Guang-sheng Xiao was impressed with what he saw at Hudson High School last week.

Xiao is a vice principal at Harbin No. 6 Senior High School in Heilongjiang Province in China. He was one of a dozen school principals who are part of an exchange program with 12 Wisconsin school districts including Hudson.

Xiao spent the first part of his visit in Madison learning about Wisconsin's public education system including the role of government and school boards, teacher licensing and special education.

Xiao arrived in Hudson on Dec. 5 and was the houseguest of his exchange partner, Hudson Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten and her husband Noel. In addition to learning about the Hudson School District, Xiao was entertained by several Hudson residents and was able to attend a Timberwolves game and visit the Mall of America. He was also on hand for the first big snowstorm of the season and for the district's first snow day last Wednesday. Inclement weather, snow and ice are nothing new to Xiao who explained that his community has winters as bad, if not worse than here.

Xiao visited several of Hudson's schools but spent the most time at Hudson High School. In an interview he said he was impressed with the elective classes students can take at HHS. He made special mention of the HHS music and art program. Students at his school have no elective classes, although some of what are electives at Hudson are required classes in Xiao's school. Those classes include core subjects like math, science and history but also include English, fine arts and exercise.

Xiao's school has an enrollment of 3,600 students, most of whom will go onto university. But before they do, they must pass a comprehensive test that includes evaluating their proficiency in English.

What impressed Xiao most about HHS was the relationship between students and teachers. "They have good interaction between them. The staff shows great care for the students, each and every one of them." He said in his school, the relationship is more conflicted. "Teachers want more out of students and students feel the pressure to study harder. The students also get pressure from their parents to study and do well. That is the big challenge between students and staff at home."

The superintendent will complete the exchange next spring when she travels to Heilongjiang and spends time at Xiao's school and others there. Bowen-Eggebraaten said she is excited about creating a relationship between educators and students here and in China, a way to achieve the global literacy called for in the district's strategic plan, HSD 2025.

Bowen-Eggebraaten said that in addition to getting to know Xiao and education in China, she has been meeting with teachers in Hudson to see how they want to engage their students with their counterparts in Heilongjiang on an ongoing basis. One idea taking shape is trading cards. Students would create cards which would include a biography of a Hudson student on one side with the other side blank, to be filled out by a student in China and then brought back to Hudson. She will also take DVDs that detail the day-to-day operation of Hudson Middle School and HHS.

The superintendent said she has learned a lot during Xiao's visit. "The biggest difference in education in China and here is that we educate all of our children. It is different there. Not all children get the chance at an education but Xiao says reform is coming and they are moving toward educating all children through about grade 9."

Xiao was not fluent in English and several interpreters helped out with communication. But sometimes when words failed, a sense of humor and non-verbal communication worked. "There are lots of way to communicate and I think we found them."

Bowen-Eggebraaten will travel to China in April. The cost of the trip, with the exception of $1,500, is being covered by a grant from the Freeman Foundation to develop educational exchange programs between schools in the U.S. and China.