Where the NM Semifinalists are in 2017

By September 18, 2016National Merit, PSAT

featuredimage_september18

Counselors and families have been curious about the impact of the new PSAT on National Merit since the last pencil was put down in October 2015. Would it lower/raise the number of Semifinalists at my school? Would it mean a higher/lower cutoff for my state? Which states would change the most? How does it all work?

The one thing we knew before the test was even administered was that the number of Semifinalists in California would be approximately the same as in prior years — 2,100. The Semifinalist target for a state is determined by the number of high school juniors it has as a percentage of all U.S. high school juniors. This ensures national representation and means that the number of statewide awards does not vary much from year-to-year.  [For information about the National Merit cutoffs for all 50 states and for an explanation about how the National Merit process works, I recommend the preceding links.]

What makes California a particularly interesting petri dish is that it is the most populous state and an incredibly diverse one. Since the cutoff is the same in every town, city, and county in the state, we can make some observations that are not applicable across state lines.

National Merit Semifinalists by High School

One of the most common questions received is “How many Semifinalists were there at my school?” I compiled data for the last three years on the approximately 6,300 Semifinalists over that period. For the classes of 2015, 2016, and 2017 combined, 565 California high schools had at least 1 Semifinalist. A total of 53 homeschooled Semifinalists came from 41 different communities over the same period. While the breadth of high schools is impressive, the concentration is high. The top 12 high schools have more than a quarter of all Semifinalists. The top 36 schools enroll about 50% of the students continuing on to the Finalist and Scholar portions of the program.


School

City
NMSF
2017

Chg
NMSF
2016

Chg
NMSF
2015
Mission San Jose HSFremont84084-23107
Troy HSFullerton606541539
Lynbrook HSSan Jose49148-2068
Monta Vista HSCupertino49-857-1168
Harker SchoolSan Jose45-651-859
Torrey Pines HSSan Diego43538-745
Dougherty Valley HSSan Ramon40-545-1055
University HSIrvine361422-2648
Canyon Crest AcademySan Diego35-3381721
Henry M. Gunn HSPalo Alto35-11461036
Leland HSSan Jose34034826
Palo Alto HSPalo Alto32-133825
Saratoga HSSaratoga31-839138
Amador Valley HSPleasanton29-534034
St. Francis HSMountain View27621219
Arcadia HSArcadia271215-1631
Harvard-Westlake SchoolStudio City26-531625
Westview HSSan Diego23-831625
Westlake HSWestlake Village21912-315
Del Norte HSSan Diego21-425817
Oxford AcademyCypress20515213
Cupertino HSCupertino20-525-328
Homestead HSCupertino19-423419
Northwood HSIrvine19-928-230
Irvington HSFremont19-726-632
Bellarmine College PreparatorySan Jose18315-217
Evergreen Valley HSSan Jose17-10271116
Diamond Bar HSDiamond Bar17-623221
Davis HSDavis16511-112
Archbishop Mitty HSSan Jose16-622814
Lowell HSSan Francisco16115-1015
Los Altos HSLos Altos1501569
Menlo SchoolAtherton15213-114
College Preparatory SchoolOakland15-520614
American HSFremont15-318315
The Bishop's SchoolLa Jolla15213-518
Walnut HSWalnut15114-721
Palos Verdes Peninsula HSRolling Hills Estates14410-1929
Nueva SchoolSan Mateo1414000
Newbury Park HSNewbury Park1376-28
Mira Loma HSSacramento1349-312
Irvine HSIrvine1367-613
Scripps Ranch HSSan Diego13112-113
Valencia HSPlacentia123963
Menlo-Atherton HSAtherton12-11358
Miramonte HSOrinda1275-49
Arnoldo O. Beckman HSIrvine12-517314
Foothill HSPleasanton12-517-219
Valley Christian HSSan Jose11-31495
Campolindo HSMoraga1156-410
Crystal Springs Uplands SchoolHillsborough1165-611
North Hollywood HSNorth Hollywood1147-1421
Mount Carmel HSSan Diego1055-16
La Jolla HSLa Jolla1037-18
Polytechnic SchoolPasadena10-21239
San Marino HSSan Marino10-212210
Mountain View HSMountain View10-515-217
Aragon HSSan Mateo9-413112
La Canada HSLa Canada91844
Dublin HSDublin92707
Los Gatos HSLos Gatos90918
Piedmont HSPiedmont9-21129
Whitney HSCerritos9-413013
Woodbridge HSIrvine9-413-619
California HSSan Ramon927-1421
Santa Margarita Catholic SchoolRancho Santa Margarita81725
Carlmont HSBelmont8-816106
Crescenta Valley HSLa Crescenta81707
San Francisco University HSSan Francisco8-41257
Palos Verdes HSPalos Verdes Estates73422
San Mateo HSSan Mateo74303
James S. Logan HSUnion City743-25
Mira Costa HSManhattan Beach70725
Monte Vista HSDanville7-31037
South Pasadena HSSouth Pasadena7-1808
Rancho Bernardo HSSan Diego7-31019
Castilleja SchoolPalo Alto716-612
Maria Carrilo HSSanta Rosa63303
Head-Royce SchoolOakland6-2844
Beverly Hills HSBeverly Hills633-25
The Thacher SchoolOjai624-15
Pacific Ridge SchoolCarlsbad624-26
Flintridge Preparatory SchoolLa Canada6-61266
Albany HSAlbany633-58
Berkeley HSBerkeley6-410-515
Mills HSMillbrae53211
Oakland Technical HSOakland53202
Branson SchoolRoss52312
Sunny Hills HSFullerton5-4972
Glen A. Wilson HSHacienda Heights541-23
Alameda HSAlameda532-13
Orange County School of the ArtsSanta Ana532-13
Washington HSFremont541-34
Agoura HSAgoura Hills532-24
Acalanes HSLafayette523-14
Granada Hills Charter HSGranada Hills5-2734
Chadwick SchoolPalos Verdes Peninsula541-45
Lick-Wilmerding HSSan Francisco50505
Milpitas HSMilpitas505-49
Hillsdale HSSan Mateo53220
Adolfo Camarillo HSCamarillo51440
Canyon HSAnaheim5-2770
Chaminade College Preparatory SchoolWest Hills43101
La Jolla Country Day SchoolLa Jolla40431
Great Oak HSTemecula440-11
John W. North HSRiverside431-12
Prospect HSSaratoga431-12
Clovis North HSFresno42202
Centennial HSCorona4-1532
Notre Dame HSSan Jose4-1532
South HSTorrance431-23
Las LomasWalnut Creek431-23
West Ranch HSValencia422-13
Oakridge HSEl Dorado Hills41303
Trabuco Hills HSMission Viejo4-2633
Corona del Mr HSNewport Beach4-3734
La Costa Canyon HSCarlsbad422-35
San Dieguito AcademyEncinitas404-15
Aliso Niguel HSAliso Viejo4-2615
Mark Keppel HSAlhambra4-3725
Marlborough SchoolLos Angeles413-36
Palisades Charter HSPacific Palisades4-2606
Oak Park HSOak Park4-3716
San Ramon Valley HSDanville404-48
Dos Pueblos HSGoleta413-69
Santa Monica HSSanta Monica404-59
Basis Independent Silicon ValleySan Jose42220
De La Salle HSConcord32101
San Clemente HSSan Clemente31211
Gabrielino HSSan Gabriel31211
Brentwood SchoolLos Angeles30321
Fremont HSSunnyvale30321
Burlingame HSBurlingame330-11
St. Margaret's Episcopal SchoolSan Juan Capistrano321-12
HomeschoolSan Jose31202
Folsom HSFolsom30312
Loyola HSLos Angeles30312
Tesoro HSRancho Santa Margarita3-1422
Huntington Beach HSHuntington Beach330-22
Oakmont HSRoseville330-22
El Camino Real Charter HSWoodland Hills330-22
West HSTorrance30303
Francis W. Parker SchoolSan Diego3-3633
Crossroads SchoolSanta Monica330-33
Glendora HSGlendora312-24
Cate SchoolCarpinteria303-14
Los Alamitos HSLos Alamitos303-14
Poway HSPoway312-35
Los Osos HSRancho Cucamonga312-35
Fountain Valley HSFountain Valley3-6945
Redwood HSLarkspur330-55
Castro Valley HSCastro Valley3-14-26
Sage Hill SchoolNewport Beach3-4716
Temple City HSTemple City3-25-27
Piedmont Hills HSSan Jose3-81138
Sierra Canyon SchoolChatsworth32110
Coronado HSCoronado32110
University Preparatory AcademySan Jose32110
Viewpoint SchoolCalabasas31220
Marina HSHuntington Beach31220
Granada HSLivermore31220
Saugus HSSaugus31220
Oaks Christian HSWestlake Village31220
Westmont HSCampbell30330
Athenian SchoolDanville30330
Vista del Lago HSFolsom30330
Granite Bay HSGranite Bay30330
Stevenson HSPebble Beach3-3660
Buena Park HSBuena Park33000
Sage Creek HSCarlsbad33000
Classical Academy HSEscondido33000
Willow Glen HSSan Jose33000
San Marcos HSSan Marcos33000
Bella Vista HSFair Oaks21101
Garden Grove HSGarden Grove21101
Santa Teresa HSSan Jose21101
J Serra Catholic HSSan Juan Capistrano21101
Oakwood SchoolNorth Hollywood20211
San Marcos HSSanta Barbara20211
Dana Hills HSDana Point2-1321
Santa Cruz HSSanta Cruz2-1321
California Academy of Mathematics and ScienceCarson2-2431
Pinewood SchoolLos Altos Hills2-2431
Silver Creek HSSan Jose2-2431
York SchoolMonterey2-3541
Arroyo Grande HSArroyo Grande220-11
Calabasas HSCalabasas220-11
Jesuit HSCarmichael220-11
Alison Early College HSFremont220-11
West Campus HSSacramento220-11
Branham HSSan Jose220-11
Santa Clara HSSanta Clara220-11
El Toro HSLake Forest211-12
William S. Hart HSNewhall211-12
Newport Harbor HSNewport Beach211-12
Redlands HSRedlands211-12
San Gabriel HSSan Gabriel211-12
University HSFresno20202
Ruben S. Ayala HSChino Hills2-2413
Culver City HSCulver City2-2413
University City HSSan Diego2-2413
Claremont HSClaremont2-13-14
John A. Rowland HSRowland Heights2-4624
Sacred Heart Preparatory SchoolAtherton202-35
Stockdale HSBakersfield2-13-25
Carlsbad HSCarlsbad2-4615
Fairmont Preparatory AcademyAnaheim2-24-26
Bakersfield HSBakersfield21110
Benicia HSBenicia21110
Bonita Vista HSChula Vista21110
Floyd B. Buchanan HSClovis21110
Clovis West HSFresno21110
Pioneer HSSan Jose21110
Santa Barbara HSSanta Barbara21110
De Toledo HSWest Hills21110
William Howard Taft HSWoodland Hills21110
Woodside Priory SchoolPortola Valley20220
Adrian C. Wilcox HSSanta Clara2-1330
Alta Loma HSAlta Loma22000
Aptos HSAptos22000
St. Mary's College High SchoolBerkeley22000
Chico HSChico22000
Fremont Christian HSFremont22000
Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory HSLivermore22000
Orange LutheranOrange22000
John Marshall Fundamental SchoolPasadena22000
College Park HSPleasant Hill22000
International Polytechnic HSPomona22000
Citrus Valley HSRedlands22000
Redondo Union HSRedondo Beach22000
Western Sierra Collegiate AcademyRocklin22000
Maranatha Christian SchoolsSan Diego22000
Summit TahomaSan Jose22000
Rancho Buena Vista HSVista22000
West Covina HSWest Covina22000
El Cerrito HSEl Cerrito10101
Cosumnes Oakes HSElk Grove10101
Escondido HSEscondido10101
Rosary AcademyFullerton10101
Clark Magnet HSLa Crescenta10101
Damien HSLa Verne10101
Alexander Hamilton HSLos Angeles10101
Mission Vista HSOceanside10101
Casa Grande HSPetaluma10101
Pacific Collegiate SchoolSanta Cruz10101
Buckley SchoolSherman Oaks10101
Torrance HSTorrance10101
Tracy Joint Union HSTracy10101
Merrill F. West HSTracy10101
Laguna Hills HSLaguna Hills1-1211
Marymount HSLos Angeles1-1211
El Dorado HSPlacerville1-1211
Sequoia HSRedwood City1-1211
Jewish Community HS of the BaySan Francisco1-1211
Academy of the CanyonsSanta Clarita1-1211
Villa Park HSVilla Park1-1211
Sacred Heart Cathedral PreparatorySan Francisco1-2321
Marin AcademySan Rafael1-2321
Foothill HSSanta Ana1-4541
Canyon HSCanyon Country110-11
Dixon HSDixon110-11
Escondido Charter HSEscondido110-11
Christopher HSGilroy110-11
Paraclete HSLancaster110-11
Notre Dame AcademyLos Angeles110-11
Schurr HSMontebello110-11
Ann Sobrato HSMorgan Hill110-11
El Modena HSOrange110-11
Riverside Polytechnic HSRiverside110-11
St. Francis HSSacramento110-11
Oak Grove HSSan Jose110-11
Mater Dei HSSanta Ana110-11
Ponderosa HSShingle Springs110-11
Ukiah HSUkiah110-11
Monte Vista Christian HSWatsonville110-11
HomeschoolFremont101-12
Moreau Catholic HSHayward101-12
LivermoreLivermore101-12
WindwardLos Angeles101-12
Ruth Asawa School of the ArtsSan Francisco101-12
Cathedral Catholic HSSan Diego1-2312
Servite HSAnaheim110-22
Pacifica HSGarden Grove110-22
Wildwood SchoolLos Angeles110-22
Novato HSNovato110-22
Santa Susanna HSSimi Valley110-22
Mission Viejo HSMission Viejo101-23
Upland HSUpland101-23
Yorba Linda HSYorba Linda101-23
Presentation HSSan Jose1-12-13
San Luis Obispo HSSan Luis Obispo1-12-13
Capistrano Valley HSMission Viejo1-3413
Cerritos HSCerritos1-5633
The King's AcademySunnyvale1-5633
Palm Desert HSPalm Desert110-33
San Juan Hills HSSan Juan Capistrano110-33
Analy HSSebastopol110-33
Thousand Oaks HSThousand Oaks1-12-24
Valencia HSValencia1-23-14
Chino Hills HSChino Hills1-23-25
Westridge School for GirlsPasadena110-55
Valley Christian HSDublin10110
Southwest HSEl Centro10110
Arroyo HSEl Monte10110
Laguna Creek HSElk Grove10110
Pleasant Grove HSElk Grove10110
Tarbut V'Torah Community Day SchoolIrvine10110
St. Francis HSLa Canada10110
The Preuss School U.C.S.D.La Jolla10110
New Covenant AcademyLos Angeles10110
HomeschoolMilpitas10110
James C. Enochs HSModesto10110
Campbell HallNorth Hollywood10110
Villanova Preparatory SchoolOjai10110
La Salle HSPasadena10110
Rancho Cucamonga HSRancho Cucamonga10110
Sherman E. Burroughs HSRidgecrest10110
Ripon Christian HSRipon10110
Mount Everest AcademySan Diego10110
Orchard View SchoolSebastopol10110
Notre Dame HSSherman Oaks10110
Bishop Montgomery HSTorrance10110
Foothill Technology HSVentura10110
Woodside HSWoodside10110
San Pasqual HSEscondido1-1220
Cleveland HSReseda1-1220
Sacramento Country Day SchoolSacramento1-1220
HomeschoolSan Diego1-1220
Leigh HSSan Jose1-1220
San Rafael HSSan Rafael1-1220
HomeschoolAgoura Hills11000
California Crosspoint HSAlameda11000
Antelope HSAntelope11000
Northcoast Preparatory and Performing Arts AcademyArcata11000
HomeschoolArroyo Grande11000
Placer HSAuburn11000
Maybeck HSBerkeley11000
Brea Olinda HSBrea11000
Heritage HSBrentwood11000
Lutheran HS of San DiegoChula Vista11000
Mater Dei Catholic HSChula Vista11000
HomeschoolClaremont11000
HomeschoolCupertino11000
HomeschoolDanville11000
Warren HSDowney11000
Grossmont HSEl Cajon11000
Grossmont Middle College HSEl Cajon11000
Etiwanda HSEtiwanda11000
San Lorenzo Valley HSFelton11000
Design Science HSFresno11000
Edison HSFresno11000
Fullerton Union HSFullerton11000
Bolsa Grande HSGarden Grove11000
Gilroy HSGilroy11000
Dr. T.J. Owens Gilroy Early College AcademyGilroy11000
Western Center AcademyHemet11000
Ocean View HSHuntington Beach11000
HomeschoolIrvine11000
Pacific AcademyIrvine11000
HomeschoolJunction City11000
Helix Charter HSLa Mesa11000
HomeschoolLancaster11000
Soar HSLancaster11000
Lodi AcademyLodi11000
Ldi HSLodi11000
Archer School for GirlsLos Angeles11000
Eagle Rock HSLos Angeles11000
HomeschoolLos Angeles11000
Los Angeles County HS for the ArtsLos Angeles11000
HomeschoolManhattan Beach11000
Stone Ridge Christian HSMerced11000
Fred C. Beyer HSModesto11000
Joseph A. Gregori HSModesto11000
Monrovia HSMonrovia11000
HomeschoolMontara11000
Morro Bay HSMorro Bay11000
Calvary Murrieta Christian SchoolMurrieta11000
HomeschoolNovato11000
Oakland Charter HSOakland11000
Orcutt Academy HSOrcutt11000
Pacific Grove HSPacific Grove11000
Paradise HSParadise11000
Patterson HSPatterson11000
Pinole Valley HSPinole11000
HomeschoolPleasant Hill11000
Rancho Mirage HSRancho Mirage11000
Rancho Santa Fe Horizon PrepRancho Mirage11000
EnterpriseRedding11000
ShastaRedding11000
Grove HSRedlands11000
Martin Luther King HSRiverside11000
Technology HSRohnert Park11000
Rosemont HSSacramento11000
Capuchino HSSan Bruno11000
Point Loma HSSan Diego11000
San Diego HS of International StudiesSan Diego11000
San Diego Jewish AcademySan Diego11000
Junipero Serra HSSan Diego11000
San Dimas HSSan Dimas11000
Cambrian AcademySan Jose11000
High Tech High-North CountySan Marcos11000
St. Joseph AcademySan Marcos11000
San Pedro HSSan Pedro11000
Live Oak AcademySanta Clara11000
HomeschoolSantee11000
Steel Canyon HSSpring Valley11000
Stockton Early College AcademyStockton11000
Weston Ranch HSStockton11000
HomeschoolSunnyvale11000
Ambassador HSTorrance11000
Twentynine Palms HSTwentynine Palms11000
Trinity Classical AcademyValencia11000
El Camino HSVentura11000
University Preparatory SchoolVictorville11000
Edgewood HSWest Covina11000
Temecula Preparatory SchoolWinchester11000
Encinal HSAlameda0-1101
Alhambra HSAlhambra0-1101
St. John Bosco HSBellflower0-1101
Burbank HSBurbank0-1101
Armijo HSFairfield0-1101
Glendale HSGlendale0-1101
John F. Kennedy HSLa Palma0-1101
Tokay HSLodi0-1101
Moorpark HSMoorpark0-1101
Justin-Siena HSNapa0-1101
Bishop O'Dowd HSOakland0-1101
Redlands East Valley HSRedlands0-1101
La Sierra HSRiverside0-1101
Sir Francis Drake HSSan Anselmo0-1101
St. Augustine HSSan Diego0-1101
Urban SchoolSan Francisco0-1101
Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory SchoolSanta Cruz0-1101
Middle College HSStockton0-1101
John C. Kimball HSTracy0-1101
Berean Christian HSWalnut Creek0-1101
Arcata HSArcata0-2211
Rocklin HSRocklin0-2211
Lincoln HSStockton0-4431
HomeschoolAlameda000-11
Acaciawood SchoolAnaheim000-11
Granite Hills HSApple Valley000-11
Independence HSBakersfield000-11
Valley Oaks Charter SchoolBakersfield000-11
Desert Christian AcademyBermuda Dunes000-11
Bishop Union HSBishop000-11
Mercy HSBurlingame000-11
Army and Navy AcademyCarlsbad000-11
Valley Christian HSCerritos000-11
Inspire School of Arts and SciencesChico000-11
Pleasant Valley HSChico000-11
Webb School of CaliforniaClaremont000-11
Eleanor Roosevelt HSEastvale000-11
Academy of the RedwoodsEureka000-11
HomeschoolFairfax000-11
Fort Bragg HSFort Bragg000-11
Marin Catholic HSKentfield000-11
River Valley Charter SchoolLakeside000-11
Mayfair HSLakewood000-11
Del Oro HSLoomis000-11
HomeschoolLos Altos000-11
School for Independent LearnersLos Altos000-11
Dunn SchoolLos Olivos000-11
Mid Peninsula HSManhattan Beach000-11
Merced HSMerced000-11
Vintage HSNapa000-11
Nipomo HSNipomo000-11
John F Kennedy Middle College HSNorco000-11
Norco HSNorco000-11
San Marin HSNovato000-11
Oakland School for the ArtsOakland000-11
Pasadena HSPasadena000-11
St. Monica AcademyPasadena000-11
Redlands Adventist AcademyRedlands000-11
Everest HSRedwood City000-11
Reseda HSReseda000-11
Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched StudiesReseda000-11
Whitney HSRocklin000-11
Roseville HSRoseville000-11
Cajon HSSan Bernardino000-11
HomeschoolSan Bruno000-11
Academy of Our Lady of PeaceSan Diego000-11
Horizon Christian AcademySan Diego000-11
Mira Mesa HSSan Diego000-11
Balboa HSSan Francisco000-11
HomeschoolSan Francisco000-11
Mount Pleasant HSSan Jose000-11
San Leandro HSSan Leandro000-11
Mary Star of the Sea HSSan Pedro000-11
HomeschoolSanta Barbara000-11
HomeschoolSanta Cruz000-11
Montgomery HSSanta Rosa000-11
Venture AcademyStockton000-11
Developing Virtue Secondary SchoolTalmage000-11
TehachapiTehachapi000-11
Templeton HSTempleton000-11
Turlock HSTurlock000-11
Redwood HSVisalia000-11
St. Francis Central Coast Catholic HSWatsonville000-11
Trinity HSWeaverville000-11
Pioneer HSWoodland000-11
Yuba City HSYuba City000-11
Chinese Christian HSAlameda0-11-12
Carmel HSCarmel0-11-12
Tamalpais HSMill Valley0-11-12
Quarry Lane SchoolPleasanton0-11-12
Patrick Henry HSSan Diego0-11-12
Vivian Webb SchoolClaremont0-2202
Long Beach Polytechnic HSLong Beach0-2202
Quartz Hill HSQuartz Hill0-2202
Salinas HSSalinas0-2202
John Burroughs HSBurbank000-22
Herbert Hoover HSGlendale000-22
Laguna Beach HSLaguna Beach000-22
Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet HSLos Angeles000-22
Terra Nova HSPacifica000-22
C.K. McClatchy HSSacramento000-22
International HSSan Francisco000-22
La Reina HSTempleton000-22
Kehillah Jewish HSPalo Alto0-11-23
Simi Valley HSSimi Valley0-11-23
Junipero Serra HSSan Mateo0-22-13
Van Nuys HSVan Nuys0-6633
Northgate HSWalnut Creek0-33-14
Los Angeles Center for Eriched StudiesLos Angeles0-4404
Los Altos HSHacienda Heights000-44
Santa Rosa HSSanta Rosa000-44
Sonoma AcademySanta Rosa000-44
Cypress HSCypress0-33-25
Arroyo HSSan Lorenzo000-55
Alameda Community Learning CenterAlameda0-1110
Dozier-Libbey Medical HSAntioch0-1110
A.G.B.U Manoogian-Demirdjian SchoolCanoga Park0-1110
Clovis HSClovis0-1110
Clayton Valley HSConcord0-1110
John Swett HSCrockett0-1110
HomeschoolCypress0-1110
Wisdom Mission SchoolCypress0-1110
HomeschoolDiamond Bar0-1110
Granite Hills HSEl Cajon0-1110
HomeschoolEscondido0-1110
HomeschoolFeather Falls0-1110
John F. Kennedy HSFremont0-1110
HomeschoolGilroy0-1110
HomeschoolGlencoe0-1110
Hanford HSHanford0-1110
Edison HSHuntington Beach0-1110
Greater San Diego AcademyJamul0-1110
La Mirada HSLa Mirada0-1110
Bonita HSLa Palma0-1110
HomeschoolLaguna Niguel0-1110
HomeschoolLivermore0-1110
Cathedral HSLos Angeles0-1110
Pilgrim SchoolLos Angeles0-1110
Renaissance Arts AcademyLos Angeles0-1110
Ribet AcademyLos Angeles0-1110
Midland SchoolLos Olivos0-1110
Malibu HSMalibu0-1110
HomeschoolMission Viejo0-1110
Oakwood SchoolMorgan Hill0-1110
HomeschoolOakland0-1110
Casa Roble Fundamental HSOrangevale0-1110
Oxnard HSOxnard0-1110
Rio Mesa HSOxnard0-1110
Foothill HSPalo Cedro0-1110
Maranatha HSPasadena0-1110
Mayfield SchoolPasadena0-1110
El Dorado HSPlacentia0-1110
HomeschoolRedding0-1110
Rosemead HSRosemead0-1110
Bradshaw Christian SchoolSacramento0-1110
Christian Brothers HSSacramento0-1110
Rio Americano HSSacramento0-1110
Palma HSSalinas0-1110
Aquinas HSSan Bernardino0-1110
High Tech HighSan Diego0-1110
Convent of the Sacred Heart HSSan Francisco0-1110
Galileo Academy of Science and TechnologySan Francisco0-1110
Mission Hills HSSan Marcos0-1110
Terra Linda HSSan Rafael0-1110
Laguna Blanca SchoolSanta Barbara0-1110
Golden Valley HSSanta Clarita0-1110
Redwood Adventist AcademySanta Rosa0-1110
Santa Ynez Valley Union HSSanta Ynez0-1110
HomeschoolSimi Valley0-1110
Royal HSSimi Valley0-1110
Santa Fe Christian SchoolSolana Beach0-1110
Beach HSSoquel0-1110
HomeschoolStockton0-1110
HomeschoolVilla Park0-1110
Vista HSVista0-1110
HomeschoolWest Hills0-1110
Franklin HSElk Grove0-2220
Loma Linda AcademyLoma Linda0-2220
Immaculate Heart HSLos Angeles0-2220
Shalhevet HSLos Angeles0-2220
German International School of Silicon ValleyMountain View0-2220
Sonora HSLa Habra0-3330
Fairfax HSLos Angeles0-3330
Milken Community SchoolLos Angeles0-3330
Modesto HSModesto0-3330
Murrieta Valley HSMurrieta0-3330
Independence HSSan Jose0-3330
La Quinta HSWestminster0-3330
John Marshall HSLos Angeles0-4440
St. Ignatius College Preparatory SchoolSan Francisco0-5550

A look at the largest swings makes clear that the shift to the new PSAT is not the only thing that can change the number of Semifinalists at a school. The changes from 2015 to 2016 were actually more dramatic. A number of factors may be involved. First, public schools — partly by virtue of their size — dominate the ranks of schools at the top of the list. These high schools do not control their enrollment in the same way that private schools do. There may be an influx of new students (or an outflow of existing students) due to employment changes in a district or an increase in families with high school age children. It’s also beyond this post to look at how any potential changes in high school districts changed the landscape. Did a new high school open? Did consolidation occur?

State and National Heavyweights

Despite the amazing number of Semifinalists at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, it does not enroll the most Semifinalists in the country. NMSC doesn’t make that information easy to find, but I know of at least two schools with more Semifinalists this year: Stuyvesant High School in New York City had 103 (of note is that they had 131 the previous year), and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia had 119 (down from 164!). Both of those schools are magnet schools, whereas Mission San Jose is open enrollment. MSJHS has only about 550 juniors.

Broader Distribution of Schools for the New PSAT

If the top schools didn’t change much more in 2017 than they did in 2016, it might seem as though the new PSAT had no impact. On the contrary, I think it did. The change was most visible when looking at the spread of student numbers. The table below shows that the new PSAT may have meant greater representation at schools that average less than a handful of Semifinalists each year.

semifinalists-by-school

What Caused the Reshuffling?

There are several ways in which the new PSAT may have reshuffled the numbers.

1) Content Change

The new PSAT is more aligned with Common Core curriculum than the old test. This concerned some schools that did not adhere to Common Core. It turns out, though, that the topics tested on the PSAT are fairly universal. Some of the flourishes such as “founding documents” and “global conversation” reading passages have turned out to be window-dressing more than score changing.

2) Leveling the Lopsided

The old PSATs 20-80 score ranges were meant to mimic the 200-800 ranges of the SAT. This mirroring neglected to account for the fact that SAT students are older, have covered more material, and have more testing under their belts. The highest range of PSAT scores was, therefore, underutilized and not always reliable. College Board decided to keep “vertical scaling” with the SAT while shifting the PSAT score range to 160-760. For most students, this was a non-issue. For the highest scoring students — those looking at National Merit honors — the top end change has implications for the “lopsided” student. On the old PSAT, a student well-versed on the reading and writing portions of the test might have racked up large gains by score 77-80 on these two sections. These students are now capped at 760, so their “pickup” in their strong suit is not as dramatic.

I was interested to see if this “disadvantage” to a lopsided student carried through to the school level. While it doesn’t leap out from California data, the numbers from Stuyvesant and Thomas Jefferson are interesting. These magnet schools often have lopsided students — in the case of Thomas Jefferson, presumably on the STEM side of the line. The latter’s 26% drop in Semifinalists may be more than a coincidence. They had only 129 Semifinalists in the class of 2015, though, so 2016 may have just been an unusual class or score distribution.

3) Score Inflation and Compression

These topics are intertwined with #2 and are explored in more depth in a separate piece. In short, the grading of the new PSAT (4 answer choices, no guessing penalty) contributed to an increase in scores. It became easier to reach most score levels — particularly at the low end. However, this inflation runs into an obstacle at the high end — there is nowhere left to go. In fact, there is even less room to go because of the shift from 80(0) to 760. Also, the wind-assist provided by guessing has little impact on a student who typically only misses a problem or two. The net result was that the Commended Student level was almost guaranteed to move up, while we expected that the upper ranges would move down. This was exactly what happened. States with SF cutoffs traditionally in the 202-210 range saw increases of 6 to 7 points. States such as California and New Jersey in the 222-225 range, in contrast, saw scores move down 1 to 3 points.

How do these cutoff changes play out within a state? One theory is that score compression had a leveling effect. Imagine a driving range that extends 300 yards. I don’t stand a chance of keeping up with a pro golfer at hitting balls into the net. Move the back net up to 150 yards, though, and I might occasionally hit 10 balls out of 10 and match the world’s best. This is an extreme exaggeration of the changes that occurred — the net got moved in. I believe the 3 factors did have at least some leveling effect. The content more closely reflected what is taught in virtually every school. The more typical scorer gained a slight advantage over the lopsided scorer. And the compressed range of scores made it just a bit more likely that good fortune came into play.

National Merit Semifinalists by City


City
NMSF
2017
NMSF
2016
NMSF
2015
San Jose224245225
San Diego166178150
Fremont128131161
Irvine9288124
Cupertino89105115
Palo Alto748676
Fullerton676442
San Ramon495276
Pleasanton415255
Mountain View373836
Saratoga354040
San Mateo35208
San Francisco323636
La Jolla302527
Atherton292827
Arcadia271531
Oakland273222
Studio City263125
Westlake Village241415
Cypress202018
Los Angeles203622
Sacramento181416
Diamond Bar172421
La Canada162110
Davis161112
Los Altos151511
Carlsbad151217
Walnut151421
Danville151715
Pasadena141516
Rolling Hills Estates141029
North Hollywood141022
Newbury Park1368
Placentia12103
Orinda1259
Moraga11610
Hillsborough11511
Rancho Santa Margarita11117
Dublin1087
San Marino101210
Torrance1067
Cerritos101917
Fresno1054
Berkeley91015
Newport Beach91512
Los Gatos998
Piedmont9119
La Crescenta988
Manhattan Beach876
Belmont8166
Anaheim8119
Santa Ana775
South Pasadena788
Santa Monica7412
Huntington Beach732
Union City735
Ojai755
Palos Verdes Estates742
Folsom662
Valencia657
Escondido642
Riverside624
Agoura Hills624
Beverly Hills635
Livermore642
Albany638
Alameda657
West Hills631
San Juan Capistrano626
Santa Rosa6412
Mission Viejo6129
Milpitas669
San Marcos510
Camarillo540
Santa Clara531
Palos Verdes Peninsula515
Millbrae521
Granada Hills574
Lafayette534
Hacienda Heights517
Calabasas521
Redlands524
Sunnyvale594
Woodland Hills512
San Gabriel533
Ross532
El Dorado Hills433
Pacific Palisades466
Santa Barbara442
Goleta439
Temecula401
Encinitas445
Walnut Creek458
Rancho Cucamonga435
Alhambra486
Chula Vista410
Garden Grove413
Aliso Viejo465
Bakersfield447
Corona452
Oak Park476
Burlingame302
Elk Grove351
Claremont357
San Clemente321
Buena Park300
Concord321
Arroyo Grande301
Poway325
Temple City357
Pebble Beach360
Glendora324
Granite Bay330
Los Alamitos334
Modesto340
Saugus320
Chino Hills378
Pleasant Hill300
Lancaster301
Roseville303
Larkspur305
Campbell330
Castro Valley346
Fountain Valley395
Orange301
Santa Cruz354
West Covina300
Coronado310
Gilroy311
Chatsworth310
Carpinteria334
Lodi211
Vista210
Tracy233
Aptos200
Portola Valley220
Fair Oaks211
Carson241
Benicia210
Los Altos Hills241
Lake Forest212
Novato203
Redding210
San Rafael261
Carmichael201
Rowland Heights264
Redondo Beach200
Clovis220
Culver City243
Newhall212
Rocklin222
Ventura210
Sebastopol213
Dana Point231
Sherman Oaks221
Pomona200
Alta Loma200
Chico202
Stockton263
El Cajon210
Monterey251
Rancho Mirage200
Murrieta130
Rohnert Park100
Ukiah101
Pacific Grove100
Woodside110
San Dimas100
Thousand Oaks124
Junction City100
Felton100
Palm Desert103
Brea100
Antelope100
Spring Valley100
Merced101
Dixon101
San Luis Obispo123
Redwood City122
El Cerrito111
Upland113
Auburn100
Villa Park131
Paradise100
Watsonville102
San Pedro101
Winchester100
El Monte110
Ridgecrest110
Patterson100
Laguna Hills121
La Mesa100
Arcata121
Petaluma111
Etiwanda100
Monrovia100
Downey100
Santa Clarita131
Twentynine Palms100
Pinole100
Reseda122
Montara100
Ripon110
Placerville121
Victorville100
Santee100
Hayward112
Montebello101
Hemet100
La Verne111
Oceanside111
Canyon Country101
Brentwood100
Morgan Hill111
Orcutt100
Shingle Springs101
Yorba Linda113
Simi Valley135
San Bruno101
Morro Bay100
El Centro110
Napa012
Soquel010
Rosemead010
Bermuda Dunes001
Westminster030
Bishop001
Oxnard020
Burbank013
San Leandro001
Canoga Park010
Turlock001
Carmel012
Apple Valley001
Crockett010
Norco002
Eastvale001
Palo Cedro010
Eureka001
San Anselmo011
Fairfax001
Santa Ynez010
Fairfield011
Tehachapi001
Feather Falls010
Visalia001
Fort Bragg001
Yuba City001
Glencoe010
Moorpark011
Glendale013
Nipomo001
Hanford010
Orangevale010
Jamul010
Pacifica002
Kentfield001
Quartz Hill022
La Habra030
Salinas032
La Mirada010
San Bernardino011
La Palma021
San Lorenzo005
Laguna Beach002
Solana Beach010
Laguna Niguel010
Talmage001
Lakeside001
Templeton003
Lakewood001
Van Nuys063
Loma Linda020
Weaverville001
Long Beach022
Woodland001
Loomis001
Antioch010
Los Olivos011
Malibu010
Mill Valley012
Bellflower011

A geographic analysis matches up with what was seen at the school level. On the one hand, the numbers are again dominated by a few. Santa Clara has 5% of California’s population but has 1/4 of the state’s NMSFs. Only 8 states have more Semifinalists than Santa Clara County! On the other hand, Semifinalists went to schools in 221 different cities (NMSC tracks where a student goes to school, not where he or she lives). In the previous two years, the figures were 204 and 206.  More high schools with one or two Semifinalists meant a greater probability that more cities had one or two Semifinalists. At risk of being a geo-geek, I should point out that NMSC tracks place names rather than cities. For example, Studio City is a neighborhood within the city of Los Angeles. And despite the fact that a private school such as Harvard-Westlake pulls from a wide geographic area, all its Semifinalists are placed in Studio City.

National Merit Semifinalists by County

I thought that county level data might be interesting because it would even out those sorts of placement anomalies. Given the concentration seen elsewhere, it’s not surprising that small counties are at a marked disadvantage — even beyond their size. The 23 counties with populations under 100,000 have a cumulative population about that of Delaware or Montana. If they seceded and formed their own state (or if they just had proportional representation within CA), they’d be allotted about 50 Semifinalists a year. As it is now, they average 3 per year.


County
2017
NMSF
2016
NMSF
2015
NMSF

Pop
NMSF/Yr
Per 100K

Per Cap $
Los Angeles3423493769,974,2033.6$27,987
San Diego2442332083,183,1437.2$31,043
Orange2762832673,086,3318.9$34,416
Riverside2010142,266,8990.6$23,660
San Bernardino1816222,078,5860.9$21,384
Santa Clara5085655281,841,56929.0$42,666
Alameda2532643051,559,30817.6$36,439
Sacramento3227211,450,2771.8$27,071
Contra Costa105931241,081,2329.9$38,770
Fresno1274948,8440.8$20,231
Kern558857,7300.7$20,467
Ventura533838835,7905.1$33,308
San Francisco323636829,0724.2$49,986
San Mateo977660739,83710.5$47,198
San Joaquin7117701,0501.2$22,642
Stanislaus441522,7940.6$21,729
Sonoma10616491,7902.2$33,361
Tulare001451,1080.1$17,888
Santa Barbara121216431,5553.1$30,526
Monterey6155424,9272.0$25,048
Solano322421,6240.6$29,132
Placer956361,5181.8$35,711
San Luis Obispo528274,1841.8$30,392
Santa Cruz766267,2032.4$33,050
Merced11261,6090.3$18,464
Marin121116256,8025.1$58,004
Butte312221,5780.9$24,430
Yolo161113204,1626.5$28,080
El Dorado655181,4652.9$35,128
Shasta22178,5200.7$23,763
Imperial11177,0260.4$16,409
Madera000152,452-$17,797
Kings010151,3900.2$18,518
Napa012139,2530.7$35,092
Humboldt122134,8761.2$23,516
Nevada00098,606-$32,117
Sutter00195,0670.4$23,828
Mendocino1387,6121.5$23,712
Yuba00073,059-$19,586
Lake00064,209-$21,310
Tehama00063,284-$21,002
San Benito00056,888-$26,317
Tuolumne00054,347-$26,063
Calaveras01044,9210.7$29,296
Siskiyou00044,261-$22,482
Amador00037,159-$27,373
Lassen00033,356-$19,847
Del Norte00028,066-$19,424
Glenn00028,019-$21,698
Colusa00021,424-$22,211
Plumas00019,286-$2,9167
Inyo00018,439-$27,028
Mariposa00017,946-$28,327
Mono00114,1932.3$29,578
Trinity1113,5154.9$23,145
Modoc0009,335-$21,830
Sierra0003,019-$28,030
Alpine0001,202-$24,375
The Income Effect

It’s impossible to discuss the geographic spread of PSAT and SAT scores without touching on income. Standardized tests come under a good deal of criticism for their correlation with family income. I kept things at the county level for simplicity, since income by high school is not easily determined. In order to adjust for population and to even out annual fluctuations, I calculated the average number of Semifinalists per year per 100,000 of population.  For example, Contra Costa has a population of 1,081,000 and an average of just under 108 Semifinalists per year, so its measure is 9.9 SF/yr/100K population.

The chart below reflects the data for the most populous 30 counties. A logarithmic scale is used for the vertical axis to better reflect the relationship between the variables.

nm-semifinalists-by-population-and-income

While there appears to be an exponential relationship between the two measures, it’s quite loose. Looking at comparably sized counties provides mixed evidence. For example, Marin county has the highest per capita income in the state, but its SF/yr/100K figure is only the 8th highest. Yolo County has half the per capita income as Marin and 80% of the population, but has an almost identical number of Semifinalists. On the other hand, among the most populous counties, Santa Clara’s income and Semifinalist level both stand out, and San Bernardino and Riverside are at the low end of both measures. Technology and educational centers likely come into play — drawing in brainpower not just statewide, but nationally and internationally.

In the end, achieving a top PSAT is an individual achievement — and a specialized one. It would be wrong to use such a narrow measurement to judge the educational achievements of schools and cities. When limiting the discussion to the National Merit Scholarship Program alone, though, this sort of analysis seems valid. Compass believes in an extremely expansive definition of test preparation; we try to inform about testing topics from micro to macro. We will continue to monitor the impact of the new PSAT and new SAT on everything from how it performs on individual questions to how it reshapes testing at high schools and colleges.

About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.

2 Comments

  • Ben says:

    Thank you for this exhaustive analysis as well as deft gathering of data available. When looking at specifically California High School scores listed for the different cities, there is a 3 digit number to the right of each student’s name. What does that number mean? Examples of numbers include 000 to 999. see link to California scores below:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/14/national-merit-semifinalists-announced/
    Thanks

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Ben,
      This one puzzled me, as well. It clearly is not a geographic code or in reference to gender or ethnicity. And I’m sure that NMSC would never release a reference to a student’s score. In looking closely at the PSAT registration booklet, it seems apparent that it is the Intended Major field that students answer for the Student Search Service (the reason PSAT takers start getting lots of mail from colleges). For example, you’ll see quite a lot of 628s – Pre-Med. 999s are Undecided. I’m assuming that 000 means Did Not Answer. The SSS is entirely voluntary. You can find all of the codes in the Student Guide to the PSAT/NMSQT.

Leave a Reply

×
TAKE AN INITIAL PRACTICE TEST

Take an Initial Practice Test

Current Clients: Use your login to sign up.

First and Last Name:*

Are you a parent or a student?*
ParentStudent

Phone Number:*

Email Address:*

Location:*
Southern CANorthern CAOther

If 'Other,' specify State or Country:

How did you hear about us?:
FriendSchoolCounselorWeb Search

What test(s) are you interested in?*
SAT / ACTSubject TestsISEE / SSAT