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Elementary Mandarin popular in Palo Alto

Original post made on May 25, 2010

Palo Alto's elementary Mandarin Immersion Program is wildly popular among local families, with 69 students applying for 22 kindergarten spots this fall. This is one of several findings in an annual update on the Palo Alto school district's Mandarin program to be presented to the Board of Education tonight.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 9:00 AM

Comments (59)

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Posted by Ohlone parent
a resident of Community Center
on May 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Don't cater to special interests. You have to cover the basics first, which by all recent accounts the PAUSD is lacking.
"More than 2,000 Palo Alto" are taking this elsewhere. Why do we need this at Ohlone for 22 students!!!


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Posted by Katie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2010 at 4:41 pm

The schools are so short of money, why are we catering to a small minority of people wanting the program. Let the kids take private Chinese language lessons at their own expense, outside of school.


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Posted by former Ohlone parent/aide
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Couldn't have expressed my sentiments more clearly and simply. Thank you!


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Posted by Midtown mommy
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2010 at 7:10 pm

In the meantime, about 120 families entered the Ohlone lottery (for how many spots this year? 28?) because they were seeking the Ohlone way. MI does not need to be at Ohlone; put it at another school and lets get some of those families off the waiting list.


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Posted by random outsider
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2010 at 8:04 pm

What's the problem? It's being funded by the feds, from a funding pool that ONLY does foreign language instruction, and it is clearly wildly popular, which is why so many people are trying to get into it.

Most well-educated people in the world speak at least two languages. America falls behind in this regard. But options like this can help.

Foreign language instruction isn't "catering to a special interest": it's both popular and an incredibly useful life tool. Our kids learning the language of what is likely to be the most important other country in the world (by the time they grow up, if not before) is especially useful.


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2010 at 8:14 pm

"random outsider", you are 100% on target. This is one program where PAUSD is actually providing something that will be useful to the children when they are adults.


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Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 25, 2010 at 9:03 pm

You mean PAUSD is providing something that will be useful to 22 students.

What happens when this grant runs out? I hope they get another one. At a time when PE and music are being cut everywhere in California, I don't want tax money used for this program.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Wildly popular-- 69 students. What is the percentage of the 69 compared to the total population of Kindergarten students. Does not seem like a high percentage to me. Is this a news story or an editorial?


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm

The value of a foreign language is determined by its usage in the global political structure and in commerce. In the 20th century, it was English. In the 21st it will be Mandarin.

In 20 years you might want to ask those 22 students if they think Mandarin is of value. You may also want to ask the Spanish learners the same question.



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Posted by 20 years from now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Outside Observer

"In 20 years you might want to ask those 22 students if they think Mandarin is of value. You may also want to ask the Spanish learners the same question."

in 20 years, more Chinese will speak Spanish and other languages, and more Spanish speakers will have learnt Chinese,

the news from Palo Alto will be that 22 students learnt Mandarin?





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Posted by Ohlone parent
a resident of Ohlone School
on May 25, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Glad my children are at Ohlone and NOT in this program.


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Posted by 20 years from now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2010 at 10:39 pm



correction,

22 students learned Mandarin

and the next question could be

did those 22 students eventually use the Mandarin,

what if they maybe switched to French in High School,

or married Alaskans


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2010 at 10:39 pm

The reason that High School spots aren't being signed up is because the feeder middle school mandarin classes aren't set up yet to feed into high school, and those students that want to learn a language at that point in their education are thinking about what they can do of value at the middle school level. This prompts French, Spanish, and Japanese as of right now as those are established 1A, 1B -> 2 at the freshman year of high school.

I for one, would've taken Mandarin if it was set up like Spanish was 4 years ago. Doing Spanish however let me go into Spanish 2 in my freshman year, thus putting me a year ahead, whereas I could have started over in Mandarin 1. The fact that the Mandarin numbers were low in comparison to, say, Japanese, is only because of the status of the middle school language classes.


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Posted by 20 years from now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2010 at 10:57 pm


Student,

imagine if they had set up the middle school feeder classes with the flap grant instead of the immersion program.


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Posted by Look elsewhere
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2010 at 6:44 am

Lets look at the big picture here. PAUSD has a long list of special programs each with its own market demand. The most effective way to make an impact is to vote for what you believe in. Don't vote for the Bond Measure if you don't agree with how PAUSD is spending your money! From the latest overwhelming 70+%, I believe the message is loud and clear! So, don't complain!


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Posted by Long View
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2010 at 8:14 am

Yes, they are way behind the curve in setting up Mandarin for middle school.


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Posted by 20 years from now
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2010 at 8:24 am


look elsewhere,

I don't agree with everything the district does, but I agree with much of what it does, voting against the measure would not make any sense.

observing and making comments to this post titled Elementary Mandarin popular in Palo Alto is not complaining - it's commenting on the article and the comments, what are you, the comments police?





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Posted by look elsewhere
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2010 at 9:15 am

20 years from now,

I sense you are very frustrated by this. Please don't take comments here personally. After working on 15+ PAUSD committees/PTA Board, I know how our school system works. Money talks!! This includes Bond Measures, Grants, etc. Personally, I applaud the MI committee for their committment and political savviness. Lets just agree to disagree!


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Posted by Capbreton
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2010 at 10:33 am

So many misconceptions, so little time.

Start with the fact that Chinese 1 at Paly and Gunn are specifically designed for "heritage" children, i.e., children from Chinese families who are already fluent -- key word there -- but cannot read or write.

So, let's say you have a three-year middle school Mandarin feeder program. My daughter, already fluent in a second language (so a proven language learner), did just that in a private school and could not place out of Chinese 1 at Paly because Chinese 1 at high school is NOT designed to be a next step out of middle school. If you think kids will learn to speak Mandarin at Paly you would be wrong because the target audience there already speaks Mandarin. They will learn to read and write and compete against native speakers from day one.

I say all this as a huge fan of Mandarin -- I have two kids learning it now -- but shake my head at all the misguided piece-meal efforts in the Palo Alto schools. The whole issue has to be dealt with holistically and in a coordinated fashion among the school tiers or there's really no point to it. Even if there were a middle school program now we know there would be no handoff to the high schools so you'd have a pool of *really* disappointed kids, most of whom would have to start high school at Chinese 1 level. Now we're talking about a handful of elementary school kids maybe targeting a middle school program down the line that doesn't even exist??

Sigh.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by confused
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Wasn't MI originally designed for two-strands?
Also, if there is so much interest in Ohlone (non-MI), why are there open spaces in the 5th & 6th grades compared to Palo Verde?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Two strands of K-1 equals 11 kinders per class or 22 spots.


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Posted by confused
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Still confused.

Ohlone MI has the following:
21 Kinders
23 1st Graders
22 2nd Graders

Compared to 2-strand at SI:
42 Kinders
44 1st Graders
42 2nd Graders

What happened to the requirement to make MI 2 strands as requested in the original feasibility study: Web Link

"Should allow for one and a half (1.5 strands) or two classes per grade level (2 strands)."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Future View
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Heard yesterday on NPR news that China is now the second-largest economy, surpassing all the European countries. If school is meant to prepare our children for success in the future, should we not recognize that more people in this world and in the world of future commerce and politics will be speaking Mandarin and not German or French?

Students sign up for French and German because it is offered. If we didn't make it so hard to take Mandarin and even began to offer it earlier in the middle and perhaps even elementary schools, they would see it as a viable option and not something exotic.

Continue to pretend that Mandarin as a "special interest" and find ourselves one day the third-world country we used to consider China.


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Posted by Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Capbreton, you know that the feeder programs in middle school, 1A in 7th grade, and 1B in 8th, allow you to skip to the 2nd year of said language.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm

What hasn't been said in the article is that PAUSD does not value language education for elementary students.

We have one small group doing Spanish immersion and another small group doing Mandarin immersion and the rest doing nothing.

Does this sound enlightening? Other countries teach foreign language from the early years to all students, some learn more than one foreign language. This is nothing to be proud of from a global perspective.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Confused -

Ohlone combines grades, Escondido does not. There are 2 Kinder classes at Escondido and 2 1st grade classes for a combination of 4 classes. There are 2 K-1 classes at Ohlone. Ohlone classes are K-1, 2-3. 4-5.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by confused
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Wow, really? And they bought it!
I'm more impressed with the board - they managed to allay the threat of a charter with a single strand. Awesome work!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 9:39 am

Most of the people I know don't care if there is MI or not. What is frustrating is what Parent is saying. A very few kids get immersion, and the rest get nothing, during the time in their lives when language is so easy to pick up. It gets harder in middle school and high school, but that is when it is offered.

Personally, I would want the schools to extend the day by 30 minutes, and add either Spanish or Chinese one hour a day. But that isn't going to happen any time soon. I am very sad about that.

At least offer Spanish and Chinese 2 or 3x a week after school, but that isn't happening either (at least at our school). Once a week, at one level doesn't work.


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Posted by Outsider
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2010 at 9:59 am

Speaking from an outsider's point of view, these special language immersion programs I feel are what gives the Palo Alto school system and Cupertino school systems a certain sense of prestige. Prestige not in the sense of "better than the others" but prestige in the sense that there are rich options available. You take these special programs out and the only thing you can go by is the API scores where Mission San Jose in Fremont and Cupertino schools trounce Palo Alto schools convincingly.


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Posted by GGL
a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

"A very few kids get immersion, and the rest get nothing"

Agree it's a shame we don't have elementary world languages (and that they don't start until 7th grade), but that has nothing to do with the small immersion programs.


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Posted by Chinese Resident
a resident of Ventura
on May 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm

People who are against MI are missing the point of the article that demand greatly exceeds supply. Don't focus on the 22 spots that were filled, which is a small number. Focus on the 69 that applied and consider that we're talking "local families". If MI were offered in every school in Palo Alto, I think you might be surprised by the actual amount of demand for MI throughout our city. As a Chinese parent, I can tell you that there are private school options for Mandarin Immersion, but can you imagine paying the money to live in this school district and end up not sending your kids to public school? Trust me that the demand for MI is easily in the hundreds per grade level throughout our district.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Chinese Parent

You are both right and wrong. Demand is high in the District for foreign language at all elementary schools - not just Mandarin and not just immersion. If they offered foreign language at all schools you would be surprised at the amount of interest, even if it meant increasing the school day by 30 minutes a day.


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Posted by mmmmmmMom
a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Whether or not you think (& it is only your opinion about the future; the data does NOT exist to suggest otherwise) Mandarin is important in the coming decades, BOTTOM LINE is that until foreign language is made EQUALLY available @ the elementary level for ALL district students, then it is wrong, wrong, wrong to have an MI immersion program - or any other foreign language - for a select few. GIVE ALL THE CHILDREN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE STARTING IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!!!!!!


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Posted by enrollment
a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2010 at 3:53 pm

SI can't even fill their 5th grades. They have 16 students per grade where other are maxing out at 23/24 students. MI will follow the same pattern as they fail to back-fill the places in later years.
Demand drops-off pretty quickly when parents start being interested in actual grades.
Just look at the attendance report: Web Link


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm

69 of 900 kindergarteners does not suggest to me that this program is "wildly popular." Let's keep language learning in perspective. Some families like it early, others care more about the community neighborhood feel and the less specialized world found in the other great elementary schools.

The program, if there are 22 kids in it, probably costs just about what any other class does. My kids are not really interested in languages. Their interests are in the sciences and in math. And in their schools they are getting fine experiences. None of them are big into languages and that's just fine. I don't think they will be homeless or unemployable because they don't have mandarin. Our children are not our racecars in the game of life.


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 30, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I'm out of PALY now, but do I gather that native Mandarin speakers are permitted to take Mandarin Chinese AP - and this goes on their college apps? What a joke. It certainly seems a small segment of the population is being catered to, while a comprehensive, coherent foreign language (oops, world language) program does not exist here.
I would think that in a K-12 school district things should be planned on a comprehensive scale, not something so tiny.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Former,

What is your point? Should they exclude native speakers from ap classes?


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm

1) Well, it's an easy A for a native speaker.
2) It's an advantage to take as many APs as possible for college apps.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2010 at 5:10 am

former,

1) Just because you speak "Chinese" at home, doesn't mean you'll do well on the the AP test. Literacy in Chinese requires lots of study. So no, it's not an easy A. And anyway, what's the principle? No easy A's? No math AP's for anyone whose parent is a mathematician?

2) Whatever. I suggest you not go down that road.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2010 at 9:16 am

The reason we don't have foreign language in our elementary schools is money, not a lack of interest or commitment. It would cost at least a million dollars if I remember the numbers from the FLES task force a few years back. And either eliminating something else in the school day or adding to the day which I assume would require renegotiating the teachers contract.

There are several PA school that offer after school language classes through and outside company (not sponsored by the school but set up by the PTA) If the school is willing to donate the space, that is a great option. Organizing it thru PACCC (the kids clubs at the schools) might be another option.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm

OK, so I haven't been following MI too closely lately. I just read the annual update in the board packet from May 25, available at Web Link starting on p. 67.

It was news to me that Marilyn Cook, who retired from the district as an associate superintendent last year is now FLAP Project Director responsible for grant administration, evaluation and reporting. And being paid $15,000 to do so, which comes out of the FLAP grant award carryover, apparently.

The other interesting item is #1 on the list of what will be done with the FLAP money in school year 2010-2011: Completion of Mandarin Immersion curriculum standards grades 4-6. This makes it seem as if the immersion program will automatically continue into middle school. I don't think that's a given just yet, is it?

Looking at this report and all the resources devoted to MI and the development of middle and high school Chinese language programs, all I can say is those kids sure are lucky.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm



I am not convinced the MI kids are lucky. I haven't heard ANYTHING about the program, other than gossip. It sure would be good to hear something from the school about what is going on, what is being taught, how many and why people may drop out, etc. I have heard that there is NOT enough English reading/writing being taught because they teach music and PE in English, so there is only an hour or so a week to learn reading and writing in English for 1st graders. That is not enough, other than for kids who already are reading very well in kindergarten (and may work for Spanish, because there are more similarities in reading). What is the 2nd grade structure and 3rd grade plan? Please let us know, just don't say "Trust us".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 7, 2010 at 11:45 am

Gunn mom, these kids sure are lucky. Their brag sheets will include fluency, reading and writing of Mandarin making them one step ahead of all of the other kids in the district when applying to the UC's and other colleges. The district just handed them a free pass above and beyond their cohorts at our expense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Nonsense. Ain't no expense, least of all yours. That group brought money into the district, so district kids are benefiting due to those kids' parents.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pay to play?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm



"That group brought money into the district, so district kids are benefiting due to those kids' parents."

I guess if you pay, you can get more in return.

this was definitely the case





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I guess you don't know the facts. Nobody paid.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lena
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2010 at 11:11 pm

I agree that it teaching foreign languages in early age is very important. I am sure most Palo Alto parents would be willing to pay for foreign language if it is woven into school day, and subsidize those families who can not. Private foreign language group lesson could cost, let's say, $100/hour, take 20 kids per class - it would only be $5 per class, 3 times a week, so $15/week per kid or $60 per month. Personally, I would be happy to pay up to 3 or 4 times this amount a month. Foreign language education in middle school is a joke, in my child's French class there are 40 students, you can;t learn a language in such a huge group. Even in Soviet Russia with its closed borders educators understood the importance of foreign language, and the standard was 3 times a week in a group of no more than 20 children in all public schools.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2010 at 8:42 am

I think the estimate to implement foreign language in the elementary schools was a least a million dollars. The school day would also need to be lengthened - there is no time to for another subject to be "woven into the school day".

In the middle schools, I'm sure there is a minimum number needed to trigger another class - probably around 25. So to add another language class, there would need to be at least 50 kids signed up for it (25 per class). And since language in middle school is only an elective, the class size is more flexible. I'm sure industrial tech and drama can be that large also.

I think much of Palo Alto values foreign language, just not enough to come up with the extra dollars and time in the school day.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 8:59 am

Exactly right. Palo Alto doesn't value foreign languages, and that's not going to change soon.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2010 at 9:04 am

If we can find time for field trips to pumpkin patches, parties, parades, celebrations and even science fairs - most of which are done for parents' delight rather than educational value, then I am sure we could find time in the school day for languages.

The cost is another matter, but if we got rid of a few administrators in Churchill and dubious office positions at secondary schools, I think we could find money for foreign language where it could do the most value in the lower grades.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2010 at 9:59 am

I think one of the district-wide surveys asked parents how high of a priority FLES was, and it was no where near the top. Not that language wasn't important, but far below other subjects.

I don't think firing a few administrators would get us a million dollars.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2010 at 10:02 am

Parent - regarding the non academic field trips (usually just kinders), parties, etc. The time spent of those probably amounts to 5-6 hours a year. Language instruction would take 3 hours a week.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2010 at 10:26 am

I don't think that the fact that foreign language didn't come out top is an indication that it is not a popular idea. I think what would be more interesting is seeing what it came higher than. It is obviously not as high a value as core subjects, but it is possibly higher than learning about cultural diversity, music, art, etc. I don't actually know because the survey as usual was worded so badly that the real information never became apparent.

No, I agree that field trips, parties, etc. don't add up to enough time, but my point is that of the 180 days in the school year, much is wasted. How about this week? What of value has been taught in these 4 days of school? No, there is just too many of the precious 180 days lost - even in middle school. Other countries have 190+ days in school and few wasted days. (The school days are longer too, but that is another subject).

Agreed that slimming down administrators would not produce $1m, but it is an example again of how money is wasted. I also think that $1 extra per year is an exaggeration as once the program was running, the costs would not be as high as the overheads such as curriculum, etc. would be reduced after the first year.

My point is that if we and the BoE implemented FLES, it could be done. As it stands, some get language in the early years and the majority get nothing. It is definitely a two tier educational system here in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Parent,

You're out of synch with your community.

Palo Alto values the core subjects, music, art, etc. over foreign languages. They just aren't a priority. Look at middle school. Students cannot take a foreign language until seventh, and even then it's optional. Each year it is up in the air as to whether certain languages will be offered because it depends on students selecting that option. And the courses they can take are not very serious (two years count as one high school year, which itself is not exactly intensive).


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Posted by enrollment
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm

FLES in elementary schools is over-rated. Elementary immersion is under-subscribed in the 4-5th grades.
Parents and children just don't want it. It's one of those "seemed like a good idea at the time".
Lot's of after-school opportunities available if you *really* want your child not to master a language they'll never use.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm

In terms of priorities, I believe foreign language was below Math, Science, language arts, Science, Art and Music.

There certainly is "wasted" time in school, but if elementary parents were given a choice between using some extra school time on Science or Spanish, I think the majority would choose science.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Actually, ignorance and parochialism mean FLES in elementary schools is under-rated in this area. FLES and immersion are time-tested traditional ideas that have been around a long time, but never caught on here because we are caught up by fads like math/science.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by enrollment
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Huh? I'm never sure which side you're on but your post amused me! :}


 +   Like this comment
Posted by old old arguments
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm




it's a safe bet that neither FLES or a new immersion program are in Palo Alto's future, why bother with the arguments?





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