Class of 2016 National Merit Scholarship Cut-Off Scores Vary By State But Assure Most Awards Go To Affluent Families
Note: "The state-by-state cut-off scores listed here are for the high school class graduating in 2016. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has not yet set state minimum scores for Semifinalist qualification for high school class of 2017 students, who took the revised PSAT in October 2015."
for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell (239) 699-0468
for immediate release, Tuesday, September 15, 2015
H.S. CLASS OF 2016 NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP CUT-OFF SCORES
VARY BY STATE BUT ASSURE MOST AWARDS GO TO AFFLUENT FAMILIES;
TEST SCORES DO NOT MEASURE “MERIT,”
AS 850 SAT/ACT-OPTIONAL SCHOOLS DEMONSTRATE
Students from affluent families are greatly over-represented in the lists of high school seniors eligible for National Merit Scholarships released last week, a result of the competition’s reliance on standardized test results, according to data made public today. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) posted National Merit’s previously secret cut-off scores, which vary greatly among states, and a table showing SAT scores by family income.
“The National Merit competition relies solely on the Preliminary SAT to select Semifinalists,” explained FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “SAT results strongly correlate with family income. On average, the more your parents earn, the higher your test scores. As a result, the National Merit selection process guarantees that the lion's share of scholarships goes to students from families that least need financial aid. Among other factors, wealthy parents often buy their children test-prep ‘steroids’ to boost their scores.”
Schaeffer continued, “National Merit says it uses different state eligibility scores to assure geographic fairness. However, it has made no effort to fix other biases in its process. The minimum PSAT requirement eliminates nearly 99% of scholarship seekers, no matter how strong their other credentials.” Depending on the state, the PSAT cut-off score for members of the class of 2016 to become Semifinalists ranges from 202 to 225.
“This unfair use of the PSAT should stop,” Schaeffer concluded. “Standardized exam scores do not measure academic 'merit.’ Research shows that high school grades are a better predictor of undergraduate success than any test. That is why more than 850 colleges and universities across the U.S. now have SAT/ACT-optional admissions policies.”
FairTest is leading a campaign to overhaul the competition’s eligibility rules. Many civil rights, education and feminist groups also support National Merit Scholarship reforms. A FairTest gender bias complaint forced revisions in the qualifying exam that increased the percentage of female winners. National Merit has not addressed the groups’ other concerns.
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