National Merit Semifinalist Qualifying Scores by State
February 17, 2010, 03:34 PM
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From the Washington Post, here are the scores by state on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) required to make the first cut in the National Merit Scholarship program. (To convert from the three part PSAT score to the traditional two-part SAT Math plus Verbal scores, divide by 3 and multiply by 20: e.g., Arizona requires a 210, which is like a 1400 on the SAT.) It`s a good indication of the number of upper middle class residents by state.

For example, Washington D.C. always trails all 50 states on average National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for public school students, but it ties with Massachusetts (which leads NAEP scores more often than any other state), Maryland, and New Jersey for first on this measure with a 221 (the equivalent of a 1473 on the post-1995 SAT). Montana usually is close behind Massachusetts on the NAEP, but only requires a 204 because it lacks much of a native, childbearing upper middle class. In contrast, California, whose white students do relatively poorly on the NAEP on average, does well on this measure, requiring a 218. The lowest scoring state is Wyoming at 201. I would guess that`s about 2/3rds of a standard deviation behind the top four states.

Alaska 211 Arizona 210 Arkansas 203 California 218 Colorado 213 Connecticut 218 Delaware 219 Washington D.C. 221 Florida 211 Georgia 214 Hawaii 214 Idaho 209 Illinois 214 Indiana 211 Iowa 209 Kansas 211 Kentucky 209 Louisiana 207 Maine 213 Maryland 221 Massachusetts 221 Michigan 209 Minnesota 215 Mississippi 203 Missouri 211 Montana 204 Nebraska 206 Nevada 202 New Hampshire 213 New Jersey 221 New Mexico 208 New York 218 North Carolina 214 North Dakota 202 Ohio 211 Oklahoma 207 Oregon 213 Pennsylvania 214 Rhode Island 217 South Carolina 211 South Dakota 205 Tennessee 213 Texas 216 Utah 206 Vermont 213 Virginia 218 Washington 217 West Virginia 203 Wisconsin 207 Wyoming 201 I haven`t quantified this, but I would assume that Blue States average higher scores than Red States on this measure, although Texas does well at 216.

In general, Texas does fairly well on most tests of educational competence, and it`s encouraging that such a huge state seems to perform relatively well both for the average and for the elite. It would be interesting to know how far back this goes in time, since Texas does not have a historical reputation for educational attainment the way Massachusetts does.