DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Thalina Salinas earns high grades in her daily coursework as a Junior at Bryan Adams High School.

Wednesday, the 16-year-old Dallas Independent School District student admitted her nervousness about a new academic endeavor only experienced by one person she’s known. “I didn’t even open the book until last night,” she said.

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The book Salinas referenced is a study guide for the SAT exam.  This week Salinas joined 9,000 other Dallas ISD students who collectively congregated in classrooms throughout the school district to complete the national test, often used as the tool of acceptance into college.

The school district offered the SAT exam free of charge.  The Dallas ISD Board of Education approved an expenditure of $500,000 to finance the test taking for the students.  Why?  School district officials explained the expense two-fold:  too many DISD students faced financial and transportation barriers accessing the traditional weekend administration of the SAT tests.  Also, the district wants to incorporate college readiness into a wider swath of the school district’s overall culture.

Dr. Linda Johnson, Executive Director of Dallas ISD’s College and Career Readiness Division, said the student SAT scores also help teachers and schools improve.

“The test results allow us to diagnose areas where we need to increase instruction and support for students.”

With so many students taking the college entrance exam for the first time, school district officials are certain the overall scores will not be strong.  But students have been told they can retake the exams if they choose.

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The free tests are a first plunge for so many who’ve never viewed college entrance as a part of their future after high school.

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