Brandywine among 24 schools to score big on SAT

Published 8:28 am Tuesday, October 1, 2019

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — Brandywine High School seniors will graduate with notoriety beyond their diplomas, college scholarships and job offerings.

They were one of 24 student classes at Michigan public schools last academic year that scored above the state average on the SAT test while also having at least 50 percent of test takers qualifying for reduced-price lunches.

Brandywine’s 95 juniors scored an average of 992, seven points above the state average. Just over half could receive a reduced lunch.

Michigan’s 447 public school juniors can score between 400 and 1600 on the test, which is seen by many as a key factor in determining whether a college will accept a student and offer academic scholarship. 

Also key to college acceptance and success is socioeconomic status, according to the state of Michigan. While just under half of middle and upper-income juniors tend to be college-ready, only 17 percent of low-income students are. A way Michigan gauges socioeconomic status is through those qualifying for reduced lunch.

Brandywine High School Principal Patrick Weckel said SAT preparation begins in seventh grade.

“It’s a school-wide effort,” he said. “Bottom line is our students take it very seriously, which I’m so proud of them, and our staff works very hard to prepare the students. It’s a win-win. It’s a combination of great students and an amazing staff.”

Verena Daniel was among the students who took the SAT test last year. She recalls first preparing for the SAT in geometry her sophomore year. To warm up mathematical thinking, her teacher would give her class warmups featuring SAT preparation packets to get the students acquainted with the SAT’s style of questions.

She credits her junior-year English class with Nancy Mitchell as a reason for her performing well on the SAT.

“I think that class prepared me the most because most of the year, we were practicing for the essay part,” she said. “We were focusing on vocab and literacy.”

Mitchell said her students are smart, but the SAT test’s questions are meant to trick and confuse, while the test itself requires smart time planning.

That is why she places an emphasis on preparing students for the SAT with practice tests, vocabulary and rhetorical essays on top of her literature and writing lessons.

She said she sometimes combines her lessons with SAT preparation, such as having her students compare the rhetoric of Mark Antony and Brutus in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

Mitchell has found that numbers often motivate students the most, which is why she has them find out SAT minimums at colleges they are interested in, then has them take practice tests.

“I just try to have them get a taste of success because it’s infectious,” she said. “If you can get a taste of it, you can easily get them to buy into it.”

While an SAT test can help a student get into a college, school is meant to prepare students for future careers and everyday life.

Daniel said Brandywine has prepared her for these, too.  She found that classes and extracurricular activities, such as her work in sportscasting and social media directing, let her test different careers while giving her hands-on experiences.

Senior Camron Stout had similar sentiments. He currently interns two hours a day as a district information technology assistant.

“IT might be a possibility, but I’m more interested in biology,” he said. “[Being a] neurosurgeon is my end goal, and I’ve discovered that just because the science teachers here. They’re amazing. I love them all.”

He said an accounting class, his IT internship and being a teacher aide have all “opened his eyes” to different professions.

Patrick Stier teaches in capacities that prepare students for future careers and for college tests. He hosts classes on computer-aided drafting, computer applications and SAT test preparation.

Stier said his classes and other career technical education programs at Brandywine High School are meant to fill a skilled trades gap.

His class and the school’s machine tool class both count for credit through Lake Michigan College, making the transition to college easier. These programs also have partnerships with area businesses, which often need jobs Brandywine’s classes prepare students for.

“It’s another avenue not only to teach them some job skills, but also a different way to introduce some math, resume-building with English and problem solving,” he said.

That, in turn, could help students prepare for the SAT test.

High School counselor Angela Roeder helps students with social, emotional, career and academic issues. She promotes and provides resources for the SAT test while helping students with their collegiate and vocational choices.

She said her role is especially important for a district like Brandywine, where more of its students come from low-income households than the state average.

“They don’t have resources at home, so there’s nobody to guide them at home,” Roeder said about students. “They’re looking at me in my role to fill that position. I try to step in, along with the parents, and provide as many resources as I can.”

As juniors prepare to take the SAT next year, Roeder will continue to offer her assistance. Mitchell and Stier will prepare students for post-high school life, and Daniel and Stout will apply to colleges by sending their high SAT scores out.

3:27 p.m. Oct. 2, 2019: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Verena Daniel. We are happy to correct all errors.