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Private School Will Quit Using State Tests

Susan Notes: It is encouraging when any school breaks out of regimentation and acts for the benefit of students


PENFIELD — Students at Charles G. Finney School in Penfield will no longer have to take state tests that school representatives call unfair and inconsistent.

“We have decided here at the Charles Finney School that the high-stakes Regents testing program does not help us promote real education,” said Michael Belmont, the school’s principal.

Finney, a nondenominational Christian school, is at 2070 Five Mile Line Road near Penfield’s Four Corners. The school has about 400 students from prekindergarten through 12th grade. Tuition in 2003 ranged from $3,500 to $4,000.

Private schools are not required to administer the exams, said Tom Dunn, spokesman for the state Education Department. Because the state funds public schools, they are required to give Regents exams as a state assessment of the school.

Joe Bascom, director of curriculum instruction and the elementary and middle school principal, said that eliminating the Regents tests will allow the school to redesign instruction and evaluation. With high-stakes testing and a curriculum that caters to testing, the students come away unengaged, Bascom said.

“We are at a point where (the Regents tests) are holding us down,” he said.

Instead of the pencil-and-paper examination, students will have the chance to show their abilities through projects and hands-on assessments, he said. Students will receive a local diploma instead of a Regents diploma.

The decision comes after more than five years of studying the problems with the Regents tests, Belmont said.

“We can actually teach new stuff,” Belmont said. “It is a breath of fresh air.”

The school will phase out the tests over several years for current students. For example, incoming freshmen and sophomores will not have to take the tests, while seniors who may be one test away from the Regents diploma will have the opportunity to take it.

Viviane Walter, president of the parent council, said her daughters find the tests stressful. Lindsey, Walter’s youngest daughter, is a senior at Finney and needs to pass the state chemistry test to get her Regents diploma. Lindsey plans to take the test, Walter said.

But Walter supports the decision to discontinue the testing in the future.

“I think it’s a great move progressively,” Walter said. “They will be more independent thinkers.”

Dunn said about 70 percent of nonpublic schools in the state still use the Regents exams.

“Many private schools opt to take the exam because they are a uniform assessment,” he said.

EARBELO@DemocratandChronicle.com

— Enid Arbelo
Finney principal calls phasing out the exams ‘ breath of fresh air.'
Democrat and Chronicle
2004-02-14
http://www.democratandchronicle.com/news/0213CG38VQ0_news.shtml


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