Tuesday, October 05, 2004
I heard the other day that the zip code around Millard West High School is the highest-income zip code in the State of Nebraska. That’s why it was surprising that only one senior out of a class of 413* at Millard West has been named a National Merit Semifinalist. That’s one of the poorest showings in the state for a big high school, and yet they say that money talks on standardized tests and the richer the student body, the better the test scores.
On the other hand, tiny little Duchesne Academy in inner-city Omaha had four Merit Scholars out of a senior population of 67* students. That’s 6 percent, just about double the rate for Omaha Westside High School, thought to be one of the wealthiest, highest-spending districts in the state.
And Creighton Prep logged even more: 14 of the 222 in Prep’s senior class earned the nation’s highest designation for academic success, or 6.3 percent, the highest in the state. That compares to the roughly one-half of 1 percent in the Omaha Public Schools and the Lincoln Public Schools who made the National Merit mark. More than 12 times as many, in other words.
So is the difference really richer demographics among student families?
Or is the difference-maker good, old-fashioned, traditional, toughly-focused academics, plus discipline and the good staff-home relations that all come with private education and, unfortunately, not so much any more in the public schools?
If you have smart kids and you want them to have the best crack at good test scores and scholarship offers, plus a good shot at getting in to the college of their choice, private schools appear to offer the best pathway, at least in this statistical comparison.
Private School / # Seniors Enrolled* / # 2004-05 National Merit Semifinalists / %
Brownell-Talbot / 28 / 1 / 3.6%
Creighton Prep / 222 / 14 / 6.3%
Duchesne Academy / 67 / 4 / 6%
Gross / 127 / 1 / .78 of 1%
Marian / 157 / 6 / 3.8%
Mount Michael / 28 / 1 / 3.6%
Skutt / 142 / 3 / 2.1%
Public School / # Seniors Enrolled* / # 2004-05 National Merit Semifinalists / %
Lincoln Public Schools / 2,602 / 15 / .58 of 1%
Millard Public Schools / 1,516 / 13 / .86 of 1%
Omaha Public Schools / 2,688 / 14 / .52 of 1%
Westside Community Schools / 357 / 11 / 3.1%
Statewide combined / # Seniors Enrolled* / #2004-05 National Merit Semifinalists / %
Public & private schools / 24,099 / 135 / .56 of 1%
NOTE: There were also 3 homeschooled students in Nebraska named to the National Merit rolls, also a significantly higher rate in the total homeschooled student body than in the public schools.
• The National Merit Semifinalist totals, announced last week, are for this year’s seniors based on the PSAT exam they took last school year. Because schools have not yet reported their 2004-05 enrollment data to the State Department of Education, the 2003-04 data was used, figuring that this year’s senior class sizes won’t vary that much. Find enrollment and other statistics on the State Ed Department’s statistics website under “Data & Information,” http://ess.nde.state.ne.us
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