It’s not supposed to be a competition among schools or states, or anything beyond the recognition of individual academic excellence. But the numbers of students from West High School ranking as semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program are always impressive, and this year is no exception.
Twenty-six West students are on the list, announced Wednesday. Other Madison students who will be now eligible to continue in the quest for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $34 million, include 10 students from Memorial, six from Edgewood, five from East, one from St. Ambrose Academy and one home-schooled student. Winning National Merit scholars will be announced in the spring of 2012.
Other area semifinalists include 20 additional students from around Dane County, including seven students from Middleton High School, four from Stoughton High School, three from Mount Horeb High School and one student each from Belleville High School, DeForest High School, Monona Grove High School, Sun Prairie High School, Waunakee High School and a Verona student who is home-schooled.
We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)