January 11, 2016

Mid-term exams begin this week in both our Upper and Middle Schools. Most in the community have now heard that we will not have these exams next year, though we will have final exams.

The reasons for this change are many, and I have been discussing this with Sue Petrone for several years now. Although I recognize the need for “formative assessments,” ever since hurricane Sandy (which forced the cancellation of exams) I have felt we are better off without them. First and foremost, these exams cost us 5 teaching days in the Upper School and possibly more because of “review sessions.” They are extremely stressful for seniors, who have more to lose than to gain on this type of assessment. The exams themselves are inconsistent across the disciplines and this also can generate confusion. On the whole, they are highly inefficient and disruptive to our schedule. Thank goodness the weather forecast this week does not suggest snow. Furthermore, for many years we have discussed other, better forms of assessment – papers, projects, group assignments – which is what most colleges now do. The vast majority of our graduates take only a few exams in college. The time has come for us to take this step and move forward.
While any change is not without its critics, I believe that our School is better served (and challenged to grow) by eliminating this particular testing period. We have also begun to consider moving to a trimester system, but any switch like this is certainly two years away.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.