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About 85 percent of Lompoc Unified School District’s 11th-grade students took SAT exams this month with no out-of-pocket costs, thanks to a new district initiative.

The test, which can be critical for many students in their college application process, was offered to all LUSD high school juniors March 7. The 562 students who took advantage of the offer not only were able to complete the test, but also received unique access codes to gain access to online score reports and other college and career exploration programs made available by the College Board, which develops the SAT.

Lompoc school officials claim that LUSD is the first school district in the region to offer the SAT free for all high school juniors. In 2017, the cost to take an SAT was about $60, with optional add-ons that could run the cost well above the $100 threshold.

“We are extremely proud to offer this opportunity to all of our students,” said LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald.

LUSD has committed to offering the test free to students and their families at least through the 2019-20 school year. Funding for the testing was included in the district’s 2017-20 Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, which outlines how the district intends to allocate funds.

According to that plan, which was approved by the LUSD board of education on Sept. 12, 2017, the district earmarked $70,000 for the testing this year, $80,000 for the 2018-19 school year and $90,000 for 2019-20.

That funding covers the SAT exams, as well as College Board’s Advanced Placement tests for students who are completing AP courses.

“We know that education is the great equalizer,” said Kathi Froemming, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services. “We are grateful to champion this effort.”

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The students took the tests at their regular school campuses. The SAT is designed to focus on skills and knowledge that will better prepare students for college and the workforce. It covers vocabulary and math that are widely used in college and career fields, and it features an essay to assess students’ ability to write coherently and analytically.

Taking the SAT, according to LUSD, provides the following advantages to students:

  • It measures the reading, math and writing skills needed for college, and for success in most jobs and careers in today’s world. After the test, students can see how their skills measure up by reviewing their score report, which can also be used by students to find their “skill gaps” so they can make plans to fill those gaps before college begins.
  • The Student Search Service gives SAT test takers the option to voluntarily place their names and addresses in a pool of college-bound students interested in receiving admission and financial aid information from certified colleges, universities and scholarship agencies.
  • The College Board has teamed up with Khan Academy to provide personalized, online practice tools for students at no cost.
  • Juniors who score well may qualify for National Merit Recognition and scholarships.
  • It provides valuable information to parents and students on student potential for advanced academics in high school.

Score reports are expected to be available to the students in April, LUSD reported.

“We will continue to put the focus on students and providing them with every opportunity possible,” McDonald said. “Our students deserve access to resources that other students in Santa Barbara County and the state have.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.