Preparing for SAT and ACT exams has become the norm for college-bound high schoolers, but within the Newport-Mesa Unified School District educators take differing routes to help their students through the process.
Newport Harbor and Estancia high schools offer a free option through ePrep, an online study program in which schools, tutors and families can enroll children.
The program allows students to take a full-length practice test, review their results, assess which areas they can improve upon, watch pre-recorded videos from professional tutors on how to approach specific questions and then re-take the practice exam.
“It’s not a test that’s intuitive, so for any student, some kind of prep is important,” said Kathryn Favaro, college counselor and owner of academic planning service California College Prep. “That can cause a disadvantage for lower-income students who don’t have access to that and a lot of their peers are paying a decent amount for professional one-on-one prep.”
Newport Harbor and Estancia cover the price of ePrep’s courses for SAT and ACT exams, which would normally cost students $249 for 12 months of access.
The Estancia & TeWinkle Schools Foundation purchases the licenses to use ePrep at Estancia.
Juniors and seniors sign up for the program through the school counseling office.
The students meet once a week during school hours with an ePrep representative to check in on their progress. They can complete the rest of the course on their own time.
“We have students who are busy, whether they’re involved with sports, drama or music,” Estancia counselor Mindy Savage said. “But ePrep is available to them at all hours of the day as long as they have access to a computer.”
The program at Estancia runs January through December, but students can continue to join up throughout the year.
Newport Harbor High School’s general site budget covers the cost of ePrep for its students. Students may sign up through the counseling office on a rolling basis during the year.
“We have most students using the program in summer,” Newport Harbor college counselor Mary Glenn said. “There are test dates throughout the year, so students can choose when they want to start ePrep based on that.”
The picture is a little different at Costa Mesa and Corona del Mar high schools. Neither of the schools offer a school-wide prep course for students.
“I like to think that our students prepare for the SATs every day with what they learn in class, especially with the infusion of the Common Core curriculum,” Corona del Mar Principal Kathy Scott said.
Both schools have counseling offices that provide resources for SAT and ACT information, such as a list of test dates, registration deadlines, links to free practice tests and online tutorials and a list comparing the SAT and ACT’s test format, scoring, content covered and popularity.
Because not all students have access to private tutors and pricey SAT prep courses, some colleges are starting to consider SAT scores with a critical eye, according to Rachel Baker, UC Irvine assistant professor of educational policy.
“We’re seeing that there isn’t equal representation of students in more selective colleges, so why are we seeing that? It traces back to the opportunities students from different backgrounds have and what’s available at public schools.”
She added, “If a student has prep, is engaged in prep and that increases their score, then is the SAT a measurement of a student’s probability in succeeding in college or is it a measurement of socio-economic background?”
Back Bay, a continuation high school in Costa Mesa, does not offer prep programs or courses for the scholastic exam.
Students in Early College High School’s Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program have preparation for the college-entry exams built into their school day courses.
“About two-thirds of our students are in AVID, and they do have a form of SAT prep within their respective AVID classes they are enrolled in on our campus,” Early College Principal David Martinez said.
“The most important thing with SAT and ACT prep is to start early and practice,” Favaro said. “The more you expose yourself, the better. And in the end, these scores are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to your college application.”