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District starting SAT prep program

September 11, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - SAT scores for Chambersburg Area Senior High School students fell in 2006 compared to 2005, but the district is starting a test preparation program that could lead to higher scores for those taking the exam during this school year.

Critical reading scores, until last year known as the verbal portion of the SAT, fell from 512 in 2005 to 506 this year, according to Janet Martin, chairwoman of the high school's counseling department. In math, the scores fell from 511 to 501.

In a new third category, writing, students scored 493, Martin said. A perfect score in any portion of the test is 800.

The Pennsylvania statewide averages were 493 in critical reading, 500 in math and 483 in writing, Martin said. Nationally, the averages were 503 in critical reading, 518 in math and 497 in writing.

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"We went down a little bit and, in my opinion, it's probably because they added the writing component to it," Martin said. The writing test gives students 25 minutes to write an essay from a selection of subjects, she said.

However, the impact on scores might have more to do with the writing test lengthening the time it takes to complete the SATs, which was already a few hours long, she said.

Another factor might be the number of students taking the SATs, said Eric Michael, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. The test was taken by 320 students in 2006, up from 305 the year before.

One sure way of raising SAT test scores is to only encourage a school's best and brightest students to take it, an approach the district does not endorse, Michael said.

Instead, the district has used a $69,000 state grant for a testing program that students will have access to online at school and at home.

Training for teachers and guidance counselors in Peterson's Total Online Prep Solution will be Sept. 19 and the program will be available to students by the end of this month, Michael said.

"We bought enough licenses for all our high school students, if they want to participate," Michael said.

Students can use the prep program during study halls, working with teachers or counselors trained in it, or at home on their own time, Michael said. Along with the SAT, he said the program can be used to prepare for advanced-placement testing.

Martin said she encourages a broader group of students to take the SATs, even if they do not plan to attend college immediately after high school. Within a few years of high school, some of those students might reconsider as they explore career alternatives, she said.

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