HPHS Seniors Named Merit Scholar Semifinalists

Eleven Highland Park students have been named National Merit Semifinalists, the district announced Wednesday afternoon.

The students will compete with close to 16,000 other scholars from across the country for $34 million in scholarship money.

“We are very proud of our students for this outstanding accomplishment,”¬† HPHS Principal Walter Kelly said in a statement. “This demonstrates years of preparation and dedication to their academic studies, supported by wonderful parents and teachers. We are all very happy about the opportunities this will mean for them.”

The students are:

  • Joe Beeby
  • Madeline Clyde
  • Len Deuel
  • Lauren Egan
  • Reed Farmer
  • Taylor Foster
  • Pearce Illmer
  • Alex Levine
  • Cassidy Tanner
  • Thomas Walter
  • Jamie Young

Merit Scholars will be notified beginning in April.

33 thoughts on “HPHS Seniors Named Merit Scholar Semifinalists

  • September 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm
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    impressive!
    way to go “studyin’ scots”!

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  • September 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm
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    How does 11 compare with previous years? So that’s just over 2%, correct? And the top 1% of Texas students on the PSAT get the nod. We’re twice as nice.

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  • September 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm
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    this is only an exhibition,
    not a competition.
    please, no wagering.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 7:16 am
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    @Steve. Heard the PSAT cutoff was 4 points higher this year than last. Not sure if that means class is smaller or scores were higher.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 7:47 am
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    Last year, there were 16 for 3.3% of senior class.

    HP used to have the highest % of class in the metroplex. Flower Mound HS overtook #1 rank last year- 34 semifinalists for 4.4% of class. Plano Senior was right behind HP with 39 for 3% of class.

    Congrats to this year’s 11, but the district needs to improve the number of NMSF to continue it’s long-time reputation of “best public high school in DFW area.”

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  • September 16, 2011 at 9:06 am
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    @dgirl,

    I don’t know if HP is better than Flower Mound or Plano, but I certainly wouldn’t use the number of NMSF as the measure.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 9:29 am
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    @dgirl. If the number of TX Semifinalists is 1% of the size of the class across Texas, a smaller class statewide would mean a smaller number honored. Nothing to do with our school’s efforts.

    NMSF is based on only one test, not a big picture. The program moved up the cutoff for both Semifinalists and Commended this year, so hard to compare this year with previous years.

    Even if you could compare headcounts, you can’t blame the district for the Aptitude of their students in the way you could for AP or TAKs scores or other Achievement scores.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm
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    do we have to be first in everything?

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  • September 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm
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    @ Parent,

    HPHS’s 2.3% of senior class lags the Plano results this year-> Plano West @ 2.6% and Plano Senior @ 3.8%. Have not seen the other area district’s results, but comparing% of class named NMSF is the fairest metric to track. Whether the cut-off score is higher/lower or the number of total graduates fluctuates is irrelevant if other districts are now getting a higher % named NMSF.

    @XT,
    Yes, NMSF is only one metric, but others are slipping as well. HPHS has fallen from Newsweek’s #12 high school in the US to #30-something and that award is based on AP exams. AP & PSAT/SAT are the two best indicators of college prep so it is concerning when HP is slipping in both.

    Yes, still a great district (I’m a graduate and want the district to do well as my kids will be 4th generation HPHS grads) but not as dominant as it was 5 years ago.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm
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    @ Former Scot #24,

    Yes- HP does have to be #1 in everything. That’s the largest factor in our housing prices being astronomical. Parents have & will continue to pay out the nose for “THE BEST” schools. Of course, extremely low crime, great location, and concierge style city services are a huge draw to the Park Cities, too, but don’t be fooled by how important the school district’s performance and reputation is if you own property in HPISD.

    There has to be a compelling reason for families to pay $800k for a cottage in UP if the same quality education can be had in Plano, Flower Mound, etc with a $250k home purchase.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm
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    well if HP is #1 in everything, why do so many of our neighbors, with a public school that is #1, send their
    children to private school?
    there’s a topic for blog- what percentage of kids in the park cities go to private school, and why?

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  • September 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm
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    @dgirl. You could say that this year’s class performed better than last year’s, since last year Merit had to go all the way down to a score of 215 to take in the top 1% in Texas, but this year they only had to go down to a 219 to get the top 1%.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm
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    @ Former Scot – between 20-25% are enrolled in private schools.

    @ Parent- I get your train of thought, but this year’s HP class actually performed worse than LY’s when compared to peers at other DFW schools. The cut-off score being higher this year didn’t seem to hurt Plano Senior or Plano West, both of which had a greater % of class named NMSF this year.

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  • September 17, 2011 at 9:22 am
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    @former scot #24. I’d like to read that article too. Used to be that private schools saved the district money, but with Robin Hood, the state pays by the person, so the district lost money for every student who went private.

    @dgirl. I haven’t seen the data you are using. Working backwards from it I came up with class sizes of about 485 and 473 for 2010 and 2011. Their size gap historically was bigger than 12, so I’m not sure about those %’s. Maybe this class has become bigger of late with kids being brought back due to private school tuition and the economy?

    Still, just looking at the difference in names between last year’s and this year’s NMSF’s, my guess is that Asian families who in past years might have rented apartments near HPHS are instead moving to Flower Mound and Plano.

    Nevertheless, you’re right: everyone who moved to HPISD just for the schools should move north now, before we have yet another horrible morning in October that finishes ruining our academic reputation. (Be careful if you move to Plano, though, because the school borders move, and your child might end up constrained by the “Aptitude” at Plano East instead of Plano West.)

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  • September 17, 2011 at 10:47 am
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    According to Dr Orr, the % going to private schools is around 16%.

    I used to recruit NMF’s for University of Houston (full ride ‘ship) — like OU and many other state schools — and Texas was about in the middle in terms of cutoffs. The South had much lower cutoffs and the Northeast and West had higher ones.

    The same phenomenon has been going on in GMAT scores. The average scores have been going up over time. While a 720 is now average at top 10 business schools, that was the top end of the range 10 years ago. Using % of graduating class is the best way to measure success and it’s too bad that we’re behind a couple Plano schools. Maybe we spend our resources focusing on athletics and vacations over academics, unlike Plano/FM.

    It’s not that NM’s, APs or TAKS (yuck!) are the end all be all measure but #s of NM’s is closely watched by colleges. Congrats to this years NMSFs and best wishes to future classes as we retake #1.

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  • September 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm
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    @ Parent,

    No need for snark/sarcasm. I don’t see why it’s “taboo” to question the disrict’s academic results. As a taxpayer, graduate, and resident, I have a vested interest in HPISD’s success- as do you.

    I don’t think the drop in NMSF is 100% attributed to those “disgusting Asian RENTERS!!!”moving to Flower Mound and Plano.

    FWIW, two of the Asian NMSF’s in my 1990’s era graduating class lived in $1-2M houses with professional/executive parents so it’s pretty offensive that you looked at a list of names and decided the only way Asian-named kids could be at HPHS was to rent cheap apartments near the high school. But thanks for making your thoughts on the matter abundantly clear…..

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  • September 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm
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    nice summary parent and thanks for the details.

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  • September 18, 2011 at 5:37 am
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    @Parent, what “horrible October morning?”

    HP should see percentages on par with other public schools. Lack of preparation may be the problem. If you want your kid to be a semi finalist, sign up for Princeton Review or get a tutor. There’s still time before the Oct. test. (ignore anyone who tells you prepping isn’t necessary.)

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  • September 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm
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    @dgirl. I saw your numbers on College Confidential, reported by unknown sources, so maybe the %s are right, maybe not.

    In this housing market, renters are most likely to be able to change districts because of perceived academic differences. I have no idea whether our district is losing renters because of a declining academic reputation, and I don’t see that decline. Looking at the DMN list today, I’d guess 13 of Plano West’s 38 are Asian, while HPHS has none, though last year 3 of 16. So maybe HPHS’s Asian population is decreasing.

    My only point: It’s not accurate to use one test as an indicator of HPISD’s “academic decline.” You disagree.

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  • September 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm
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    When you’re only talking about three “perceived” Asian students in a year, a fluctuation between zero and five won’t be statistically significant. A core issue for the PC is that we need to be more ethnically diverse and accepting, whether it be Asian, Hispanic or African-American. It helps property values because many non-whites — who can afford it — don’t move here due to the low numbers. Also, Plano West’s boundaries bleed into Plano Sr HS, Hebron and Frisco, not Plano East.

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  • September 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm
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    @ Parent,

    You are right, NMSF isn’t the only indicator of academic rise/decline, but it is the most high profile. FWIW, I read today that some of the NYC metro schools whose demographics mirror HP’s (small districts with under 7,000 students; 85%+ white, and $1M avg home prices) like Scarsdale NY and Millburn NJ had 5-6% of senior class named NMSF. These are the kids our kids are competing against when they apply to competitive out-of-state schools. HP needs it’s reputation as “best public school in Texas” to aid in the application process. From what I’ve found so far, HP is at least 4th in terms of % NMSF- behind Plano, Plano West, and Flower Mound. Coppell is gaining big time, too.

    We still have the highest SAT score in DFW by a good bit. Our average kids perform quite a bit above the other districts’ “average” kids- a huge percent take AP exams at HP, something like 80% of seniors take at least one. It’s definitely not all doom & gloom.

    I’d just like to hang on to that “best in Texas” reputation so my kids have a shot at going to their dad’s East Coast alma mater:)

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  • September 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm
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    @ Steve,

    You make a VERY good point regarding diverse moneyed families who should be looking at HPISD first & foremost completely bypassing the district due to demographics. I read a forum that gets a lot of questions from relocaters and most refuse to look at HPISD- even the white families who are used to much more diverse schools on the East & West Coasts.

    Of course it doesn’t help that one mixed race couple who posts on the forum just bought a $1M+ UP home and the Carribean-born wife has already been asked if she shops at Fiesta. He is black and has been asked if he is/was a pro-athlete.

    The district’s non-white population has more than doubled in the past decade. It needs to double again & then again to become a reasonable 20%. But I don’t forsee that happening anytime soon if Asians have to put up with people assuming they “RENT!!!” and blacks are assumed to bs athletes (how else would they afford HP?!)……..

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  • September 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm
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    @ Parent,

    I believe the %’s came from the TEA’s count of sophomores in 2010 (the class of 2012. The class sizes don’t fluctuate too much in jr & sr year so it’s a pretty safe number to use.

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  • September 19, 2011 at 7:14 am
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    @Steve. I agree. Three is not significant, unless you focus on 2% vs 3% of a class and think HP has to be #1 in everything for the sake of home values. I do neither. I was offering alternatives to the assumption that our academics declined.

    There is contention in Plano ISD about switching homes now assigned to Plano East over to Plano West. It is tricky to move just to attend a particular high school.

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  • September 19, 2011 at 9:39 am
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    The East Coast schools are less likely to look at labels than are the regional ones like OU, Baylor, Houston. If they look at PSAT scores, they know that Indiana’s 214 or Ohio’s 215 (unconfirmed, off course) won’t cut it in TX (219), CA, NY, MA, etc.

    They have more than enough 1% applicants and have developed their own criteria for what individuals make a balanced and contributing class. Legacy is one of those factors. Past experience with HPHS graduates is another. Coming from one of the top TX schools means something, but “the top?” By whose criteria? (BTW, if you are shooting for MIT, last year I know of a couple of NMF’s who didn’t get in and someone who was not a NMF who did.)

    As a parent with a stake in the schools I have been much more concerned with the quality of teaching. I’d say it’s been 80% acceptable. I’d be surprised if the northern suburbs do better than 80/20 either. But 20% unacceptable is too high when your kids are getting those teachers. (And some have been real doozies.)

    In my experience, the best way to avoid this at the high school level is to take AP courses. The school cares about the tests and doesn’t assign poorer teachers to AP (as opposed to pre-AP and TaG) courses. I’m also told that the new principal cares more about the quality of teaching. However, many parents who have invested big money and big real estate taxes to live in HPISD are reluctant to admit to any problems, perhaps for fear of dropping home values.

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  • September 19, 2011 at 11:53 am
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    @Parent, FYI, all three Asian NMSF last year from HP own homes and pay property taxes to HPISD.

    I think the perceived racial discrimination and injustice people see in HP drive them to move away/not move here more than any “decline” in academic reputation.

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  • September 19, 2011 at 5:25 pm
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    Amen, Rob. The top 10 national universities also get applicants from SJS, St Marks, Hockaday, etc. in addition to top public schools. Many top universities are willing to dip down a bit to get the top students from the Deep South — where test scores are lower — just to add geographic diversity. By no means are NMSF’s the end all be all. There are the AP courses, UIL and other science competitions, etc. Go HPISD!

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  • September 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm
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    And yet the private schools produce a greater number of semifinalists every year with a tiny student body. How does that work?

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  • September 20, 2011 at 8:47 am
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    @Owen – hmmm. I wonder. Selective admissions? Parents paying huge tuitions and expecting results from their kids?

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  • September 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm
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    Several of the NMSF are involved in time-consuming non-academic extracurricular activities at HPHS like soccer, football, basketball, Belles, cross country, crew, etc. Congrats to a well-deserving group of kids, their parents and educators … and to all of us — “It takes a village.”

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  • September 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm
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    @ Dembones,

    I agree, I am also concerned about the quality of teaching. Having a district filled with parents who understand the importance of education, and who have the resources (time and money)to ensure that their kids do well, means that HP will always be a top school. But that covers up the actual quality of teaching that our children receive.

    Our “success rate” with our 4 kids has been 75% good/ 25% lacking. That’s a high percentage, and a real problem in my mind. Seems like everyone around here drinks the kool-aid, and doesn’t want to question things as long as the test scores stay high.

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  • September 20, 2011 at 9:23 pm
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    Question! Question! Question! Demand results. Go HPISD!

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  • September 20, 2011 at 11:24 pm
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    based on police reports, its not just kool-aid we’re drinking.

    Reply

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