Taunton Public Schools Offers Comprehensive College Prep Resources
TAUNTON — Superintendent John Cabral is pleased to share that despite the ongoing pandemic, Taunton High School juniors and seniors have continued to persist throughout their college prep in pursuit of post-secondary education.
To assist students in their college prep, Taunton Public Schools has implemented crucial programs that have provided greater access to post-secondary opportunities for all students while offering targeted support to economically-disadvantaged, traditionally under-represented and first-generation students.
In 2015-2016, Taunton Public Schools implemented district-funded exams and school-day testing, and since then the district has seen PSAT and SAT participation rates and test scores skyrocket.
Prior to 2015, Taunton High School students had low participation rates at 10-30% for the PSATs and 50% for the SATs due to several obstacles such as cost and transportation. Since 2015, approximately 90% of eligible students at Taunton High School have participated in school-day PSAT and SAT testing, and average test scores have increased from 470-490 to 489-505.
This year, approximately 125 juniors took the PSATs in January and 201 juniors took the SATs in April. Typically the entire junior class, approximately 400 students, would take these exams, but due to COVID-19, many students still opting to learn remotely and colleges going test-optional this year, many students chose not to participate in testing.
In addition to district-funded exams and school-day testing, the district offers a College Test Prep course and a Senior Seminar elective that focuses on test preparation, college applications and other career opportunities. The district also hosts numerous workshops throughout junior to senior year for students and parents to learn about the college application process, including a Summer College Boot Camp for rising seniors.
Throughout the college application process, Taunton High School counselors have also assisted families with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form as well. Guidance counselors have conducted FAFSA outreach through offering after school, evening and school break one-on-one virtual meeting sessions for families in need of additional assistance with the FAFSA form. This work has been supported by a competitive grant awarded by DESE to the district.
To assist their efforts in helping families with the FAFSA form this year, Taunton High School partnered with uAspire, a nonprofit organization with the mission of ensuring that all young people have the financial information and resources necessary to find affordable college options, to participate in FAFSA professional development training. The partnership, funded through a grant from DESE, has assisted guidance counselors in navigating the FAFSA process and has provided a hotline to answer questions for families that counselors may not have had the answers to. The grant will be available through June 30 with the opportunity to extend.
Following the implementation of a more intensive approach to FAFSA outreach, the district’s FAFSA completion rate has increased from 39% in February 2021 to 52% as of mid-April – an increase of 13% in just six weeks. This rate is 3 points higher than the state average of 49%.
As a result of these crucial programs, Taunton Public Schools has had an exceptionally high college application rate compared to other schools this year. In terms of applications submitted to Bridgewater State University, Taunton Public Schools’ year-to-date applications increased 7% this year. From December to February, BSU saw Taunton High School applications increase from 64 applications to 117 in just two months. Taunton Public School students have also been accepted into highly selective schools including: Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Villanova and Notre Dame, to name a few.
“This is a phenomenal accomplishment since there is a national trend of fewer students applying to colleges this year, especially those who are identified as first generation, low income and/or students of color,” Superintendent Cabral said. “And yet, despite the ongoing pandemic, our students are continuing to pursue post-secondary education at a higher rate than the national average this year and are continuing to take advantage of all the resources Taunton High School and its guidance counselors have to offer.”