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Local Graduate Named Top AP Scholar

Education: Five others from North Hollywood High School also rank among best scorers on exams in the nation.

September 17, 1998|DUKE HELFAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

North Hollywood High School produces whiz kids who ace Advanced Placement exams the way others tie shoelaces.

And now, for the second straight year, North Hollywood High has produced the No. 1 AP scholar in the country.

Greg Marsden and five other graduates of North Hollywood's highly gifted magnet program learned Wednesday that they were among the top 10 AP scholars nationwide.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 25, 1998 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 2 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Advanced Placement--A story on Sept. 17 incorrectly stated that North Hollywood High School gave more Advanced Placement exams last year than any high school in California. North Hollywood High gave the fourth highest number of exams among high schools in the state and the third highest among public high schools.

To their delight, Marsden and two classmates ranked first, second and third.

"It's absolutely flabbergasting," said Marsden, 18. "It's an excellent feeling."

Advanced Placement tests are given in a variety of subject areas. Students earning a score of 3 or better--5 is a perfect score--can earn college credit.

The North Hollywood High students led a pack of 1,423 National AP Scholars--those who had minimum grade point averages of 4.0, took at least eight AP exams and earned a minimum score of four on each.

Marsden took 20 AP exams at North Hollywood High and earned a 5 on most of them, allowing him to take higher level classes as a college freshman. He tested in a variety of subjects, including music theory, calculus, Spanish literature, chemistry and computer science (he studied for that one with a partner because the school didn't offer the class).

Marsden spent Wednesday sorting through boxes of books and clothes at his West Hills home, preparing for the drive with his parents today to Stanford University--which he chose over Princeton, Yale, Johns Hopkins and UC Berkeley.

Emily Wang greeted the news of her No. 9 finish with the calm of a seasoned academic hand.

Wang, 17, took her first AP exam--in chemistry--in eighth grade. She earned a score of 3, enough for college credit. By the time she graduated last spring, she had taken 15 other AP tests, earning a 4 or 5 on all the exams.

But for Wang, the AP payoff is only about pride. Caltech doesn't accept the credits, she said.

"It's not that big of a deal," she said. "I'll be going over some of the stuff again. It'll just help me."

North Hollywood High's other AP scholars included Michael Saji, who placed second and is attending Harvard. No. 3 Michael Shulman is attending Caltech. No. 6 Robin Stein, the top-scoring girl in California, is at Michigan State University. No. 7 Benjamin Kwak is attending Princeton.

Marsden, Saji and Wang also were on the school's Science Bowl squad that placed second in last year's national competition.

"Pretty amazing, huh?" said North Hollywood High Principal John Hyland. "And we're a public school as well. These are great kids."

Hyland and other North Hollywood High administrators attributed the success to a campus culture that encourages students to strive for rigorous course work. "There is an ethos of study here," Hyland said.

North Hollywood gave more AP exams this year--1,262--than any other school in California. So many students took the tests--509 in all--that some were bused to a General Motors training facility in Burbank to have room enough to take their exams.

"We're feeding them AP classes," said college counselor Susan Bonoff.

But administrators pointed out that the six AP scholars came from the high school's highly gifted magnet, a program of 244 students that requires a minimum 145 IQ for admission. Students spend all four years learning their core academic subjects from the same 10 teachers.

The program is on the North Hollywood High campus, which also has nearly 2,900 students in the regular high school.

The magnet regularly produces impressive results. Its ninth-graders scored in the 97th percentile in math and the 91st percentile in reading on last spring's Stanford 9 exam.

By contrast, ninth-graders in the regular high school placed in the 47th percentile in math and the 29th percentile in reading. More than one-third of the students in the regular high school speak limited English.

"We're determined to do better," Hyland said. "If these youngsters can do so well in the highly gifted magnet, then the kids in the comprehensive high school can also be in the ballpark."

North Hollywood High administrators, as well as the school's AP scholars, were relishing news of their achievement on Wednesday.

Stanford accepted Marsden as a President's Scholar, which means he will get two faculty advisors instead of one and a $1,500 research grant. That distinction was the latest for Marsden, who was also a finalist in the prestigious Westinghouse Science Talent Search last year.

"I'm leaning toward engineering, but I'm not sure," he said. "It's not a grade war."

Times correspondent Tom Schultz contributed to this story.

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