Rappahannock leads pack again

Posted on Monday, October 28, 2013 at 8:00 am

Although Rappahannock High School once again led area schools in average SAT scores, no school in the Northern Neck or Essex County matched either the national or state averages.

For the 2012-2013 school year, Virginia public schools overall out-paced the national average SAT scores in critical reading (512 over 491), mathematics (511 over 503) and writing (494 over 480).

Rappahannock High School (RHS) was the closest on the Northern Neck to the averages with mean SAT scores of 487 in reading, 473 in math and 471 in writing.

In critical reading, Lancaster High was behind RHS with an average score of 452, followed by Colonial Beach High with 450, Essex High with 446 and Northumberland High with 431.

In mathematics, Northumberland was closest to RHS with an average score of 451, followed by Essex with 450, Lancaster with 442 and Colonial Beach with 440.

In writing, RHS was 35 points ahead of the next highest-scoring school, Essex High, which had an average of 436. Northumberland followed Essex with 430, Lancaster with 427 and Colonial Beach with 410.

It is important to note that scores for Washington and Lee High School were not received as of press time.

According to RHS Principal Jesse Boyd, Rappahannock students’ overall critical reading score of 487 was an increase over last academic year’s average of 463. Writing also jumped from 448 to 471 in 2013. Math, however, went down slightly from 478 in 2012 to 473.

While Boyd said that RHS is statistically remaining constant in its scores, the high school has employed certain initiatives this year to improve students’ SAT numbers.

“What we’ve done this year for the first time, we’ve got…every member of the 11th grade class taking the PSAT [test],” said Boyd, who added that the students completed the PSAT Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Boyd added that an SAT preparatory course is being offered to Rappahannock students this year for the first time.

“Our teacher in there is a certified English teacher and he’s getting some help with the math components of the SAT, so we’re hoping that proves successful. We’ve got about 17 kids in that class right now,” said Boyd.

In relaying information from Essex High School Principal Angela Mosley, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lori Watrous said EHS is incorporating more literacy and vocabulary in all of its classes as well as emphasizing Writing Across the Curriculum in every subject area.

In addition, Watrous said, the high school provides students with information about review strategies and testing skills.

Lancaster High School Principal Dr. Holly Wargo said LHS teachers are working hard this year to align instruction differently.

She added that weekly and monthly professional development on instructional focuses such as student engagement and differentiating instruction to meet individual students’ learning needs, is ongoing throughout the year.

Additionally, the high school is trying to work with multimedia and implement a literacy initiative across the entire school, Wargo said.

“[We’re] trying to promote recreational reading, meaning high interest reading for students in addition to their academic reading that they have in their regular courses,” said Wargo, who added that her school is investigating the potential use of SAT prep, whether it’s online preparation or an actual SAT prep course, so that students understand what the SAT is and relevant test-taking strategies.

“You want to create as much exposure [as possible] for kids to know what to expect on the SAT,” said Wargo.

She added that LHS is working to strengthen its partnerships with families in order to bolster student achievement.

“It takes everybody. It can’t just be the school,” said Wargo. “It has to be everybody working together…to support the students.”

At Northumberland High School, Principal Dr. Travis Burns said that the PSAT test is now being administered to juniors, and that students are to learn test-taking strategies that are appropriate for the SAT.

In working to strengthen math scores, Burns said NHS is promoting students’ earlier enrollment into Algebra II and other upper-level math courses so that they are “not exposed to questions that they don’t have remotely any inkling of how to answer.” Burns added that the high school is encouraging math teachers to integrate SAT questions into their lesson plans.

To improve writing scores, Burns said the high school is motivating its English teachers to develop writing rubrics with uniform expectations.

“It’s my strong belief that if you have common expectations as to what you’re looking for in terms of writing…that would greatly benefit our students in terms of performance…not only on the SATs but also on the [Standards of Learning].”

To bolster critical reading scores, Burns spoke to NHS promoting recreational reading, or reading for pure enjoyment, among its students.

“I find that a lot of kids are spending more time reading social media type things as opposed to the literature, the recreational reading that you would perhaps see on an SAT,” said Burns.

While he said that social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter were “good tools,” Burns noted that the SAT measures students’ reading endurance.

“If a student can’t read a passage because they don’t just have that will to get through that passage because they’re used to reading 140 characters on Twitter as opposed to the length of characters that’s on an SAT question, it’s going to be a challenge for them,” said Burns.

Andrew Hipple, who became Principal of Colonial Beach High this year, said his school is also offering an SAT preparatory course to students, particularly high school juniors and seniors. The principal aim of the course is to give students more experience with the style of questions that they will see on the actual SAT tests.

“We can’t simulate the whole test in one class period, but over a series of activities and test-taking strategies as well as vocabulary as well as just practice with the style of questions, we’re hoping to make a positive impact on those SAT scores for this upcoming year,” said Hipple.

“One of the goals of the class is that every child will, by the end of the class, feel comfortable enough that they’re ready to take the SAT between now and next spring and be successful with it,” he added.

While Washington and Lee’s SAT scores were unavailable as of press time, Principal Andrea Roane said she categorized the high school’s numbers as being “average” and that there was ”room for improvement.”

“I would like to see us utilize and take advantage of more resources so that we can help students improve,” said Roane.

Recently, 27 Washington and Lee students attended a workshop at J.R. Tucker High School called “Beating the Odds” conducted by John Swann, a renowned professional who works with students on how to improve their SAT scores, Roane said.

She added that teachers and guidance counselors are also taking similar workshops as well as participating in in-house activities in order to teach students the strategies that are necessary for excelling on the SAT.

In addition, Roane said the school’s guidance counselors provide little resources to students such as SAT Question of the Day, which they can access on their computers or smartphones.

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