Sandpoint students surpass state average for SATs

by RACHEL SUN
Staff Writer | December 19, 2020 1:00 AM

Students at Sandpoint High School surpassed the national and state average for their SAT scores in 2020.

David Miles, SHA principal, said the average test scores for students at the high school was 1033, 56 points higher than the state’s average of 977.

What is most important to recognize, Miles said, is the school’s growth from the previous year.

“From our last SAT test date, we grew by 24 points and the national average dropped,” he said.

Jerelyn Mire, a post-secondary transition counselor at SHS, said the improvement across the school is thanks to the collaboration between different teachers and students and parents prioritizing the SAT testing.

“The most exciting thing about that is it’s not a group we cherry-picked, it’s all the seniors,” Mire said.

Another reason students did better, Mire said, is that the school board has prioritized SAT prep, including spending school dollars to allow freshmen to take the PSAT and sophomores to take the SAT.

“Our board has made it a focus to make sure we give the SAT priority,” he said. “We’re giving them those opportunities because that is a district and community focus.”

Nachele Search, a math teacher at Sandpoint High School, said that she couldn’t speak to any long-term trends, but on her end had introduced students to the Khan Academy SAT preparation program — an online learning program that allows students access to official SAT practice tests and shows them how to do problems after the test is completed.

Search also said that one local resident, Lida Larson, had helped many local high schools prep for the SAT.

“She has helped a ton of our kids here,” Search said. “She’s just a community gal that works hard.”

Pam Webb, an English teacher at SHS, said in her classes and others students are given 10-minute reading periods at the beginning of class.

“so much of what they do is just scrolling,” she said. “Many of them don’t even read books anymore.”

Teachers have also been employing programs like Quizlet for vocabulary, and proofreading exercises similar to certain multiple-choice questions in the SAT.

One of the biggest things that’s helped students, Webb said, has been being able to meet on a daily basis. Students seem to retain information better than when they meet every other day, she said, and are better at engaging with the texts.

Because class periods are shorter, Webb and other teachers have had to cut their curriculum down to bare bones, she said. Instead of 40 questions, she might have 30 that students do a deep dive on.

“They’re getting a good, solid education, but they’re just getting the cake, they’re not getting the frosting,” she said. “I always say I think our mascot should be Gumby, because we have to be flexible.”

In addition to the SAT scores, SHS also recently received the GreatSchools College Success Awards for the students’ college success and go on rates.

According to the organization, 61% of SHS students were pursuing college following their high school graduation, and 59% continued their college career after the first year at their college or university.

SHS was given the award because their students surpassed the college success and go on rates compared to other schools in the region, Miles said. Many students also drop out of college after their first year because they find they’re not ready, but the majority of SHS students stayed.

“I would like the community to know that their support, that their appreciation, is leading to a lot of success in our students,” Miles said.

Mire said that although SATs aren’t always fun for students or parents, the effort families put in has made a difference.

“It might not be how they want to spend their day, but they do it, they take it seriously,” she said.