"We want them taking these high-stakes exams. We want them challenging themselves at the highest levels of their abilities. We want them looking toward college."
Traditionally, only a minority of Mesa students took the PSAT, said Erik Pannizzo, a campus counselor.
Students who take the practice test score on average 120 points higher on the SAT, Pannizzo said.
"If kids can just get an awareness of what's going to be on the test, and then know what to study for when it really counts, it's going to be huge for them," he said.
The PSAT is a warm up for the SAT, a potentially life-changing exam.
"The one test that makes the biggest difference in a kid's life in going to college is the SAT," said Charles Hinman, N-MUSD's assistant superintendent of secondary education.
Helping students financially be able to take the PSAT is the Costa Mesa High School Foundation, which gave more than $11,000 to cover the per-test fees and renting tables and chairs, D'Agostino said.
D'Agostino started the program while principal at Estancia High School.
Estancia continues to test all of its sophomores, who are also taking the exam Wednesday along with the high-achieving eighth-grade students from TeWinkle Middle School, said Estancia's principal, Kirk Bauermeister.
In his second year at Estancia, Bauermeister said taking the PSAT increases SAT participation, helps students do better on the SAT and is a good indicator of students who should be in honors or Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
PSAT results are also one of the best ways to build an AP program, Hinman said.