Exclusive: Virtual Interview with Nauset Schools’ Dr. Richard Hoffmann

Leads the way attracting foreign students to Cape schools
Only Nixon could go to China, but it takes Doctor Hoffman to bring China to Cape Cod

Only Nixon could go to China, but it takes Doctor Hoffman to bring China to Cape Cod

Nauset superintendent shares experience with foreign students

Last week we learned that the Cape Cod Collaborative is working to invite Chinese students to attend the Cape’s under-enrolled high schools. The students would pay tuition to the school district as well as monthly rent to their host families.

While this was presented as something new at a recent meeting of the Mashpee School Committee, the Nauset Regional School District has been hosting foreign students for some time. Today we speak with Nauset Superintendent Dr. Richard Hoffmann about his district’s experience with this lucrative practice.

As with all Cape Cod Today virtual interviews, Dr. Hoffmann’s responses are published here exactly as he submitted them to us, with no editing or other alteration. He is speaking to our readers in his own words.

Virtual Interview with Dr. Richard Hoffmann

Cape Cod Today: We just read about Mashpee’s school district possibly inviting Chinese students to attend Mashpee High School on a tuition-paying basis. The descriptions we’ve seen from Cape Cod Collaborative and Mashpee look a bit like a program you’ve been running at Nauset. Can you tell us about your experience with foreign students?

Dr. Hoffmann: We received our Homeland Security clearance (called SEVUS) some time ago. That would be the next step for any school who wants to explore this concept. Nauset High School enrolled 6 foreign students this past year. Two were from China. The students paid a tuition based on our per-pupil expenditure less a few items like transportation and out of District special needs costs. That resulted in a tuition of $15,000 - $16,000 per year. The students lived with host families who received about $700 / month as a stipend. Nauset works with an organization called EDUCATIUS. They have provided excellent service, follow through, support for the host families, ensuring students are English proficient, etc.

Cape Cod Today: How does this program benefit the Nauset district and its students?

Dr. Hoffmann: I see many benefits of opening seats to foreign students - social/racial/cultural diversity; new, unrestricted funding source not based on taxes; cutting edge for OUR students - they gain exposure from foreign peers to a global perspective on a variety of issues; innovative way to sustain our schools as our enrollment declines. I am also interested in participating in teacher exchanges in the next year or two.

Cape Cod Today: What is your position on the program now being explored by the Cape Cod Collaborative?

Dr. Hoffmann: We'll be "at the table" with the Collaborative on this to see if it could become a Cape-wide program. There will be many questions to answer so in the meantime, Nauset will be continuing on its own.

The effect on MCAS scores

Cape Cod Today: How does the presence of foreign students affect high school class rank and MCAS scores? Do the foreign students take the MCAS? How are they factored into class rank – or are they?

Dr. Hoffmann: If the foreign students want a high school diploma from Nauset, then they must take and pass the MCAS and also meet all of our other local requirements such as 3 years of math and science, certain number of course credits, even the community service requirements for graduation. I believe that 2 of the 6 students we had last year qualified for a Nauset diploma. I don't see any "inflation" or "deflation" in Nauset's MCAS because of a few students,

The foreign students are not figured into Nauset's class rank mostly because they are here for only one year.

Cape Cod Today: How do the foreign students fit into the culture and student life of Nauset Regional High School?

Dr. Hoffmann: Foreign students are considered "Nauset students" in all other ways - same student discipline code, they can try out and play any sport we offer; they can be in music and drama productions; they have full access to clubs, course schedule, activities, etc.

Cape Cod Today: How “advanced” are the Chinese students compared to our own high school students?

Dr. Hoffmann: We haven't really studied the level of advanced learning of these students at this time, but I'm told all 6 were "good students" meaning they did well in their classes. Nauset offers an extensive selection of AP and Honors courses that can challenge the best and the brightest. To be qualified for admission to Nauset, the foreign students have to achieve an English proficiency score which Nauset is able to set with assistance from Educatius. At this time we do not offer ESL services for the foreign students.

Conclusions: Nauset ahead of the pack

The hosting of tuition-paying foreign students at Cape Cod high schools is an attractive prospect, both as a financial opportunity and as a means of bringing diversity and global perspective to local students.

This also presents an opportunity for the Cape’s best high schools to gain some international recognition as they explore teacher exchange projects and offer foreign students the best of Cape Cod and New England.

As our ongoing coverage of school competition on Cape Cod has shown, all of the region’s high schools are on an equal playing field. The foreign student recruitment program will likely be most successful at our more rigorous high schools and those that have the best selection of academic programs.

Nauset is far ahead of where the Collaborative is on this project, especially considering that the Homeland Security clearance process is said to take six to twelve months.

We thank Nauset Superintendent Dr. Richard Hoffmann for sharing his district’s success with the foreign student tuition program.

Read the other recent education stories here.

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