[Sponsored Article] Set up only a year ago, Stamford American School is on the radar of many parents in Hong Kong due to its renowned sister campus in Singapore. But its experienced faculty has worked hard to ensure that Stamford Hong Kong stands on its own reputation. What stands out to many is its caring, fully-engaged atmosphere. As a new school, Stamford Hong Kong was set on building a caring community and seizing the opportunity that starting something from scratch provides. To gauge if the school community agrees, Stamford conducted a variety of surveys over the past few months, and Head of School Karrie Dietz is pleased with the results. “We have had a lot of comments from visitors too, saying that when they walk into the school the students and faculty seem happy; the same with our employees. They are very proud of the community they have created.” When asked to describe Stamford, the most repeated words used by parents are ‘caring,’ ‘happy ‘and ‘innovative.’ “That is how they see the school,” said Dietz, the former principal at the Stamford Singapore campus. With a wealth of experience as a leader working with the IB, and the Council of International Schools accreditation teams, she is familiar with the standards and priorities for quality education as well as how to ensure they are implemented. Uplifting learning environment Being aware of the strong cultural emphasis on grades and achievements in Asia, she is committed to striking a balance between academic performance and happy learning. Dietz made the school’s vision and values clear to all stakeholders from the start. “Instead of focusing on subjects like math and reading during the first days of school, we prioritize developing a caring community, and we believe that’s most important as a foundation,” said Dietz. She is originally from the States and has spent 20 years in Asia, during which she was part of the development of Stamford American in Singapore. Rather than drilling, students are given space to learn at their own pace, under a personalized learning approach. To help plan learning outcomes and track students’ progress the school uses the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Assessment that gauges elementary and middle school students’ growth and achievement in literacy and math, and also science starting in Grade 3. The assessment involves projected targets of achievements for specific ages. The answers keyed in by students on iPads assesses how well a child has learned a specific concept. But the assessments are stress-free. The level of the next question is adjusted depending on each student’s answer so they won’t feel frustrated easily. Dietz said: “What we saw is that at our school we surpassed those targets; we have a higher percentage of students who have been exceeding the projected targets than an average school would.” Remarkable progress for all As hoped by Dietz, students of various capabilities have made progress over the past year. She proudly cited one example of a Grade 1 student who was in the Accelerated Language Program, a program designed for those with very little English proficiency. By mid-year, he was accompanying distinguished guests on a tour of the school, walking around and sharing his experience at the school with confidence. There are other examples of rapid progress: students who joined the school with little or no English exited the English as an Additional Language (EAL) programme within a year, i.e., without the need for further language support. While adhering to the learning benchmarks American Education Reaches Out (AERO) based on the Common Core, Stamford adopts a “progressive approach” in that it teaches according to each student’s level to help them make connections to their learning, and develop self-confidence. Dietz describes it as “a very nice balance” that her school has struck between adhering to traditional benchmarks and the progressive approach. Challenging activities The myriad workshops and activities such as the Global Mentor Month featuring highly innovative individuals are part of the school’s attempt to promote STEMinn knowledge and innovation. “We want to teach higher-order thinking skills and give children the skills and opportunities to design and create because in the future that’s something they will need to do,” said Dietz. Following a visit to the Volvo Ocean Race, Grade 4 to 7 students designed, built and tested various styles of boats that were eventually put to the test in the Stamford swimming pool. Families of Support Stamford parents are heavily involved too, having helped with the design of the school’s uniform, exploring additional facilities for the school, and forming a community service group to identify opportunities of volunteer work for students. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our families as we continue to grow,” said Dietz. As a member of the Cognita group of schools, Stamford is already part of a global family of 70-plus schools with the same drive and commitment to help cultivate each individual’s academic excellence, personal character and global perspective. In Hong Kong, the Woodland Pre-Schools has just joined Cognita. As a result of that, Woodland students will be given priority in entering Stamford. Dietz said they are looking at making the transition from Woodland to Stamford very seamless. “We have similar values, and with the collaboration, we can work together to ensure that students are successful when they come to primary,” she explained.