Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sonoma County's 2013 National Merit Scholars.

One of the problems with modern life is the plethora of ranking systems. Sometimes, it seems as if there's something like Gresham's Law going on -- that bad rankings drive out good.  Finding the ones that are accurate can take time, simply because the lowest quality measures are often blared loudly. Thus, I think it's important to note the significant ones when they are announced.

The Press Democrat reported today on the National Merit Scholarship recipients for Sonoma County.  There are three -- Jordan Lawder French, from Petaluma High, Andrew Yu, from Cardinal Newman, and Nicolle Bertozzi, from Santa Rosa High. Sonoma Valley High's own valedictorian, Connor Griggs-Demmin, was named a National Merit Commended Student.

There are about 34,000 Commended Students nationwide.  About 15,000 students make it to the Finalist stage, and ~8,300 actually get scholarships.  The criteria is rigorous -- the finalist's academic record, information about the school's curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, the high school official's written recommendation, information about the student's activities and leadership, and the Finalist's own essay are all evaluated.

The reason I'm thinking about this today, though, is because I've been considering U.S. News & World Report's "Best High Schools" rankings recently.  It is based on nothing so rigorous as the techniques used by the NMSC in assessing the National Merit Finalists. Indeed, the criteria have been making me laugh, and the results are absurd.  But taking that one apart will have to be a post for another day ...