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Once again this spring, boys outnumber girls as National Merit Semifinalists, even though girls typically earn higher grades than boys in both high school and college, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing has charged.

A FairTest analysis of the 15,611 semifinalists this year revealed that 59 percent were males and 37 percent were females. Because the testing-watchdog group analyzed the first names of the students, the student's sex could not be determined in 4 percent of the cases.

Initial eligibility for the awards is based on a student's score on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Each year, about one million students take the test in order to quality for one of some 6,300 National Merit college scholarships.

"The National Merit Scholarship Corporation continues to block the door to equal educational opportunity for young women by using an unfair test,'' said Cinthia Schuman, FairTest's executive director.

Elaine Detweiler, a spokesman for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, countered that the process also takes into account a student's academic record, school and community activities, and written recommendations.

Ms. Detweiler said that the test is not biased, but that boys take harder courses, especially in mathematics and science, which gives them an edge.

The Educational Excellence Network, an information clearinghouse founded at Vanderbilt University in 1982 by Chester E. Finn Jr. and Diane S. Ravitch, will move to the Hudson Institute in July.

The 1,900-member network, currently based in Washington, has sponsored several books and conferences, and publishes a monthly compendium of articles on education. It has also collaborated with the Hudson Institute on a proposal to the New American Schools Development Corporation.

The project will move to Hudson's headquarters in Indianapolis in the fall.

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