And the local National Merit semifinalists are…

Today, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation released the names of 16,000 semifinalists — less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors — who will compete for 8,200 scholarships. These students were recommended by their school principals and scored highly on the P-SATs they took as juniors.

All of Oakland’s semifinalists attend private schools, but that’s not the case in some other nearby districts, like Fremont:

522 Harper, Gwendolyn G.
712 Hermans, Lena E.
602 Hunt, Timothy C.
999 Joseph, Ethan Z.
999 Marcus, Virginia W.
722 Naiman, Thera M.
999 Seiwald, Forrest J.
999 Sontag, Samuel
999 Stites-Clayton, Cole R.
947 Wurtele, Abigail
303 Arnold, Ian W.
999 Emery, Luke
999 Glenn-Murray, Lydia K.
941 Herringer, Julia C.
000 Holden, Walker J.
467 Januta, Andrea M.
771 Melnyk, Yurij D.
843 Murayama, Takumi
999 Orton, Nora
454 Tam, Eric W.
999 Werner, Alexander C.
742 Appeldorn, Robert C.
212 Kelly, Kathryn L.
710 Zepeda, Raquel A.
162 Chan, Carrie
160 Lin, Jonathan K.
467 Pan, Rebecca S.

250 Amaro, Lani E.
710 Ha, Bori C.
450 Lee, Gi-Youn
450 Lincoff, James A.
160 Shi, Jonathan X.
457 Yang, Eugene J.
201 Zhang, Yu

999 Baldwin, Kyra
999 Gleick, Jeremy R.
723 Goettlich, Kerry D.
948 McKetney, Justin
121 Neuhaus, Alexander G.
999 Olson, Matthew A.
303 Saldanha, Gavin V.
907 Sesser-Ginzberg, Sasha J.
999 Shaw, Samuel
553 Wayne, Charlotte R.
999 Werby, Jasper J.

999 Cheung, Michelle L.
999 Ding, Jackie Y.
999 Henderson, Zella

170 Nghiem, Andre T.
628 Prucha, Alexander D.
628 Tian, Kevin
906 Hsu, Aaron
710 Huang, Joshua H.
843 Bharath, Ranjeetha
451 Chan, Alan L.
450 Chiang, Kyle W.
407 Chou, Sarah
200 Dong, Jane J.
793 Gandhi, Sidhant
628 Huang, Deborah
999 Ichikawa, Kyle T.
628 Puranikmath, Niveditha S.
250 Shah, Pooja K.
999 Wang, Andy
821 Wang, Howard
204 Wang, Lucia
870 Wong, Christina A.
999 Wu, Dion
142 Yan, Justine J.
628 Yeh, Andrew K.
628 Shim, Andrew K.
453 Bailey, Nathaniel K.
836 Cao, David X.
999 Chang, Jeff
451 Chen, Charles L.
600 Chen, Geoffrey
470 Chen, Joy C.
170 Cheng, Christine
999 Fong, Matthew C.
904 Fung, Valentina Y.
628 Gao, Rebecca W.
160 Gupta, Varsha
204 Hsu, Brent A.
999 Hu, Bonnie Y.
628 Huang, Manning
417 Huang, Tiffany A.
628 Hwang, Vicky
171 Jia, Chenyu
200 Jing, Kirk
999 Jou, Howen
712 Koh, Albert S.
120 Lee, Otis
774 Lian, Trisha
628 Lingam, Deepak
907 Liu, Dawei
740 Lu, Catherine G.
600 Lu, Kara Y.
160 Na, Youngjun
164 Parihar, Siddhant
253 Parikh, Aatash A.
000 Parikh, Natasha
121 Shah, Avni
161 Shen, Kevin R.
999 Shing, Vanessa S.
161 Tai, Vincent
162 Tao, Alyssa
870 Tay, Monica C.
600 Teekappanavar, Neha S.
164 Teng, Joseph
999 Tian, Daniel X.
450 Tu, Sharleen
907 Wang, Jane
459 Wang, Justin S.
121 Wang, May
712 Wu, Anthony S.
303 Wu, Jesse
999 Xiao, Allen
209 Xu, Jerald
161 Yelimeli, Sucharitha R.
000 Zeng, Yutian
628 Zhang, Kevin J.
160 Zhang, Sisi
209 Zhong, Lawrence H.
462 Zhong, Raymond
218 Zhou, Zhejun

462 McGinty, Claire D.
171 Nepomuceno, Helene L.

160 Amin, Dhruv T.
999 Jacobs, Simon D.
999 Jung, Joel P.
894 Lam, Michelle M.
160 Leong, Allison H.
999 Ramnarayan, Govind L.
906 Reed-Guy, Lauren E.
999 Savidge, Zachary A.
459 Turney, Christopher J.

999 Sy, Jennifer V.
161 Vance, Hilary M.

454 Reed, Dana N.
904 Scholten, Jeromie J.
522 Wan, Joseph H.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • wondering

    Hey Katy, I have a correction for you, according to Bishop O’dowd administrators, they had 3 semifinalist. I believe number #710 belongs at Bishop O’dowd, not at Alameda HS. thanks

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the catch. Obviously I need to brush up on my cutting and pasting skills!

  • cranky teacher

    Something wrong here. Either the OUSD schools aren’t listed or the principals screwed up. Certainly there are some star test takers at several Oakland high schools.

  • Nextset

    Now what have I been saying about IQ distribution?

    The PSAT, like the SAT, is a time pressure test. The scores returned by this testing correlates by IQ and in fact there are formulas published on the internet to convert such scores to IQ scores. It appears the year of the test administration factors in – a score from different decades doesn’t run the same for various reasons.

    A paper I keep up with every year publishes photos of the high school students all over the region who score above a certain high level. All public and private schools are included. It’s an insert once a year in the paper. I’ve been noticing this annual publication for decades now.

    And let me tell you the results are no representation for the racial distribution around here. With black population of in excess of 10%, there are fewer than 1% black faces (and they are interesting faces). Asian immigrants who came in a children from familes poor for generations are well represented. I have worked with and trained some of these Asians. There are other interesting trends in this annual pictorial I’m not getting into.

    And we have our Governor & Co trying to impose college prep classes statewide on all students. As if all people are the same in these matters.

    As long as that fiction controls policy in our urban schools we will continue to have missmatching of educational need and the left side of the curve unprepared to compete with the rest and take care of themselves.

    I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but this thread did list all those names. And Otis and Latifah & Co are never there. Ken and Barbie no longer rule the roost at all either. They used to. Not anymore.

    Our open borders Democratic & Republican party have replaced the US People with new people more to their liking. Historically that doesn’t end peacefully.

    What is to be done about this situation? We need to take better care of the left side of the bell curve. To do that we have to acknowledge their existance. As a society we just don’t want to do that. So the chips will fall where they may.

    OUSD is not and never will be about these National Merit Scholars. OUSD is a prole school of last resort that owes a primary duty of loyalty to the proles because of their numerical predominance. We must put the question to OUSD: “What are you doing for the proletariat?”

    Brave New World.

  • Caroline

    National Merit semifinalists are chosen based on those with the requisite PSAT score who ALSO have a high GPA.

    GPA is totally under the control of the school, of course. If a private school wants to make sure its students with high PSATs have high enough GPAs, it can do it. (Of course the school still has to have those students with high PSATs. Test prep, which can be very expensive, can make a BIG difference there.)

    I’m just sayin’.

    My son’s PSAT score put him in the National Merit semifinalist range, but as a kid who tended to flake his homework, he didn’t have the GPA to make it. His motto is: Who has time to do homework when there’s jazz trumpet to be played? Actually, lots of the smartest kids I know, especially boys, are like that.

    So, the combination of smart kid, good test-taker, maybe some good pricey test prep, dutiful student and MAYBE just MAYBE a little juicing of the GPA… private schools can do whatever they want…

    Just sayin’.

    (I do know a private K-8 in San Francisco that glosses up its students’ transcripts in their Lowell applications — friends of mine discovered after the fact it had done that for their kid without their consent, to their mortification. It’s perfectly legal and acceptable — a private school is free to adjust a student’s grades if it so chooses. There’s no reason why any private school couldn’t do it.)

    I know the obvious response is that a public school could do this too. Try that in an urban public-school bureaucracy — and if they’re caught it’s a Page 1 story…

  • Caroline

    OK, eating my words a bit, because the SEMIfinalist level is based on PSAT. It’s the finalist and scholarship levels that add in GPA and other judgment calls.

    However, it does seem a little odd — Berkeley High has a slew of names, but none at any Oakland public high schools? It would be interesting to research what the backstory is here. I know that Lowell HS in San Francisco started requiring all its students to take the PSAT annually starting in 9th grade as prep, WITH the fees covered, and giving it during the school day so they don’t have to come in on Saturday. Then it’s the 11th-grade PSAT that’s actually counted. That’s not on the radar at my daughter’s school, SOTA. You have to wonder about the factors that would affect these outcomes, besides Nextset’s view that public school kids are just DUMM.

  • oaklandmom

    BHS paid for all of their 10th graders to take the PSAT. Oakland did not even offer it during school time.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: Be Careful… Public schools are large enough to have brights. They are not going to be dominated by brights because most brights have bright parents who make the money to arrange things to have them in private schools or public Ivy’s such as Piedmont Unified. Oakland Unified certainly has enough brights to give San Francisco Unified a run for the money – BUT SFUSD is “progressive” enough to maintain Lowell High as a public “Ivy” school – keeping the dulls out of it. Why OUSD doesn’t follow suit with Skyline I can’t understand.

    OUSD should copy every policy at Lowell into one of their high schools – in order to have what SFUSD has with Lowell – a “good” public high school the (poor) bright kids can aspire to. You have to understand that the resulting racial composition would look nothing like OUSD overall and it would demonstrate what a lie it is that everybody is created equal. Which is why it’s not going to happen. It is more important to continue the lie than it is to serve the students by creating a route for the brights out of the other schools.

    And it is better for the other duller) students not to have the brights around. That’s another truth that liberals don’t want repeated.

    It would be interesting to have OUSD run a Lowell Counterpart of kids who don’t live in Piedmont with the announced intent to beating Piedmont at whatever they could. Remember the stats on poor asians vs wealthy whites… Which is exactly what we would be seeing.

  • Small Town Kid

    Caroline – I’m not sure what you are trying to prove here…it doesn’t make public schools look better if you make veiled comments about private schools having unfair advantages. OUSD students can be smart, dutiful and get test prep, too. Allegations of cheating should require evidence or be ignored.

    I looked over the list of students that Katy provided – some schools had a LOT of names, some had one or a few (like my HS, in a small town in the Sierras), and some had none. I think that it must not have been a priority for OUSD; surely there are few kids (and of color) at O Tech or Skyline that could become semifinalists.

  • Jill

    We have many, MANY talented young people here in Oakland and there is ample research and evidence that proves gifted and talented individuals are EVERYWHERE. Every race and ethnicity, every economic background, English language learners, non-English speakers, special education students — you name it, the gifted and talented students are there. It is shocking that OUSD has no students on that list and that someone, somewhere, has denied these children the possiblity of scholarship funds when money is so scarce for too many. What does the District say?

  • Oak261

    Lets try to understand the Oakland results by comparing Berkeley and Oakland. Pick a CST test: Berkeley HS has 29% scoring advanced on the CST STAR test for US History in 9th grade (all, or almost all BUSD high schoolers go to Berkeley HS). Meanwhile, OUSD has 9% scoring advanced on the same test. However, The Oakland HS population is 3 times larger, so the absolute number of kids scoring “advanced” is about the same in each district: about 170. That is the cohort where you will find the merit scholars. So you might expect similar results, but I think what works against OUSD students is the district’s disdain for, or fear of, academic tracks. Its in those programs where such things will be pursued.

  • Small Town Kid

    Oak261 – I think that you are on to something. I believe that there are a number of OUSD kids who could be NM semifinalists – it sounds like a school administration/district issue. Getting semifinalists could be a way of discouraging families from leaving the Oakland schools.

  • Debora

    Jill: You are right about the gifted and talented students in Oakland. Every mainstream school has them. The difference between San Francisco and Oakland AND Berkeley and Oakland is that both San Francisco and Berkeley say YES, we have students with high IQ, we have changed the test used so that we use the Ravens Progressive Matrices to identify high IQ students who do not have access to language at home (English Language Learners and low socio-economic families).

    Oakland will not say “Yes, we have high IQ kids and for those students who can learn more than the curriculum we will pretest them at the beginning of each year so we know where they are in their learning and start from where they are today.” Instead Oakland says, this student is in the third grade. They may know the majority of the curriculum and that is great because we don’t have to worry about their test scores we can concentrate on the lowest performing students.

    To make matters even worse, parents are penalized if they have students show up for part of the day, then remove them for challenging academic work outside their normal school, whereas Berkeley is progressive enough to have the enrichment activities reviewed by the principals to determine validity. In Oakland, such absences are “not excused” and show up on students permanent record, if there are more than X number in a grading period parents are reported for truency, REGARDLESS of why the child is absent (other than illness).

  • ex oakland staff

    Could someone tell me the point of National Merit Semifinalist status anyway? Could it be that the entrepreneurs in Princeton invented the National Merit Scholarship at the same time they invented the PSAT as a marketing ploy? Think back to a time before the PSAT – do you think students were clamoring for a baby SAT? Perhaps the scholarship was tacked onto the PSAT by ETS as an incentive to get students to purchase a test for which no other real need existed.

  • oak261

    Ex Oakland Staff: After a brief online search, I found no evidence that the Scholarship fund was actually invented by the ETS. Did you?

    So I don’t see alot of evildoing here. It looks like a fairly healthy meritocracy to me. As for the significance of being a semifinalist, its good news to those students, because about half of them will receive scholarships. And if they don’t, they are still recognized for their achievements. The only criticism I found in a few minutes of searching is that it relies exclusively on the PSAT.

    From the NM website, http://www.nationalmerit.org/about.php

    “NMSC’s goals have remained constant since its inception:

    to identify and honor academically talented U.S. high school students;
    to stimulate increased support for their education; and
    to provide efficient and effective scholarship program management for organizations that wish to sponsor college undergraduate scholarships.”

    and from wikipedia,

    “Of the 1.4 million entrants, about 50,000 qualify for recognition. Two-thirds of those qualified receive Letters of Commendation; the remainder become Semifinalists, about 94% of whom go on to become Finalists. Over half of the Finalists are selected to receive scholarships underwritten by corporations and business organizations, colleges and universities, and by NMSC with its own funds.”

  • Caroline

    It was an eye-opener to me to find out decisively, from insiders, that one private school cheated in the Lowell admissions process. It raised my skepticism level a lot, put it that way. My comment was not veiled.

    I agree with Ex Oakland Staff about the pervasiveness and influence of these College Board programs, which have become the heart of the college admissions process and carry huge weight in how students are judged and in determining their very future. I should actually be a fan, since my own older child is a slack-the-homework-but-ace-the-test kind of student, so the College Board scores benefited him, but overall I think that amount of influence is a problem.

  • oak261

    Caroline: You’re of topic, and your comments about cheating still amount to no more than veiled innuendo. More heat than light. Don’t bother describing it for my benefit.

    Moving on, the conversation on this thread has been about the low number of semi-finalists in OUSD. I didn’t know anything about the NM program until yesterday, so did a little reading. First one must to be in the top 3.3%, or 50,000 of the 1.5 million PSAT test takers in the country to advance to qualify for National Merit Program Recognition. The top third (16,000) of those 50,000 test takers become semifinalists. The other 34,000 are recognized and will receive Letters of Commendation. So take the test, and if you score high, get recognized.

    No other criteria appear to come into play until the Finalist stage.

    Good luck to your son. Sounds like he’s got a decent chance of being recognized as a young scholar.

  • Nancy

    How many Latino surnames were listed? I believe zero. Now you I know that the talk is college is not for everyone, yet for Latinos, it should be for some . I personally believe that if you want to close the achievement gap, you shoot for the highest point so all those that do, will fall among the stars regardless of where they land. Puch them all!

    I dont know if the list is upsetting to others, but as a Latina, I am saddedned that my people are stiil stuck in a one way road to nowhere afer generations.

    If schools, like the often hated Oaklnd charter school and their leaders are preparing Latinos and other disenfranchised kids for college, then we should not argue the method, and acknowledge the work.

  • Nextset

    Nancy: I agree that it’s the Charters who DO have something to prove (Unlike OUSD) and who are best able to get Hispanics into college.


    You cannot make people be something they are not. I have tried and occasionally I still do. Mexican culture has little use for “College”, least of all for the females. Hispanic family values, you know. I know many hispanic judges and lawyers and their families. As a rule they are not “orthodox”. Making that choice to move upmarket costs them – a price they were willing to pay. Ghetto teenagers are not, unless their families are pushing it.

    Blacks have the same problem. You may have read about the “acting white’ syndrome and people being beaten and shunned for having an career plan deemed too ambitious. My extended family and all of their associates and friends in CA solved that problem by moving to white neighborhoods and enrolling their kids in white schools as soon after their migration to CA as they legally could in the mid 20th Century. They went to all black schools through professional school & got drafted. The price my parent’s generation paid for doing this was cultural disruption – kids marrying whites and moving to Denver, Seattle, etc. with the mixed grandchildren growing up in a different world. Well, they wanted everybody to go to professional/grad school and they got that wish. Other families didn’t want the cultural upheaval and kept it real. To each his own.

    It’s just not that easy to say that people should just go to college and be a professional. It’s not just the tuition that costs. I know a black lawyer who wasn’t able to go in his (mother/siblings) families houses after he started practice. When you are from lower class and you “go to college” you leave a lot of people behind and you can’t go back. Let’s just say your tastes change.

    OUSD creates an environment where conformity and keeping it real is more likely to happen. Charters such as American Indian (with no Indians!) don’t.

    Segregating the secondary school students by ability/career plan/class/IQ/whatever avoids this also. OUSD needs to move in that direction but they don’t care enough about the students to do so. Changing class represents discomfort. Urban schools are about pacification and comfort above all else. That’s why American Indian sounds so “unfomfortable” and liberals attack it because they are perceived as not being nice to the “chillun”.

    So the poor bright students will get snuffed out by the dulls as much as the school. COnformity is comfortable.

    This syndrome doesn’t occur the same way with the non-Mexican immigrants since their societies don’t have the same dominant mass of low class. The Nigerians and Ethiopians who got themselves here tend to be strivers and higher IQs of that culture. You see it in their average performance in school.

    Mixed students are another wild card because they can take from the higher class of the mix (higher class as in grandparent occupation).

    The Hispanics are held back by their own culture which includes that which is hardwired. Perhaps the elites who decided to flood the USA with them count on that in replacing blacks with hispanics as the new dominant lower class – safely below the IQ average of the dominant class, and safely above the average IQ of the previous lowest class.

    We have created a birth-caste system in this country with more downward mobility and less upward. This was not supposed to happen and strong public school systems were our guarantee it wouldn’t happen.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    Another thought on Hispanics in our schools. Remember, the ruling class of Mexico are whites. The President is Irish. when you turn on Mexican TV the women are blond – the shows remind you of Finland. That government is running the Mexican-Indians into the USA. College and the Professions for them do not look line the Mexicans you see looking for work at Home Depot’s parking lot.

    And when I go to funerals of the aged black professional class I look around and see – Egpytians…

    So when you work with Mexican Indians – and Dark Skinned poor Blacks in the OUSD schools – and tell them that you have a list of Univ of CA entrance requirements you want them to take and college apps to consider and budgets to work out – it’s more than a notion. Even if Oprah paid for everything, and even if they could do the work, exactly who are they going to BE WITH on this road?

    This will work better if we have a set of schools starting in grade school where those with ability and ambition can be sent. Those who don’t want to be bothered won’t be, because having somebody in your line of view who is working to pull ahead, just might make someone want to kick them.

  • Nextset

    Egyptians!! Typo.

  • Donna

    DISPELLING NEGATIVE INUENDO RE OUSD: Remember, you have to take the PSAT as a JUNIOR to be in the running to be a National Merit Semifinalist/Finalist. At least at Oakland Tech, OUSD pays the PSAT fees for SOPHOMORES, but not for freshman or juniors. And yes, the test is administered on site and during the regular school day.

    So gee, I wonder when these OUSD students are most likely to take the PSAT? And I doubt that they would want to miss class and sit for it again in junior year, just on the chance that they might qualify as a National Merit Scholar unless they scored astronomically high as a sophomore. Sure, OUSD loses potential bragging rights by having its students take the PSAT as sophomores, but it gains by having more students thinking about college earlier in high school.

    And for the person bashing OUSD scores vs. Berkeley High’s scores for U.S. History in the 9th grade: As far as I know, in OUSD U.S. History is taught as an 11th grade subject, so any 9th grade students taking that class were anomalies. This is not to say Oakland’s scores couldn’t be better. Also, I have heard numerous stories of bored kids sick of standardized tests that don’t affect their grades are filling in bubbles at random. Who knows how much of that goes on and skews STAR scores.

  • oak261


    First, thank you for helping me notice a typo in my post #11. Regarding CST US History scores, the test is taken at the 11 grade level (not 9th)! My point is that it allows for a straightforward comparison between the districts for those who seek to understand the dearth of OUSD Merit Scholars compared to elsewhere. Test score fees and who pays them is not the cause of this disparity. There’s more to it.

    Secondly, I, and others who post here, have seen too often the District’s disdain for, or fear of, academic tracks. It is a statewide phenomenon to a certain extent, but my experience is here in Oakland. Sorry if this feels like bashing. Don’t take it personally. Rather, this posture by the district is truly bashing public education by alienating those who will shape the future of our nation (the best and the brightest) from participating in public education. The casualty is the strength of our democracy. National Merit Scholarships aren’t the most important issue, but OUSD’s representation there is an indicator of its lack of emphasis on scholarship at the highest level.

    Once again: Lets try to understand the Oakland representation among the National Merit semifinalists by comparing Berkeley and Oakland. Pick the CST US History test: Berkeley HS has 29% scoring advanced on the CST test for US History in 11th grade (all, or almost all BUSD high schoolers go to Berkeley HS). Meanwhile, OUSD has 9% scoring advanced on the same test. However, The Oakland HS population is 3 times larger, so the absolute number of kids scoring “advanced” is about the same in each district: about 170. That is the cohort where you will find the merit scholars. So you might expect similar results, but I think what works against OUSD students is the district’s disdain for, or fear of, academic tracks. Its in those programs where such things will be pursued.

  • Joe

    What does the 3 digit number mean in front of the name of each finalist?

    Can anyone help explaining?