THE BLOG

In National Merit Snafu, Why Must the Children Suffer?

03/14/2013 02:53 pm ET | Updated May 14, 2013

Whenever something happens at Beverly Hills High School, it becomes a national story. This week the Associated Press broke the news that every single Beverly Hills High School junior who took the PSAT in October will not be eligible for National Merit Scholarships or even recognition, no matter how high their score. Why? Because the high school submitted the test results late.

This matter has affected me personally. I served for eight years as an elected board member of the Beverly Hills Unified School District and a member of my family was one of the few students who scored high enough to obtain a scholarship or recognition, but will be denied the opportunity because of this snafu.

Recognition by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) is very prestigious and many universities seek out National Merit winners and offer considerable amounts of merit aid to them. Even universities that do not award National Merit scholarships (e.g. The Ivies) will factor in the receipt of an award in admissions decisions. Being a National Merit finalist, or semi-finalists will open doors and it can make the difference in admissions.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is rich in Beverly Hills. Two of the district's K-8 schools are Title I schools, a designation based upon the low socio-economic status of its students. The Beverly Hills schools have an excellent reputation and people will sacrifice to live in Beverly Hills so their children can attend the schools. The truly wealthy send their children to private schools. National Merit scholarship money would go a long way toward meeting the costs of higher education and losing the scholarship would be disastrous for some.

The school was at fault and the individuals responsible should be punished. BHHS failed to submit the tests, which the students took in good faith in October 2012 to the College Board within the designated period of time. Consequently, the College Board deems these exam papers invalid for NMSC consideration. Although BHHS was notified in December of the late submission, it did not notify parents and students of the issue till February. By that time it was too late to lobby adequately or to provide acceptable alternatives to the students. The three possible dates to take the SAT for consideration, are unfair and they do not work for all students. The March testing date has passed. The May and June dates are already filled with AP tests (given the same week in May) and the SAT subject tests (given on the June testing date), making it impossible for some students to take the SAT test.

The College Board should revisit their decision and allow the students who already qualified to be considered for National Merit recognition and scholarships. The students have earned it and should not be penalized for adult mistakes.