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U-High student beats the odds with SAT score

The hallways are lined with black metal lockers, one stacked on top of the other. The floor is speckled with gray and black, smooth as ice. Between the floor and the lockers, the chatter of students bounces from one place to another, with no ending.

"Here's my locker," he said. "But I never use it. I don't even know the combination."

U-High senior Steve Monk scored a perfect 2400 on his SAT. Monk is involved in football, basketball and baseball, along with Key Club and French Club.

He, Steve Monk, a high school senior at the University Laboratory School, is just one student in a uniformed crowd of more than 1,300 others enrolled. As he walks past his locker, he passes glass cases of trophies—some for academics, some for athletics. But Monk always looks straight ahead, bee-lining it to his next spot.

Although the LSU Lab School is recognized for its academic excellence in teachers and students, Monk is an anomaly. Sure, he is involved in athletics—football, basketball and baseball. He is part of academic clubs such as Key Club, French Club and student council. And he has been a straight-A student his entire life.

But in June, Monk did something no student at the Lab School has ever done. He earned a perfect score on his SAT—a 2400.

The SAT, marching hand-in-hand with the ACT, has been the source of stress and anxiety among high school juniors and seniors for years, along with good grades and plenty of extracurricular activities, of course.

The SAT tests students on reading, writing and math. Test-takers are awarded one point for correct answers, subtracted .25 of a point for incorrect multiple-choice answers, with zero points subtracted for incorrect answers on student-produced responses or omitted questions. The essay portion of the exam is a sub-score from 2-12 points, along with the multiple-choice writing questions from 20-80. Lastly, the raw score is then analyzed and reported from 200-800.

According to the SAT percentile ranks for 2009 college-bound seniors, a score of 800 put a student in the 99th percentile—he or she scored above 99 percent of test-takers that year.

"It's extremely rare," said Wade Smith, Lab School director. "I think less than 1 percent of the population receives a perfect score."

Even in pop-culture, a perfect score on the SAT is seen as achieving the impossible. In 2004, "The Perfect Score" was released—a film about a group of students attempting to cheat on the SAT. Even the television series "Saved By The Bell" covered the issue when star-student Jessie scored a 1200 on her SAT, but surfer boy Zack earned a 1502, when the test was scored out of 1600.

But Monk earned his score fair and square, starting with the ACT.

"I took the ACT twice, scoring a 35," he said. "I knew I could do better, but my parents weren't going to let me take it again."

So, Monk moved on to the SAT, scoring a 2280 on his first try.

"I prepared for the test before I took it the first time," he said. "I felt fully prepared the first time, but I knew if I took it again, I would do better."

Monk said when he took his second SAT, he felt confident.

"I knew there was a chance it could be a 2400," he said. "I was a little worried about the essays and how they're graded."

With his winning score, Monk said he plans to go to college and study medicine, perhaps neuroscience. He would also like to play college football.

Monk is humble about his achievements, with a soft-spoken voice he often only speaks when prompted. But others know his capabilities.

As he walks down the hallway, away from the pack, he heads toward the school gym where a volleyball game is about to start. When he takes his seat, two parents start to chatter—"He is so smart," one said. "I've known his siblings for years," the other said.

Monk is a triplet. His brother, Donald, and his sister, Meredith, both attend the Lab School.

"It's pretty cool being a triplet," Monk said. "I don't have anything else to compare it to, so it seems pretty normal for me because I've grown up with it."

The Lab School has been a part of the LSU campus since 1915. It was created as a high school that would provide teachers and pre-service teaching candidates an opportunity to study teaching methods.
Steve and his siblings have attended the Lab School since 6th grade. Over the years, the Lab School has come a long way to become recognized as a school of Academic Distinction.

The Lab School opened its doors in 1915 at the LSU Pentagon Campus on North Third Street. It was created as a high school that would provide teachers and pre-service teaching candidates an opportunity to study and observe teaching methods. The Lab School enrolled 100 students in grades 8-11 to begin. Years later, 7th grade was added.

In 1925, LSU moved to the new campus and brought the Lab School with it, in the College of Education at Peabody Hall. Twenty years later, the Lab School had grown to teach grades 1-12, and added kindergarten in 1981.

The instructors at the Lab School have at least a master's degree, many with doctorate degrees, including several from LSU. They have received local and national awards and honors, creating a large part of the Lab School's identity as a college preparatory public school with a high academic standard.

Students here exceed the national average score on the iLEAP, and score higher than the state average in English, math, science and social studies.

But Monk is still one of a kind. He knows he won't be the last to earn a perfect SAT score, offering his own test advice.

"Learn the format of the test," he said. "Review all the content. Be calm. Trust that your preparation will succeed."