crucial fact that different people probably look for different things at school - to simplify the quality of a high school into a numerical index may sound fair to some, but it sounds critically flawed to me. TJ is NOT a school that's looking for "geniuses." I and almost all of my friends except one (who is a math prodigy) are testaments to this fact. TJ is just another high-performing school with a fallible admissions process. To say anything else would bastardize the term "genius."

I personally am not in favor of the 3.0 Rule. I think it's great that counselors are willing to spend extra effort on these students who are having a hard time with academics, and this support should continue. But kicking out these students - what would that accomplish? Success is not necessarily a measure of how well a student "fits" at TJ and should not be reasonable grounds to kick anyone out.

Still, I believe everyone is making way too big of a fuss over this. Although this rule is despicable and should be removed, only five students out of an entire 1200 affected by this policy were removed. Deep Fried Screech, if the removal of five students makes you fear that TJ has turned into a hive of grade-obsessed worker bees, I am glad to inform you that there's still plenty of drugs, sex, and homophobia here that is just too commonplace to spark the media's attention. There is also love, wit, wisdom, camaraderie, and genuine talent. High school is high school, no matter where you go.

Posted by: current student | August 4, 2008 4:08 PM

Thank you, "current student." I'm happy to hear that your point of view still is alive and well at TJ, and that kids are still having old fashioned fun while turning into accomplished scholars. It isn't that the removal policy alone made me fear for the place; it is the policy taken in conjunction with its underlying rationale, as well as the views of folks like "Another Anonymous" that "If you want to excel in TJ, you can't be a kid--in attitude, in activities, in academics, and in life." I'd hate to go to High School with 1200 people who spend their time working like many of the frantic adults I know. Indeed, many of the best people to work with as adults are those who remember what the freedom of High School could provide, and try to capture it as often as possible in the working world.

For "TJ 06," I didn't and don't mean to suggest that getting good grades and being an interesting person are mutually exclusive. I do believe, however, that adopting the "Another Anonymous" view on life and being an interesting person probably are. If a high school student believes they can't afford to be a kid now in order to "excel," how can they be expected to have a youthful joy for life and be engaging outside their area of speciality when they get out into the working world? Its the things people do away from the office, or the lab, or the classroom that usually make them the most interesting. Who wants to go to a social event and just talk about work? Those who have only their work to talk about are usually the least interesting people in the room. The people who find themselves in that position later in life are usually the same people who forget that work, just like grades, are mearly a means to an end, not the end themselves.

Posted by: Deep Fried Screech | August 4, 2008 5:03 PM

Yes this is slightly off topic, but nobody else has cleared the issue up.

The posters here that are bewildered by why TJ receives so much money are (as I have seen) dead wrong. TJ, the #1 high school in the country, a title that we have earned, receives funding for 1300 students; the school is built to hold 1600 students. How many students are there? 1800. The funding gap here is absurd, and requires that the students and teachers find money to support the school by themselves.

I am one of the two students that wrote a grant to Sun Microsystems last year because of the lack of funding from the county for decent computers. Many of the computers that we had (some that we still have) were 5-6 years old. We received the grant, totaling $388,048.00. No teacher or faculty member helped us write the grant.

Although I personally do not agree with the 3.0 rule, it was made very clear to students that it was there and that action would be taken if you dropped below it.

Posted by: tj sysadmin | August 4, 2008 6:04 PM

While tangential, I am happy to see your comment, tj sysadmin. The jealousy and bitterness toward TJ in Fairfax County is often couched in terms of the County diverting resources from other schools for TJ's benefit, when the exact opposite is the case -- TJ is grossly UNDERFUNDED and has always been, and has managed to excel by virtue of its corporate partnerships. When I was there, students didn't have to write grant proposals, though I understand this is the norm now. For that matter, I hear the school is in horrible physical condition, which was certainly not the case when I graduated (over 15 years ago) -- we had relatively new physical facilities and a great environment in which to study. Congratulations on your grant, and I would encourage you to continue to speak up about the lack of funding at TJ, both from the point of view of finding corporate partners AND dispelling the myths rampant in Fairfax County about TJ's special status.

Posted by: TJ Grad | August 5, 2008 11:06 AM

Most TJ students work very hard and receive excellent grades. Unfortunately, achieving good grades is many students' primary – even their only -- goal. Once a grade for a course appears on a student’s transcript, the material ostensibly learned in that course is forgotten, or, at best, only dimly remembered, even after the short span of a summer break. Why? The answer is not simple. It would be easy, and yet callous and unproductive, to say “because that’s the way students have always been.” Logically, this is simply the irresponsible affirmation of a false consequent, as if students MUST always be so because they have always BEEN so. No. The answer is more complicated than that, and much less pleasant. In part, the answer is parents. Most TJ students come from highly-educated, dual-income families, and the attention parents pay to their children’s work is severely limited by the extreme demands of their own high-pressure careers. For that reason, many parents must rely on the thin evidence of report cards to determine whether or not their children are learning. In other words, consciously or not, parents accept as legitimate the correlation of high grades and genuine learning. But at TJ far more than at other high schools, grade inflation IS rampant (let naïve commentators in this forum say what they may). Still, to be fair, parents are not to blame for accepting this correlation. It is common in schools at all levels, up to and including universities. And yet, ironically, many TJ parents assist in rendering it virtually meaningless. Of course they are not alone in doing so.

Most TJ faculty, and some TJ administrators, work feverishly throughout the year to ensure genuine, lasting intellectual accomplishment in the classroom. But when a grading quarter ends, or when the year draws to a close, many of those same administrators and faculty bow to the TJ mystique or, more often, submit to unrealistic and sometimes vicious parental pressure and intimidation to raise the C+ to a B-, the B- to a B, or the B+ to an A. In other words, they become complicit with the parents in emptying grades of any but a trivial significance. Thus they perpetuate an admittedly nationwide fixation on the artificial manufacture of positive student 'outcomes.' This inanely vague educational buzzword is, like most such, defined to suit the occasion. At schools like TJ, however, it is generally indexed to two factors: admission to elite universities and, over the longer term, career success. Neither of these, although each in itself desirable, says ONE IOTA about actual learning -- about what enriches the inner lives of students, whether they attend Harvard and become highly successful physicists or lawyers, or attend so-called 'lesser' schools and become high-school principals, middle managers, starving artists, or homemakers.

For these reasons, the recent establishment of a 3.0 GPA rule at TJ is shameless window-dressing. It gives the school the appearance of being stern about academic standards when in fact it is not, or rather not to the degree pretended. Moreover, the rule serves the school, not its students. If TJ’s principal and his colleagues have less regard for developing young people’s minds than for padding their transcripts, and seek to embellish the school’s reputation by artificially raising its average GPA, they need to do some serious soul-searching. Parents, likewise, need to ask themselves just what it is they are demanding of their own children: good grades or quality learning? There is no NECESSARY correlation between the two, especially in a school where grade-inflation is rampant. Teachers there know this.

There is probably too much arrogance in the offices of Thomas Jefferson for any one person’s advice to make a positive impression, but I offer mine anyway. To the TJ administration: abolish the 3.0 GPA rule. It is both a travesty and an abrogation of your responsibility as educators. There are doubtless plenty of students who barely made the cut because their parents bickered and threatened just enough to prompt the raising of one or more grades. And don’t kid yourselves: the minimum GPA rule of this sort WILL reward that kind of behavior. Is that fair to students with less engaged, or less combative, parents? Advice to concerned TJ parents will also likely go by the board, but, once again, I offer it anyway: get more DIRECTLY involved in your children’s education at home on a DAILY basis, stop obsessing about grades, and focus instead on learning. If you do that, the grades will take care of themselves.

Posted by: Seven | August 6, 2008 4:07 PM

It's already clear that students cheat to stay above the 3.0 threshhold and that students then have little incentive to do more than the minimum necessary to get by. When I was at TJ, since there was no class rank and no minimum GPA, and a much more collegial environment populated by those who excelled in the humanities and arts rather than just math and science, it was a much more lively place for academic exploration.

As I found in college and graduate school, the vast majority of learning does not take place in the classroom, it is in fact interstitial -- it takes place in social gatherings, lectures voluntarily attended, bookstores, etc. -- and the process is about dynamic learning and embracing the power of ideas. A minimum GPA in a public high school, even a selective one, does not foster such an environment. It upholds the GPA itself as the summum bonum of existence, and denigrates informal learning and mastery of material in favor of adherence to an arbitrary standard. As any college graduate can attest, there are 'cake majors' where students routinely get straight A's despite low intelligence and lack of effort -- at TJ, one can skate by in "easy" electives to pad the GPA, or one can take a course load of mostly AP courses and difficult electives and really have to work at it, and these students are held to the same standard. In the end, I am still a believer that a TJ education, at least when I received mine, was far more valuable than a 4.0 GPA at another Fairfax County public high school. I took the classes that my interests drew me to, with no fear of reprisal should I not succeed in all areas, and I would hate to think that TJ has become a place where kids -- and let's keep that in mind, these are kids -- learn to be afraid to fail. Bill Gates was a college dropout. Thomas Edison marketed many of his inventions unsuccessfully to laughing corporate executives. The founder of W.L. Gore was a DuPont scientist who presented his invention, later called Gore-tex, to his company, as a dutiful employee, and was told that he could take it and do what he wanted with it because it had no future. I would like to think that TJ will produce the successors to these renegades, rather than just the bland "successful" engineers who work in cubicles and are terrified to make misteaks (sic). :)

Posted by: TJ Grad | August 6, 2008 6:20 PM

To people who think they are enlightening the TJ community by declaring that grades/GPA do not determine future success nor indicate intelligence level:

TJ understands this. Most people do.

Posted by: guster | August 7, 2008 8:43 AM

Is a C the new D? Failing redefined - how disappointing.

When TJ accepts a student, it needs to make a commitment to help him/her be the best they can be for the next 4 yrs. Don't palm off rising juniors and seniors (who are not failing) to another school and argue that it's in the kids' best interests. Obviously, this policy is about numbers and not at all about the child. It it were, than it would consider that high school is hard enough than to have to start over in finding friends, new clubs and activities after you've already invested yourself for 2 or 3 yrs. Is TJ really ready to ruin lives (and yes, for a 16 yr old that is what it feels like not to mention for college admissions purposes) over an arbitrary GPA policy? Should Harvard start kicking out students at below 3.0 GPA's?

This policy is also unfair to the other students not just because of grade inflation but because it pressures students to take less difficult courses for fear of expulsion.

The resounding message TJ is sending is that they view students as no more than a GPA and SAT score, and not as people.
This is a legalistic and rigid approach to creating a healthy academic high school environment -- it states that students with average grades don't bring any added value to the school. Is that really true? (And if it's really not the right place for an average student, the parents can make that decision). I would definitely hesitate to send my child to such a school and risk having him tossed by the wayside. (btw, my oldest is only a toddler, and I am an alum of a science magnet (Eleanor Roosevelt) in a different state- I have no personal gripe against TJ).

I hope that this case sparks a long and healthy dialogue amongst magnet high schools. What kinds of scholars and people are you trying to shape? What makes for an excellent learning environment? How far is the commitment of the school to an average-grade student? Is failing being redefined as 'average'? These are really important and interesting questions.

Posted by: Julia | August 7, 2008 6:12 PM

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