Large Spartan population takes on PSAT, seniors take on workshops




One of the most important parts of high school is standardized testing, and to be successful with that, students must practice. On October 16th, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors all took the Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), whilst the seniors underwent several workshops put on by different parties.

In previous school years, only sophomores took the PSAT in the beginning of the second semester, and the juniors were given the option to take it early on in the year. This school year was the first in which all grades save the seniors took the PSAT together, at the same time.

Many students, particularly freshmen, wondered why they were expected to take the test, as most of the PSAT contains questions of a higher grade level. One component that convinced school officials to include more students in the PSAT is based on the fact that the results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a test taken by juniors in the spring, are the only data points the school has to measure progress among its students. “If we only test them in their eleventh grade year, we don’t know how they’ve done their ninth and tenth grade years, so we can’t see if they’ve grown or not,” explains Mr. Josh Ostini, Orcutt Academy High School’s Dean of Students and PSAT coordinator, “But we also know that the more opportunities students have to take the PSAT, the more likely they’ll be prepared for the actual SAT.”

However, it’s important to note that the PSAT doesn’t just benefit the school’s understanding of student progress, but it also gives juniors an opportunity to earn academic scholarships. Eleventh grade PSAT scores are sent off to different organizations, and students may end up receiving word that they are eligible for major and/or minor scholarships to universities around the country.

Students can expect to receive their results in six to eight weeks, which will consist of more than just a numbered score. College Board, the organization that makes all standardized tests on the national level, includes feedback in the test results. Students can see areas they did well in, as well as areas they need to improve on. “Students should reflect on their results,” says Ostini, which he reveals will have links to lessons on Khan Academy that students are strongly advised to use to improve on skills specific to their needs. “Khan Academy is cool because there’s just so many lessons that will focus on what students should be studying,” he shares.

While the rest of the school was busy testing, seniors participated in four different workshops that all offered valuable information and exercises preparing them for their lives after high school. In one of the workshops, Jostens, a manufacturing company that provides OAHS with its yearbooks and graduation essentials, talked to seniors about graduation gowns and other commemorations they can purchase for their final year of high school. This workshop more than likely hit seniors with the fact that in eight months, high school will indeed be behind them.

The second workshop was a lecture from one of Ostini’s friends from college, who talked about success. He has a degree in law, business, and mathematics, but he doesn’t practice in any of those fields. “His message was that it’s not about what you do, so much as who you are,” says Ostini. The workshop gave seniors a different perspective for looking at what exactly success is. “Everyone’s always asking, ‘What do you want to be?’ or ‘What do you want to do?’” Ostini says regarding his friend’s talk, “His argument was that you shouldn’t get caught up in that.” For example, if someone went to school to become a lawyer or a doctor because they thought it would make them happy, but then it doesn’t, they shouldn’t stick with that field. “Instead, you should focus on who you want to be,” reflects Ostini.

OAHS counselors Ana Perez and Monica Cedillo led the third workshop, which focused on mental health, an ongoing issue high school students face on a regular basis. They talked about different techniques that can be instilled to reduce anxiety and healthy coping skills that students can use during a stressful time. The seniors made their own stress balls by filling up balloons with flour, as well as bookmarks with quotes and positive thoughts written on them. Originally, the counselors were planning on starting scholarship applications with the seniors, but they decided to use their workshop time with a more health-based approach, aware of all the pressures seniors have dealt with over the years.

Allan Hancock College also came to visit the seniors for their fourth and final workshop, which took place outside. Students completed exercises that helped them develop people skills and strategies for team building. They played several different games, one of them being a contest between different teams to see who could build the tallest structure in a given amount of time. “It seemed like this was one of the workshops seniors enjoyed the most because it’s just so different from a classroom day,” observes Ostini. The workshop was very kinesthetic in his eyes, which he believes students appreciated as much as he did.

Mr. Ostini says that last Wednesday’s PSAT and senior workshops will continue for future years, as it was a massive success. About 98% of the student body in grades 9-11 showed up for the test, which means only eight students didn’t take the exam. While the senior attendance wasn’t as strong, Ostini is still very happy with how everything went, and he is looking forward to improving the day’s layout for years to come.