BHS Administration, Faculty Make SAT Test Preparation Priority

By Hannah Povroznik on October 10, 2018 via

For high school students who plan on attending college, the thoughts of test scores are always on the mind. Compile that with demanding high school schedules and extra-curricular activities, there is little time to decode the SAT test. In an effort to ease stress and provide students with successful SAT tricks and tips, Bridgeport High School leadership has made test preparations a main priority.
When Mrs. Renee Mathews took the position as BHS vice principal, increasing student SAT test scores was one of her first initiatives.
“The state has offered a great opportunity with the Promise Scholarship. If we can help our kids earn money through this test, I really want to do my best for them,” she said. “I know how expensive college is and having that debt is painful.”
“I believe the SAT provides some of the most valuable feedback a student can receive before going to college,” Mathews said.
Mathews’ next step was to link each student’s College Board account, a site that allows students to review their test scores online, to a Khan Academy account, a site where students can practice the topics they struggle with in school through videos and worksheets. This is revolutionary since each student has an online individualized practice strategy to increase test scores.
For Mathews, supporting students in their academic achievements was a passion that began in her early teenage years.
“School wasn’t always easy for me, so I had to find different techniques to study harder topics,” she said.
At first, her dream was to become an engineer. However, while she was in college, she held study sessions for her peers who noted her ability to make difficult concepts make sense. Mathews taught Statistics and Calculus at Bridgeport until she was promoted to her current position. In her classroom, Mathews knew she was making an impact.
“I wanted to make differences for kids on a larger scale,” she said.
In her current position, Mathews feels she has an outlet to help hundreds of students every year.
She believes a successful year of SAT prep is achieved when students are familiar with the test, have reduced anxiety, and feel that they have prepared themselves to the best of their abilities.
Mathews called on the assistance of AP English and Theater teacher, Mr. Jared St. Martin-Brown, and math teacher, Mrs. Charlea Ramsey. With school curriculum funds, a SAT practice book was purchased. During the week, both teachers spend a portion of their time visiting homerooms and teaching tips and suggestions from the practice book.
Brown was tasked with the English aspect of the test.
“I believe the main thing students need to know is the format,” he said.
He compared the SAT to a game that students can win.
“The best way to win is increasing your reading skills, being aware of what a right answer looks like, and eliminating the distractors test makers create,” he said.
Since it is primarily a reading test, reading skills and the ability to process information quickly is all that is required to beat it. When Brown was asked to tutor students in SAT preparations, he was happy to accept the challenge.
“The subject that I have always felt closest to and most passionate about has been English,” he said.
Brown has always had a love for literature. After leaving the Air Force, he pursued his career in teaching.
His goal for coaching students is for all students to have the score they need to pursue the career that they want.
“Colleges want students who can take in new information, see its meaning, comprehend it, and synthesize it into new ideas,” Brown said. “We need a generation of creative people who can come up with new ideas for the challenges that come.”
Ramsey, responsible for the math aspect of the test, dove into the practice book’s examples, explanations, and strategies to identify ways she could orient the student to the test and marked examples she felt were important to practice.
Although her teaching journey began as a K-12 special education teacher, Ramsey loved the math curriculum much more than other subjects. Eventually she returned to school to complete her math certification.
“In the process of learning how to teach and taking course work, I realized math was where I belonged,” she said.
Ramsey can relate to the anxiety this test causes students.
“If I had a teacher who could help me be less scared of the test, that would have been amazing,” she said.
She took the exam twice during high school.
“The way the test was written was really intimidating,” said Ramsey, adding that stress has a direct impact on scores. “We are trying to help students understand the test. Knowing the tricks, the distractions, and narrowing down choices helps increase scores. We are trying to decode the test itself.”
On the College Board website, teachers can access students’ answers and read their essays.
“The goal for SAT practice is meeting you where you are and taking you further and we can pinpoint where the weaknesses are and address them head on,” Ramsey said.
According to College Board Math statistics, if students do nothing after taking the SAT test, they could increase their score by 60 points. If students complete six to eight hours of practice after linking their College Board and Khan Academy accounts, they can increase their score by 90 points. If students accomplish 20-22 hours of practice, they can increase their score by 115 points. 
“Teaching kids reminds me to pray often. Forget the fact that I have to teach them complex algebra and geometry, I am also dealing with the fact that they might not have had a meal the night before or breakfast that morning.” Ramsey said. “You live the problems of your students, but you also get to live their successes.”
Ramsey concluded her thoughts with these final words: “It’s always worth it.”

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