ECISD sets PSAT boot camp

Students going into their sophomore or junior year will get a glimpse of the PSAT standardized test during a PSAT Boot Camp set for next month.

There are two cohorts — one meeting July 8 and July 9 and the other on July 10 and July 11. Hours 8 a.m. to noon for both at Gregory Williams Hall on the Odessa College campus, 201 W. University Blvd. The cost is $25 and those interested can call to 456-8819 to sign up.

Director of Advanced Academic Services Omega Loera said one day will be English, reading and writing and the second will be math. Tracy Gomez, ECISD’s Princeton Review teacher, and Odessa High School math teacher Ray Mata will be the instructors.

She said the camp is open to incoming juniors, but sophomores also will be welcome.

“I think it’s an awesome program that gives the kids an opportunity, especially at an early age, to get exposed to the type of questions and the format of the questions,” Mata said.

The material may not be something the students are going to be fully familiar with until they get older.

“I think the Princeton Review stuff really focuses on how if you don’t understand the intention of the question, there are still ways to get around it,” Mata said.

He added that even if students don’t know the overall topic, there are techniques that Princeton Review teaches.

Mata said he doesn’t mind giving up a couple of days for the test prep.

“I think it’s awesome that these kids are giving up their time in the summer to do this. … If they’re willing to do this over the summer, they’re obviously goal driven and focused on the future,” he said.

Lilia Nanez, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the great thing about contracting with Princeton Review is that they have “a deep understanding of the tests and have created quality course content and teach strategies that will help students with anxiety.”

More than 3.5 million students that take the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, known as the PSAT, and “we are working to prepare our students to perform at higher levels so they will have access to scholarships. The PSAT scores determine if a student is eligible for National Merit Scholarship,” Nanez said in an email.

Nanez said the PSAT is a good indicator for on success on the SAT.

“We are now contracting with College Board to help us disaggregate the data from the PSAT and SAT results in order to improve instruction and fill in the gaps for students. Students who are enrolled in the boot camp will establish their account with College Board and will then gain access to practice test questions. The first year a boot camp is held, attendance is not what we want it to be, but as Princeton Review told us, ‘this is not uncommon. After the first year, the word gets out and attendance doubles the second year,’” Nanez wrote. 

Gomez offers a semester long Princeton Review class during the school year, Loera said. 

“This is something I’d actually been wanting to do for a long time,” Loera said of the boot camp. “Finding the funds to get this done was always one of those things. I visited with our Princeton Review teacher and asked if she would be willing to help with running the camp and she said sure, so we picked out some dates and decided we could do this boot camp over at Odessa College.”

They checked to see if that was possible and everything was a go, Loera said.

She added that there are 100 spots available for the two cohorts. But Loera was told it might not fill up because it’s new. After the first summer, Loera said she was told it will gain momentum because students will tell each other about it.

“Those are going to be your best advertiser,” she said. 

Loera said the college advisors have done a “fabulous job.” They sent the word out to the top 100 students at the schools and used social media.

“Anytime I’m anywhere, the doctor’s office or whatever, I’m talking about it trying to drum up some business,” Loera said.

She added that she got a couple of juniors who were counselors at the recent Scholars in Progress camp to sign up.

The camp will offer strategies and teach students how best to take the PSAT.

“The scholarship opportunities involved with the PSAT, I don’t think parents quite understand that it helps prepare them for the SAT. It helps them take advantage of free tools that the College Board offers, like Khan Academy, and then it provides information about the students’ progress toward college readiness. It alerts students to their potential to succeed in college-level AP courses and then it connects students to scholarships because it throws them into that National Merit scholarship program when they take the PSAT/NMSQT as juniors. That’s when it counts,” Loera said.

Loera said she and the high school college advisors recommend that students take the SAT and ACT because they might do better on one than the other.

“What I have learned from College Board is that the PSAT is very aligned to the SAT, so what you score on the PSAT probably would have been what you scored on the SAT. If you do the PSAT boot camp and/or even do the SAT prep course it will help kids up their scores,” Loera said. “Some of them have gone (up) anywhere from 200 to 400 points.”