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I'm going to be blogging quite a bit over the next couple of weeks about the PSAT and National Merit Exam. My reason for giving it so much attention is simple: the PSAT is the most important examination that any really bright student will ever take.
Sure, the ACT, SAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, and so forth are important. But they can be taken more than once. Taking the PSAT is like hunting with a single-shot shotgun; one shot is all you get, so you have to be ready. The rewards are immense, with numerous universities with great honors colleges offering automatic free rides to National Merit Finalists.
Oxford High School had fewer Semifinalists than in past years, but four out of 200 is still a better showing than the overwhelming majority of schools.
Items of interest in this year's scores:
● Mississippi has 135 National Merit Semifinalists this year, representing approximately the top one percent of Mississippi high school graduates. The cutoff score for Mississippi this year was 207, the same as last year. The national cutoff score for Commended status was 201, a two-point drop from last year.
● Tupelo got a National Merit Semifinalist! Tupelo High School used to be a real National Merit powerhouse, with as many as 11 Semifinalists in one year. They allowed things to slide, and for the past two years have had none. In an effort to break the slump Tupelo last year offered a nine-week PSAT-prep class limited to those students with a chance of making it. One did. Congratulations Tupelo!
● Four Mississippi Semifinalists are home-schooled, which I found surprising. Perhaps I could teach my children if they would listen to me or obey me, but they won't. Nor do I have the time! I want to know how these parents got they children to obey!
● DeSoto County has 15 Semifinalists this year, which I believe to be a record. DeSoto County is known for good schools and test scores but it hasn't been known for producing lots of National Merit Scholars; perhaps that is going to change. Also interesting is where the finalists came from. Five came from DeSoto Central, probably the best and most affluent school in DeSoto County. Five came from Southaven High; three from Olive Branch High School, one from Lewisburg High School, and one home schooler.
There has been a trickle white- and affluent-flight going on in DeSoto County for several years now, as residents seem to be favoring DeSoto Central and more-recently Lewisburg. I have some friends who bought a weekday-house in the DeSoto Central school district some time back so their child could attend. But very bright students apparently are still getting a fine education at both Southaven High and Olive Branch High.
● Jackson Prep had nine NMSFs, the best of any private school save for St. Andrew's School, which had 12. St. Andrew's has a reputation for being incredibly liberal, as in li-ber-ul; just something to keep in mind if you don't want your kids getting a lot of strange ideas. (Don't get me wrong, I have friends who went to St. Andrew's. Liberal friends, who when telling people where they attended high school refer to it as "that liberal school" in a country-boy accent.)
● Northwest Rankin High School had eight Semifinalists. These folks were not on my radar; congrats!
● The Mississippi School for Math and Science has 10 Semifinalists. MSMS doesn't deserve the credit for this as these students were newly arrived when the took the PSAT, but it does show that there is a quality student body at the school.
● Madison Central High School apparently wears the National Merit crown, with 21 Semifinalists. This is out of about 550 students, and so represents four percent of the student body. Last year Oxford was the top open-enrollment public school in terms of percentages, with about 5.5 percent Semifinalists. Hopefully it will be again next year.