The introduction of Common Core educational standards has led La Salle Institute to ditch the state’s final exams.
Students won’t take Regents exams this year, and they won’t take Common Core exams when those replace the Regents, said Brother Carl Malacalza, principal of the school.
The school had been discussing the issue for six years, he explained, saying La Salle created its own final exams and had students take those in addition to the Regents. The school also stopped reporting Regents exam grades on transcripts and didn’t factor them into students’ final scores.
“We found that our own examinations represented the student’s ability and progress better,” he said.
But now students will skip the Regents exams altogether.
“We won’t be hosting any state testing,” Malacalza said. “We felt that the timeline with the rollout of the standards and the testing didn’t give our teachers enough time to adequately prepare our students. The additional two weeks at the end of the school year also allows teachers to continue their lessons, as opposed to preparing for a standardized test.”
But he added he was pleased with some of the curriculum changes with Common Core.
“The new standards have addressed a number of concerns that we had with the Regents,” he said. “For example, teachers now go into further detail on each topic so that students gain a real understanding of each subject. We have been teaching in this style for a long time, as we feel it better prepares students for the rigorous academics they will encounter at college.”
Teachers will slowly change their classes to match the Common Core curriculum, he said, but added they would do so “at an appropriate pace.”
La Salle isn’t the only private school in the area to use its own exams. Others include the Emma Willard School, The Adirondack School of Northeastern New York and the Academy of the Holy Names.
The state requires private school students to take Regents exams until the school is registered — which can be a years-long process. The state uses the results of the exams to judge the “quality and rigor” of the curriculum, one of the factors in whether the school earns registration status, according to the state.
Once a school is registered, it no longer has to offer Regents exams, but many local private schools choose to continue with those tests. At Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School, Regents are still offered partly to create a smooth transition from public to private school, Principal Peter Fusco said.
Fusco said his school encourages high school transfer students, many of whom have already taken Regents exams. If the school didn’t let them finish their Regents diploma, he said, “it might discourage them from pursuing a faith-based education.”
The school is “moving toward” using Common Core exams as well, he added, but teachers will use the Common Core as a “guideline.”
At Christian Brothers Academy, Regents have always been offered, but Common Core exams might be skipped.
“We always liked the idea of an external assessment for our teachers to test their curriculum,” said Head of School James Schlegel.
But that could change soon.
“We’re looking at something different over the next several years,” he said. “We like a lot of what’s going on with Common Core, but [we’re] not crazy about the assessments. The testing is kind of crazy. We haven’t done the [grades] 3-8 testing.”
The school did switch to the Common Core algebra test because there is no longer a Regents test for that course, he said, but he wants to wait and watch the implementation of other tests before committing to them.
“We often use our own tests anyhow,” he said. “We just want to provide a challenging curriculum to make sure our students are ready for college.”