At the 3rd U.S.-China State/Provincial Education Leaders’ Dialogue, education leaders from eight American states and seventeen Chinese provinces shared ideas and discussed efforts to improve teacher professional development and to implement effective student assessments.
U.S. leaders visited schools in Shanghai before the dialogue began and the American delegation was particularly impressed by the students and faculty at Shanghai Shibei Junior High School. The delegates observed English, math, and science classes, interacted with highly engaged students, and participated in discussions about the lessons with teachers in their teacher research groups. China’s teacher research groups, similar to professional learning communities that are beginning to be more common in U.S. schools, have been used for many years and the deep practice was reflected in the quality of the discussion at Shibei Junior High School.
Chinese provincial education leaders also identified the shortage of quality teachers in rural areas as an issue they are working hard to turn around, in part through economic incentives, and recognized the need to address the emotional needs of these sometimes isolated educators as well. The U.S. education chiefs talked about similar challenges in attracting and retaining high quality teachers to remote or inaccessible areas, using technology to train teachers, growing teachers from within the community, and developing strong principals and teacher leaders.
The U.S. outlined the policy context for assessment in the states and provided a look forward to include Student Learning Objectives and technology based assessments in pursuit of both equity and excellence. The U.S. education chiefs talked about the importance of using assessments formatively to impact instruction and learning and discussed the adoption of higher standards across the country and within their states. In contrast, China’s national assessments, which date back to 605 AD, have traditionally been used to measure academic proficiency and monitor education quality, but current reforms are underway to align them with college entrance requirements and 21st century competencies and to broaden the use of technology in assessment. The rigorous discussion ended with a collective realization that China and the U.S. are in many ways on opposite ends of the assessment continuum and that there are opportunities to learn from each other.
While the education systems in the U.S. and China exhibit a high level of diversity both within and between each country, the dialogue reconfirmed the many common challenges and how the desire to learn from each other brings us closer together. Learning from other countries to improve U.S. education and advance U.S. international priorities is a key objective of the Department’s international strategy.
Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of International Affairs. Ronn Nozoe is deputy assistant secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education