The National Merit Scholarship Corp. named 49 students from Gunn High School and 31 students from Palo Alto High school as semifinalists in its annual competition, placing them among 16,000 highest-scoring students nationwide -- roughly the top 1 percent -- on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT).
Micah Ackerman-Hirsch, a home-school student from Palo Alto, also was named a semifinalist as were students from area private schools.
About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the National Merit program by taking the 2012 PSAT. Most semifinalists will advance to finalist status in February, making them eligible to compete for 8,000 scholarships worth about $35 million. The scholarships are underwritten by about 440 business organizations and higher education institutions, as well as by the nonprofit National Merit Scholarship Corp., the group said.
Cutoff scores vary from state to state to ensure that the number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.
FairTest, a Washington, D.C.-based group focused on fairness and accuracy in standardized testing, criticized the National Merit eligibility rules, saying they ensure that "the bulk of awards go to children who least need college scholarship aid.
"National Merit says it uses different state qualifying scores to ensure geographic fairness but has made no effort to address other major biases in its selection process," FairTest Education Director Bob Schaeffer said in a statement.
"The competition improperly relies on Preliminary SAT scores, which strongly correlate with income and race, as the sole factor to determine initial scholarship eligibility."
Local semifinalists named this week are:
From Gunn High School: Michael Abramovitch, Robert Aspegren, Ben Atlas, Tavor Baharav, Andrew Bent, Andrew Briggs, Kelsey Chan, Ruizhi Chen, Leon Cheong, Benjamin Fearon, Alexandre Frei, Neel Guha, Allen Hao, Calvin Huang, Justin Kahng, Chaewon Lee, Rachel Lew, Kevin Li, Charles Liu, Monica Liu, Sandra Liu, Paul Lou, Sabrina Lui, Trevor Nielsen, Arjun Nijhawan, Eric Noh, Aaron Ong, Lucienne Oyer, Darshan Patil, Margaret Quian, Jiuge Qin, Divya Saini, Jayshree Sarathy, Amy Shen, Jisu Shin, Karan Thapar, Charles Wang, Emily Wang, Angela Wei, Joyce Wen, Alex Xiao, Julie Xin, Wenlong Xiong, Shengyi Xu, Eric Xue, Jaewon Yoon, Yue Zhang, Catalina Zhao, Carolyn Zhou
From Palo Alto High School: Matthew Abbot, Emma Abed, Robin Anwyl, Maxwell Bernstein, Ross Cardillo, Travis Chen, Tessera Chin, Allison Cowie, Aydin Eskafi, Jared Filseth, Winston Ge, Sarah Hale, Matthew Keefe, Sean Keegan, Andrew Keller, Miranda Ku, Albert Lee, Grace Lin, Ethan Lo, Allen Lue, Edward Mei, Kate Musen, Kavya Ramakrishnan, Sieh Robert, Jared Schwartz, Sidhanth Venkatasubramaniam, Cayla Wanderman-Milne, Alexandra Warner, Curtis Wu, Helen Ygartua, Austin Zheng
From Castilleja School: Ayesha Bajwa, Alina Brown, Elizabeth Burnette, Sanah Imran, Devanshi Nishar, Smriti Pramanick, Carly Robison
Homeschool: Micah Ackerman-Hirsch
From Kehillah Jewish High School: Joshua Booth
From Menlo School: Hidehiro Anto, Kai Banks, Niles Christiansen, Jack Ferguson, Kelsey Flower, Ryan Hammarskjold, Pooja Kathail, Darren Mei, Kate Park, Samuel Redmond, Abigail Schmitt, Sienna Stritter, Christina Wadsworth, Katherine Weingart, Maxim Zats.
From Pinewood School: Sydni Topper
From Sacred Heart Preparatory School: Juan Grau, John Kremer, Katherine Lim, Julia Mok, Selby Sturzenegger, MacKenzie Walter
From Woodside Priory School: Melanie Biles, Sarah Reid