Opinion editorials, reviews and personal essays
By Dr. Lee
Last year, most mornings, I would arrive on the early staff bus before 7, open the four doors that split the high school from Main Street, open the two more doors dividing the High School Administration offices from the counseling center and the classroom corridor, and then open the door to my own office, secreted behind waiting rooms of airplane departure lounge chairs and high reception counters. Later in the morning, when I would walk through all those doors, it usually wasn’t until I hit the couches past the Activities Office or made it to the library that I could find evidence of student life. Where, I often used to wonder, was the heart of Pudong High School?
I don’t wonder that any more, because now I see students congregating in the High School Commons from the start of each day. I see talking, socializing, messing around, studying, eating, working… almost constantly.
Pudong High School’s Commons is what I believe our school should aim for: bright, spacious, welcoming, inspiring, multipurpose, open to every kind of person and activity. It is a community space: it allows for, nurtures, encourages community. And once we actually get the froyo, it will be even better! (It’s coming; I’m so sorry for the delay!)
Since I arrived at PDHS last year, I suspect the word you’ve heard most often from me is “community”.
Does this word lie behind the changes that have happened at our school over the past year? Yes.
The Commons. Community Meeting. TheEleven. Common Ground. Grade level meetings… These are all explicitly about building community in new ways in our High School.
But at the same time, there’s more to the changes that we’re all going through than just my attempts to bring community to the front and center of the Pudong High School experience. Among the major emphases of our Deputy Heads of School, Ms. Sargent-Beasley and Mr. Bonin, are the efforts to unite the Pudong campus – to build a Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 community – and to solidify a single, aligned curriculum across grade levels and divisions for both the Pudong and Puxi campuses. You can see one of the results of these movements in our new schedule which allows all HS faculty to participate in Professional Learning Communities with their colleagues every Thursday during Flexi. Wednesday Early Release Days also relate to this, providing time for faculty in all six divisions on both campuses to meet and work together to improve the education we offer.
No matter what you do after graduation, you will all have to live with, work with, get along with, argue with, collaborate with other people when you depart PDHS. That is: you will need to work within and participate in communities. In my view, any school’s most important role – more important than high test scores, good grades, outstanding athletics opportunities, great arts offerings, strong admissions outcomes to colleges and universities -- is to provide and to nurture a supportive community. Hopefully, an inspiring community which empowers students to seek their own best and the betterment of others, provides opportunities for rebellion and resistance, and leaves young adults incapable of accepting anything less in the future.
Thanks to the Pudong Press for inviting me to write something about how I see what’s happening in our school. There’s actually a lot more to say about what is going on, and why certain things have changed. I know, too, that this move toward community means that we are giving some things up. Mr. Wild’s voice over the intercom, for instance. But I believe we will gain more than we lose, and that the benefits are worth the sacrifices. (The froyo is almost here, I promise!)
What do you think? Please stop by my office and talk to me about this stuff, or anything, really. If my door is open, it’s really open. I’d love for you to come in and tell me how things are going for you.
By Gabrielle Zhu
September marked the biannual Measures of Academic Progress test, commonly known as the MAP test, taken by students from grades three to nine. The ritual repeats each year, involving large blocks of time taken from classes and replaced by an hour of staring into a computer screen to answer questions about mathematics, reading, and language usage. The MAP test takes a student’s scores in different areas of a subject, such as geometry under mathematics, and displays them in tandem with the total time taken and results from other students. It aims to let teachers identify students who need more guidance and subject areas that need more clarification. But while the MAP test provides insight into student learning, in some cases, it can be ineffective or even hinder learning.
On a regional scale in the United States, where it is most commonly administered, the test has come under the scrutiny of some educators. In Seattle, Washington, teachers noted three main concerns about the test. The effectiveness of the test’s ability to measure learning progress could be undermined by a lack of student motivation, stress to students, costing more than it is worth. Though these issues are specific to Seattle, they reflect a similar concern across schools.
A study conducted for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance revealed that the degree to which teachers used the reading test data by grouping students with similar learning abilities varied. Most schools and grades often saw no significant change, while the remaining saw increases in grouping by abilities. The extent of the MAP test’s effectiveness varies on a case by case basis, which still leaves the question of its effect on Shanghai American School (SAS) itself.
At SAS, most students and many teachers dread MAP testing days. For the students, it is another test they have to plough through. And, for teachers, it steals away from time they could spend on coursework since the test takes up an entire block’s worth of time. Moreover, classes before and after the MAP test do not feel significantly different. They resume from the almost the exact place they left off, and the MAP test is forgotten until the next time it is administered. With teachers not so much as mentioning how the MAP test influences their content, the test likely has little to no impact on teaching methods and outcomes at SAS.
Despite the plethora of benefits the MAP test can potentially bring to SAS, few of them are particularly effective. With that being said, the test can offer students and parents a window to their personal growth in subjects by comparing previous test scores. This facet alone, however, does not provide a strong argument for the test. Similar information can be gleaned from report cards, which also has the benefit of showing an average across a semester, eliminating some of the skew of a single test.
At SAS, the MAP test amounts to little more than a time-consuming test that gives few benefits in return. Some departments have acknowledged this in the past. In previous years, freshmen taking Algebra II or Algebra II and Trigonometry courses were not required to take the mathematics test as the classes already ran on extremely tight schedules. With all this in mind, it seems clear that the MAP test is essentially an unnecessary accessory. However, it is still likely that it will continue to take place in the future.
Currently, there is speculation among high schoolers that the PSAT could serve a similar function as MAP tests. Although this speculation has no grounds, it does raise questions about the test’s viability as an alternative to MAP tests. While PSATs do not scale the difficulty of questions to student performance on previous questions, they still offer measure of student proficiency in the same three areas as MAP tests. Additionally, PSATs are also practice for SATs, an exam that most students at SAS will take. This means that in the case that the results of the test are not used to enhance classes, students still put a good use to their time in practicing for a later exam.
In any case, a transparent effort to integrate MAP test results into curricula would validate its use at SAS. Until then, students and teachers alike likely will have to endure the unnecessary administration of MAP tests.
By Leina Hsu
With luminaria bags glowing in the darkness, we walk around the track arm-in-arm in silent solidarity. A single voice glides through the air with a raw rendition of “Amazing Grace” as we celebrate all the survivors of cancer and pay tribute to all the victims. After a day of bustle, this moment sticks in my mind as one of clarity, where every breath seemed sharp. In a huddle radiating heat, we cross the line to complete the “Survivor Lap”.
The atmosphere is a stark contrast from that of the morning, when students raced about the track, earning points for their respective teams. The spirit of competition was high after weeks of individual fundraising. On the field, an intense game of Capture the Flag began with the blow of a whistle. This kicked off the school’s biggest charity event, Relay for Life, hosted by our very own National Honor Society. As the night air grew cool, people set up their respective tents and camped around the bonfire—hot chocolate and ramen in hand. The track is continuously occupied with participants, some walking, some on wheels. The testicular cancer group flaunted “Ball is Life” t-shirts.
In between the excitement and activity, it is important for us to remember the purpose of Relay for Life. When American Cancer Society started this community fundraising event, their goal was not just to raise money, but to raise awareness for cancer patients around the world. During Relay, we had the opportunity of video-calling cancer battler, Pauline Sylvestre, who, despite still enduring chemotherapy, took the time to spread a message of strength and positivity to the SAS community. She showed us the little matters we forget to embrace because they are so ingrained in our lives—the joy simply to breathe, to move, to explore the city. The event ended as a success with over 180,000 RMB raised.
As this year’s Relay for Life approaches on October 13, I am thrilled to be a part of it once again. Originally having been enticed by the idea of a campus-wide sleepover, I am thoroughly impressed by the friendships I have formed and perspectives I have gained through this experience. With the new students streaming in, there is one thing to keep in mind: Participate with passion for the event, but also consciousness of its gravity.
By Jason Kang
There’s a common stereotype that STEM careers are only for males. Much has changed since the rise and boom of science and technology in the past few decades, but this common belief has persisted. In 1987, roughly 20% of the Canadian STEM workforce was comprised of women. Today, three decades later, it has only risen to 22%.
In any science, technology, engineering, or mathematics related field, the gender inequality is apparent: the vast majority of these professions is occupied by males. For example, even though females account for roughly 60% of all graduates in the United States, they only account for 35% of STEM related degrees. Although a significant part of that could be associated with gender discrimination at the hiring phase, that’s not the focus today. There is a very real, very significant difference in interests between genders when it comes to STEM careers.
Take the FIRST Robotics Competition team at SAS, for example. Out of nearly 40 members, there is only a single female engineer. It seems as though females have less interest in STEM topics. This lack of interest can be attributed to social pressures and a resultant lack of experience with science. There is a well-established stereotype that girls usually involve themselves with arts and the humanities while STEM careers are left to the boys. That difference is apparent even at our own school. In contrast to the male majority in the robotics team, there is an overwhelming female majority in SAS' National Arts Honor Society and even in Pudong Press.
Early on, young girls are discouraged from learning more about science related topics outside of the classroom. Many feel the need to adhere to the division of interests that has been established. As such, girls will have less experience with STEM subjects early on, preventing their curiosities in related fields to develop.
There is a lack of exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics early on in young women because of well-established stereotypes against women in STEM careers. As a result, women are discouraged from pursuing any interest they may have had in said topics, leading to a lack of interest later on in life, which only further contributes to the stereotype. There’s no question that the situation has been improving in recent years, which is definitely a sign of social progress, but it does not change the fact that the divide persists. Social expectations of what women can and cannot pursue as careers results in a vicious cycle that is unlikely to leave anytime soon.
Evidently, this is unfair to women who aren’t given the encouragement they need to develop their interests in STEM careers. Beyond that, however, everyone loses out from the massive amount of brilliance that is lost by not encouraging women to pursue their passions, regardless of any common, long held beliefs.
Whether it be at SAS or somewhere else, encouraging women to pursue STEM careers makes our world a better place.
By Colin Jun
Changing from the existing system to a new system is always challenging and controversial - not everyone agrees to it nor gets satisfied. As the new school year started, SAS also had many changes. The high school entrance turned into the "High School Commons," the new schedule with flexi time got implemented, etc. Among these changes, Early Release is one of the few we have not experienced very often. Like the other new systems implemented in our school, Early Release Schedule still has controversy on its efficiency.
On Early Release Day, every period is shorter than usual - 55 minutes for classes, 40 minutes for Flexi and lunch. Therefore, all the students get released at 1: 30 pm. Through the document “Early Releases in the service of the school improvement FAQ,” the school explained that Early Release Day allows the teachers to spend the rest of the day on discussing and improving curriculum, designing assessments and teaching strategies. AAs a result, teachers are supposed to be able to devote more time to collaboration within the grades and across the grades. Through this new system, the school expects the quality of education in our school can have improvements overall. Moreover, unlike PD Days, which the students miss a whole day, the Early Release Days helps the students not to miss any class, and thus do not interrupt the flow of the course.
Regarding the advantages that Early Release Days are expected to provide, Early Release Days seems like it is a positive change from the old system. However, as it is explained before, not everyone agrees to the changes. Early Release Days also faces some objections and dissatisfaction of the people. The biggest problem is that 55 minutes is not long enough for the teachers and students to have a class. Including the opening and closing time for the class, the actual class time becomes 40-50 minutes. Even by excluding the opening and closing time, 55 minutes is not enough to run the activities or cover the contents of the 80-minute class. Therefore, sometimes there can be a disadvantage for the students regarding the test preparation. Although having consecutive Early Release Days in two weeks equals out the amount of time A day and by day, student miss, depending on the exam date, the students may not be able to get enough help from the teachers.
The Early Release Day system has just been implemented in our community. Furthermore, last month was the first time this new system took into action. It usually takes a long time for a new system to blend into the people, and during the implementation process, there still will be dissatisfactions or complaints about the new system. However, to maximize the benefit of this new system and ensure it becomes suitable for our school, we will need to experience this system several more times and actively give feedback on the school.