Record number of juniors achieve Commended Scholar status


Elizabeth Marrin, Staff Writer

The Class of 2018 made West Shore history after 21 of its members recently were named Commended Scholars. The students, who received recognition on the basis of their performance on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test last October, were among 50,000 juniors nationwide chosen from a pool of more than 1.5 million.

“That’s a pretty amazing statistic, and if you figured it out percentage wise, we would be in the top 99th percentile,” Principal Rick Fleming said. “We’ve never had 21 [Commended Scholars] since I’ve been here. The most we’ve ever had is 11.”

Fleming attributes the success to a variety of reasons.

“You have supportive parents, and you have engaged, smart kids who want to learn and have a love of learning,” Fleming said. “You have dedicated teachers, and you have good, solid teaching. I think that’s a recipe for success anywhere. I love being a part of it.”

To qualify as a Commended Scholar, a junior must achieve a certain Selection Index score on the PSAT. The cutoff for the Class of 2018, which was derived from the top 50,000 scores on the test, was two points higher than the cutoff for the Class of 2017, sitting at 211.

“I think that it is a testament to the strength of West Shore’s Class of 2018,” Test Administrator Mike Drake said. “I don’t know that the selection index will continue to go up from year to year — only time will tell — but I do know that West Shore students have consistently fared well in the National Merit competition, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Out of the 50,000 Commended Scholars nationwide, 16,000 will be named National Merit Semifinalists and 15,000 will be named National Merit Finalists. Fleming has high hopes for the current Commended Scholars.

“This [having 21 Commended Scholars] means that we have a very good chance of even half of those 21 students being National Merit Semifinalists and National Merit Finalists,” Fleming said. “The difference between semifinalists and finalists is only 1,000 students. In my entire career here, I think I’ve only had two or three students who were recognized as semifinalists not become finalists, and that’s out of over 100 students.”