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Westport Partners With Singapore School For Study

Westport's Staples High School was chosen to participate in a study that will compare how well it prepares students for the 21st-century in comparison to a prestigious school in Singapore.
Westport's Staples High School was chosen to participate in a study that will compare how well it prepares students for the 21st-century in comparison to a prestigious school in Singapore. Photo Credit: Vanessa Inzitari

WESTPORT, Conn. — Thanks to a $100,000 grant, Westport’s Staples High School will have the opportunity to work with and learn from educators at the Hwa Chong Institution , a prestigious school in Singapore.

The grant, awarded by the National Institute for Education in Singapore, will fund a comparative study of how both schools provide 21st-century education, said Lis Comm, Westport’s director of Secondary Education.

“The purpose of the study is to compare how two top performing school systems prepare students for the 21st-century, “Comm said. “We’re all very excited. We certainly think we can learn a lot from Hwa Chong, and vice versa.”

Last week, Staples hosted five teachers from Hwa Chong, a combination high school and junior college that accepts only the top 3 percent of students in Singapore, Comm said. Although it’s no secret Westport is considered to be one of the best school districts in the state and country, she said it was flattering to be chosen for the study.

Providing students with a 21st-century education is a priority in Westport. That’s why the district launched “Westport 2025: Meeting the Global Challenge,” an initiative that seeks to provide students with the skills they need to succeed in a globally competitive society.

To accomplish this, the district created the Westport 2025 Task Force, a group of 40 teachers and administrators who, with help from the Columbia University Teachers College , are charged with assessing and making improvements to the K-12 curriculum that will better enable students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.

“We’ve always been a high performing school district and have always been very successful  here, but starting about two years ago, we realized we needed to start looking at ourselves globally,” Comm said. “We want our students to be global thinkers and global leaders.”

The grant study, Comm said, will allow Westport to see what improvements need to be made to its curriculum.

Beginning this fall, representatives from Teachers College will observe one English, math, social studies and science class at Staples over the course of one year, and analyze how well the class was taught, Comm said. Representatives from the National Institute for Education will do the same at Hwa Chong, she said.

Afterward, the two groups of researchers will meet to compare and contrast the schools. In the end, Comm said Staples and Hwa Chong will learn how to better teach 21st-century skills.

“We believe this is going to be a great partnership,” Comm said. “It will be interesting to see what we learn from each other."

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