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Tipsheet

Report Details Why School Officials Deliberately Withheld Students' Merit Award Notifications

Paul Sancya

Two administrators at the nation’s top school reportedly withheld academic achievement awards from at least 1,200 students during principal Ann Bonitatibus’ five years at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. 

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Bonitatibus and Brandon Kosatka, director of student services, allegedly failed to inform students who received National Merit awards about the honor, denying them the ability to include the awards on college applications and for scholarship purposes. 

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

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

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

Kosatka admitted that the decision to withhold the information from parents and inform the students in a low-key way was intentional. “We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” he told her, claiming that he and the principal didn’t want to “hurt” the feelings of students who didn’t get the award. (City Journal)

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Kosatka has since sent an email to parents of Commended Students apologizing for not sharing the news sooner and claimed college admissions offices would be contacted. But students who missed out on this information from previous years have not been contacted about the achievement and the missing certificates have reportedly not been delivered yet. 


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