The two public high schools in Newton, Massachusetts, Newton North and Newton South, have a long-standing commitment to integrating international content into the curriculum and the extracurricular experiences of their students. Combined they serve approximately 3,500 students, predominantly Caucasian with about 12% Asian and 5% African American students. Following several major curricular reviews in the last fifteen years, the schools have sought to balance once Euro-centric social studies and English courses with focus on other world regions and authors. The mandatory two-year world history course for all grade 9 and 10 students covers units on Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Electives include regional studies courses on East Asia, the Caribbean, and an environmental studies course using regional case studies.
centerpiece of the Newton district’s international education focus
however is its strong world languages program, which offers courses in
Chinese, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish, for grades 6 through 12.
Each language is complemented with a study abroad option, facilitated
by partnerships with schools in China, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain and
Cuba, and Russia. The China exchange program, the oldest of its kind in
the country, is founded on a 25-year relationship with the Beijing
Jingshan School. On both the U.S. and Chinese side, students and
faculty live with host families, are immersed in classrooms, lead
presentations and demonstrations, and engage in extracurricular
activities, all in the language of their host country. Newton students
are selected ten months in advance of the exchange to allow for
in-depth orientation, semester-long preparatory courses with visiting
Chinese teachers, and six-week summer language program. Preference is
given to students with prior Chinese language training.
The exchange program’s success has had repercussions both within the
district and throughout the state and country. It served as a catalyst
for district-wide curriculum reform, bringing the study of Eastern
cultures into different academic disciplines—from social studies to
science. It has also led to the creation of an affiliated China
Exchange Initiative that now replicates the Newton model in states from
Maine and New Hampshire to North Carolina and Oklahoma.
The winning of the Goldman Sachs Prize for Excellence in International Education has led to the establishment of a grant program in the two high schools to encourage international education. Grants have been used to establish a school partnership with a school in Tanzania for a service project in support of poverty alleviation; an Internationl Form Lecture Series; a curriculum project on globalization in Mexico; and a can recycling project at the schools. The recycling project aims to raise $100/mo to support a lunch program for a primary school in Belize. This program will be used to build awareness to make a community service exchange to Belize in 2009.