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Area high schools yield dozen academic aces

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A Franklin graduate’s goal was to prepare for his future career, not to earn a perfect score on an exam.

But after signing up for Advanced Placement courses at Franklin Community High School, Kevin Stahl was more familiar with the terms and concepts on the science portion of the ACT exam. So when he took the test a second time, he aced the science section.

Stahl is one of 12 students from a local or southside school who earned a perfect score on at least one section of the SAT or ACT last school year.

During the 2012-13 school year, 11 students from the county’s public schools received perfect scores on sections of the ACT and SAT, and Roncalli High School had 22 students who received perfect scores.

Students must take one

Students planning to attend college have to take either the SAT or ACT exam, and each test has sections assessing students’ reading, writing, math, science and other skills.

The SAT tends to be the more popular exam among local students. Between 56 percent and 78 percent of 2013 graduates from public schools took the SAT, while 36 percent took the ACT.

Local high schools try to prepare students for the college-level exams by including vocabulary from the SAT in their daily lessons and offering study sessions before and after school.

What works?

For Stahl, the best preparation for his exam was taking college-level courses while in high school. The Franklin graduate took the test as a sophomore and then again as a senior.

When he took the exam the first time, his goal was simple: earn a score as high as possible so that he wouldn’t have to spend another Saturday morning taking the roughly four-hour exam.

He doesn’t remember the score he received the first time. His math and science courses up to that point were helpful, but there were many questions and terms in the science section that he didn’t understand.

Stahl’s goal is to study nuclear engineering at Purdue University, and to make that happen he’ll have to apply to the specialty program after his freshman year. To prepare for that, he took Advanced Placement courses, including Chemistry II his junior year.

Stahl and his classmates in the advanced chemistry class regularly conducted experiments based on lessons such as hydrogen bonding.

Sometimes it was a struggle to completely master a new lesson or concept before it was time to carry out a new experiment in the lab, he said.

If an experiment didn’t go as planned, he and his classmates would review with their teacher what they learned from the experience.

The pace was faster than some of his previous science classes, and the college-level lessons also helped him learn more terms and definitions commonly used in science, he said.

Better understanding

So when Stahl retook the ACT last school year, he recognized more of the terms and better understood what the questions were asking.

“I actually understood what a lot of the words meant the second time around,” he said.

Stahl wasn’t expecting a perfect score when he took the ACT a second time, and he isn’t sure how well retaking the test helped with the scholarships he received from Purdue. But he and his family were proud of the accomplishment.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” he said. “It was pretty cool though.”

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