NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna school officials are exploring a partnership with a private Chinese school that wants to model its curriculum on an American school as it grows to serve older students.
Niskayuna Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. will travel to China later this fall to meet with leaders of Beijing-based Wisdom International Education Group, which runs private elementary Montessori schools in China.
The Chinese school plans to expand from its current size, serving kindergarten through 6th-grade students, to include middle- and high-school grades, said Ed Alston, former Niskayuna language director and head of the school’s international exchange program, during a school board meeting last week.
He said the Chinese school wants to model its curriculum and teacher training on the American model, and after meeting with other American schools, it landed on Niskayuna as the district to partner with. Alston said discussions with the private school began last year and that leaders from the Chinese school had asked for reams of Niskayuna performance data.
After studying the performance data, officials from the Chinese school returned to the states to meet with Tangorra and other people from Niskayuna. They invited Tangorra and Alston to visit China this fall for more discussion; the Chinese school will pay for the trip, Tangorra said.
“They asked us if we would be partners with them based on our reputation and results,” Alston said.
Nothing has been agreed to or finalized, Tangorra cautioned, and he plans to return from the overseas trip with a better sense of what Niskayuna would get out of a potential partnership.
“This is not just entering in an inter-municipal agreement with the school in the next county,” Tangorra said, alluding to the complexity of coming up with an agreement. “There are many, many obstacles in the way for making this happen. None of them are insurmountable.”
As described at last week’s board meeting, Alston said the Chinese school would develop its middle and high schools using the “Niskayuna model.” A delegation of Chinese students would likely come to Niskayuna to study in the district’s schools, and students in China would graduate with a Niskayuna branded diploma.
Niskayuna teachers and administrators would travel to China, and staff from the Chinese schools would travel to Niskayuna. Eventually, Niskayuna students would have the opportunity to study in China.
Tangorra said working with an international school to model Niskayuna’s curriculum would be a new lens through which the district could improve its own programs. He also said the district would likely learn things from the way the Chinese school teaches its students.
“We would be foolish not to think they would have instruction we aren’t familiar with that we could capitalize on,” Tangorra said.
Board members encouraged Tangorra to continue with discussions and think about what, specifically, Niskayuna would get out of a partnership with the Chinese school, emphasizing that the “Niskayuna model” has come after tremendous amounts of work and expense.
“I do see they came with an ask, and I’m not sure what our ask is here other than what we know we would get intuitively,” board member Pat Lanotte said.