READING – The School Committee at a recent meeting heard the annual Reading Memorial High School Guidance Report on presented by Guidance Director Lynna Williams.

Included in the report for the RMLD class of 2020 was the summary of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (S.A.T.) scores for the class of 2020. The scores were down from previous classes with the mean critical reading score 584, and the math score at 588. The prior class had a reading score of 587 and a math score of 593 both of which were down from the class or 2018 scores of 590 for reading and 595 in math. Williams reported the drop in test scores and the drop in the number of students taking the test were consistent with other high schools.

The S.A.T. scores were largely not affected by the onslaught of COVID-19 in mid-March but the college attendance figures were altered by the epidemic according to Williams. Local students had already taken the test and for the most part had applied to college before the virus struck but the ongoing pandemic did affect their ultimate plans and college choices.

No mention was made of A.C.T. exam scores in the presentation this year.

Williams explained, post high school plans were changed due to the pandemic. Only 80% of the class of 2020 are attending four year colleges compared to just over 87% for the prior year’s seniors. Five percent of the 2020 grads are attending two year colleges compared 7.5% the year before and three percent are attending prep/technical schools compared to just under one percent in 2019. The second major difference between the two graduating classes is that 12 % are listed as employed or other compared to 4.4% in 2019.

Due to the pandemic a number of students chose to take a gap year with plans to attend college next year as a result of questions regarding in person learning at many of the colleges this past September, health concerns, and financial considerations caused by COVID-19. The latter concern resulted in a higher number of students than usual attending Massachusetts public colleges. Williams explained 52% of the college bound graduates elected to attend college in Massachusetts with 47% attending State schools, a much higher percentage than in past years and 76% elected to attend college in New England. Williams said she was really proud of the seniors who emnraced challenges and did well.”

In all, students are attending 103 different four year colleges with seven percent attending college in New York State and only 17% attending college outside of New England and New York.

Guidance Department changes

Changes implemented included holding a Gap Year Fair and switching our College Fair to a College and Career Fair plus Improving the guidance website with more options about post secondary education. Professional Development was provided to counselors on options for students in the trades with programs such as partnering with the Northeast Voke Saturday Program and with Ben Franklin Institute of Technology for a dual enrollment program, and the You Science aptitude program.

Williams asserted” their goal was for 100% of the students to have a plan when they graduate.”

Guidance response to college admissions during the pandemic this year

The Guidance Department offered a Wednesday SAT in October for seniors only (will be doing the same for juniors March 3rd), held a virtual college admissions panel in addition to senior parent night, hosted 115 virtual college rep visits for seniors, eliminated our decile rank for seniors due to COVID and feedback from colleges last few years, and stayed on track with their timeline the entire fall and did not delay any part of their college admissions process.

Advanced Placement Tests remain strong

A summary of college Advanced Placement testing (AP) was also included in the presentation with Williams explaining 244 students primarily juniors and seniors participated in the program. AP tests can facilitate placement in college classes above the introductory level and indicates knowledge in specific subject areas. The number of students taking the tests was the same as last year and similar or higher than past years with class size taken into consideration.

The 2020 tests resulted in 26 students obtaining AP Scholars with Distinction based on scores of 3.5 or better on all exams (on a scale of 1-5) and 3 or better on five or more exams. The 26 students awarded this distinction was the highest number over the past five years. AP Scholars with Honors (15 students) and AP Scholar designations (29 students) were both the third highest number of students over the past five years.

RMHS has sought to increase the number of students taking AP level courses and taking the AP exams over the past few years. A score of three or better was achieved by 80% of the students taking an exam or exams. That percentage is slightly lower than the past four years with students getting a 3 or better ranging from 87.3% to 80.9 %. Colleges in general may offer advanced placement in a subject to students who score 3 or better on an exam.

School Committee members offered congratulations to Williams on her presentation and to the students for their performance last year.

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