The Shifting Tide of College Admissions

For the last few years we have consistently talked about the need to shift our educational practices to properly prepare our students for their future not our past.  Our efforts to make this a reality have included our shift from tradition to Standards-Based assessing and reporting to shift the focus from “what do I need to do to get a better grade” (external motivation) to “I think I need to focus on ‘X’ to better learn how to do ‘Y'” (internal motivation).  Our efforts have also included professional learning by teachers to harness students’ internal motivation and make real-world connections through practices like Project-Based Learning.

A recent article published in the Washington Post reinforced yet again that colleges are also considering the need to shift from a focus on grading to a focus on learning. Hampshire College President, Jonathan Lash wrote the following, “We are in the top one percent of colleges nationwide in the percentage of our undergraduate alumni who go on to earn advanced degrees – this on the strength of an education where we assess their capabilities narratively, and where we never, not once, subject them to a numerical or letter grade on a test or course.”  Read more at:

A separate article in the New York Times this week talks about the “Turning the Tide” report that signals a shift in tide of college admissions at schools like Harvard, Yale, MIT, and the University of Michigan. The article notes that “Focused on certain markers and metrics, the [current] admissions process warps the values of students drawn into a competitive frenzy. It jeopardizes their mental health.”  Read more at: 

As we look to the future of education and the world beyond college, the landscape is changing.  It is our responsibility as a leading educational institution to ensure we are preparing your children for this journey.

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MS Play Wonderland – A Dream of a Show!

Drama teacher, Amy Sidwell, and her cast of students put on a fantastic show on Thursday and Friday of this week.  The show “Wonderland” starred Ella Furner as Alice whose dreams carried her through adventure after adventure as she met a cast of characters from a series of children’s stories.  Ella was, of course, surrounded by an ensemble of student actors and supporting crew who did an amazing job bringing this story to life in song and dance.  Thanks also go out to the many members of the MS faculty who supported the show from behind the curtains.  Months of preparation and countless hours behind the scenes go into making shows like these into successful learning opportunities for our students.  Hopefully you were able to share in the experience at one of the three shows.  If not, be sure to be on the lookout for advertisements for the Spring show in the middle school Black Box Theater.  DSC_0035


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Parents Engage in Project Based Learning

Thanks so much to all of the parents who joined us for the PBL Parent Evening led by Instructional Coach, Azul Terronez.  This was a great opportunity to learn more about how the Project Based Learning instructional methodology supports student learning.  This was also a great opportunity for parents to engage as PBL learners through the App Design Challenge.  By all accounts, the evening was a great success and we look forward to offering more opportunities to learn together like this in the future.  PBL_Parent_Night

Dr. Theron J. Mott, MS Principal

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PBL Parent Evening (Wed, Jan 13 @ 6:00pm)

Dear Parents,

We have a few spots remaining for the PBL Parent Evening scheduled for tomorrow (Wed.) from 6-8pm in MS Rm M230.  This is a great opportunity to experience Project Based Learning in order to better understand how we are engaging your children in authentic learning opportunities that connect to the world outside of school.

There is limited space available for the event and only a few spots remain, so please click on the link below to RSVP for the event.

Register for the PBL Parent Night Here (click on the green Register button once the page opens)

We will be catering finger sandwiches and we’ll have drinks available since this falls during the dinner hour.

I hope you will join us!


Dr. Theron J. Mott, Middle School Principal

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Real World Connections – Gr. 6 Art

I was recently copied on the following message to parents from Ann Hefte, MS Art teacher, regarding a project Grade 6 students have been working on.  This was a great example of using learning to make meaningful connections beyond the school walls and in this time of giving I am hoping it will inspire you to give of yourself as well.

~Dr. Theron J. Mott, MS Principal

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I just wanted to share the joyful news update on students’ donation to The Baobei Foundation as a result of Phase One of The Tea Towel Project last month.

The artists’ gift helped to pay for the medical needs of Baby Titus. Titus is 2 years old who has had multiple surgeries with Baobei for issues related to spina bifida and club feet. Recently, he has been going to the hospital daily to receive IV antibiotics for an urinary tract infections. Photos of Titus is attached.

You can read the full article written by grade six students, Elijah and Cherry, on the SAS webpage by clicking here.


The second phase of the Tea Towel Project gave students a chance to make a personal towel for a loved one. They will be bringing this Tea Towel home today (or you may find it under the tree!). This PBL unit allowed students to compare how artists make art differently to suit various purposes–commercial and personal. Both phases looked at the question—How can we create art that connects us to others and our world? And both required drawing, hand-embroidery, appliqué, and machine sewing skills.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this project possible!

Ann Hefte
Visual Arts Teacher
Shanghai American School
Puxi Middle School

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MS Principal Coffee – Wed, Dec 9 – LMC

Dear Parents,

We would like to invite you to join us for the next MS Principal Coffee on Wednesday, December 9 at 10:00am in the LMC.  We will have a number of interesting topics including:

– PTSA Updates

– Grade 6 science students talking about their recent learning experiences

– Dr. Sascha Heckmann providing a glimpse into “Why SAS high school?” – a preview of our January parent evening

– Design challenge – how do we engage kids in different ways of thinking?

– MS Counselor Coffee preview & tapping into intrinsic motivation

We hope you can join us for some shared learning and insight into what the middle and high school programs are offering your children.

All the best,

Dr. Theron J. Mott, Middle School Principal

Mr. Glen Karlsson, Middle School Vice Principal

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Getting Wound Up

Grade 6 has been on fire lately with projects that have engaged kids as engineers who are developing and applying their scientific knowledge.  Last week, kids built, tested, re-built, and re-tested their rubber band cars.  The phrase that I kept hearing was “What if…”.  We know that it is “What if…” style thinking that leads to developing creative problem solvers, and the grade 6 students are well on their way.  This was yet another example of iterative learning!






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Losing Their Marbles – Gr. 6 Science

An area of focus for SAS is to make real-world connections as we engage students in learning.  Over the course of the last few days, grade 6 science student have been investigating energy–specifically potential to kinetic energy shifts and the impact of friction.  In doing so, they have been modeling these energy shifts by building roller coasters that they can use to explain these energy transfers.  So if you have a grade 6 child, please be sure to ask them to share their learning with you.

Below are a few photos to give you a glimpse into their learning.


Dr. Theron J. Mott, MS Principal



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Partnering to Support Learning

Dear Parents,

I hope that you are all feeling that your time at Parent-Teacher Conferences was well-spent on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week.  I know that the feedback from the faculty was quite positive and that they enjoyed the opportunity to share their observations of your children’s learning progress so far this year.  While the time together was less than we would ideally like it to be, we are hopeful that you walked away with a better perspective on your child’s strengths and areas of continued growth.  Of equal importance, I hope that you were able to follow-up with your child after conferences to engage them about where they feel they are strong and where they feel they need to continue to focus their learning.  After all, each child’s learning is a three way partnership between student, parent, and school.  None of us can do it alone.

Continuing on the theme of partnering to support learning, I wanted to extend an invitation to all of you to the MS Principal Coffee that will be held in the LMC at 10:00am on Wednesday, November 11.  We will get information from our PTSA reps on upcoming events, a quick preview from our counselors of their upcoming Counselor Coffee, a glimpse into student learning through Grade 7 science students sharing about their recent project, information about Mother Tongue language learning, and engagement around why students need to develop 21st Century Skills.  We hope that you will join us on Wednesday!

Best regards,

Dr. Theron J. Mott, MS Principal

Mr. Glen Karlsson, MS Vice Principal

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Water Devices – Gr. 7 Student Exhibition

Dear Parents,

We have been focusing for the last year or more on ways in which we can engage students in more authentic learning.  One way to do this is to propose real-world problems and guide students as they develop real-world solutions.  Following the typhoon season and flooding here on Puxi campus that resulted in school closure, Grade 7 students began engaging with how to design and construct a device to condense, purify, or acquire water in order to survive a typhoon or global water crisis.

As students engaged with this problem, they focused on gaining a basic understanding of the design cycle, identifying an engineering problem and potential solutions, identifying evaluative criteria for competing design solutions, testing and analyzing data to determine a design’s success, and learning from the building process to create improved devices.  The key to this type of learning is the ability of groups to iterate their learning by improving on their lack of initial successes.  So often this iterative component of learning is absent in school.

The culmination of this project occurred on Tuesday evening in the PAC lobby with students engaging in an exhibition of their products, and more importantly an explanation of the choices they made in their learning.  While most of the products themselves were not flashy or ready for market, the students with whom we engaged during the exhibition were able to clearly articulate the choices that they made and what they learned through those choices as they designed, tested, refined, tested, refined, and tested them again.

We hope that you will be able to join us at the Principal Coffee on November 11 when we will invite two of groups to share their learnings from this project.


Dr. Theron J. Mott, MS Principal

Mr. Glen Karlsson, MS Vice Principal




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