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Possible Compromise on Mandarin Immersion

Original post made by Simon Firth, College Terrace, on Dec 13, 2006

Here's a letter I just sent to the School Board. What do people think of the idea?
Simon


Dear Board Members:

Possible Compromise on Mandarin Immersion

The upcoming availability of the Garland campus in three years (2010-11) offers, I believe, the chance for a solution that could be acceptable to people on both sides of the Mandarin Immersion (MI) debate. It would go like this:

1) the Board acknowledges that MI is feasible but that there is no obvious home for it and considerable opposition to it right now. It then tables MI's implementation until a vote in late 2008.

2) the Board immediately commits to reopening Garland Elementary in 2010, an idea that has had wide support in the AAAG process.

3) the Board explicitly reserves space at Garland ready for two strands of MI in three years time, if MI is decided in the interim to be the right thing for the district to do.

4) the Board commits to reserving at least two strands at Garland for neighborhood children.

5) during 2006-7 the Board runs a World Language Task Force charged with addressing how best to serve the language needs of all students in the district. It pays particular attention to bringing PAUSD into line with its peers as per the recent PIE benchmarking report.

6) the Task Force makes sure to conduct a thorough review of the Spanish Immersion program to determine its true costs and value to the community.

7) the Task Force arrives at consensus on which languages need to be taught in the District and recommends which languages should be offered as immersion programs.

8) the Task Force offers solutions for offering languages to all in the elementary grades (FLES) and sets in motion a plan to do that -- quite possibly, though, running at a slower pace than implementing any immersion programs it advocates. In other words, a new immersion program wouldn't have to wait for FLES to get going to start up at Garland in 2010.

9) when Garland opens, if MI is supported by the Task Force, it is placed there.


Call it the Garland Compromise, if you like. Here's the reasoning behind it:

1) placing MI anywhere before 2010 will be deeply problematic and traumatic to boot. This model gets MI in place in just a few years, but takes it out from under the cloud of opposition and suspicion that currently surrounds it.

2) supporters of MI can embrace this plan. If MI is as essential to the District as they claim, they have nothing to be afraid of. MI will come through the Task Force process with very strong support and be implemented about as quickly as it might have been anyway. Gaining the support of the Task Force process would also effectively erode most of MI's opposition. If MI has Task Force approval, there will be very few good reasons to oppose it—something that is far from clearly the case to a great many people right now.

3) THERE IS NO RUSH. MI does not have to be passed right now. There is no grant waiting to be collected. We have a feasibility study that will be just as valuable in two years as it is now.

4) MI is currently a VERY divisive issue in the district. Look at how betrayed many of the people who put hours and hours of work into passing Measure A now feel. Passing MI now will not heal that divisiveness. Indeed it will further embitter a great many people who are otherwise key supporters of the PAUSD.

5) this compromise promises MI a home very soon, so long as it has been supported by a group specifically tasked with thinking about PAUSD's future language needs. This would both solve the location dilemma, then, and overcome the criticism that MI was implemented without a consideration of the District's real language needs.

6) this prevents opponents of MI from arguing that MI is an ad hoc program being implemented by a reactive Board. Instead, it would clearly be the product of a proactive process. MI implemented in this way would be widely supported.

7) it gives supporters of neighborhood schools guaranteed space at Garland, too -- much like Escondido's non-SI parents have – considerably mollifying the complaint that MI will diminish the neighborhood school model. Waiting to place it at Garland also means no opposition to MI from parents in schools that currently only serve their neighborhoods (and who can be guaranteed to fight tooth and nail to keep them that way), again avoiding a divisive fight.

8) it recognizes that even if MI is revenue neutral, it does present real costs for the District in terms of closing down other options -- for the use of facilities as neighborhood schools and for the provision of other languages in immersion programs. This allows for the costs and benefits on each side to be fairly weighed.

9) it offers a logical way to determine which language programs to support rather than voting them through on a first-come-first-served basis. It answers the very real problem of what we do when the next set of wealthy parents come asking for a French, Hindi, Korean, Farsi, German, Italian or whatever program. It means we don't just go with the next group in with a proposal, or reward only those with access to money. It lets us work out how many immersion programs we can have before we run out of space and have to say sorry to all the rest.

10) it addresses the problem with the argument popular among MI supporters that we can just do MI now and implement FLES later: by acknowledging that unless we first have a thorough discussion of language provision in the district to determine the particular languages the district really needs to offer and the form in which that instruction should be undertaken, MI will always remain discredited. It also overcomes the objection to MI on the grounds of equity because the Task Force will have recommended ways to implement FLES as well as which immersion languages to support before MI is up and running (even if FLES takes a while longer to get going).

11) finally, following this course would mean the district had clearly and publicly acted responsibly, planning for language instruction for all, fairly and from the ground up. Designing from the roof down, as I would argue we are doing now, means creating a house that will most likely fall on us sometime soon and hurt everyone inside.

To sum up, I strongly believe that there are more compelling reasons to wait a short time and get this right than to push MI through ahead of its being considered by a World Language Task Force and risk having made a wrong and deeply unpopular decision. I hope you agree.

Thank you for reading this long message. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the idea when you have the chance.

Happy holidays and best wishes,

Simon Firth

Comments (52)

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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 14, 2006 at 12:22 am

Simon, Quick question -- why would FLES take longer to implement? It still sounds like under this compromise FLES would still effectively end up a secondary priority to MI. Maybe I'm missing something, but I guess I still don't see how FLES would end up a priority and not in conflict with MI for resources.

I'm not dissing your compromise, in fact I'm very hopeful. As far as I am concerned, the best of all worlds would be to get language instruction available to all (as the priority) AND MI. I just want to be sure I really understand before I support it.


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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 14, 2006 at 5:15 am

Very sensible. Foreign language instruction is actually WAAAAAY down the list of current priorities, and a couple of years would allow thoughtful reexamination of the issue, revision of the Feasibiliy Study to provide much-needed supporting data (e.g. real audit of SI for comparative purposes), and placement in a more timely, permanent way. Thanks for the suggestion. I think it addresses a host of concerns.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2006 at 6:46 am

A.J. I'm guessing FLES would take a while because it's a big challenge to decide what to teach and how. Plus money needs to be found and time in the school day needs to be found to make it work. I don't think it's impossible at all--plenty of peer districts, even in cash-strapped CA do it. But it will take time. We have an outline for MI, if it is adopted, ready to go. Hence the disparity in timing. This idea would allow MI to get going as soon as Garland is free, but it would also guarantee that FLES gets on track for eventual adoption--something that the "let's do MI now and talk about FLES later" option does not guarantee. That was essentially the plan when SI got adopted and look where we are (or aren't) with FLES twelve years later!


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Posted by anon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2006 at 7:27 am

I have a quick clarification. When SI was started as a pilot program in the early 90's, 2 elementary schools also started FLES pilot programs. The SI pilot was successful and cost neutral and is still around. The FLES programs were both cancelled, probably because they were too expensive to run. So, the characterization of a plan where FLES was somehow a carrot to approve SI is not correct. PAUSD has tried FLES (unsuccessfully) before and at the same time that it started SI.
I am actually for SI, and MI and FLES. I think that FLES could be successful now, with a lot of community support and a well thought out implementation plan. I also think that FLES is very different from MI and I see no reason to wait on FLES to start MI.
IF MI is a good idea, and cost neutral let's do it now.


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Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Dec 14, 2006 at 7:46 am

Thanks Simon for your well written ideas.

I am inclined to see your sugggestion in a good light, if nothing else that at least it gives us time to PLAN WELL.

I need to think some more about it, though. I worry that we are just assuming that Garland is the best approach to our growing enrollment and drawing a foregone conclusion that will "make it so", stopping the examination of non-facilities solutions. I am hopeful that our Board can get a full examination of such programmatic solutions as year-round schooling, am-pm kindergarten etc to help off-load some of our space concerns. On first blush, these seem like less expensive and more flexible solutions, but that is only an impression. I hope our Board gets a lot more info before they have to decide with just facilities options presented.

I am also wondering if this is a form of sacrificing most of the neighborhood spots for future kids at Garland, which has no voice right now to defend itself. Of course, that is assuming they would see it this way, which they very well may not. In their gratitude to have SOME spots back, they may be happy to risk some of them being displaced.

Now that I have talked myself through it, and probably bored you, I can support this as long as it is kept in mind that Garland is only one of many solutions, and seeing it as a solution for MI should not, in my opinion, influence how we decide to solve the enrollment problem. Spending millions of dollars on reopening a school ( to the tune of refurbishing, lost revenue, staffing etc) for this reason only would be irresponsible.

With this in mind, IF it should happen that Garland is the least expensive and most flexible option for the good of the WHOLE district, then your proposal works for me. It would allow the Garland folks time to weigh in, and time for the District to study and implement whatever other solutions for foreign language they decide to do.

Thanks, Simon.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2006 at 8:55 am

To Anon: Thank you for your clarification. I agree that FLES could work now with support and I think that support exists among parents of elementary students today.

You say, "IF MI is a good idea, and cost neutral let's do it now." My point is that we don't yet know if it is a good idea for the community--we haven't looked into that question seriously at all in the sense that other immersion languages haven't been discussed and there's no overall language strategy right now. We know that it MI feasible, that's all. Sure we CAN do it, but we need a much more comprehensive discussion about whether we SHOULD do it for waving it through.

Pauline: I think your concerns need to be addressed if something like this compromise is adopted. It would be, after all, a compromise and supporters of neighborhood schools need to be on board. I'm a strong believer that smaller elementary schools work best for students, so I'm very much in favor of opening a new campus rather than continuing to pack more portables onto already bulging grounds. Again, it's not going to be a fun ride to get to a solution, but I fear we'll be a very divided community—with very negative consequences for the education of all our students—if some sort of compromise isn't reached.


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Posted by Jamie Maltz
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2006 at 10:31 am

Hello,

Thanks to Simon Firth for some creative thinking on this issue. I believe that to resolve this problem the insights and inputs from the community need to be heard. However, I would also like to point out that this proposal still does not address several issues that many who are opposed to MI still have (not related to location, timing, OR world language strategy):

1) It entirely JUMPS OVER the issue of a strategic priority setting process. It has NOT been determined that languages are the next most important issue for PAUSD. I believe a strategic priority setting process must occur first to determine if language in the elementary is indeed the next most important issue to be addressed. If Language is at the top, then the work of a WL task force can begin.

2) It entirely JUMPS OVER the issue of resolving the questions of CHOICE vs NEIGHBORHOOD school. There is widespread agreement that no further choice programs should be implemented at the cost of disrupting the neighborhood schools. There needs to be a discussion of the 'tipping' point for our district model, there needs to be a discussion about the impact of bringing in further choice programs that create unbalances in diversity and opportunity. There must be strategic discussion about the remaining number of choice programs that we have capacity for.

3) If there is room for more choice programs (or two more, or three more) and community demonstrates will for new choice programs, then there needs to be some discussion (relative to strategic priorities) about how many and which subject areas are best suited to choice programs, more robust rules and measures of how we will monitor and maintain choice programs, and how we will meet the funding needs of choice programs. There are serious questions about whether our current funding and staffing rules are adequate (perhaps even detrimental) if we indeed value the choice program model. Alternatively, if we value equitable funding across all schools and students as PiE model would suggest, then the choice programs (as evidenced with the current MI process) are creating inequities that are not acceptable.

4) I believe there are issues of financial risk with the MI proposal related to; incremental enrollment growth (very specific to Mandarin, and entirely optional for this district); issues of revenue risk with reliance on unsecured revenue streams; and issues of understated costs in the MI program as outlined in the feasibility study that would need to be addressed properly before the proposed MI program could be acceptable.

Again, I would like to thank Simon and others who are willing and interested in creative thinking on this issue. I hope the board will consider a full assessment of alternatives and community inputs before they make a final decision. I hope that the above outlined issues will be addressed BEFORE any final decision is made.

I do fully agree that there is NO valid reason whatsoever to RUSH in to an MI program. Mandarin will be here for a long time, and as Marilyn Cook has said, there are very few programs in place today. The materials, curriculum, and teachers pools and all learnings on how best to implement this type of program will only improve over time. There is no good reason for PAUSD to put itself on the bleeding edge of a risky start up, when in a few short years, many of the implementation risks will have been resolved, without cost or risk to PAUSD. There are no benefits for PAUSD as a whole for ~inventing~ the successful MI program.

Finally, I would like to caution the newspaper reporters , editors or board members that have been copied on this message NOT to assume that the entirety of the opposition of MI can be boiled down to an issue of location/timing or world language strategy. I agree though that World language strategy IS one of the horses that must come before the MI cart. The issues and the opposition are more complex.

Thanks again to Simon for his thoughtful and 'can do' approach to resolve this issue peacefully for the best interest of Palo Alto. Once some the strategic platform issues are resolved, then the Garland Compromise seems quite logical and helpful.

Jamie Maltz




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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2006 at 10:46 am

FLES requires a great deal more work to implement than does an immersion program.

When FLES was under consideration along with Spanish Immersion in the mid-90's, many elementary school teachers and principals had a difficult time thinking how FLES could be incorporated into an already full day in the Palo Alto elementary schools. Understandable, because it is not merely a matter of "adding" another course into the curriculum.

Done correctly, FLES and the rest of the curriculum all are "re-engineered" in order to include language exposure as part of the curriculum and to assure that the other core components of our children's elementary education continue to be taught effectively and to the targeted outcomes our District has.

That said, it can be done and is being done in many places around the country. It is a matter of gaining a deeper understanding of the models that are out there, and tailoring an approach that fits this school district. All this takes time and resources, I am of the opinion that a two year planning cycle is needed to get it all figured out as best we can. And there will be bumps along the way in implementation, no matter how well planned it is--that's the nature of change.

Adding immersion is a much easier effort, assuming it has a school location that works in light of other objectives that may be part of the policy decision. We do not have to wait for a FLES program to be totally planned out to introduce more immersion, one is not dependent on the other from an implementation standpoint.

I like the tone this string has started on. I have been very puzzled why there have been as much vitriol and concocted issues in some of the strings around this as there have been. Simon is to be commended for helping focus on the things that really are important to think through. I hope we can stay on point as a community on this and get past some of the zero sum game posturing that to my way of thinking has confused matters and made people who probably largely share values and objectives for our children "choose camps."

We have to decide if language should be a priority for teaching at the elementary level, what resources we can bring to bear for language at that level should it be viewed as a priority, how alternate approaches--FLES and Immersion--are applied in this District, and how to address these questions in light of other community concerns, including neighborhood schools and other targeted outcomes we have in our District, such as helping those children not achieving at grade level. Figuring this out is not an easy challenge, but it can be done.


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Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Dec 14, 2006 at 3:08 pm

Jamie, I wish I had said that! Well done.

I am starting to think that, if we can get the Board on with this, we might be able to get past this point and move forward.

By the way, Paul..about your not understanding why the "vitriol" and "concocted issues" around this issue..I am afraid that just by using the loaded and judgemental word "vitriol" to characterize the frustration and anger you have heard, and the phrase "concocted issues" to characterize our very real and valid concerns and disagreements, will start the "vitriol and concocted issues" all over again. You seem like a reasonable fellow, so you probably didn't mean it the way I took it. And, by now I am probably defensive, not only for myself, but for all the people who have cared so much about this issue and written so much.

So, I propose we acknowledge that emotions have been running high on both sides, go back to trying to come up with a good plan, and let bygones be bygones. Shall we shake on it?


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2006 at 4:22 pm

I have been happy to converse with just about anybody on this, many of whom are people who take a point of view opposite mine. I have tried to weigh in a great deal on this matter, in favor of language being part of the curriculum, in a reasonable, fact based manner, so I appreciate your observation, Pauline.

I am sad to say that there have been many comments made on various aspects of this issue which have been inaccurate, nasty, without foundation, and off point. I described them as I did above not to provoke more of them, but instead because I personally find it very frustrating to see so much energy being expended by people in ways that do not get to the heart of the issues, and to my way of thinking serve as distractions and impediments to addressing a very complicated matter. I could cite examples of things of which I have first hand knowledge and where I personally have been mis-characterized, but I don't want to stir the pot, and I am pretty thick skinned. These things are quite different from principled points of view that draw on facts, experience, data, precedent and policy.

Of course there are many reasons people can cite for why a different language policy is not in their opinion indicated right now in this school district. I am OK with people having such a point of view, even if I disagree with it. There are many things that I had not considered and that I have learned as I have sifted through the many postings around this matter. I welcome those, and I would like to think folks who are on the other side of this question from me welcome fair-minded perspectives taking a point of view contrary to theirs.

So if you want a virtual hand shake Pauline, grab my extended appendage and do so, with a mutual understanding that we will set an example of civility as the conversation continues. This one has a ways to go.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2006 at 8:29 pm

I think both Jamie's and Paul's points add urgency to my suggestion that we don't wave MI through until we have really considered the implications of what that would mean for the District. I agree with Jamie that there are fundamental questions that really should be addressed about the District's commitment to languages before it sets up a Task Force, which should itself happen before we set up any new immersion programs.

I'm fairly confident that such a discussion would end up favoring a bigger role for languages in the district – at least bringing it on a par with peer districts around the nation – but if we were smart, we would go down that road first. I offered my compromise because I see little evidence so far that a majority on the Board is persuaded by this logic.

I'm looking for a way to offer MI a route to being accepted pretty soon but only after it has at least been reasonably thought through. Yes, my idea jumps over a number of important questions, but maybe that needs to be accepted by way of compromise, just as MI's proponents can wait until Garland is free and they have the support of a Language Task Force before they get MI.

Paul could well be right that we need to allow more time for getting all this done. But, like him, I believe it can be done–especially when the passion and dedication of MI's supporters is brought to bear on solving the issue of how to provide quality language offerings for all instead of just a lucky few. And I'm hopeful it could still be done before Garland becomes free and refurbished etc.

I also salute Jamie, Paul et. al. for their reasoned, and restrained, comments. I wonder if signing our true names has anything to do with it. I like the opportunity for discussion that this forum provides but the anonymity it allows also clearly has a down side. I hope more people in this discussion can feel able to post with their true names in the spirit of making this a mature discussion that might actually help find a solution rather than breeding more ill-feeling than already exists.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:09 pm

I'd like to add another suggestion to Simon's thoughtful proposal. Perhaps FLES could be implemented sooner if we considered alternative ways to implement it, for example, if and when it is decided that FLES is a priority, to begin by offering after school electives the way Bullis Charter school has been doing successfully with a number of different types of classes. That would allow us to offer language now for the kids who would otherwise be at another stage of life when all the FLES details get worked through. It would also allow more cross-grade class composition or grouping, with kids grouped by level rather than by age, which would be more economical -- among other things -- than the traditional setup. (I believe Bullis does this with their after school electives, too, to the betterment of the school social environment.)

The advantage of starting with after-school electives is that it allows more flexibility initially with staffing and other weighty issues over the length of the school day. Those can all be hashed out and the program optimized, all while families who want language have access to language instruction sooner than later.


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Posted by Get informed
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:24 pm

Although I appreciate everyone here thinking out of the box to compromise the MI and FLES programs (I personally think they are compatible, and MI can come first), I would ask that you all do some homework of what's been studied *in* the box.

Please read the studies which were done in 1994 on FLES and immersion. Pages 60 - 154.

Web Link

Note the amount of time and resources to complete both studies. Of particular note, see page 151 where the costs are estimated for FLES.

If you read the reports thoroughly, you will appreciate what Paul says (he was on one of the task forces):

FLES is more expensive than MI
FLES takes more time to work out more complicated logistics

MI's work is done. It's feasible - look at all the other programs all around the country - even North Carolina has Mandarin immersion.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 14, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Thanks for the web link, Get Informed. I read it as you suggested. FLES is far, far cheaper than I expected! We should be doing this yesterday! (The report makes the point many times that FLES is not expensive.) I don't want to get into a back and forth pitting the two against each other -- I am in favor of doing both -- but FLES is a program for all students in the district, and MI just a select few. I am strongly in favor of foreign language instruction for elementary students district-wide as the priority. If language were already available to elementary students, I would be fully in the MI corner, but it's not. FLES has lower startup costs than MI and fewer logistical concerns Those who are most committed to MI have outside language instruction options in Mandarin locally -- and the obvious drive to access them -- whereas one cannot say that all or even most students district-wide have the same opportunities. FLES would bring foreign language instructions to a far larger population of students, in particular the population least able to independently avail themselves of such instruction. Since long-term foreign language instruction appears to accrue other academic benefits, this is an important fairness issue. The logistics are no more complicated than have been worked out already for the district-wide music teachers, for example. As I suggested, there may be other creative ways to at least reduce some of the barriers, such as avoiding the soul searching over scheduling by doing after- or even in some schools before-school programs. The task force recommended something like 15 or 20 minutes a day for five days, certainly doable. Perhaps even existing language teachers in the district might be interested in extending instruction to lower grades, just as district-wide music instructors have done in the past of their own initiative. (In the case of music, when the district purchased music instructional materials for the upper grades, the lower grade materials were included but not used if music was not offered -- does something similar happen with language materials, or could lower grade language materials be obtained this way for state-sponsored curricula for no additional cost, essentially?) The logistics don't have to be complicated. There are certainly ways to simplify. I'll bet Simon would have some great ideas! I don't personally see FLES as needing to take so much time to work out the logistics. The report starts by pointing out that the kids in kindergarten at that time will be in middle school in 2007. We have already failed giving those kids the advantages of FLES -- especially the continuity and duration of instruction noted as essential by the report. Let's do better for this next generation of kids, if the report is any indication, we should be able to without breaking a sweat. I'm sorry, Get Informed, but your post feels to me almost like a brush off of FLES -- as in, "See, foreign language instruction available to all elementary students is (wave hands) um, harder, so let's just do MI now" (the implication being that we delay FLES again til some undetermined time). I think FLES is the priority, and I don't think it's so hard to do, per the report. I also think it shouldn't have to delay MI -- MI has facilities and community logistics that eclipse any logistical problems of FLES, and which will likely delay it longer than FLES need be. I don't think the two programs have to be mutually exclusive, but I strongly feel that if they are, we should do FLES. I think Simon's compromise was a great idea.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 14, 2006 at 10:26 pm

(sorry for reposting this, but the system somehow removed my spaces the first time!)

Thanks for the web link, Get Informed. I read it as you suggested.

FLES is far, far cheaper than I expected! We should be doing this yesterday! (The report makes the point many times that FLES is not expensive.)

I don't want to get into a back and forth pitting the two against each other -- I am in favor of doing both -- but FLES is a program for all students in the district, and MI just a select few. I am strongly in favor of foreign language instruction for elementary students district-wide as the priority. If language were already available to elementary students, I would be fully in the MI corner, but it's not.

FLES has lower startup costs than MI and fewer logistical concerns

Those who are most committed to MI have outside language instruction options in Mandarin locally -- and the obvious drive to access them -- whereas one cannot say that all or even most students district-wide have the same opportunities. FLES would bring foreign language instructions to a far larger population of students, in particular the population least able to independently avail themselves of such instruction. Since long-term foreign language instruction appears to accrue other academic benefits, this is an important fairness issue.

The logistics are no more complicated than have been worked out already for the district-wide music teachers, for example. As I suggested, there may be other creative ways to at least reduce some of the barriers, such as avoiding the soul searching over scheduling by doing after- or even in some schools before-school programs. The task force recommended something like 15 or 20 minutes a day for five days, certainly doable. Perhaps even existing language teachers in the district might be interested in extending instruction to lower grades, just as district-wide music instructors have done in the past of their own initiative. (In the case of music, when the district purchased music instructional materials for the upper grades, the lower grade materials were included but not used if music was not offered -- does something similar happen with language materials, or could lower grade language materials be obtained this way for state-sponsored curricula for no additional cost, essentially?)

The logistics don't have to be complicated. There are certainly ways to simplify. I'll bet Simon would have some great ideas!

I don't personally see FLES as needing to take so much time to work out the logistics.

The report starts by pointing out that the kids in kindergarten at that time will be in middle school in 2007. We have already failed giving those kids the advantages of FLES -- especially the continuity and duration of instruction noted as essential by the report. Let's do better for this next generation of kids, if the report is any indication, we should be able to without breaking a sweat.

I'm sorry, Get Informed, but your post feels to me almost like a brush off of FLES -- as in, "See, foreign language instruction available to all elementary students is (wave hands) um, harder, so let's just do MI now" (the implication being that we delay FLES again til some undetermined time). I think FLES is the priority, and I don't think it's so hard to do, per the report. I also think it shouldn't have to delay MI -- MI has facilities and community logistics that eclipse any logistical problems of FLES, and which will likely delay it longer than FLES need be. I don't think the two programs have to be mutually exclusive, but I strongly feel that if they are, we should do FLES.

I think Simon's compromise was a great idea.


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Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 15, 2006 at 12:06 am

Simon,

Your plan initially made sense to me, yet on second look I'd have quite a problem with it.

I see no issue with re-starting a FLES task force, as long as we recognize up front FLES' costs. It seems to me unwise to spend a year or two researching it, and then find out that while we may want to have FLES, we really don't have the funds to do it. Other than that -- sure, let's have it. We did it 10 years ago, and if we feel we really need to redo it, we can do it again. Speaking of that old report, we should note that its cost estimates were for an 11-school district with an average class size of 28-29, and teacher salaries w/benefits at 1995 levels. Now we have 12 (or 13) schools, 20 kids/class, and salaries w/benefits about doubled since then.

But I disagree with many of your details. Specifically, I'd like to address two major ones here.

1. Deciding to open Garland.

I don't think we should force the Board's hand on the issue of 13th school based on MI. I believe it is better to come to the Garland decision in isolation, based on enrollment projections and costs. In general, opening a school is very expensive binary decision, and the resultant attendance boundary shifts are very traumatic to the population.

What happens if the growth projections do not materialize? We are stuck with a school, and with a very significant cost of $6M - $7M. It might be easier to gradually accommodate growth where it is necessary, using some of the options suggested by AAAG. But in any case I think the decision to open Garland should be made based on global PAUSD arguments, and independent of the MI issue.

2. Waiting with MI until FLES task force is done, and until Garland is opened.

I addressed the Garland issue above, but let's assume that we will decide to open Garland. I would argue that in that case starting MI next fall in some existing school is much better, since already next year MI will relieve some of the the enrollment pressure in other neighborhood schools instead of waiting until 2010. Then, in 2010, we will have about 180 MI kids to move to Garland, instead of just starting MI with 60 in 2010.

I see no reason for MI to wait, other than various red herrings from its opponents. The study is over, we know how to do it, the startup costs are provided for, and... we've been keeping the MI supporters on ice for the last 6 years. Isn't it enough? Basic fairness says we should not drag them through yet another 3 years of studies, given that FLES and MI have little to do with each other. MI is cost neutral, FLES is not. MI has already established its interested pool of parents, FLES will just start the public discussion on which languages, where taught, and how we can afford it.

So I would suggest that if the board decides on Garland, MI should start this fall as a pilot. This will smooth the enrollment growth meanwhile, smooth Garland opening when ready, and be fair to MI constituency.

If the board decides not to open Garland, then it becomes a much more difficult situation, since there is no obvious place to start MI. Unless the district comes up with some creative solution, I see no easy way to accommodate it.


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Posted by palo altan
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:14 am

Simon, I'm not sure if this suggestion will actually resolve anything. I re-read the feasibility study and I'm still not clear on why an MI choice program is the only one being considered by the board. I understand that we have had a 25% increase in enrollment without a corresponding increase in choice programs, which does provide scope for extensions to existing programs or introduction of new ones. However, why does that mean we have to add in a new MI program?
It appears that MI is the only one being considered since it is the only one with an active pressure group pushing for it. Obviously there are very good reasons for an MI program but there are also very good reasons to extend our current SI program or consider others.
I would prefer choice programs to be a strategic part of BoE planning and not a reaction to a pressure group.


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Posted by sideline observer
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:41 am

Wolf:

"The study is over"

Many people, including some Board members, disagree. The study that was presented did not provide data to support many of its assertions, and was not balanced in its discussion of pros and cons that have been raised. Hence the request for resubmission of a more robust report, with real data from SI, with a real basis for the assertion that this program will address the achievement gap (instead of an assertion that it will because everyone gets equal opportunity to apply for the K class), etc. The sudy is *not* over, and neither is the discussion.

As someone whose kids


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 15, 2006 at 11:44 am

Wolf -- a lot of people have issues with committing to open up Garland. But you yourself note that other than Garland there's no obvious place to start MI right now. If you are for MI, then, perhaps you become a strong advocate for Garland to open (maybe you offer to raise money towards its refurbishment?). Or you accept that a decision on MI has to wait for the decision on Garland, which would be fine by me—as we could do some strategic thinking on languages and on choice schools in the meantime.

As for MI waiting until FLES is considered– that's again a part of the compromise. It's not ideal for people ready to get going with MI, but it recognizes that a whole load of others are far from ready and need more persuading. MI proponents may not like to tie MI to FLES but many others see them as on a continuum and I don't think they're unreasonable in doing that (for all the reasons people have stated in many other MI threads here). Even if you think they are plain wrong, we need more people on board behind MI before voting it through or else we're going to have a completely dysfunctional district. Putting MI through a World Languages Task Force would end the objections of a significant chunk of its opposition. This plan, I'd say, offers a way to save space for MI but also bring many, many more people on board. If the price of waiting on MI for a year or two is the health of the entire district, then I'd say it's well worth the wait.

Palo Altan has the same point as Jamie, I think—that the BOE really needs to be thinking strategically about choice programs or it's going to be setting itself (and everyone else in the District) up for yet more divisiveness, yet more dysfunction, yet more acrimony.

I have to say I agree with that position, but my fear is that at least two, maybe three, members of the Board don't seem at all bothered by this argument and look set to vote MI through whatever. So what do we do? Again, here's a compromise. We don't get a full strategic review of choice programs but we do get to take a breath. We at least review languages provision in the district – with the promise that MI will go ahead if it is seen to fit into the priorities that the Languages Task Force establishes. As I said above, if MI is as essential to the District as its supporters claim, they have nothing to fear in such a process – or from the impact on the timing of its implementation since the lack of available space right now means we'd most likely need to wait anyway.

Of course this is just one idea about how we can get ourselves out of this mess. I sent this idea to the BOE but have only heard back from one member (who was non-committal), so I have no idea what they are thinking on this.

If you have any other ideas I urge you communicate them to the board and ask them in return what they plan to do.





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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 15, 2006 at 11:47 am

Regarding how long it takes to work out an approach to FLES, I provide my projection based on what I observed and heard as a member of Site Council at Walter Hays Elementary at the same time I served on the USEFL language task force several years ago. The teachers and principal were receptive to the idea, but they truly struggled with how it could be made part of the day, which already was chock full of very good curriculum. It is not "plug and play."

In my professional life, "change management" has been a huge challenge in organizations with which I have worked. My experience and perception tell me that introducing a FLES program will require changes that affect the entire school day for the entire school year, and the teachers and principals who are "on the ground" will need some time to work through how such a change works best for them and their students.

The concepts on how to approach FLES are pretty well documented and understood. But I think a successful implementation will require some study and planning that is applied specifically to the PAUSD case. That is why I believe a 2 year planning horizon is reasonable. I am getting out of my range of expertise and experience to go deeper on this, but others with bqackground in education and change management may have a better idea of what a realistic time frame is the achieve successful implementation of such a curriculum.


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Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Dec 15, 2006 at 12:00 pm

I think this delay may be difficult to accept for those people who are intent on starting MI right now....but if MI is good "for the District" now, it will still be "good for the District" after we go through a reasoned process that..well, all the stuff we've said, and, if we decide we want it, put in language for all...

It would allow us to make decisions on attendance issues and how to deal with the expected phenomenal growth without, as Wolf said, the pressure of needing to find a home for a new program. Maybe it would let us think of other, less expensive and more flexible, solutions.

I realized another great benefit to Simon's proposal is that we, by starting from the foundation, (instead of building the house to match the gifted roof), may be able to attract qualified candidates for the Super's job who appreciate this way of approaching issues in our district and the type of community we are. What kind of candidate do we want to attract?






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Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Dec 15, 2006 at 12:20 pm

Paul: I get your point about "change management". I suspect the basic human response to change is similar in management to any professional changes.

But your point reminded me of the comment that was raised in the Board meeting the other night. If the principals have voted, unanimously, twice, to not do MI now, I wonder if they could be asked if they would support going through the changes needed to implement foreign language on all the campuses? I am sure it would depend on what type of program is implemented, but I would be very curious about that response. It seems a big lack in this entire process has been knowing what the teachers and principals think...

But, I get ahead of myself.

thanks
Pauline


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 15, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Far be it from me to speak for the principals or teachers on what their opinion is of whether foreign language instruction should be made a priority. If the policy reflects that foreign language is a priority, they are professionals, and I am sure they will do their best to make it a success. And I am sure they would want some time to develop the approach to a new curriculum priority for each school and classroom.

The good news here is that there is a fine curriculum in place right now, and taking the right amount of time to get a different curriculum thought through and deployed is possible.


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Posted by Elem Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2006 at 2:21 pm

While I read these comments with interest, I would like to point out that for us adults it seems to make sense to take our time to work out a good solution. However, our kids do not have time. As each year goes by, the window for early language education gets smaller and diminishes. As has been said before, early language education is not only for fluency but for other reasons. I myself remember that it was through learning French at age 9 that I really only learned what grammar was all about. I learnt that word placement mattered and that certain words were spelt or pronounced a certain way because they came from another language. This was good for my English skills. It also meant that when I was in high school learning two languages, and had to take the studies more seriously, I had the knowledge of understanding that all languages are different and don't follow the same rules - something that is hard to do when you have never had that experience before.

So, please don't rush into anything, but at the same time, our kids don't have too much time to waste. An introduction to language is a crucial tool to their ultimate language skills.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 15, 2006 at 2:50 pm

Elem Parent -- I agree with you. So please communicate your feeling of urgency to the members of the school board! If you believe that ALL children in Palo Alto need to have access to languages in elementary school, please underline that, too. And get every Palo Alto parent (and voting resident) you know who feels the same way to write as well. The Board are the only ones who can make this happen.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:40 pm

One of the reasons I suggested starting FLES as an after school elective is that it circumvents some of the problems of altering the existing curriculum, and lets parents who do not have foreign language as a priority choose something else. In this way, we would be OFFERING foreign language to all of our students; all who wish to take it can participate (but perhaps not all will). At Bullis, I believe they have alternative electives like computer animation (for 2nd graders!) I think the Bullis model is one we should consider seriously, though on the face of it, having one teacher who travels between schools during school hours does seem most economical. There may be other creative ways to achieve the same goals.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:43 pm

Although I don't mind extending the school day slightly, I wouldn't want to have it much later after school as it would affect other after school programs. Things like sport are very important to children also and I would hate to have to see them (or their parents)having to choose.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2006 at 9:52 am

The report from 1994 suggests that about 15-20 minutes per day (depending on grade) is optimal FLES exposure, which would not significantly extend the school day. But extending the school day by even ten minutes is a serious issue involving other staff, etc., and presents more insitutional issues than after school programs would.


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Posted by Newbie
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 16, 2006 at 4:24 pm

I'm not convinced that it's NECESSARY to teach a foreign language(s) in our public elementary schools. I believe we need to put the emphasis on cognitive skills and interpersonal skills in elementary grades and perhaps offer foreign language earlier in middle schools. I know that immersion at an early age is optimum for learning languages, and for those parents who desire, there are plenty of ways to bring that to their children at an early age through the private sector. It seems that we have been led down a path on the premise that it's urgent to begin foreign language in this district in our elementary schools in order that our children will be competetive in the global setting. Suddenly we are debating whether it's to be MI or FLES. Who says it NEEDS to be either?


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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2006 at 4:56 pm

Newbie makes an interesting comment - what about offering foreign language instruction (in the various languages currently offered in middle schools) starting in 6th grade across the district? That sounds like an improvement AND can someone help me, doesn't that match what Castilleja School does? Some Castilleja students go on to Paly where they are one year ahead in foreign language, as I understand.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2006 at 7:03 pm

Hi, Simon,

Thank you for your thoughtful contribution.

Yet, this doesn't strike me as a compromise: I can see how your approach would appeal to backers of FLES and others, but I don't see what it offers to the PACE group (though I don't know their thinking).

For them, I'd guess, your compromise kills their proposed educational program for the time being. Then, under your proposal, they'd have to wait for another group to get their thoughts together on a separate program (FLES). In a few years, they might get MI--if FLES is approved, if FLES is funded, if a review of SI meets yet another demand, if Mandarin is chosen by the task force, if it is further selected to be an immersion program and if space can be found. In what way is this compromise attractive to PACE?

I also think that making programs contingent in this way sets a poor precedent. Imagine, for instance, that you succeed in getting a task force to look at FLES. Along comes another group that does not rank language as a district priority--as Jamie and Newbie suggested might be the case. Someone might splash out a grand or three grand for an ad campaign, spread their own objections around, gin up opposition, and block FLES until the district has implemented their agenda and until FLES clears a series additional arbitrary hurdles.

Taking hostages, in other words, could easily come back to bite you. (I also think it's a recipe for organizational gridlock.)

PACE has patiently followed the path laid out by the community. The result is a remarkably positive official judgement that identifies only one outstanding obstacle. They are 90 percent of the way to their destination. Why would PACE want to divert down your path with its many additional obstacles?


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 16, 2006 at 9:29 pm

Bill – here's how I was thinking of it:

What's in this for the proposed MI program is widespread support and perceived legitimacy.

Without that support, and without a sense that it was voted through by a Board based on a reasoned consideration of the district's needs rather than reacting ad hoc to a dedicated, but relatively small group of parents, I fear the program would be bad for the district.

It would be widely resented, cause many otherwise active supporters of the district to doubt their commitment to PiE, to the Board, and to future bond measures etc..

My hope was that by going through something like the process I outlined at the start of this thread, we could retroactively bestow legitimacy onto MI by putting it through at least some of the process that it should have gone through in the first place – i.e. asking the broad question of what languages we should be teaching right now, at what grades, and in what ways. As I said, if MI's supporters are right, they have nothing to fear from such a process.

Since everyone acknowledges that at least one huge hurdle facing MI is where to put it – to the point of being almost a deal-breaker for its passing right now, holding a place for it Garland would be to MI's advantage. If placing it at Garland means it can be supported by the BOE, the timing of Garland's availability gives us time to go through at least some of the process we jumped over. So MI could come out of the process installed no later than was likely it would have been installed anyway, at a location that minimizes opposition from supporters of neighborhood schools and with the support of those (like me) who want to see the district decide its language priorities before voting on major new language programs (for all the reasons stated in posts above).

Of course parents with children in MI might be happy to participate in the program that continued to act as a generator of resentment and acrimony in the broader district. After all, their children will be benefiting from something 90% of the other children in the district will have no access to (free language education at the elementary level). But I question whether the Board would be willing to make this trade. The compromise, in a sense, is theirs to make. If the BOE fears turmoil if they vote in MI as currently proposed, they might avert it by adopting something like the plan I suggested above.

The compromise for supporters of MI, then, would be that this might be one way to keep their proposal alive in the face of a worried BOE.

One clarification. I'm not asking for FLES to be funded before MI is approved. I'm asking for all forms of language provision at all levels be considered by a Task Force. Doing that responsibly means reviewing the strengths and failings of SI, looking at immersion and FLES at elementary grades and also looking at language provision higher up. That's all one job, as I see it—the outcome of which (if MI's supporters are to be believed) ought to be a ringing endorsement of MI. I am asking for a plan for FLES, but not for the funding to be found. It needn't have to get going before MI got started at Garland, certainly. For pure equity reasons, I do think that if you offer immersion to some elementary students you owe the rest FLES. So I see that as a part of the deal.

You're right that the BOE could choose to open up the whole question of priorities and scotch the whole question of languages, FLES included. I'd be okay with that if it meant the BOE was thinking strategically about their priorities (about what sort of choice schools we might want in the next 25 years, say) and then stuck by what they decided. We're in this mess because they haven't stuck by their stated priorities. If they dump FLES because they're once again reacting to a group with a well-funded pet project—then nobody has learned anything from this experience and maybe we need a new board.

As for PACE having diligently gone through the process. Sure, and good for them. The problem, as is clear now that we might actually see a new choice program in the district, is that the process for creating new choice schools is completely ad hoc.

As Jamie Maltz says above: "If there is room for more choice programs (or two more, or three more) and our community demonstrates will for new choice programs, then there needs to be some discussion (relative to strategic priorities) about how many and which subject areas are best suited to choice programs, more robust rules and measures of how we will monitor and maintain choice programs, and how we will meet the funding needs of choice programs."

Too bad for MI that no-one thought of this before. It must be heartbreaking for MI's supporters get this close and then have everyone wake up to the work the district hasn't done yet, but surely the potential disappointment that MI's advocates might experience shouldn't be allowed to outweigh the distress that imposing an ill-considered new choice program might have on the entire district.

My hope in offering this compromise, again, was to impose some legitimacy on MI and still offer it a route to implementation in not much less time than it is likely to be implemented anyway. Is that a compromise worth making?




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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 16, 2006 at 9:42 pm

I don't see any particular reason to install MI in this district. It could just as well be any other program devised for the narrow interests of a particular group. This is a unified school district. I strongly believe things (proposals, programs, facilities, staffing) should be examined on a district-wide basis.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2006 at 9:53 pm

Simon states "What's in this for the proposed MI program is widespread support and perceived legitimacy." If you step outside the unique reality of Paonline's town-square, I think you may find that MI already has widespread support. If you actually read the feasibility study, and learn about the MI proposal process in "guidelines for implementing or expanding large scale alternative programs," then you know that the process for proposing a Mandarin immersion program is legitimate.
I appreciate your efforts to "think outside the box" but I agree with Bill, what's in it for MI? Nothing.


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Posted by Another anoymous coward
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2006 at 11:33 pm

I supported MI early on by signing petitions, with funds, etc., and I still would like to see our district get MI. I have a native-speaking Chinese parent who did not teach me to speak Chinese -- and having studied it later in life but never retained it as I could have if I'd learned it earlier -- I am of course very sympathetic to early language instruction.

But I'll admit that my enthusiasm was pretty much in a vacuum. I think a lot of MI supporters are so anxious to push it through, they aren't being realistic about the support in the community when community members are confronted with the whole picture. If I'd been given the whole picture (or bothered to find it myself rather than make overly rosy assumptions about the district), I would have pushed for foreign language instruction for all from the start. If MI has so many advantages, it's just wrong to offer it to a few before trying to find a way to offer at least some of those advantages to everyone in the district first. Based on the report from 1994, that's doable -- I guess I still don't see the problems with getting FLES rolling. It's not even that expensive. From what the report says, it's really not even that important to optimize, just giving kids a little but of regular exposure over a long period of time is the most important thing (to reach the goals of FLES).

So I'll be frank here -- I do think MI should be contingent on FLES. FLES isn't that hard or that expensive, and MI supporters would probably be instrumental in finally getting everyone off the dime if MI were contingent on FLES. I think if MI supporters took a truly honest look, they would find sentiments run more strongly in favor of FLES first, not the other way around.


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Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 17, 2006 at 12:04 am

Simon,

You write:

"Without that support, and without a sense that it was voted through by a Board based on a reasoned consideration of the district's needs rather than reacting ad hoc to a dedicated, but relatively small group of parents, I fear the program would be bad for the district."

and later:

"We're in this mess because they [BoE] haven't stuck by their stated priorities. " and,

"The problem, as is clear now that we might actually see a new choice program in the district, is that the process for creating new choice schools is completely ad hoc."

With these, and with few others in previous posts, you essentially try to assert that the board policy and process re Choice programs, and MI in particular, is unclear and haphazard, and that the board did not focus on its other strategic goals. I find both assertions to be false.

The administrative procedure for alternative program is clear, and has been in place for almost a decade. And it is definitely not ad hoc. Exactly how many of them have we seen in this century, if they are so ad hoc as you claim? Alternative programs are not the focus for the whole district, nor should they be. They are simply targeted towards addressing the diverse educational needs of a small group of children in a thoughtful way.

The MI process has been long and deliberative. The process calls for validation that the program has sufficient support in the community, which MI provided for a long time. The process does not specify that the program should have no opponents, since by their nature of being "alternative" the appeal only to sub-groups and will always have few opponents. Requiring no opposition would allow any discontented person to veto any program s/he may not like.

Accusing the board of not focusing on the district goals is spurious. MI did not deflect the district focus from its strategic goals. Running the district, however, cannot consist of dealing *only* with strategic goals, but also with variety of stuff that comes along. MI is simply one such "stuff" and it probably took more effort on the part of this forum writers, than on the part of the board. This district can walk and chew gum at the same time.

On the other hand FLES is a major district-wide change, and it is not in the district strategic plan. If it will make it to the next strategic list, we will deal with it then. The current effort to tie MI with FLES seems to me simply another effort to strangle MI through delays.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 17, 2006 at 7:01 am

A policy on language instruction at the elementary school level has been needed for at least a dozen years, and was first put to the BOE at the time that they decided to go forward with Spanish Immersion.

As it happened, some of the other policy questions around language were never fully addressed, but Spanish Immersion was introduced as a program, more or less on its own. Had there been some of the concerns and opposition around language and other district policy questions back then that have arisen in the course of the Mandarin Immersion effort, I suspect that a full fledged language instruction policy more likely would have been developed, and Spanish Immersion as we know it would either have been introduced as part of that new policy, or it would not have been launched because it did not fit into the policy. This never came about. I am glad we have it, I was an advocate for it at the time, but that is not the point.

To my way of thinking, we presently are at a juncture and have the opportunity to truly develop a district foreign language instruction policy. If the BOE were to simply approve Mandarin Immersion, based on the information they have and what they believe serves the interest of the community, I think they will have not done a complete job, many unsettled questions will continue to go unanswered, and much of the "side-taking" will continue to fester and create tension within the community. For that matter, should the BOE turn down the Mandarin Immersion proposal with no further action proposed, a similar situation will result.

Immersion, whether it is the existing Spanish program or a proposed Mandarin program, needs to be part of the educational fabric of Palo Alto's elementary school education curriculum because it is the clear policy of the District for them to be part of that fabric. Right now, it is unclear to some in the community if it does or does not fit into existing district policies. The only way to achieve clarity is for the BOE to develop an explicit policy that addresses language instruction at the elementary school level comprehensively.

Once such a policy is developed, the tracks for different programs, including Immersion and FLES, among other things, can be implemented appropriately. As I have stated previously, what it takes at this point to launch another immersion program (Mandarin in this case) is different than what it takes to develop and implement a FLES program, and one does not depend on the other. Both do depend on a sound, clear, and comprehensive policy being developed if the community is going to get past the current debate and move on to make successful whatever programs the "to be" policy calls for.

The development of a policy does take some time, but should not be a long drawn out process. The BOE can set a deadline for itself and the Administration, and hit it. I think it can be done while Mary Frances Callan is here, and does not need to wait for a new Superintendent, nor take so much time that Mary Frances will be gone before it is settled.


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Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 17, 2006 at 9:12 am

As for the Exxon Letter. Please read it, everyone, and decide if you like elected officials THREATENING any entity into silence...What kind of country do you want?

Think about what it means to be intimidated into silence. Remember how horrible atrocities and dictatorships begin.


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Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 17, 2006 at 9:15 am

Sorry, have 5 threads running, wrong thread. The last post was for the Global Warming thread.


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Posted by KS
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2006 at 9:23 am

Wolf, you write: "Running the district, however, cannot consist of dealing *only* with strategic goals, but also with variety of stuff that comes along. MI is simply one such "stuff""

Ahh, but here's the rub... According to the feasibility study, there is scope for MI since there has been a 25% increase in enrollment without a similar increase in choice programs. This sentence alone implies that there is only limited scope for choice programs. Therefore any introduction of a choice program must be strategic - it isn't just "stuff" that can be swept under the carpet since you are limiting any future "choice" options and I find your assertion at best misleading.
MI is essentially being chosen as the *only* choice program until we have another similar 25% increase in enrollment. At this juncture, the BoE must ask itself if MI is the "choice" of the district or are they just pandering to a vocal minority at the expense of everyone else.


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Posted by Nico
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Dec 18, 2006 at 12:22 pm

KS,
I would like to make some clarifications about the overall MI process that may be helpful?
In my opinion you might be taking the "25% increase" too literally. I don't think that the district is committing to add another choice program every time enrollment increases by 25%. I think they are saying that the last choice program started 11 years ago, since then we have 25% more kids in neighborhood schools, but no enrollment growth in choice schools. This counters some claims that we may reach a "tipping point" where Palo Alto is more "choice" than "neighborhood." Or that neighborhoods will be more impacted by choice programs than they are now.
Also, I am sorry to say that the process for adding choice programs is, and always has been, very grass roots and parent driven not necessarily "strategic and board driven.". You may think that is a bad idea, or "pandering to a vocal minority", but that is the system that is in place. Neither the BoE nor the superintendent has ever started a choice progam. Spanish Immersion was championed by parents, I think that Hoover and Ohlone were started the same way (in the 1970's). In fact the process that PACE has followed is clearly spelled out in the "Guidelines for Developing, Implementing, and Expanding/Replicating Large-Scale Alternative Programs" see link:
Web Link


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Posted by KS
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2006 at 12:49 pm

Hi Nico,

Thanks for the link.

"This counters some claims that we may reach a "tipping point" where Palo Alto is more "choice" than "neighborhood." Or that neighborhoods will be more impacted by choice programs than they are now."

This is really the point. Either there is scope for any choice programs that follow the proposal or there isn't. If, by adopting MI, PAUSD can no longer accept any subsequent applications for choice programs because: we [have reached] a "tipping point" where Palo Alto is more "choice" than "neighborhood.". Then there needs to be some control over which choice programs are selected.
We should also be told what is the "tipping point" so we can understand what is the impact of chosing a specific program. At present, all we have is the 25% number.


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Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2006 at 12:55 pm

As was done in 2003, the board can put a moratorium on all new programs at any time. If they feel we've reached a tipping point now, they can do that.

Once the moratorium is lifted, they have to consider all new programs, as proposed by the staff or community or whomever else. The point of the guidelines is to prevent frivolous or spurious proposals from taking lots of staff and board time for investigation.


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Posted by Carol
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2006 at 10:54 am

Residential development already approved by our City Council is going to swamp neighborhood schools (and possibly MI as well.) In other words, I think both camps could lose if the school board doesn't more promptly and decisively address housing the students it will be obligated to serve.

None of your concerns came before the City Council when it considered applications for upzoning. (State payments for small class size, redrawing district boundaries, cost of opening new school, etc.)

In any case, the current majority believes that increasing the housing stock is a benefit that swamps all other considerations, including traffic. The school district should be planning for more students than current zoning would produce.

My impression is that the school district is going to have no choice but to open another school before 2010, or give up the subsidy for small class size, or hope that Los Altos Hills does withdraw from the district.

Most of you seem very knowledgeable about all these issues. I think it would be better if you persuade the school board to make these decisions thoughtfully; before it is absolutely forced to do so.


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Posted by Eagle
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2006 at 1:35 pm

Here's an idea for a compromise. How about if the board shuts down this discussion, declines the program, PACE agrees to go away and sell their ware's somewhere else, and in return the community will agree not to sue the district for segregation and discrimination. That will save tons of money in legal fees and wasted district time, and everyone can go back to educating the kids.


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Posted by JLS Mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2006 at 11:54 am

I like Simon's original premise on this thread that a compromise is needed to avoid the divisiveness that threatens our community over this issue.

However, I have another suggestion for location besides Garland. Fremont Hills Elementary, currently occupied by Pinewood's Upper School, could be made available, I believe, around 2010. It's big enough to accommodate the approximately 175 Los Altos Hills students in the PAUSD attendance area and 240 MI students.

Reopening Fremont Hills would appease the Los Altos Hills folks, who are pursuing a redistricting petition in order to return public education to the hills, as well as provide a location for MI that would not displace neighborhood kids.

Reopening Fremont Hills would allow Garland to reopen as needed as a neighborhood school, and free up 100 or so spots at Nixon to be used as needed.

It's just a thought. Comments?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2006 at 7:34 pm

I would like to suggest that since immersion is said to be a superior learning method which bestows a superior educational outcome on those lucky enough to participate, and at the same time PAUSD has stated that closing the achievement gap is a top priority (one which they have been unsuccessful in addressing in over three years)..

I would like to propose that we open the MI program and accept only students who are either testing in the achivement gap (or who test in the Below or Far Below Basic at grade level, or some other measure of station in the achivement gap), or who are identified to be in at risk categories. I believe free/reduced lunches are sometimes used to identify at risk students. And there may be others such as special needs categories, etc.

This would be the fairest and most productive incarnation of this program and would kill two birds with one stone. Help close the achievement gap, and would bring the fabulous benefits of Mandarin/English bilingual education to a few lucky students.

The site is a secondary question - the first issue is whether the program should be opened, and who will be served.

Any concerns?

(We've already heard our esteemed adminstrators say they have no concerns whatsoever about being able to serve all students of all levels, including all variety of special needs students - so there should be absolutely no question that this program can serve this population. Right Bill? Nico? Wolf? Camille? Any concerns with this?


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Posted by another parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2006 at 11:11 pm

Fellow JLS Mom,

Here's a few thoughts on your thoughts.

Reopening Fremont Hills will not appease "the Los Altos Hills folks" since it's mostly the LAH residents in the Los Altos School District who are working to redistrict. Most of the LAH residents who are within PAUSD are not pursuing the redistricting initiative.

There's diversity in those hills.

Reopening Fremont Hills would probably result in Garland being leased out longer term since we won't need it. We'd just redraw borders so more people from the impacted north and south cluster would get pushed into the west cluster to balance all the numbers.

Comments, especially from a LAH resident?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2006 at 9:45 pm

MI is not needed by any stretch of the imagination in PAUSD - I am appalled that some are saying this is a done deal - there are so many private schools available in our region that meet the needs of parents who want their kids to start Mandarin - please, let's devote our energies and the Board's and district staff's energies to district-wide concerns.


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Posted by JLS Mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 30, 2006 at 11:43 pm

To another parent: "Reopening Fremont Hills will not appease "the Los Altos Hills folks" since it's mostly the LAH residents in the Los Altos School District who are working to redistrict. Most of the LAH residents who are within PAUSD are not pursuing the redistricting initiative."

Since Los Altos School District is planning to reopen Bullis Elementary School in Sept. of 2008, and announced those plans this past summer, the hills residents served by that district are already getting what they want. I believe that the primary proponents of redistricting at this point are from the PAUSD portion of the hills, who don't feel that it's fair that their children are bussed across major thoroughfares to Nixon, when other PAUSD children walk or bike to school.

I do agree completely that there is diversity in the hills, and it may very well be a vocal minority that is pushing the whole redistricting business. It would be helpful to hear from some LAH folks about this.

The other issue that I haven't seen discussed on this forum yet is that not only are we running out of space in our elementary schools, but our middle schools will reach full capacity in just a few years, followed at some point by our high schools. In the not too distant future we may have to open up not just a 13th elementary school, but a 4th middle school and even third high school, so I wouldn't say definitively that Garland could be leased out longer term if Fremont Hills was reopened. We may need them both.

The district will need to get very creative with finances, programs and physical space in the next few years to address the needs of our burgeoning student population.

I couldn't agree more with "anonymous" who says "let's devote our energies and the Board's and district staff's energies to district-wide concerns." But I've become jaded and cynical over the past couple of years, and feel that the best we can do now is damage control with the poorly thought out decisions of the board and district management.


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Posted by another parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2006 at 12:33 am

JLS Mom,

I do not agree with your comment:


Since Los Altos School District is planning to reopen Bullis Elementary School in Sept. of 2008, and announced those plans this past summer, the hills residents served by that district are already getting what they want. I believe that the primary proponents of redistricting at this point are from the PAUSD portion of the hills, who don't feel that it's fair that their children are bussed across major thoroughfares to Nixon, when other PAUSD children walk or bike to school.


From what I've been able to follow, there are still a number of LAH parents in LASD who want Bullis Charter School put in the Bullis site, and until that happens, those LASD/LAH families still will push for redistricting.

I've never heard LAH residents in PAUSD attendance areas complaining about bussing to Nixon. That certainly was not mentioned at the SClara County hearing on the redistricting resolution, which I attended, and where 50 people spoke for and against redistricting.





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Posted by JLS Mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2006 at 12:14 pm

Well, another parent, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that issue. Anyway, I didn't intend to start a discussion about LAH redistricting, which is already taking place on another thread at:

Web Link

I still think it's valid to suggest Fremont Hills as a location for MI, in the context of Simon's original proposal to delay implementation for several years.

Happy New Year!


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