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Test scores earn 27 PPS students national recognition

October 27, 2009
Launched for success
Cleveland High School senior Jacob Bandes-Storch excelled on the ACT and PSAT, but he’s much more than a skilled test taker.

Like the data-collecting balloon he hopes to launch into the stratosphere later this school year, Jacob Bandes-Storch’s future success seems destined to go up and up and up. Along with 25 other Portland Public Schools students, Jacob earned National Merit semifinalist status this fall after posting top scores on the PSAT assessment test; he is also one of three students in Oregon to earn a perfect score on the ACT test.

Each year, the National Merit Scholarship Corp. awards semifinalist status to about 16,000 students based on their performance on the PSAT, a precursor to the SAT test that covers math, critical reading and writing.  About 90 percent of the semifinalists will be named finalists, and about half of those will receive college scholarships.

In addition to Jacob, PPS National Merit semifinalists for 2009-10 are: Larkin Corrigan, Elizabeth Cortright, Jesse Crawford, Madison Garcia, Jonathan Sterling and Joellen Sweeney, Cleveland; Erin Burns, Katelyn Fink, and Chad Powell, Grant; Calvin Bohn, Naomi Dann, Tanner DeVoe, Blake Emmerson, Eva Koeller, Emily Krause, Valeria Levkovskaya, Sayer Rippey, Luke Rodriguez, Beth Smilkstein and Matthew Unrath, Lincoln; David Fusco, Metropolitan Learning Center; and Jenica Funk, Thomas Hollenberg, Zoe Palmer and Cameron Shishido, Wilson. Also, Luke de Oliveria of Wilson was named a National Achievement semifinalist, a related competition also based on PSAT scores.

More than a score

As Jacob illustrates, there is more to these high-achieving students than test scores.

A senior at Cleveland High School, Jacob created his first Web site when he was 9 years old and is the author of two iPhone applications; one helps TriMet bus riders track arrival times and schedules, and the other (still in development) is a jigsaw puzzle featuring artwork created by an acquaintance in Russia.

His skills surpass the technology course offerings at Cleveland, but he says teachers and his counselor, Barbara Tillman, have kept him engaged. He takes classes at Portland Community College and is enrolled in two independent study classes, through which he and a team of students hope to launch a balloon thousands of feet into the sky to collect data on air pressure, temperature and ultraviolet radiation.

Jacob helps lead Cleveland’s computer club, regularly assists teachers and students with technology questions and tutors peers in math. He’s also designing a Web site for teachers to distribute assignments. Soon he’ll hold classes for students on Microsoft Excel and graphing calculators.

“I like it when people are willing to try and learn how to do things,” says Jacob, as opposed to having him simply do things for them. Asked if he wants to be a teacher, he smiles and says: “I think I’d like it, but I’m interested in so many other things, too.”

Jacob plans to study computer science or engineering, and has applied to colleges including MIT, Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley.

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