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CUSD visits China to exchange ideas, best practices

Four Claremont Unified School District teachers and administrators visited China last month to exchange ideas and information about education.

Julie Olesniewicz, the assistant superintendent of educational services; Amber Verdi, the director of special education; Natalie Taylor, the director of intervention and English language programs; and Brian D’Ambrosia-Donner, a teacher on special assignment, traveled to Beijing and Shenzhen, toured two schools, met with Chinese educators and presented at a reading conference.

Ms. Olesniewicz said CUSD has “partnered with several organizations over the years that involve collaboration with Chinese educators,” adding that 22 Chinese teachers are currently observing Claremont classrooms to “learn best practices that work in the American school system.” In return, CUSD members are sometimes invited to do the same in China.

“One of the biggest takeaways for me, personally, was that no matter the language, nationality or culture, kids are kids,” Ms. Olesniewicz said. “They are inquisitive, curious, excited to learn and happy. Their teachers are just as hard-working and passionate as our teachers.”

Ms. Olesniewicz said the trip, which was paid for entirely by a non-profit called the American Education Federation, gave her a “deeper understanding of students and families that enter our schools from China.”

She discovered that “the American system tries to tackle way more standards in a year than the typical Chinese classroom, and they do it with less materials,” and said that realization spurred conversations among the CUSD delegation about “the depth and complexity of our standards and the amount of assessments that are given throughout the year.”

—Kellen Browning