Earlier this semester, 60 MMSD students — including 29 from West HS — were named 2006 National Merit Semifinalists. In a 10/12/05 press release, MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater said, “I am proud of the many staff members who taught and guided these students all the way from elementary school, and of this district’s overall guidance and focus that has led to these successes.”
A closer examination of the facts, however, reveals that only 12 (41%) of West High School’s 29 National Merit Semifinalists attended the Madison public schools continuously from first grade on (meaning that 59% received some portion of their K-8 schooling in either private schools or non-MMSD public schools). Here’s the raw data:
NMSF #1: Wingra K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #2: Franklin–Randall K-5th; Wright for 6th; Hamilton 7th-8th
NMSF #3: Midvale–Lincoln, K-5th; Cherokee
NMSF #4: Denver public schools (magnet Montessori school) K-6th; Hamilton 7th-8th
NMSF #5: New Orleans parochial school K-8th; New Orleans public high school through 11th
NMSF #6: Libertyville, IL, public schools (“extremely rigorous”) through first semester 10th
NMSF #7: Franklin-Randall, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #8: Van Hise, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #9: Van Hise, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #10: Starkville, MS, public schools K-8th
NMSF #11: Japanese school for K; Glenn Stephens 1st-4th; Van Hise for 5th; Hamilton
NMSF #12: Franklin-Randall, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #13: Madison Central Montessori through 3rd; Shorewood 3rd-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #14: Lincoln-Midvale through 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #15: Eagle K-8th
NMSF #16: MMSD through 9th; home schooled beginning in 10th
NMSF #17: Leopold though 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #18: Lapham K-2nd; Randall 3rd-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #19: California private school through 5th; Hamilton
NMSF #20: Midvale and Van Hise; Hamilton
NMSF #21: Seattle public schools (TAG pullout program) through 7th; Hamilton for 8th
NMSF #22: Unknown private school K-1st; Eagle 2nd-8th
NMSF #23: Lincoln-Midvale K-5th; Cherokee
NMSF #24: Madison Central Montessori through 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #25: Shorewood K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #26: Queen of Peace through 5th; Hamilton
NMSF #27: West Middleton through 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #28: Montessori pre-K through 2nd; Shorewood 4th-5th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #29: Shorewood K-5th; Hamilton
Looking at the sample in a little more detail, we find the following:
- Elementary school (K-5) history: 31% attended private school for three or more years (an additional 21% attended non-MMSD public schools for three or more years — total: 52%).
- Middle school (6-8) history: 28% attended private school for two or more years (an additional 14% attended non-MMSD public schools for two or more years — total: 42%).
- K-8 schooling history: 28% attended private school for five or more of their K-8 school years (an additional 17% attended non-MMSD public schools for five or more of their K-8 school years — total: 45%)
Although we do not have K-8 attendance data for the entire class, it seems unlikely to think that almost 30% of current West seniors attended private school for five or more of their pre-high school years. Thus on this single demographic variable, the 29 West National Merit Semifinalists are probably different from their classmates, generally.
Descriptive data like these are certainly interesting, though they often raise more questions than they answer. And of course, they don’t prove anything. Nevertheless, with 45% of the West HS National Merit Semifinalist sample attending non-MMSD schools for over half of their K-8 years, it is recommended that the District temper its sense of pride in and ownership of these very accomplished students.
Many thanks to each of these fine young people for speaking with us on the telephone. Congratulations and good luck to each and every one of them!