St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in the Town of Tonawanda recently added its name to a growing list of private high schools that have ditched the New York State Regents Exams. The school is instead developing a unique curriculum to better prepare its students for life after high school.
"The Regents sets a bar. We didn't feel that the bar was high enough," explained St. Joe's President Christopher Fulco.
He says the change will allow teachers to develop more enriching coursework.
"I think the Regents was, in some ways, holding [teachers] back," Fulco said. "Now we're able to give these extraordinary educators the freedom to teach the way they want to teach."
St. Joe's is in the process of finalizing its new curriculum. It is working with teachers and department heads to come up with creative learning opportunities to help students develop critical thinking and communication skills.
"Our classrooms need to be more interactive, engaging," Principal Jim Spillman, a 1995 graduate of St. Joe's, said. "The changes we're making to this curriculum are going to allow us to do that."
The move should not hurt a student's chances fo getting into the college of his choice, according to education policy expert Nathan Daun-Barnett of University at Buffalo's Graduate School of Education.
"I think what a lot of private institutions are saying is that the Regents curriculum today isn't necessarily the standard that sets our kids up for the success they'll need in college," Daun-Barnett explained.
This growing trend of private schools dropping Regents to try and develop more rigorous and enriching programs could have a widespread impact down the road.
"What private schools do to prepare kids for college does eventually have a ripple effect that extends throughout the entire system," Daun-Barnett said.
St. Joe's says this decision will allow the school to offer additional courses and potentially expand Advanced Placement opportunities for its students. The school offers 18 AP courses right now.
Canisius High School, Nichols School and Nardin Academy are among the other private high schools no longer following a Regents curriculum.