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St. Lawrence Central School superintendent shares concerns about SAT numbers

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BRASHER FALLS - Thirty-seven percent of students in a recent graduating class at St. Lawrence Central School opted to take the SAT college admission test, and their scores were among the lowest in the state, something Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. says he wants to improve in future classes through their recently completed strategic plan.

“We can say that the scores don’t count, that it’s only a score. The reality is our kids are being sorted by the scores they get, our kids’ opportunities are decided by the scores they get. So we can say it doesn’t matter, but it does matter, and for my kids and my grandkids and your kids and your grandkids and everyone’s kids, it matters,” Mr. Vigliotti told board of education members Monday night.

G. Scott Thomas, project editor from Buffalo Business First, had compiled a database of SAT scores for all of the schools in New York state, and Mr. Vigliotti said St. Lawrence Central’s numbers were alarming. St. Lawrence Central’s scores ranked 406th out of 476 schools in the state.

In the three-county region of St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis, the district scored 28th out of 29.

“We can rationalize and say it doesn’t matter, but in reality those scores matter and those scores predict the type of life those kids are going to lead for the rest of their lives. So we need to dig into this and we need to get those scores up,” he said.

Without improvement in the scores, “Before they’re even out of high school doors are closing for them,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

He said he was also concerned that only 37 percent of that class took the SAT test.

“What are the other kids doing? It’s a little more than one out of three (taking the test),” he said. “If we’re preparing our kids to be college- and career-ready, the vast majority of our students should be taking the SAT.”

He noted that other schools had a higher percentage of students taking the SAT, and their scores were also better.

“Schools that had the high composite scores had the higher percentage of their kids taking the test. It’s an expectation,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

“So again, I’ve heard a lot of different opinions about how test scores aren’t important, that it’s only a score. If it’s my grandkids and it’s your kids and your grandkids, I guarantee, you want them to have as many opportunities as they can, and the only they’re going to have those opportunities is for us to bolster their ability to hit the mark. We’re going to concentrate on that; we’re gong to dig into that. That’s going to be something that we’re gong to really push hard on, push forward with,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

He suggested it would need to be a total effort from everyone.

“In my opinion, it should be an educational community expectation. I think the fact that so few take the tests, there’s a reason for that. I don’t know what the reason is because this is the beginning of my second year. I’m certainly going to do into that and find out why and who is influencing those things,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

While the cost of taking the SAT is $85, he said they couldn’t lose sight of the fact that taking the test was important regardless of the cost.

“We can’t take our eye off the ball of trying to increase the number of kids that are taking those exams or preparing them to take those exams. The way to start is to get more kids believing and actively involved that they can do it and they need to do it and it’s important to do it. That comes from administration, it comes from the guidance office, it comes from teachers’ classrooms, it comes from all different places and certainly the home,” he said.

“In cases where perhaps that is absent, the rest of the educational community needs to encourage that and get to open those doors. We can’t let the economics of it limit the kids because, again, their choices in life are based on that score. We definitely don’t want their socioeconomic status to determine whether they can or can’t take the test,” the superintendent said.

Board member Rhonda Shorette-Peets wondered if some students opted not to take the SAT because not all colleges required it.

“That potentially could be,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

But, he noted, to the best of his knowledge Ivy League schools did require the test.

“If they don’t take it, there are so many doors that have just closed. It doesn’t matter how smart they are if they didn’t demonstrate that. Ninety percent-plus schools require an SAT. I think that is something that we really need to stress. We should embrace where we are right now and try to make progress toward opening more doors for kids because that’s what this is, more opportunities for more kids. I’m sure there are ways we can work that out,” he said.

The benefits of taking an SAT should be instilled in students, he suggested.

“It’s a culture for kids to take the PSATs in 10th grade and then take a couple of shots at the SAT. But it has to be a culture, that ‘Hey, this is important and one of my ‘homework assignments’ during the next two-and-a-half years is going to be to take the PSATs and SATs and try to improve my performance so that I can potentially have more options,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

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