News: College Access & Success

College Crusade of Rhode Island’s Tips for Incorporating SAT Prep Into Student Programming

Wednesday, September 4, 2019  
Posted by: Kelly Mae Ross, Communications Manager
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For better or worse, a higher SAT score can open the doors to a wider range of colleges and financial aid opportunities. But NCAN members know that many students don’t have access to quality (or any) test preparation, and they are taking steps to level the test-prep playing field.

One resource some college access/success programs are using is Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. This free online resource from College Board has been shown to help students boost their SAT scores – six hours of SAT practice on Khan Academy is associated with a 90-point score increase, according to a 2017 study from Khan Academy and the College Board. An added benefit is that using the Khan Academy program can help students qualify for the College Board Opportunity Scholarships.

Each year at the NCAN National Conference, College Board presents the Khanfidence Builder Award to recognize a college access/success organization for incorporating Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy into their program to build students' readiness for the SAT and college. As we gear up for a new school year, NCAN reached out to past recipients of the award to learn what advice they could share with other organizations looking to offer or expand SAT prep for their students.

The mission of NCAN member the College Crusade of Rhode Island – the recipient of the 2016 Khanfidence Builder Award – is to increase high school graduation, college and career readiness, and college completion for youth in Rhode Island’s low-income communities. SAT prep (and PSAT prep) is one component of the organization’s programming.

The College Crusade spoke with NCAN via email to offer experience-based tips about incorporating new or improving existing SAT prep into a college access/success program.

What steps did your organization take to integrate SAT prep into programming for students?

This year, the College Crusade of Rhode Island expanded our SAT preparation program to include a summer PSAT/SAT boot camp, which helped more than 65 students prepare for the fall PSAT and SAT. The three-week session consisted of 12 three-hour classroom sessions and three 4.5-hour days of testing.

The boot camp is a complement to our existing spring SAT prep, which runs from January to April and helps prepare about 50 students for the April SAT. That program includes 24 classroom hours and 18 hours of testing.

We also conduct math SAT prep in our fall Saturday Math Academy. This includes a diagnostic at the beginning and end, plus 24 hours of SAT math on 10 Saturdays.

All SAT prep is encouraged, but optional.

At what age/grade level do you begin SAT prep for your students?

Rising seventh graders take our summer PSAT prep, and rising juniors take summer SAT prep. Juniors also can take SAT prep during the academic year.

Students use Khan Academy’s online tools to work individually or in small groups with instructor support as they practice grammar and math skills they learned during the College Crusade of Rhode Island’s PSAT/SAT Test Prep Boot Camp. The summer boot camp was open to College Crusaders entering grades 8 through 11, and it complements the College Crusade’s academic year test prep programs.

What tips would you offer other college access and success organizations looking to add new or improve existing SAT prep programming?

  • Incorporate Khan Academy into your program. The College Crusade previously used solely a teacher-centered model, but now we include Khan Academy as an additional resource. After students take the first test on Khan Academy, they get a personal learning plan they can view at home on their phones or laptops, and instructors review the test line by line with students to give them real-time feedback about areas where they need to improve. Our instructors teach around those personal learning plans, incorporating fun math games, allowing students to work in groups for vocabulary, reading and writing, and teaching them important test-taking strategies to help them improve their scores.

  • Hire instructors who work within the schools your students attend. We have the greatest results when we hire classroom teachers from our schools. These teachers know how to reach, manage, and teach our students; it’s the best way to keep our students engaged and coming back.

  • Be responsive to student needs. We created the summer PSAT/SAT boot camp because students told us their work schedules prevented them from attending SAT prep during the academic year.

  • Expose students to the test as much as possible. Many of our students have difficulty taking standardized tests, so putting them in front of the test as much as possible gets them familiar and more comfortable with it so they know what to expect on test day.

  • Catch students earlier. Creating a PSAT program got our students thinking and talking about college and the SAT much sooner. Students in our summer PSAT boot camp improved their scores an average of 140 points from the beginning to the end of the program.

Thank you to the staff of the College Crusade for their time and responses and to the organization as a whole for its NCAN membership.

(Photos courtesy of the College Crusade of Rhode Island)