Updated: Fri, Feb 1, 2008, 10:46 am
Uploaded: Thu, Jan 31, 2008, 11:26 am
Mandarin program sparks parents' hopes
Family heritage and lost chances bring parents to packed room to learn about upcoming lottery
Hundreds of parents packed a room at Ohlone Elementary School Wednesday night, sitting on the floor and lining up near the door to learn about the Mandarin-immersion program starting in August. Many said the dual-language program, with its promise of Mandarin fluency by fifth grade, could bring their families closer.
None of her children's four grandparents speak English, Simone Wang said. And while the Mandarin program can't help communication with the East Indian pair who speaks Gujarati, it could bring her four-year-old son closer to the Chinese pair.
"Hopefully, the family connection is there," she said.
The crowd of between 250 and 300 curious parents seemed undaunted by the program's controversial past, including debate at 20 separate school board meetings in the past two years.
Yet only a fraction of parents at the 90-minute informational meeting will get "yes" letters, since a mere 40 students will be accepted for the first year of instruction.
The 20 kindergarten and 20 first-grade students will be housed in two newly constructed portables at Ohlone starting in August. They will learn mostly in Mandarin and -- administrators hope -- be fluent by fifth grade.
Children will be chosen via lottery and siblings of current Ohlone students will not be given preference to the language program, Principal Susan Charles said Wednesday.
Children will also learn in the "Ohlone way," a Montessori-like system where teachers work with students one-on-one throughout the day and strive to give kids wide berth to choose how they learn, she said.
Parents won't see students sitting in straight rows behind desks, she said.
The district wants to fill about one third of spots with fluent Mandarin speakers and two thirds with students whose predominant language is English, including those who only speak broken Mandarin, Associate Superintendent Marilyn Cook said.
There will be a separate lottery for each of the two categories, she said.
Yet not all who attended the meeting left planning to vie for one of those spots.
Jason Zhang said he and his wife came to the United States from China in their 30s. They don't speak English at home and he's concerned the program, with 80 percent Mandarin instruction in the early years, might not teach perfect English to their son, he said.
"I want a guarantee he'd learn English," he said, adding he and his wife could only rely on schools for English instruction.
"English, we can't help. We came to this country in our 30s," he said.
The new program's ability to teach English well is untested, and he was unsure whether they would enter the lottery, he said.
Yet many left the meeting enthusiastic about the promise of sharing family heritage -- and giving their children opportunities they lacked growing up.
Her two daughters take Mandarin lessons on weekend mornings just as she did, Sherwin Wong said.
But she never attained fluency and doubts they could. Plus, the lessons cut into valuable free time that will only shrink as the kids enter later grades.
"They're not thrilled. They see it as extra schoolwork," she said. She hopes her youngest daughter will win a spot in the Mandarin-immersion program, she said.
And learning Mandarin could help with success later in life, according to Jennifer and Dan Orr, a bi-cultural couple.
"I think we're in a global country and economy. It's important to speak as many languages as you can," Mrs. Orr said.
Bilingualism is important, parent Anne Huynh agreed, and Mandarin is simply more interesting than European languages.
Despite Wednesday's overflowing crowd of eager parents, the language program was hotly debated prior to board approval last spring.
Critics questioned the program's cost, prompting school-district promises it could be cost-neutral with funding from state grants. Critics also labeled the limited enrollment inequitable, but defenders said several so-called "choice" programs that admit students via lottery already exist, such as Escondido Elementary School's Spanish-immersion program.
The school board initially vetoed the program but reversed its vote last spring when program proponents announced plans to open a charter school that could take money from public schools.
The program will be advised by Stanford professor and former school board member Amado Padilla and the California Foreign Language Project, a language-teaching organization run by the University of California, Cook said Wednesday.
The deadline to contact Ohlone and enter the lottery is Feb. 18. For more information's visit the school's Web site.
Posted by Parental responsibility anyone?,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2008 at 8:35 am
"VOR" or whatever you term yourself to be,
No, I didn't forget the second part, because it isn't relevant! I am NOT advocating against the educational program because of RACE, please take two seconds and read all of my post. I WOULD ARGUE AGAINST THIS PROGRAM NO MATTER WHO IT BENEFITED, BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT IS NOT FAIR TO THE WHOLE, DIVERSE POPULATION OF THE DISTRICT. Calling that racist is a pathetic, wimpy cop-out because the rest of your argument doesn't hold water. I am arguing against an educational program because it is taking away money from the general population (regardless of what RACE they are, by the way!!!) and I do not believe that that is fair. Period. If this program were available to blonde, blue-eyed anglos only, I would just as equally object to it. Boutique programs are not FAIR, get that through your stubborn head. I am not racist, I am against ANY selfish, bullying group who has to resort to blackmail to push through an inequitable program. I would be front and center protesting this kind of program if it preferentially benefited ANY group. Including any group to which I may belong, by virtue of heritage or DNA or whatever criteria you throw around. I don't give a flying crap what nationality, heritage, or background that group has. Grow up. "Ipso facto racist" you say.
Take a course in logic and get back to me when you accurately master the concept of if-then statements and logic fallacies. I disagree with the program because I think it is wrong, not because the race of whatever group may be advocating for it. By your own statements, you assume that only Chinese (I assume, given you are painting me racist) students will be enrolled in this program. WRONG. Silly me. I thought this MI program was available to anyone who wanted to learn Mandarin, regardless of their race. I missed the section where only one RACE was going to benefit. I thought the 40 students were picked based on Mandarin proficiency track, and non-Mandarin proficiency track. I didn't realize that you expect only those of Chinese ancestry to qualify for the program.
Pathetic, Voice, pathetic. If you actually believe I'm racist, I am more than willing to meet with you face to face over coffee and hash this one out. Honestly. Name the time and date. I'll be there.
You simply cannot reduce this one to race, unless you are stirring the pot and trying to hide the fact that boutique programs are unfair and preferential to a small group of parents (I won't even say students, given no students are ever quoted, only parents who readily admit that their children object to extracurricular language study and see it as taking up "valuable weekend time").
If you and your children want to learn a second or third language, hats off to you, admirable. Welcome to the club, my child has been read books in two different languages since infancy. If I want (read that, WANT) more intensive education in a second or third language, I'll pay for it via tutoring or private school. Feel free to do so yourself. Or wait until middle school or high school like everyone else, if you insist on the school district paying for it. Or how about you teach a second language to your children via immersion at home?
You just want the school district to pay for specialized education that you are unwilling to underwrite yourself. That's why I think this whole issue is about parental responsibility. If you want your children to learn a new language or skill, take responsibility for it and give them the opportunities for it. Don't bully the school district into a boutique program because you are too selfish and arrogant to think you are above having to take any time, effort, or money on your own part to help your child become bilingual. If you really wanted that, you'd enroll them in a private school that would meet your WANTS beautifully.
I mean it about the coffee. No press, no posturing, just you and me. Let me know. I would love the opportunity to have an adult, logical, civilized discussion, and if you are going to resort to calling me racist, do it to my face and look me in the eyes. If you have the courage of your convictions, engage with me on an adult level. If not, if you still wish to throw accusations of racism at me, at least have the courtesy to insult me to my face.
I'm equally partial to Peet's, Starbucks, or any other local establishment. I'll even buy the first round. Let me know what time works for you, Voice. I'll be there.
Posted by OhlonePar,
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2008 at 4:00 pm
Funny, the earliest elementary immersion reference I can find is in Canada in 195. College-age (or rather military) models date back to WWII in Monterey when there was a rush to teach a lot of people Japanese fast.
So, as I've said before, the original immersion programs were short-term and extremely intensive. As are the summer college ones pioneered by Middlebury.
I asked you to answer two basic questions about immersion--research gaps. You didn't answer and are now trying to pass off such basic information as "irrelevant".
This is followed by (yawn) personal attacks on my motives. If you have the goods (in this case, research) you wouldn't resort to the attacks.
And, yes, there has been an attrition issue with CLIP--thus, out of the original 20, six remained by sixth grade--and some of those may have been late additions. Parent was the one who finally ferreted out the information.
So, the fact that the kids only catch up to grade level, despite having motivated parents, failing students drop out, small classes and extra attention, doesn't actually say much for the second-language miracle. While Meyerholz and Escondido's scores aren't broken down, the fact that the schools are both near the bottom in their respective districts doesn't indicate stellar test performances by the immersion kids.
And, of course, the school administrators say as much. They will tell you that there's a drop in scores around the 2/3 level. Of course, the testing doesn't start until then . . .
Which is why I like to compare immersion scores to DI schools like Hoover and Faria--similar self-selection, parental dedication, etc.
Self-selection, of course, doesn't operate everywhere. Kids drop out of the immersion programs into neighborhood schools, not vice-versa. Normal public schools take and keep everybody regardless of performance. They don't get to ease out the kids who pull down scores.
From some of the recent info, it sounds like there's less of a push to make MI succeed at Ohlone than I thought there would be. Ohlone's not putting its own tenured staff on the line. They haven't apparently hired or begun to train the two non-tenured teachers who will teach the program.
I think the election results and Skelly's lack of interest in the program means that the parents of the MIers will want it to succeed, but there's not going to be a ton of investment elsewhere.
I was actually sort of surprised, but it began to make sense to me when I thought about it. I mean, Camille Townsend squeaked by as an incumbent--but a big supporter of the MI program is not going to get elected.
Susan Charles might lose a little face if the program fails, but it's easy to blame the mess on Callan and Co.
So, yeah, maybe the program will work perfectly from the get-go. Odds are, though, given its experimental nature, it won't. At which point, the MI crowd will push for a more traditional program at Garland. Will it have the political clout to push it through? It's a good question. MI/Ohlone may well have been a pyrrhic victory.
There are a lot of hurdles--getting enough native speakers; getting enough diversity; convincing families in the program that it's really working; making sure it does work.
Again, the fact that the district's hiring outside for both positions is telling. If I were Susan Charles, I pretty much would have pushed Monica Lynch into the job--she's qualified and an excellent teacher. Heck, she's helping design the curriculum.
But then not to use her in the classroom . . . it only makes sense to me if you plan to limit your investment in the program and you expect it to either disappear or go elsewhere.
I gathered from the meeting that Charles expects to go elsewhere, but I'm beginning to wonder if there is a real possibility of shutting down the program after the pilot. If the native-speaker recruitment's not there, then the district has a perfect excuse.
It will be interesting to watch--Different's right, this will be a watched program.
Posted by OhlonePar,
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2008 at 12:42 am
Yep, CLIP still has attrition problems--you see a drop in student numbers around grade 4--even with the numbers bumped up with Mandarin-speaking transfers from the looks of it.
I first heard about the composition issue from parents of immersion kids in this Forum, actually--an SI parent said that composition was where their kids were weak. This was followed by some other anecdotes. I then started looking for any studies on the subject and found a gap.
So, yep, people did come forth. Why on earth did you assume that no one ever had?
Take a look sometime. All of this has been discussed before, extensively. It's why I knew that if I asked you if you knew of any studies that examined English comp. skills and MI immersion that you wouldn't produce them. Your evasiveness and personal attacks were also, alas, predictable.
As for CLIP, you could have looked this up--heck, if you were familiar with the Forum, you'd have known all of this has been talked about.
Or as another poster called "Another" posted a little over a year ago regarding CLIP's enrollment--s/he started with PACE's own CLIP figures and then got more current ones:
The 2006 enrollment given at that time was 'projected'
However I confirmed the 2006 actuals with Jeremy Nishamara as follows: (which are almost identical, I believe 1 less than the projected..)
First Grade: 59
Second Grade: 58
Third Grade: 59
Fourth Grade: 47
Fifth Grade: 31
Sixth Grade: 24
Seventh Grade: 21
Eighth Grade: 6
By the way - this gives you best case scenario, because the total enrollment can disguise some of the attrition. Maybe even TONS of attrition. (How do we know? Did we have our knowledgable feasibility studiers clear this up for us??? In other words you can lose 5 and repopulate the next year with 5, and show year over year net zero change. This disguises some of the potential turn over, and no one seems to be able to look at their class rosters, or participant names to give us the full story. Not even our own SI. So again, I believe the appropriately conservative way to look at this would be to use the PAUSD average or average of other MANDARIN programs.
And why does it matter?
Try this. Take 40 per year 20 English speakers and 20 Native Mandarin speakers. Replace 8% every year with Native Mandarin speakers. How many native Mandarin speakers do you have by end of the program? How many Hindi speakers, German Speakers, Spanish Speakers, French Speakers did you serve? How many English speakers
Why does this matter?
Because our PAUSD published Alternative/Choice program guidelines state that the programs will reach an racial, ethnic, and socioeconimical enrollment representative of the community. They SEPARATELY discuss a fair enrollment process. So the point on reaching a balanced represention - was the board acting racist when they put that in there? No. Its to protect diversity and opportunity across all ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the community. Trying to maintain and protect fairness and access to all is not racist. Trying to ignore this as an issue is, and barrell through a program that you know DARN WELL will be racial biased IS racist.
Another brings up an interesting point--is there any way to have an MI program that falls in line with the diversity of the community? I remember a discussion about this when the charter threat was active--but missed this topic.
Does MI, can MI--particularly since Charles says Stanford honchos say the program should be 50 percent native speakers--meet the guidelines of the district's choice programs? What if it doesn't in three years?
But, anyway, to get back to the earlier topic, I'm afraid those CLIP classes still exist--and, thus, so does the issue of attrition in the upper grades--it's an ongoing issue, as I said. Not just at CLIP, by the way.
With CLIP, it wasn't the case of one class having extremely high attrition and others having none. The attrition issue continues--and those numbers underestimate the true attrition rate because of transfers into the program.
After all, if we just used the first-year CLIP numbers, the attrition rate's way over 20 percent--less than one-third of the original class remains. I took that into account--thus, 20 percent instead of 70 percent. As I've said, I've had these discussions before.
We see fairly flat enrollment in K-3 and then major attrition in the upper grades--20 percent different between grades 3 and 4. And then, after that, it doesn't appear to stabilize, it appears to continue eroding.
So, as I say, attrition is still an issue in CLIP. With every class fourth grade on up having a total attrition rate of over 20 percent. This rate continues to climb--and the actual rates in most of the upper classes are much higher than 20 percent. I am assuming that the fourth grade has three classes, the fifth from two.
And why with all your claimed expertise did you not know about this?
It's interesting looking back at old Forum threads--at one point there's a discussion of the big drop at the International school around 3rd grade in the Chinese program. Apparently the main reason given is that parents found the program too intensive and time-consuming.
Hmmm, sounds like college-immersion to me, except that college kids get to make a choice.
And, again, a big question remains about how something like this will be done at Ohlone in the Ohlone way. Doesn't sound like anyone's found a way to keep up English literacy and learn Mandarin without a lot of afterschool work.
Just out of curiosity--do you think a trial MI/Ohlone program will survive anywhere near that kind of attrition? For that matter, do you think PAUSD will do what Cupertino did in its first years of CLIP and take intradistrict transfers to stay afloat?
How politically palatable do you think that would be when we're overflowing kids?
So, now it's your turn--well, it's been your turn for a while--to support your claims.
As for anonymous parent's intent--ummm, given that the jab was aimed at parent's who only care about their kids doing better than their "monolingual peers"--kiddo, that was aimed straight at you. You made the claim about the scores.
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