Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Heritage Oak School exceeds PSAT writing expectations

Heritage Oak School

Each fall, eighth through eleventh grade students across the United States have an opportunity to participate in The College Board’s PSAT testing services to prepare for the SAT College Entrance Exam. Students that participate in the PSAT assessments can determine if they have met or exceeded benchmarks in two categories which would indicate they are ready to take the SAT for college entrance and scholarship opportunities.

Fall 2020 scores were recently released and 96% of the students at Heritage Oak School in grades 8-11 met or exceeded the reading and writing portion of the PSAT.

“The PSAT/NMSQT measures the skills and knowledge that research shows are the most important for success in college and career. The Reading Test measures comprehension and reasoning skills and focuses on close reading of passages in a wide array of subject areas. The Writing and Language Test measures a range of skills, including command of evidence, expression of ideas, and the use of standard English conventions in grammar and punctuation. The Math Test covers a range of math practices, with an emphasis on problem solving, modeling, using tools strategically, and using algebraic structure.” (PSAT/NMSQT Understanding Scores, College Board, 2020-2021)

Students who meet or exceed benchmark scores are considered on grade level or above and if they continue to progress at the same pace, they are expected to be college ready upon graduation and 75% more likely to receive a C or better in first year college courses. Those who do not meet or exceed the readiness skills to progress to college based on their current grade level are scored as approaching benchmark (less than one year below) or identified as “needs to strengthen skills” (at least one grade level below or more).

Few schools require students to take the PSAT as it is generally considered optional and only for those who plan to attend college. However, in 2017 Heritage Oak began requiring all grade appropriate students to take the PSAT to provide feedback on curricula and teaching methods for college readiness and to help students prepare regardless of their plans. Head of School, Amy Walker, shared “I was one of those students who really had no desire to go to a university when I was in high school and I did little to prepare myself for a college education. However, by the end of my senior year, my perspective completely changed, and I had to scramble to make the transition and get ready. I believe my story is not all that unique and most students are in the same position. Our goal at Heritage Oak is to help students to be ready for whatever God might have for them after graduation, whether it is to work in a trade, enlist in the military, or attend college. We would not be doing our job if we did not prepare them.”

Mrs. Walker shared that all Heritage Oak students are required to take a writing course every year beginning in seventh grade and culminating with the Senior Thesis in grade 12. Other courses include essay composition, research writing, poetry, and finally, a year of logic followed by two years of rhetoric which focuses on persuasive writing and speaking. The school faculty works together on assignments and semester projects so students are writing in all subject areas including math and science.

Mrs. Carol Andersen, writing teacher at Heritage Oak, shared “I was pleased but not surprised at the high test scores on the PSAT. The last three years have seen award winning essays in the American Legion writing contest, as well as the creative writing competition hosted by the Association of Christian Schools International. “

In summary, Mrs. Walker added, “Test scores never tell the entire story; however, such strong findings do indicate that our reading and writing program for students is robust and effective. I am incredibly pleased with the adjustments we have made to improve our writing program and how those changes have helped students across the board. No matter what they do after graduation, the writing skills they have acquired will go with them and help pave the way to a successful future career.”