With Artificial Intelligence and its applications rapidly developing, College Prep continues to make meaning from knowledge through in-person discussions that cannot be replaced or replicated by AI. In guided conversations, students are examining ethical gray areas that AI technology presents.
When music is sampled without permission • Do artists and creators have the right to sue OpenAI for using their content? • When markets are manipulated using artificial intelligence and financial crimes result, does AI have personhood? • How is culpability for such crimes going to be determined?
Students wrestle with these questions in a new History elective, Ethics and Artificial Intelligence, taught by Ian Beier. He introduces case studies as a way for the students to examine ethical matters within a challenging legal framework. “Anxiety about AI exists everywhere, largely because this disruptive technology is not regulated under any specific laws,” Beier explains. This course encourages students to assess and evaluate the diverse scenarios where AI may pose ethical issues. Classroom conversations are thoughtful and dynamic as students engage with relevant real-world challenges and their own use of AI.
One real-world challenge that our teachers face is figuring out how to access evidence of student learning when ChatGPT allows people to outsource the creation of some tried-and-true measures. An essay once offered a window into a student’s thinking, but in the age of ChatGPT, it could just as easily be the output of a well-authored prompt.
College Prep teachers develop lesson plans that emphasize the importance of process. Much of the scaffolding around student discussions is built on a concern that students should not be outsourcing their thinking. The significance of how solutions may be derived, ideas are pursued, and conclusions arrived at, are emphasized rather than condoning the idea that students should head directly for answers. Assessments are designed so that students can demonstrate the paths they have taken to their destinations. They are tasked to explain the provenance of evidence and justify their conclusions, which ChatGPT cannot do well.
Beyond the Ethics and Artificial Intelligence course, teachers across disciplines are reimagining methods by which learning outcomes can be measured. “AI can be a useful tool for repetitive or formulaic tasks, but we want students to understand where AI stops being a positive tool. When it starts being detrimental to learning is when it shortcuts the process that gives value to a classroom exercise,” says Preston Tucker, History Teacher and Director of Curriculum Innovation and Research. “We believe that our students want to learn, but AI can tempt a student to take shortcuts. By leaning into the social dimensions of learning, we can see that students aren’t taking shortcuts. When a student teaches a concept to their table group, explains their conclusions to the class, or debates the meaning of a passage, we know they are developing skills. That work can’t be outsourced.”
College Prep teachers build learning experiences around human interactions and creativity, in the age of ChatGPT just as before. Developing their problem-solving skills and communication abilities in this familiar way, students prepare for an AI-driven world and are better equipped to adapt as the transformative technology evolves.
This year’s theme for Connections, Pride, and Spirit (CPS) Week was Conscious Consumerism and Media Awareness. All week, a structured series of speakers, workshops, and hands-on activities were led by students, faculty, staff, parents, and community leaders. Collectively, we highlighted our purchasing power as informed consumers and investigated the ways our citizenship is linked to production and consumption. Topics included race in social media algorithms, labor practices in the cocoa industry, traditional Middle Eastern marketplaces, carbon offsets, mending clothing, mindfulness, “girl”ification, mending clothing, deceptive advertising, preserving fruit,big tobacco, microplastics, and imagining the end of capitalism.
On MLK Day, some College Prep students and families joined the Parents' Association Equity & Belonging Committee in a day of service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They picked up trash in Oakland and planted trees as part of Oakland's Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) grant and the "Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors" Initiative, supported by Trees for Oakland, Higher Ground, and the Oakland Parks and Rec foundation.
In Independent Study, students work closely with a faculty mentor to design their own course of study and dive deeply into a topic about which they are passionate. This fall semester ten students went beyond our core curriculum in pursuit of a wide variety of topics including 3D-printed textiles, auxetic structures, environmental justice, creative writing and family narratives, fine woodworking & joinery, French literature, functional programming in Haskell, topology in mathematics, Galois and fundamental groups, Spanish politics and the impact of colonialism, storms as a literary theme, and sorting algorithms and their speeds.
We are excited to share that The Hill Project received an award from the California AIA, under their 2023 Design for Well-Being Awards. You can read more about this recognition here.
College Prep’s simple shingled buildings and inviting landscape hold and shape our school, creating a unique learning environment.This new facility, in the heart of campus, has more than doubled classroom and student gathering spaces. Since its opening in January 2022, The Hill Project has transformed our school. The courtyard, surrounded by beautiful gardens, is a place for gatherings of all kinds, including Assembly. Nooks and crannies throughout are filled with students having lunch, mulling over a good book, meeting with advisory groups, and consulting with their teachers. The Hill Project will serve our students and teachers for generations to come.
Common Classroom is a weekly rotating set of engaging, ungraded learning opportunities. Teachers, students, and alumni lead activities, classes, and workshops across a range of ever-changing offerings that include art projects, political discussions, physical pursuits, and more. Students are encouraged to take and lead new classes throughout the year. The first week of 2023-24 offerings include:
This summer, Partners welcomed 60 Scholars representing 15 middle schools from Oakland and the East Bay, and celebrated this year’s theme of “Scholar Voices.” Through core classes in English, Math and Social-Emotional Learning, and electives such as Engineering, Coding in Python, Brazilian Dance, Debate, and Financial Literacy, our Scholars’ voices were amplified, their curiosity nurtured, and their grit strengthened. More about the Partners Program here.
Congratulations to our women’s relay swim team for placing 14th in the 400 Free Relay at the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships. The girls swim team placed 5th overall at North Coast Section, and are the Bay Area County League-East champions. The boys swim team also competed in NCS and finished second in BCL-East. Go Cougars!
Students danced their hearts out in our annual Dance Showcase: Essential Joy. The performance was the culmination of our classes' explorations of many dance genres and the communities that created them, including Contemporary, Afro-Caribbean, Jazz, Congolese, and Hip Hop. Congratulations to all of our dancers, choreographers, and techs who made the show a success—the JOY was palpable!
Students in our Applied Studies course, Social Transformation—Oakland (STOak), hosted a screening of Alice Street, a documentary about the gentrification of Oakland, art as resistance, and activism. We were fortunate to be joined by community activist, artist, and poet Ayodele Nzinga, Chinatown community organizer Lailan Sandra Huen, and documentary film director, Spencer Wilkonson, for a Q&A panel.
CPS Day is an annual celebration of community learning, unity, and progress towards equity and social justice. This highly anticipated day offers an opportunity for participants to delve deeply into a specific topic—this year’s theme was Income Inequality and Economic Justice.
History teacher, Dan Song, and Alumni Director, Cindy Cesca Yoshiyama hosted Alumni Career Conversations: A Law Panel during a Common Classroom. Three alums, Aviva Gilbert '03, Chris Sun '04, and Sasha Filippova '03, talked about their journeys to become lawyers, their law specialties, as well as some of the cases they have handled. They also answered questions and offered students their advice for getting into the field.
Boys soccer is North Coast Section D2 Champions and BCL-East League Champions. They finished the season undefeated with an 18-0-2 record.
Boys Varsity Cross Country is the BCL-East league champion, placed third at NCS championship, and sixth in the CIF State Championship. Girls Varsity Cross Country is the BCL-East league champion, placed fourth at NCS Championship, and 17th in the CIF State Championship.
Girls Varsity Volleyball finished third in league. They seeded 8th in NCS play-offs and lost in the quarterfinals to the #1 seed.
Girls Varsity Tennis are the BCL-East Co-Champions. They seeded 8th in NCS play-offs and lost in the quarterfinals to the #1 seed.
Three alumnae joined us during a Common Classroom for our first Women in STEM career panel. Rekha Rao '82, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories, Laurel Paxton '10, Lead Propulsion Engineer at Relativity Space, and Sarah Sachs '12, Engineering Manager, Machine Learning at Robinhood, talked about their work and some of the challenges they've faced as women working in their fields. They also provided helpful advice to the student audience. Big thanks to our alumnae and our moderator Eva Campodonico '95, College Prep Science Teacher, for leading the conversation!
Over the summer, students in the STEMposium Applied Learning class participated in internships in labs at UCSF or UC Berkeley. Students gain hands-on experience in an array of STEM fields, learn how to read primary scientific literature, and acquire the analytical skills needed to work in a research team. Students work closely with their research mentor and routinely share their work with their STEMposium classmates throughout the summer. Current projects include Assessing Bias Pulse Oximetry and Skin Pigmentation.
Seniors in our Advanced Projects classes show the work that they have been creating in a special exhibition at the end of the school year. The artists blew us away with their creativity, talent, and hard work.
Our English seminar for juniors and seniors, “Flying Home”, visits the California Raptor Center. In class, they've read The Peregrin, H is for Hawk, Bright Wings, and The Home Place. At the California Raptor Center, students visited the museum, heard from experts, and met many birds including owls, vultures, and hawks. As a special treat they got to meet the resident juvenile bald eagle!