Boot camp for the brain

RCS and the McNair Educational Foundation host a SAT/ACT boot camp.
Jul. 18, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Learning about math and English aren't the usual boot camp activities, but students in the Rutherford County School (RCS) system are working on their brain muscles this summer.

RCS in partnership with the McNair Educational Foundation offered a free SAT/ACT Prep Summer Boot Camp for students which began Monday, July 8 and runs through Friday, July 19 at the Cool Springs Administration Building.

"We are seeking to better prepare students for college entrance exams," said Renee Collins, director of secondary education at RCS. "We offered the boot camp giving a priority to seniors who will be taking exams in the fall because their need has time constraints. We wanted to provide the opportunity to them."

The 50 rising sophomores, juniors and seniors that attended the free camp were split into morning and afternoon sessions where they are working on math and English test-taking skills for the ACT and SAT. Julie Pittman, an English teacher at R-S Central, is teaching the English portion, while Kara Smims, a math teacher at East Rutherford High School, is spearheading math.

"We've worked on English and writing skills, taken practice quizzes and they've worked in partners to discuss things. I think when they work in partners they can grasp information better," Pittman said.

According to Pittman, the SAT covers reading, math and writing while the ACT also has science.

"This boot camp is a lot of work because we have two full tests and a handful of other practice tests and we touch a little on science," Pittman said. "We've also opened up an online course through Angel, our website that the students have access to, specifically for boot camp students. There they can find resources, tips, materials and information to use throughout the school year. We're hoping it gives these kids a leg up on their tests."

Kyle Bingham, a graduate of Chase High School and Parks Scholar at North Carolina State University, also volunteered his time to help with the camp.

"I've taken the SAT eight times so I thought I would come and share my knowledge," Bingham said. "I'm telling them about shortcuts to things. There's always at least three ways to solve a problem and I'm talking to them about how to find the shortest way."

Throughout the week students have been getting step-by-step instructions and test-taking strategies. They have also been set up on various websites that allow them to see the SAT/ACT scores that are required for schools they might want to attend. This allows them to track their own progress.

"I've learned how to analyze and to read the whole passage. You can't just skim through it," said Jared Foster-Smith, rising senior at R-S Central High School.

"I wanted to take the course to help me make the right decision on which test to take and how to answer the questions," said South Bright, rising junior at East Rutherford High School.

Collins said the students have been finding the camp very beneficial in preparing for their upcoming tests.

"They feel better prepared but also know how to continue to prepare. We want our students to be highly competitive," Collins said. "There's a broad spectrum of needs in our system and we have students with a ride range of aspirations. We are meeting them where their need is."

RCS is also planning to work with students at all of the high schools on SAT/ACT prep during the upcoming school year. Each school will be offering Method Test Prep, an online student-managed test prep course.