Town Square

Post a New Topic

How do we know that MI really works?

Original post made by ShowMe on Feb 3, 2007

I've been trying to follow the MI debate and I hear a lot about fairness and process and legality and strategic plans, but it seems to me that the whole MI discussion is based the assumption that MI works. I'm not convinced and I have a lot of questions.

How has it been shown that Mandarin Immersion really is an effective teaching strategy? We know that Spanish immersion works in Palo Alto, but why do we think that MI will work here? We hear that MI works in Cupertino but does "works in Cupertino" mean the same thing as "works in Palo Alto". Does MI really turn out kids with more global awareness, or just kids who can speak a second language? How do you measure that?

Can you compare MI with SI when these two languages are so different? For example, Spanish uses the same alphabet as English does, Chinese is character driven. Someone said that proficiency in Spanish takes 750 hours of study, but proficiency in Chinese takes mroe than 2000 hours of study.

Can we compare CLIP's efficacy in Cupertino to what might happen in Palo Alto? Does MI really work in Cupertino? What do we mean by "really work". Does really work mean that it takes lots of extra homework for kids to keep up in Cupertino. Would we be willing to do that here? Are kids who don't hear any Chinese at home really fluent in Chinese at the end of 5th grade? And if they are, have they sacrificed English comprehension or math and science?

Do the kids from MI programs really grasp math and science in the same way that kids do who learn in English (when English is their native language)? When you look at the evaluation report in Cupertino it appears that the test scores go up every year, but the attrition rates go up too... how has evaluation strategy accounted for survivor bias? Are attrition rates higher in immersion programs than they are in neighborhood or other choice schools?

What about the creative thinking skills that are supposed to come from immersion programs... Is this documented in MI or is it assumed from SI?

So, someone please tell me, does MI really work? How do we know? And what do we mean by really works? I'm very curious.

Comments (75)

Posted by Daunna, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 3, 2007 at 10:01 pm

"Mandarin Immersion" is not a teaching methodology. Immersion is immersion, and it doesn't discriminate among languages: There are immersion programs in a range of languages: Spanish, Hawaiian, Arabic, Korean, and yes, even Mandarin.

Does Mandarin immersion work? Sure. If children in China can learn Mandarin, so can children around the globe. Will kids in an immersion classroom who use Mandarin 3 to 5 hours/day be as fluent as kids their age in China who speak Mandarin 24/7 year after year? Of course not.

The goal of immersion in any language is for the students to acquire skills in both languages at grade-appropriate levels. That can and does happen, but the students learn only what they are exposed to. They are learning the language of school, and so they are fluent in that, but they don't learn the language of home, the language of pop culture, the language of the playground, etc. They are bilingual, but they don't have the range of a native speaker who uses the language 24/7. However, the linguistic foundation is in place and the students would be quite functional if they were dropped into the center of Beijing, and with exposure, would easily acquire the vocabulary, idioms, and stylistics of the situations to which they are exposed.

That stuff about 750 hours vs 2000 hours for proficiency (Spanish vs. Mandarin) has nothing to do with children or immersion. It has to do with adult learners. At puberty, the brain sort of flips language acquisition from one side of the brain to the other, and so adult learning strategies are much more analytical. Adults actually study the language to learn it, and this can go relatively fast. The brain shift also is responsible for the difficulty that adults have in acquirinig native-like accents.

Learning all the Chinese characters is slow even for native speakers, so that would take years of study. But Mandarin also uses the pinyin writing system, using the western alphabet, which immersion students would need to learn. This is more phonetic and predictable than English writing.

The cognitive benefits of immersion have nothing to do with one language or another. When the brain is stimulated by learning to think in two languages--or to think mathematically or to think musically, the new way of thinking or understanding or knowing the world enhances creativity.

Here's an article that might answer some of your questions about immersion:

Web Link

Posted by ShowMe, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2007 at 10:27 am

Yes, thank you for this report. It highlights my concern about the differnce between SI and MI..

"....But when the immersion language differs significantly from English (e.g., languages that don't use our alphabet) literacy skills developed in one language will not necessarily transfer to the other language. Immersion students who learn to read first in a language that is markedly different from English, such as Arabic or Japanese, will need to learn and practice literacy skills that are specific to each language (Kanagy, 2001)."

What does that mean for the English literacy and comprehension skills of MI kids? What provisions are made for keeping them up to the level of their peers in Reading, Math and Science?

Posted by voila, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2007 at 10:53 am

If you look at Lindholm-Leary's research, it shows that literacy is additive for Mandarin and English. As an example, the CLIP kids end up with better English scores than their district peers at the end of elementary.

There is a lag through second and third grades, when immersion kids trail non-immersion kids in English. But by the end of fifth, they have overtaken their non-immersion peers. Thus, it's important to commit to a program and not drop out in third just because English reading is behind.

As far as I've read, there is no hit, not even a temporary one, for math or science.

Thus, no need to keep them up to the level of their peers. You just let the immersion work its magic.

Posted by Parent of a preK, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Daunna (or Grace or Nico),

I have a three year old who will be starting kindergarten in 2008. As all parents, I want to make the very best decision for my kids, give them the very best education I can. Which is why I struggle to make ends meet living in Palo Alto.

I would love for my child to get the excellent PAUSD education ~and~ the added gift of being bilingual when he graduates.
We have no languages in the home, only English. We have no grandparents or any other access to Mandarin, Spanish, etc. We also don't have the good fortune to be able to hire language tutoring, a nanny, a housekeeper or anything like that.

The question I've asked before, but can't find the information on is how well kids do in a Mandarin immersion classroom, whom are of English only speaking background. I've heard the MI folks say they would make sure kids got what they needed at school, no mandarin needed at home.

Can we get some statistics from the Cupertino program to show how kids of english only homes, (no mandarin support structure in the home) do in the Mandarin language program? Real data meaning, how many sign up, how many continue through to 5th or 6th grade, how they do on their test scores in Mandarin and English (and math, etc). How common is that?

I won't be able to sign up until I get some real data on how this works for kids in this situation.

Also, my son is somewhat 'energetic', not as advanced as my others have been by same age, in behavior nor in picking up some academic basics (alphabet, sounds, numbers, etc). Can it really be true that this program would be just as OK for my kid as a normal classroom? How can I convince myself on that? Any data anywhere that would help?

I've heard the theoretical, and I've heard the Spanish comparison, but I need to hear the honest real Mandarin Immersion expectation. This is my child's education in the balance.

Is this data available? Can this be distributed? Where can we get this? I'd love to be able to support the program, but haven't seen what I need yet. I assume if you decide to start this as a charter school, we'll see more about this? Since Cupertino's been doing this for many years, I assume its something they must know. Can they share?

Posted by voila, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2007 at 3:59 pm

PreK parent,

Start here: Web Link. Presentations, stats, charts, books.

Posted by Daunna, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 4, 2007 at 4:42 pm

How to help with homework is usually parents' first question about immersion, regardless of language. The trick is to be supportive without getting sucked into the homework--and that holds true for any language. Sometimes I think the "homework problem" is more about parents' feelings of inadequacy than anything else. Immersion education begins with parent education, and that's more than a one-time meeting. There's a section in the following article about homework:

Web Link

The program at Ohlone wouldn't have been homework-heavy because Ohlone's only homework is to finish what you didn't finish in school. Other programs that expect homework sometimes often afterschool homework clubs.

In the early years, the most important thing is to provide language-rich opportunities in the language spoken at home. A child whose 1st language is not well-developed will not do well in school. So an immersion teacher will tell you to read to your child at home in English every day. In the SI program teachers sent home books in Spanish with recordings (from manufacturer or made by Spanish-speaking parents) so that kids could "read" at home in Spanish every day. Parents can sit with the child and listen to them read, and ask simple questions (suggested by the illustration)--the point isn't to grill the kid, but to show interest and encouragement; it's intended to be pleasurable, not a test, not a judgment.

If you're worried that some kids have more exposure to Mandarin than you can make available to your child, it's a bit like worrying about who has a bigger house or fancier car than you. If people hire Mandarin-speaking nannies or take long vacations to China, well then, sure, their kids will learn more Mandarin than your child. But that doesn't mean your child won't learn enough to do what he needs to do in the classroom, and indeed your child can become bilingual at school. I didn't take my kids overseas to improve their Spanish, and I didn't hire nannies, but guess what? They acquired Spanish. The older one (no learning disabilities) got nearly identical scores on English & Spanish achievement tests, and while she wasn't the star of the classroom, she didn't drag the class average down either.

Whether immersion will work for your child, if it turns out that a disability is identified, is impossible to say until you give it a try. The general rule of thumb is that children who have trouble or significant delays in acquiring their first language may have a hard time in an immersion classroom--but what's confusing about that is that the same child will probably have a hard time in any classroom. Will switching between two languages cause more stress? Is immersion the child's only realistic hope of ever acquiring a second language? I know that my yoounger daughter, who is very dyslexic, would never be able to learn a language by the methods used in high school, which rely on teaching the language by means of reading and writing. My child can listen & speak, but literacy in any language is her stumbling block.

Immersion education is counterintuitive, and it takes a leap of faith. My advice is to go to the parent info meetings (including Cupertino's where you can ask all your questions), study up on immersion, study up on whatever kind of disability you think your child may have, and then decide how nervous you are. If you are too nervous, you'll communicate that to your chiild, and it won't be good for either of you.

Posted by DataDog, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 4, 2007 at 6:30 pm

I wasn't that impressed with Lindholm Leary's data. She made a lot of sweeping assumptions based on very limited datt. The report I saw was just a snapshot of one year... So the kids in the 5th grade that showed up with great test scores (it was a very small number) were only the kids that survived the program to date. What happened to all the kids that left? Did she adjust her results to reflect "survivor bias?"

Posted by Parent of a preK, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2007 at 8:50 pm

I've looked at Lindholm Leary's analysis - it looks like the programs are particularly helpful for ELL kids, somewhat 'neutral' for others, but what it doesn't say is how much outside help these kids are getting.

It would be helpful to have actual results reporting from Cupertino's program on this issue.

Im not trying to be overly hard on MI'ers, I think I'm just asking for the same performance info that most parents would expect to be able to see.

Can we get it from Cupertino? Any hope of getting the actual results from Cupertino?

I can't justify a 'leap of faith' with my little guy's education, even though its tempting. (Besides, I've got to convince, dad, grandma, etc...) Especially when the alternative is a great experience in PAUSD... I need more info.

Posted by Janet, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 4, 2007 at 10:07 pm

If you want data from Cupertino, go to Cupertino.
If you want more data about Lindholm's research, ask Lindholm.

Posted by Speak, data!, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2007 at 10:59 pm

Hi, Parent of preK,

I'd suggest you dig deeper into the data if you're truly interested.

Some snippets:

*Chinese immersion students (CLIP, Fong Yu), both native Chinese speakers and English speakers:

-scored well above grade level in Eng reading
-scored higher than district & state averages (Eng reading)

*Cupertino students cored similar to PAUSD district average for English only students.

*Chinese immersion students, both native Chinese speakers and English speakers

-scored well above grade level in math
-scored higher than district and state averages

*Cupertino students scored similar to PAUSD average for English only students

So if you're still looking to convince dad ("when the alternative is a great experience in PAUSD"), you've got data: if you sent your kids to CLIP, they would score (on average) like PAUSD kids in math and English. Oh, and they'd learn to read and write Chinese.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2007 at 1:48 pm


Where's your info on MI kids scoring higher than the district average. I looked up the API scores and Meyerholtz (home of Cupertino's CLIP program) scored below the median for the Cupertino district. Escondido, home of SI in Palo Alto also scores well below the median for the district. The Escondido principal has said there's a dip around grades 2/3, but that the kids catch up.

Also the disparity between Caucasian and Asian kids at Meyerholtz is pretty large--far greater than what you see at the Palo Alto schools.

ShowMe, a parent who was a veteran of SI said that her kids work did suffer in the area of English composition. That's not that surprising, is it? You're just not going to get the same amount of practice. On the other hand, the kids do adequately in English, so for some families, the trade-off is going to be worth it.

Let's not make immersion programs some educational cure-all. They do teach kids a second language very effectively, but it looks like there's a cost to me.

Posted by Daunna, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 5, 2007 at 2:30 pm

I'd be curious to know in what way the student's English composition suffered. Composition is composition, in either language, so I'm guessing that there's some concern that English-specific things like spelling, sophistication of linguistic choices, punctuation & mechanics might have been less than expected?

My next question: was this conclusion based on one child's performance, or based on a comparison of SI kids & English-only kids at the same grade level? In other words, how was performance measured so that it could be compared?

I know that I was not happy with my SI's spelling & punctuation when she was in 4th grade. I wondered if English spelling had been neglected because of SI--and maybe it was back then (my oldest child was in the first class of guinea pigs). However, I came to realize that my kid is a bit of a lazy speller and not particularly attentive to detail--and I know that that is her, not SI, because the other "guinea pigs" of that class are more attentive to detail.

When my kids were in SI, parents watched like a hawk for comparitive data because any whiff that the SI kids weren't measuring up--as a group--would have had parents jumping down Gary Prehn's throat. I can't imagine today's parents are any less lax.

Posted by Speak, data!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2007 at 2:30 pm


Data from powerpoint "Student Outcomes Two-way Immersion Programs" by Linholm-Leary dated March 2006. Specifically the math results are for grade five, English results for grade three.

You're right that there is usually a dip--compared with peers--around grades 2/3, but the kids do seem to catch up.

One must be careful in extrapolating Showme's kids' experience to all kids.

It may be counter-intuitive to you, but the data show no hit in math or English and so no trade-off or cost. In fact, just the opposite. To quote the presentation: "Students in Two-Way Immersion programs achieve at to well above grade level in reading and math measured in both languages by late elementary grades. All groups perform at similar or higher levels than same language background peers in the district and California."

That said, each kid is different and immersion is not for all.

Posted by Parent of a prek, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2007 at 9:44 pm

I keep reading all over Lindhold Leary's presentations about ELL, low income, free lunch students - how they perform better than other ELL's, learn English faster, like school better, etc. The studies seem particularly geared to proving that the immersion programs serve these populations well. (I noticed one of the 2006 presentation seems to say high achievers are served well and do well. That's interesting.. Where DON'T high achievers do well?)

I just want to know one simple thing.

How many students in Cupertino's current class, in each grade, started as Kindergarteners in Cupertino's program. Of those that started in Kindergarten, what language is spoken at home?

Is that too much to ask? Why?

And by the way - I don't think telling me to go ask Cupertino myself is a really great sales technique. AFter all, its the MI proponents who want to sell ME (potential customer of the MI program), the program. I am unconvinced by some confusing and not to clearly applicable studies. , Unless you provide your customers with a good convincing sales pitch (and by that I mean proof it works for that customer's situation), we just go back to PAUSD.

Think about that - how many non-Mandarin speaking parents will you be trying to convince? Why are you sending us all over heck and back to get the information? Am I really going to be the only one asking for this? In Palo Alto, where people are buying million dollar shacks, based soley on school test results?

Especially simple info like some current Cupertino info. (Not even historical results, no test results.)

Can someone provide this info? I'll need it before I consider this program.

Daunna - "composition is composition"?? That seems to me to be a goofy thing to say to a parent who cares deeply about making sure their child is getting the best education possible. - Especially if you're trying to convince someone you've got a good program and they're worried that they might be getting talked into a program that is weak on English language arts. It sounds sort of Used Car Salesman-ish. I don't get how you could say something like that.

Posted by Daunna, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 5, 2007 at 10:35 pm

Sorry, PreK, I didn't make myself clear. I meant that students are taught how to approach a writiing assignment through some means of organizing their ideas, then writing their introductions and making their points, giving examples, and coming to a conclusion; or developing their ideas chronologically, or whatever organization is appropriate for the writing topic. The rules of composition don't change from language to language, and that's what I meant by "composition is composition."

I've tried to treat your questions as honest inquiries. I'm not trying to sell you on MI, nor do I get the impression that you want to be sold on MI.

Posted by speak, data!, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2007 at 9:53 am


You asked for data showing a benefit for non-Mandarin speakers because you are concerned about English and math outcomes for non-Mandarin-speakers. You now have the data, and it is quite positive for both English speakers and Mandarin speakers. So, you have the information you need to assess the probable outcomes in English (good), math (good) and Mandarin (good) for your non-Mandarin-speaking child.

For most people, this information on outcomes would be enough to make a decision about the worth of this type of program, but you seem fixated on how many kids started in CLIP K and which language is spoken at home. Those doesn't bear on how well your kid would do in English or on the decision to enroll your kid.

You're not particularly interested in immersion or the data that shows how successful it can be, but that's ok. Immersion proponents are not in the business of selling to individual families: it's not for everyone. In any case immersion, programs tend to be oversubscribed because parents do the research.

Posted by ADL, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2007 at 2:59 pm

I have 2 nieces, grade 8 and 7, who are in the Cupertino's MI program since Kindergarden. They speak English only at home. In order for them to keep up with the Mandarin-speaking kids and the expectation of the MI program, my sister-in-law have had them on private Madarin tutoring after school and on Saturday since day-one and they continue to have private tutor today. They are doing well and are straight-A students but the key to their MI success is the additional afterschool tutoring.

Posted by ADL, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Oh, I forgot to mention that on a typical school week, they go to bed between 11 - 1 am because they can't start on their homework until after 9 or 10 pm, since they don't get home from their sport activities until after 8 pm.

Then on Sunday, they also have about 2 hrs of private math tutor as well.

So what's my message here? if your kids are from non-Mandarin speaking household, they will have to work a LOT harder to compete with Mandarin-speaking household's kids, so be sure that both you and your kids have the drive and commitment to keep up with the program since you're already at the disadvantage. I can only speculate that the parents in the Mandarin-speaking household wouldn't want their kids to be bore in class just so the other kids can keep up.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2007 at 4:33 pm


I have heard similar stories, but was afraid to post here in case of the "r" word. I have also heard of the "white escape" from Cupertino because of the pressures there.

Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2007 at 6:46 pm

I agree with you, Parent, it is scary when there's so much pressure. There's too much pressure in this town too. Child abuse, wouldn't you say?

Posted by Easy does it, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Talk about scary: jumping from one family to generalizations about the program is terrifying.

Mandarin speaking kids have an advantage at the beginning with the spoken language. Later on, as the balance shifts, English speaking kids have an advantage with the spoken language. There's no advantage, either way, with the written Chinese. Homework is assigned so that parents don't need to help.

Sorry, ADL, but I know three Mandarin-speaking families in CLIP, and they all send their kids to tutors for Chinese, Math and English. That's Cupertino.

So the message is non-Mandarin speaking families do just fine in MI (and Cupertino is an academically competitive district).

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2007 at 9:57 pm


Composition is not composition no matter what language it's in. Idiom, nuance and structure vary a great deal among languages. In Ancient Greek, for example, word placement can be anywhere in a sentence--it's highly inflected, voice and case affect use and meaning in a way that's unknown in English or Chinese, both relatively uninflected languages. In German, compound words are the norm and a rich tradition. In English, a language on the same linguistic branch, that sort of compounding is awkward. Heavy use of adjectives work well in the Indian languages, but appears flowery and ornate in English (It's something you see in many Indian writers who learn English early, but as a second language.) English has more verbs than any other language. Good writing in English means effetive verb use.

Running Google's translator on non-English Web pages makes it pretty clear how unclear word-for-word translations really are. Writing English takes practice writing *in* English.

I do think a second language makes understanding language structure easier--even my late immersion in French taught me a great deal about English, but I don't buy the argument that early longterm immersion in a second language gives one expertise in writing one's own.


That data *does* show a possible trade-off. Meyerholtz' API scores are below the median for comparable schools. Escondido's are above the comparative school median, but in the bottom quarter of PAUSD's elementary schools. Meyerholtz is in the bottom half of its district's elementary schools. And the white kids at that school have API scores nearly 100 points lower than that of their Asian schoolmates. This is more than double the gap you see at any of the schools in Palo Alto.

None of the scores are *bad*--and I understand that the value of learning Mandarin may outweigh other factors--but if there's no trade-off, the API scores should reflect that. Instead what we see is that kids who don't hear Mandarin at home probably are at a disadvantage and the job of learning Mandarin in an English-speaking country does mean that it takes a bit longer to pick up certain linguistic skills in English.

And, again, that might be worth it, but it is something to consider when making the decision. In my own case, I didn't enter the SI lottery because I didn't value the language over some of the trade-offs. On the other hand, I did value the Ohlone approach enough that I didn't care that its scores are middling for PA.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Easy Does It,

If every family you know in CLIP uses a Chinese tutor, then the homework being assigned is stuff where the parent or parent substitute "needs to help."

And why is "That's Cupertino" an excuse? Why is Cupertino that way? It wasn't 20 years ago. The teachers? The parents?

Posted by easy does it, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2007 at 10:26 pm


You missed the point about homework: it is assigned such that the kids can do it without parent input. "Need" is relative and subjective.

"That's Cupertino" is not an excuse, just a statement of fact. Personally, I would never gear up my kids with tutors that way and keep the kids up doing homework until 1 a.m. as is mentioned above. But just as clearly, some parents think it's a good idea.

The point being: Parent need not be worried that only white people use tutors in Cupertino.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2007 at 12:08 am

Easy Does It,

Once again, if everyone feels they need a tutor, then it doesn't sound like the homework can be done without adult help. Way, way back when when I was in school, tutors were pretty much unknown unless you were failing at basic skills. If every family is using tutors (single or multiple) it says something about the difficulty of the homework and parental concerns that the kids can't keep up.

At which point, is it feasible for a kid from, say, a working-class background where private tutoring is not an option, to go to most of the schools in Cupertino? I'm not singling out Mandarin Immersion here, I think the district has a problem--and several schools are more extreme in their demands than Meyerholtz (at least there's a real reason that learning Mandarin requires tons of work at a young age. I don't think it really matters when you learn algebra.)

The situation in Cupertino seems out of control to me. Do the parents think umpteen tutors are a good idea or are they afraid their kids won't be able to compete without umpteen tutors?

I feel like the PAUSD kind of teeters on the brink--the demands at some of the schools can be extreme and there are a lot of Type As here who don't want their kids to be second-best. At the same time, there's a lot of outcry about hurried kids. Laid-back Ohlone gets more applicants than top-scoring Hoover. It's close though and I wonder, at times, if the discrepancy is because some of the neighborhood schools are more like Hoover than Ohlone--i.e. homework in kindegarten. (Though what are those books my kid keeps bringing home--hmmm, unofficial homework may be the real Ohlone way . . .)

I never heard the nastiest comments, but I've thought a lot of the "r" issues about MI were about what's happening in Cupertino.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2007 at 9:08 am

I am the parent who first used the scarey word above.

The anecdotes I have heard come from many sources, but mainly from a friend who is an ex elementary teacher and does private tutoring. When she first started tutoring, she was working with kids who really had problems keeping up and needed the help. Now she is working with families who look on her tutoring as a form of child care. These are families with two well educated full time working parents in professions where they spend more time than they should be working, e.g. doctors, lawyers, etc. The students are often dropped off by taxi service, or carpool (never parents) and stay for a minimum of an hour to do homework and also extra work from the tutor. She often has 2 siblings at the same time and often one of the siblings is pre k, but she is still being asked to work with them to get them ready for k. These children are not behind in the school work, more that there parents want them to be ahead of their grade level. These families are from Cupertino, Los Altos and Palo Alto and are mainly, dare I say it, Asian.

The point is, these children are growing up with a work ethic which is beyond the norm of the average US child. The traditional after school activities are replaced with tutoring to give them an advantage academically over their peers. The only less academic activity they may partake in is music, which they approach on the exact same method, with many classes each week and the insistence of many hours practice per day. These children are growing up without a childhood in the traditional sense. How they will turn out as adults, I don't know. As students, they are bound for ivy league colleges, and if they don't make it, then they will be failures in the eyes of the parents.

Is this what we want for our children? I don't know what this generation with produce as adults, but it is beginning to look to me that the succesful students will be the offspring of these work ritualistic parents, who will grow into adults who are not well rounded. Then following on from this, they will in turn become the leaders of our country, both politically and commercially, and what will follow is a country run by asian workhorses.

Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2007 at 12:23 pm

This discussion has moved towards a truly interesting parenting practice I routinely observe now in prosperous Silicon Valley. I think it (many parents'practice of excessive paid tutoring of mid-to high performing students, with the students being taught the curriculum in advance of their taking a class for a grade) should be called what it is: paying for grades. Some of us don't have our chidren do this, they actually have to do their own work and earn their A's. It can be tough on the kids, especially at the competitive high school level, but they may appreciate it later as they know their accomplishments are their own. It's tough to stick to this decision as a parent when you have high-achieving kids who observe others with competitive advantages.

"Instilling a work ethic" is really not it at all. There are lots of ways to do that, by the way, in the routine of family life. Children need to take some responsibility for themselves even at a young age and certainly as they get older. Some are now so over-scheduled they don't know where they should be when. Children are also entitled to be treated as individuals with their own needs and interests, with their parents' guidance, to be sure.

What is the real motivation of this extreme tutoring/prepping? ultra-competitive parents who seek any advantage for their children. To some extent this is a brilliant move, particularly when begun early and including early practice taking of the SAT, etc.

It may partially do a dis-service to the child who does not learn to manage him/herself and has had the road ahead always smoothed to his/her best competitive advantage. How about permitting the child to express his/her own interests as time goes on (including academic and extra-curricular) about the child being given the time to show some initiative, to meet casually with friends...NO, grades are where the buck stops and the growing practice of some parents who pay to privately have their children go through the Math curriculum before they take the class and get the grade is particularly unethical in my view.

1)There is not a level playing field for students in Silicon Valley and schools better stop turning a blind eye to this practice. Some children have a regular advantage of advance knowledge and practice, far beyond what a "gifted" child would need or do. I once heard a Math teacher of an advanced class say that students were yawning in her class, and this meant the curriculum should be accelerated. I know that most of those students were tutored so far ahead that they were naturally bored! Homework only took a few minutes. In meantime, some students were actually paying attention to the valuable lecture and learning in the classroom and through their own efforts. They had to put in time doing homework each day on their own.(BTW, the tutoring and prepping was not disclosed to the teacher and is still prevalent today.) To my knowledge, this practice is parent-driven, not driven by a student who asks to move ahead (that would be appropriate and understandable in rare cases of gifted children.)

2)Love of learning and discovery: Whatever happened to learning for learning's sake, not just for the A? Should everything be a calculated action by the parent? Selecting your book at the library yourself would be nice.

3) Community Focus is better: How about letting students do the curriculum in the correct grade/order, OR if you believe the curriculum is "slow," why not publicly state that to school boards and work to get it adjusted/accelerated to meet your child's and other childrens' needs so all children in your district will benefit. An open discussion would be very helpful and beneficial to the community if the curriculum is lacking in some way. Oddly enough, this is not the approach taken by the parents I have written about. They would rather demoralize other parents and students and create an unnecessary artifical competition. I don't see any signs of respecting the insights and concerns for our students that are expressed in programs presented by experts on "Stressed Out Students."

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Reads and listens,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] That there's nothing about, say, the culture and school admissions process in some countries which make it very important to test well and get into certain schools?

And that, of course, no recent immigrants bring any of their educational values and expectations with them?

And, of course, there's no difference between those educational systems and the American one?

And there's no resulting conflict about expectations?

Back when I was at my racially diverse high school (no majority), the class president and football captain was Chinese-American. The two stars in football were Japanese-American and Jewish. More than half the team was African-American, by the way. I know from personal experience that stereotypes can be meaningless in individual cases.

However, I also have seen up close the phenomenon Parent describes. I have friends (children of Asian immigrants) who feel very bitter about how they were pushed as kids. Not because they couldn't do the work, but because they didn't have the time and space to focus on subjects they loved.

Using the "r" word is a way of short-circuiting a discussion that, maybe, just maybe, makes you feel a little uncomfortable.

Posted by reads and listens, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2007 at 4:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by AH, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2007 at 5:41 pm

My kids have been in MI over the last 7 years and we are seeing results good and bad... Yes, we had to have some tutoring in Math and English to "keep up" in a world where "all kids are above average" ... My eldest was in a strict bidirectional immersion program and can't spell her way out of a paper-bag... English phonics was one of the topics that got slighted in the early year. Adding insult to injury, she hates Chinese language probably because it was taught using traditional teaching methods which highlighted random memorization, a big heaping of public humilition for poor test performance, and lots of cut-throat in-class competition. The good news is that now as a teen she can argue a point vehemently in two languages instead of just one. The world has potentially gained a future bilingual litigator. Who knew?

The younger kids have been in a more whole-child MI program and the hiccups have been far less painful. Their language acquistion has been slower, but steady. And they love both languages. I would like to see Palo Alto adopt a less strict interpretation of MI based on these experiences. I think it comes down to what are your objectives? Do you really need to achieve fluency in 5th grade? Why not aim for a strong foundation that can keep building over time?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Generalizind about any group of people is always dangerous. If someone said that Italians like pasta or Australians walk upsidedown it would not be called racism. Stereotypes exist, but that does not mean that there are many exceptions. Many people do not fall into the stereotype that is presumed of them. If the above comments had been made about blue eyed blonds, the same thing would apply. It is scary to see any group of students or any individual students being subjected to the type of intensive outside school education described above. The result of this type of education is what we should be talking about, not the group (if any) that does it.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:11 pm

My daughter goes to a private MI program and I've never seen nor heard of stories like those told by "Parent." We don't speak Mandarin, nor do 80% of the parents. My child is doing fine and keeps up with the other students who speak Mandarin at home. She has one hour of study hall after school where she finishes all of her homework by 4pm. She takes dance three days per week and art another day. She doesn't have any additional Mandarin tutoring.

There are kids who are have some tutoring but there are also a fair number of adopted girls with single Moms who work long hours. The students have help from Mandarin speaking teaching assistants with their homework during study hall and they help each other.

Most of the students who have left MI have done so for behavioral reasons, not because of academic deficiencies nor lack of abilities. It's a private school and they don't have to put up with discipline problems.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2007 at 4:36 pm


I don't think Mandarin Immersion is the problem, per se. It's the expectations game parents can have for their kids. I'm curious, do you think a language enrichment, v. immersion program (one hour a day, instead of 4) would be enough to create a foundation in Mandarin?


I don't worry about Asian workhorses running the country. Nor an overdeveloped work ethic. Yeah, these kids work hard, but it's nothing compared to, say, Almanzo Wilder in Farmer Boy. What I see as more of a problem is the grades-at-any-cost phenomena. You end up with kids who don't care about learning for its own sake and, when they get to the big-name school, don't know what to do with the opportunity. Because the expectations have been extreme, the kids end up feeling inadequate. Meanwhile, kids who haven't been provided with tutors, afterschool programs, etc., also feel inadequate because they don't move as fast academically on their own steam.

I think it's a lose/lose situation for all the kids except for the rare ones who are really gifted in a particular area. Even in those cases, the overwork phenomena can be frustrating because those kids want to time to focus on their passions. They need and want free time.

Posted by curious, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 9, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Does anyone one know how many kids leave CLIP before 5th grade?

Posted by Alex Hamilton, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Quoting Debra Dickerson: "And yet, so charged is the issue of race that it is virtually impossible for those who do not already agree about it to discuss it. Without a free exchange of ideas, progress is not very likely.... It's not bigotry per se that hamstrings us in the struggle to achieve a just society. It's our inability to talk about and think our way through our preconceptions. We have to learn how to forgive each other, and more importantly ourselves, when we're stupid." The topic of race in America is so important. The rest of this article is worth the read if you are interested in just how confusing perception about race can be. Web Link

Posted by Another Parent not convinced, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2007 at 8:14 pm

Curios - good question. Another way to pose the question - how many 5th graders in CLIP entered the CLIP program as CLIP Kinders?

Is this a hard question to answer, or just one that the MI supporters don't like the answer to?

(Is CLIP educating mandarin bilingual speakers in mandarin? Or is it teaching monolingual kids to be bilingual? How would we know? By knowing how many monolingual kids started in Kindergarten, and how many stay through 5th/6th grade.)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2007 at 9:25 pm

That question is irrelevant to whether this would be a good fit for Palo Alto.

Is this something opponents are really interested in learning, or just another red herring they are wont to throw out?

Posted by curious, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 11, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Why is the question of CLIP attrition irrelevant if we are using CLIP as a model for Palo Alto? If only native Mandarin speakers make it through CLIP than it seems to me that CLIP is the wrong model for Palo Alto and we should learn from it to create an MI program that serves the diverse student body of Palo Alto.

Posted by MI Supporter, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2007 at 2:57 pm

We cannot completely model our MI program against any other program, either SI at Escondido or CLIP in Cupertino. We only take the best practices, and learn from their lessons of hard knocks.

Seems curious just wants to copy everything, good and bad.

Thank goodness more sensible people are working on this.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2007 at 3:22 pm

"Why is the question of CLIP attrition irrelevant if we are using CLIP as a model for Palo Alto?"

1. CLIP was one of several programs looked at, not a single model that would be slavishly copied.
2. The idea that only native Mandarin speakers make it through CLIP is another red herring peddled by the anti-MI crowd.
3. This is related to the argument (which was paranoid and *) that the MI program in PAUSD was for native Mandarin speakers all along.
4. CLIP attrition is tiny in recent years (4%).
5. You have no intention of working toward an ideal model for PA
6. You have no intention of working toward any model
7. Seven
8. The rest are enough.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2007 at 1:18 am

When was it ever claimed by anyone that MI would only be for Mandarin speakers? Seems like the concern is that kids from households with Mandarin speakers would be the ones who stayed with the program, thus favoring one rather small group (kids of Chinese immigrants) in Palo Alto. I've heard a range of answers here, but, naturally, it's speculation.

When you say CLIP attrition has been tiny in "recent" years, what do you mean? The program is less than ten years old. I'm also not sure what 4 percent means here--4 percent of the program as a whole or does each class lose 4 percent a year, in which case, you're looking at substantatial attrition by grade 5.

Since MI won't be going through in the immediate future, will you be working on a language program for all elementary students in PA? Or will you push for an MI charter school in a basic-aid district that can't afford it?

Posted by anon, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 12, 2007 at 6:03 am


Are *you* going to do anything for a language program across the district? Or just sit back on your choice program laurels?

I have yet to see any of the MI opponents step up to work on FLES.

Or was that "support for equity" just another red herring to kill MI?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2007 at 12:40 pm


I am *very* interested in FLES. If you look, you'll see I've posted in every recent thread on how a language program could be implemented. My suggestion has been to institute summer-time immersion programs for no less than six weeks/four hours a day. It would seem to me that you could then keep the retention going through language enrichment programs during the year.

Summertime immersion would give some of the benefits of the immersion approach (i.e. it forces students to use the language), would be cost-efficient (tuition could cover the costs), could offer a variety of languages and work in terms of space. All that's needed, and I think Gail Price was concerned about this with a middle school MI immersion program is a way to integrate with a schoolyear language curriculum. But perhaps there's a way to amplify and connect it to the current afterschool language programs.

If I knew how to work on FLES, I would. I haven't seen anything set up. Have you? Or are you convinced that only an MI supporter understands the benefits of early language instruction?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 12, 2007 at 2:33 pm


Lisa Steinbeck has a very interesting post on the FLES thread in this forum which shows what MI opponents have been doing along with school board, etc.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2007 at 4:30 pm

"When was it ever claimed by anyone that MI would only be for Mandarin speakers? Seems like the concern is that kids from households with Mandarin speakers would be the ones who stayed with the program, thus favoring one rather small group (kids of Chinese immigrants) in Palo Alto."

Exactly, that is the paranoid and * argument you've given us all along.

CLIP attrition this year was 4% year-on-year for the whole program, much lower that the regular churn in PA.

"Since MI won't be going through in the immediate future, will you be working on a language program for all elementary students in PA? Or will you push for an MI charter school in a basic-aid district that can't afford it?"

I was never in this fracas, but after seeing how ugly the anti-MI tactics were I'm not inclined to involve myself. In any case, I'm not convinced a language program for all elementary students would be a good idea. It would cost a great deal and runs the risk of being implemented in a half-baked way that allows PA parents to stroke themselves for having kids who can count to zwanzig or ershi but cannot actually talk.

Implementing a program with just minimal hours each week would be a waste of money. So would a system in which kids switch languages each year or with each school or in the move to middle school. (Here the rest of the world has an advantage: English is almost always the obvious choice. Mandarin is probably the smartest choice for us.)

Posted by Watchful, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 12, 2007 at 5:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2007 at 8:58 pm

When I was looking at private schools (before I moved to Palo Alto) I was looking at their success rates, what their program promised, how well the kids were doing, how well the kids stayed through the program, how well the kids were doing when they left. Test score results, how happy the kids were, what kind of parent participation needed to be, etc., Its all natural questions for any parent considering where to send their kid for school - and any established program would be willing and able and happy to provide that information.

The MI Palo Alto school would be new. So they wouldn't be able to answer any of the questions. But they would make some promises. So in order to believe those promises, they'd probably have to point to some relevent information at a very closely comparative school. I've spoken to many SI parents who wouldn't compare Spanish to Mandarni because of the language differences... So I would assume they'd tell us something about comparative Mandarin schools.

So, that why CLIP's results would matter to the parents looking at a start up Mandarin school.

Now, if the start up school was refusing the data, or giving me data that didn't answer the question I was asking, I'd be very skeptical and probably start to question why.

The overall attrition rate at Cupertino is 4% last year, its been much higher. But even 4% per year, they would be graduating about 81 fifth graders out of every 100 kinders. But we have no idea how many of these actually started from Kindergarten, or how many were English only speakers to start with.

If you look at the way the enrollment is stated, if you lost 10 and replaced with 10 mandarin tested kids, the numbers would show zero change year over year. So that year would look like no turn over. You can't say they have 4% attrition, unless they give you more information.

So why don't we get this data? Will any parents interested in MI Palo Alto Charter School be asking for this information? Or will the 'visionaries' be willing to ignore the factual success rate info.

Posted by parent too, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2007 at 10:17 pm

The summer immersion program is a great idea... best of all I love the spirit of creative problem solving. Do any models of this idea exist in the great "out there"? Even if this is untried territory it seems like a worthy experiment and one that could become a realistic model for other districts as well!

Posted by speak, data!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2007 at 10:29 pm


You're drawing mistaken conclusions from data. Meyerholtz does not equal MI, and Escondido does not equal SI. API scores are irrelevant.

Look at a real study, like Lindholm-Leary's, and you get a break-out that allows you to compare MI kids to non-MI kids. This data shows there is no down-side: the MI kids end up as good as or better than non-MI kids at English and math.

As for composition, I think Daunna's point had nothing to do with word formation or syntax. She was speculating that, for instance, the skills a third grader needs to summarize a book in Chinese are roughly similar to the skills a third grader needs to summarize a book in English.

So, to a certain extent, learning to write in Chinese will help the kid to write English (at least in elementary). This is what the researchers mean when they say literacy is additive.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2007 at 11:48 pm

Speak, data,

I am well aware that the two schools are not exclusively immersion programs. However, I'm also aware that the Lindholm-Leary study is limited in scope and much of her work appears focused on the benefits of immersion for *English learners*.

If the kids who are not in the immersion programs are underperforming to the point of dragging down school scores, then there are other reasons to worry about immersion programs. But I'm guessing, given what I've heard re: Escondido's scores and the effects of immersion in grade school, that those lower scores aren't non-immersion students dragging down the school.

My point about composition wasn't about word formation or syntax; it's a much larger point about what language is and how much of it does *not* translate. Good composition is language specific.

Given how badly most academics write, I don't know that I'd trust 'em on judging writing. George Bernard Shaw once wrote that a man who is master of his own language can never truly learn another. I think that's overstating it a bit, but only a bit. Certainly, Vladimir Nabokov wrote eloquently about how much he'd lost by having to write in English (which he'd learned as a child from a nanny) instead of his native Russian.

As I've said, I think second languages are valuable in studying one's own, but only up to a point. If it's as additive as people claim, then both Meyerholtz and Escondido should have better scores. Presumably, the immersion additive advantage should be giving kids an edge, but kids at ordinary monolingual schools seem to be outperforming them. And I really doubt that you can blame all of this on the non-immersion kids. After all, shouldn't they be pulling down scores at other non-I schools then?

Posted by Another Perspective, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 13, 2007 at 9:00 am

To look at this argument from a slightly different perspective....

My niece lived in Sweden for three years, during her late elementary age. She attended an international school where most of the students spoke non-English, non-Swedish as their "mother tongue". The emphasis of the school was to teach these students Swedish and learn their other subjects through Swedish, but she did spend one class, about 40 minutes a day, learning English with other English speakers. Apart from this class, her only English was what she spoke at home and some tv/videos. As a result of this she did of course pick up Swedish quite well, but more importantly, her English suffered. She is now at college, but she was tested in high school because her written English was so poor. Her parents were told that these late elementary years are crucial in learning writing skills, the use of everyday grammar, prepositions, subtle word order, etc. etc. are used intuitively at this stage and if there isn't enough reading and writing done then the intuitive reasoning goes and they then have to learn by rules, the way an English speaking adult learns a foreign language. My neice speaks English well and it is only her written work that is apparent. To read an essay of hers, you would feel it was written by someone who is a non-English speaker. Her high school teachers said that it is only be writing English at times when it is a tool, rather than an exercise in language, e.g. making history notes, explaining math problems, that this intuitive use of language comes about.

Now I know that this is only one anecdote, but I am passing it on as I think it is useful. I know that data and statistics can be very useful, but also they can say a lot about the person collecting the data and statistics, and basically they can be spewed any way the collector wants to prove his/her point. I feel that it is only through real experience that we can understand how exactly something works in the real world.

Posted by speak, data!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2007 at 2:09 pm


"I am well aware that the two schools are not exclusively immersion programs. However, I'm also aware that the Lindholm-Leary study is limited in scope and much of her work appears focused on the benefits of immersion for *English learners*."

This is false. See data above.

"But I'm guessing..."

Yes, you are venturing a lot of guesses about Meyerholtz and Escondido. With time, we could generate many more guesses, but it doesn't add to this conversation, which is about the benefits of MI.

Looking at the statistical data, what we do know is that by the end of elementary, MI kids are better at English (additive nature of bilingual literacy) and math than their non-immersion peers. We also know they can read and write Chinese.

Another perspective,

Well, I guess one could decide that all statistics have been twisted and are useless, in which case each of us would have to rely on the experience of our niece! Seriously, I think most people would welcome research into educational choices they make for their children.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2007 at 2:36 pm


If it's false, then why does much of her Web site list links to her work on the advantages of immersion for Spanish speakers? I mean, really, it's the obvious thing *to* study since the state has so many Spanish speakers who need fluency in English.

The study of CLIP was narrowly focused in time and number of people.

The scores of the schools are what they are and there's a big question mark as to why they're not better that the Lindholm-Leary study was never designed to address.

Why aren't those scores higher? Why is there such a large gap at Meyerholtz between its white and Asian students?

It strikes me as presumptuous to dismiss the cofounding variable that is Mandarin Immersion without more information, which neither you nor I seem to have.

Another Perspective,

I'm not surprised that there were some issues with your neice. Written English isn't spoken English--things are organized differently, a different and larger vocabulary is used. I think late elementary is probably when one develops one's "written voice" as it were.

Posted by Another Perspective, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 13, 2007 at 2:46 pm

speak, data

I offered my anecdote for the opportunity of showing a different perspective. It is only one story, but sometimes we hear things that help. If it doesn't help you, then I apologise for wasting your time.

However, it is widely known that statistics are only as reliable as a guide, not as an absolute. For example, say my child came home from school showing that he got 50% in a test. Now that sounds that my child didn't do very well. But, if I subsequently heard that all the children in the class got 55% or worse in the class and my child in fact had the second highest score, I would question the effectiveness of the teacher and or the test. Either the teacher had not set a test covering material taught in class, or the teacher's methods were not very good, or someone else had come in and tested the children who slanted the material, used unfamiliar vocabulary, etc. etc. In other words, if you don't know all the facts, then you can't make sound judgment.

When we are talking about data in the context of MI (or any other teaching method), we need to know all the information to make sense of it. For example, is attrition in the CLIP program the native Mandarin speakers or the Mandarin learners. Is the 4% attrition per year leaving a large core of the original kindergartners, or are they later arrivals? How many graduating 5th graders were in kindergarten and how many of them are native speakers as opposed to learners, are all valid questions. If we are being expected to make informed choices, then we must have informed data rather than indulgent statistics which leave more questions than answers.

Posted by speak, data!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2007 at 5:59 pm


"If it's false, then why...."

See above in this thread for the statistical data you are asking for. It does not make sense to point to other data (that is not what you are looking for) as evidence that the data you seek does not exist.

Meyerholtz numbers are irrelevant, as is the gap between white and Asian students.

Another perspective,

"But, if I subsequently heard that all the children in the class got 55% or worse in the class and my child in fact had the second highest score, I would question the effectiveness of the teacher and or the test."

Sure, but the value of these MI statistics is that they give apples-to-apples comparisons. Thus, it one discovers that MI kids are better at English and math than non-MI peers. This holds for both native Mandarin speakers and native English speakers.

"Is the 4% attrition per year leaving a large core of the original kindergartners, or are they later arrivals? How many graduating 5th graders were in kindergarten and how many of them are native speakers as opposed to learners, are all valid questions."

Valid, but irrelevant when drawing conclusions about the possible merits of MI. Also, CLIP has said that they are not concerned about attrition from either linguistic group

Posted by Another perspective, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 13, 2007 at 7:27 pm


Not irrelevant if you don't know when they are dropping out or why they are dropping out. Are they dropping out of the program or the district. Are these low achievers leaving who are trying to do better in regular classrooms, or high achievers who are not performing to their full potential. Are the drop outs happening at each grade level, or is it at the end of 2nd grade. Do drop outs happen with new comers or is it a continual flow from the original kindergartners. If you say that this is irrelevant, then you are not addressing the concerns of parents who really want to know how their child may perform. If you can give us some of these answers then we can respect the data much more intelligently.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2007 at 2:06 am


I looked again; the vast majority of Lindholm Leary's research was done on Spanish and French speakers in immersion programs. The two pieces cited by PACE date back to 2001 and 2003. CLIP only came into being in 1998. Any data Lindholm Leary had on the effects of MI at the time she wrote about it (specifically, the 2003 speach) were limited by the short time frame at work. We have no idea, for example, whether CLIP kids will have an easier time getting in Harvard--they're not even in high school yet.

It's reckless, I think, to dismiss out of hand the recent data from Meyerholtz and Escondido just because Lindholm Leary made some interesting findings some years back--most of which is *not* based on Mandarin Immersion, but French and Spanish immersion.

I don't know why Meyerholtz and Escondido test the way they do. And neither do *you.* Before I assumed that there were only positive effects from language immersion programs, I'd want to know what was going on with those scores. Research that's four to five years old won't give us all the answers on a program that's still in its childhood.

When Lindholm Leary writes that immersion kids read English at or above grade level, is that really the effects of immersion, or how abysmal "average" reading scores are in this country? (And, again, reading is a significantly different skill than writing--much *easier.*) Could it aid up to a point and then inhibit *superior* language performance in a child's native language--such as in the example given by Another Perspective? Did Lindholm Leary's studies include this sort of analysis? No one's mentioned it. I don't see it. Did she? Do you know?

Remember, Shakespeare spoke a little Latin and less Greek. This was at a time that his educated superiors were multilingual. But he is the most inventive user ever of English.

Again, I'm not against immersion programs, per se. For some families, having bilingual kids matters way more than their mastery of metaphors in English. However, I'm not, so far, finding a lot of deep research here.

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2007 at 8:14 am

there is 25 years of Cantonese immersion test scores from San Francisco's two public schools, and CAIS's (Chinese American International School, private school in San Francisco) students data that show learning Chinese is not detrimental to kids learning English.

OhlonePar is just sewing FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) claiming insufficient data for you PARTICULAR needs (which will NEVER be fulfilled since you don't believe MI works).

well, the success of students coming out of these schools is certainly enough for many of us. as well as the fantastic SI kids we produce. as well as the electric atmosphere that can be observed when visiting a classroom, as well as the parent testimonials:

Web Link

that's why it's a choice program. you have to have (dare I say it) some faith in the pedagogy, commitment to the inherent belief that being fully bilingual is worth it.

innovation is like that. taking risks for tremendous rewards. not everyone is up to it, especially with regards to their children's future. but those of us who see that fantastic opportunity and future for their kids should not be criticized for working on creating something wonderful that DOES NO HARM to the others in the district.

Posted by speak, data!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2007 at 10:37 am


As anon points out, not everyone is up to MI, and you clearly are in that camp. I'm not sure why you want to sow doubt where non exists.

"I looked again; the vast majority of Lindholm Leary's research was done on Spanish and French speakers in immersion programs."

Again, you miss the point. Just because she has done studies on French speakers does not mean she hasn't done research on MI. The data for MI are posted above (from 2006), and are based on CLIP and the SF program. If you're waiting to see if these kids get into Harvard, you're trying to extract certainty from the future, which cannot be done.

What we do know is that kids (both English speakers and Mandarin speakers) in MI programs do better than their mono-lingual peers in both math and English. This is independent of API scores at particular schools.

"When Lindholm Leary writes that immersion kids read English at or above grade level, is that really the effects of immersion, or how abysmal "average" reading scores are in this country?"

You are misreading. It's not that they read above grade level, it's that they outscore their peers--the kids down the road who are in a mono-lingual learning environment.

The question here was: Does MI harm a child's English abilities. The statistical answer is: no, it improves English abilities. You seem to want to cast doubt based on far-fetched scenarios that you have dreamed up though you have no evidence. The prudent, rational conclusion to draw here is that MI improves children's English.

Posted by Another Perspective, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2007 at 10:55 am


Does MI harm a child's English abilities? All you have mentioned is their reading abilities. Is this reading, reading out loud to an audience, or is it reading and comprehension? Are we talking about reading fiction or non-fiction (textbooks)? What about their writing abilities? How is their written grammar, handwriting, etc.? Do they know how to you use contractions correctly? Do they split infinitives, use subtle word placement correctly, use prepositions correctly? Do they write in English as if they are writing Mandarin (or French, or Spanish) translated badly into English? All these are valid questions which you are choosing not to answer.

Granted, many children in this country are not able to write coherently in English anyway, particularly in the age of texting and instant messaging, but the argument is that immersion kids do better. So better than what? Do they do better than the normal 5th grader at the end of 5th grade, or better than the normal 12th grader at the end of 12th grade.

I will commend Molly, the student PAUSD board member who was a previous SI student, who was able to put together a very good statement at the MI board meetings, and also the students who wrote articles for the Paly Voice newspaper which have been linked in this thread. So, I know that we are producing excellent English users.

Posted by speak, data!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2007 at 11:39 am


By the end of fifth grade, they do better than other kids in the district and in the state in standardized tests for both English and math.

As for split infinitives, even Fowler gave ground on that, so you're on your own.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2007 at 2:00 pm


I'm going to be cruel here, but your own written English makes me discount your judgment of the matter. My guess is that you have a college education, but when you make a basic subject/verb agreement error in your first sentence--well, it's something that would get a college application tossed out. There's informal usage--most posts here--and then there's wrong. Wrong worries me when I see it.

As for saying that there's no detrimental effects to learning English--well, that's not the issue here. The question is what happens to the writing skills *in English* of English speakers who spend their elementary school years in MI.

As for FUD--cute, but education is not a matter of faith to me. Frankly, it shouldn't be to you, either. Immersion programs don't hurt other students in concept, but when there are limited dollars and even more limited space, they can, in fact, hurt non-immersion students.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2007 at 2:38 pm


The thread is about whether MI really works. If there are questions and concerns about it, then this is exactly the place for them.

Where, specifically, is the link to Lindholm Leary's 2006 research? The proposal submitted to the school board refers to 2001 and 2003 publications.

If the kids are reading better than their monolingual peers down the road, how come *again* are those kids down the road outscoring them? Look, I'm not a fan of direct instruction, but I look at Faria and Hoover and I can see that it *works*. Immersion's muddier.

For instance, do you have any other experts besides Lindholm Leary, who has actively pushed MI in Palo Alto? I'd like to see a source that doesn't have a stake in what happens in PA (or received a free trip to China). I'm assuming that her research is unbiased, but there's a conflict-of-interest here.

I see, by the way, that you're not even addressing the writing/composition issue, which is really the big question here. You don't have any data on it, do you? Why on earth would it be "rational" to assume writing in Chinese would cause one's writing in English to be better than those who write in English?

I fail to see what's "far-fetched" about hypothesizing that writing well in English takes practice writing in English.

Again, I believe language immersion works in that it teaches kids a second language. I've never questioned that. But there seems to be a big jump made here by the MI proponents that reading scores can stand in for writing skills.

I'm getting the sense that the writing issue, which is harder to evaluate than reading with a bubble test, has not been well studied

Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 14, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Interesting thread.

Above all of this discussion hangs the specter of self-selection.

Parents who CHOOSE to put their children into a program that requires a lot of work from the parent, and requires a long-term vision for their kids, are, on average, going to raise children differently from those who don't.

So, I would guess that some of the differences in "average scores" have less to do with the actual program, and more to do with the huge variable of type of family support for an education that self-selects into programs which demand more commitment from the family.

Not casting aspersions on those who don't choose alternative programs, just commenting on the likely scenario that a higher percentage of motivated and hard working parents have kids that end up in the schools that require more commitment to get into. Ergo, the family is more likele to produce a hard working and committed child.

Posted by data watcher, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Lindholm-Leary's research was a snapshot of the test result from the CLIP students in grades k-5 for the same one year periond. The researcher said when she presented the data that it be useful to compare this one year of data to the test results of years going forward. There was (something like) a total of 8 kids in the 5th grade that was covered in the report and although no one could answer the question for sure, it seems that these 8 kids were all that remained from the initial class of 20 who had entered CLIP in kinder. Can someone who is closer to the report confirm this for me?

With that said... can anyone direct us to studies that have been done on the results of MI programs in other parts of the US?

Posted by DataDog, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 14, 2007 at 9:39 pm

My impression of the test scores in the CLIP evaluation report: the kids who couldn't hack it left the program -- which drives test scores up ... self selection indeed. If MI is intended to be a kind of GATE (gift and talented education) program why don't we consider it in that light?

Posted by Curious also, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2007 at 8:53 am

Interesing discussion. So does anyone know if Charter schools can be set up as GATE schools? I think their admissions processes are required to be pure lottery based - no admission testing or anything like that.

So if they accept anyone who comes along, and many of those find they can't make it through the program - does that create a high failure rate for the charter school? What are the consequences of that? Will it be socio-economically diverse if its self-selecting only high performers?

And how do they repopulate their program after kids leave? Are they allowed by law to do assessment testing for entry at any grade?

Are they permited by ed code to build a language bias into their admission process?

Posted by Charter School Supporter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2007 at 10:10 am

A charter school could have a GATE program, longer school days, more PE, art, and music.

Interestingly, there are a large number of language immersion charter schools, mostly in Spanish. The first one in Mandarin is just coming to approval at the end of this month, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, in Massachusetts:

Web Link

Posted by Also anon, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2007 at 7:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2007 at 11:50 pm

A charter school could have a GATE program, but could it *be* a GATE program? I was under the impression that they had to be pretty open about their admissions. There's a lot of stuff to prevent the use of charter schools as separatist institutions.

I'm not surprised that there are lots of Spanish Immersion charters--the Hispanic population is large and poor in this country and has underperformed academically. SI would be a natural outreach.

MI's different--it would not be a natural outreach program for a poor, academically underperforming community.

There are a lot of interesting variable here that make it an atypical charter-school situation. The district's basic aid, so it won't get much money from the state. There's no money or room for setting up another school. It's not like Los Altos, where a school was closed . . . the district's overenrolled, so again there's no desire to have any more magnet schools . . . on the other hand, in either EPA or MV, a charter school that would attract high-performing students would be very appealing to those districts.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2007 at 12:47 am

Hmmm, yes it could be a GATE program. Looks like the big issue for a basic-aid district is that the district would get nothing for students from other basic-aid districts and only partial reimbursement from other districts. At the same time, the charter has to be open to out-of-district kids.

So the district would have to provide space and pay out for student, whether or not they were from the district. While a charter might cost less than a regular public school, it's still going to cost the district money that could be spent elsewhere. If the district's not reopening Garland, then opening an MI school doesn't make a lot of sense either.

I hope the charter school supporters will at least look at the nearby non basic-aid districts.

Posted by AngloCLIPParent, a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2007 at 1:00 am

The assumptions by DataDog and others on this thread about CLIP's attrition are exactly opposite of the truth. The parents that left CLIP in the early years did so because they thought the program was providing substandard education, relative to the rest of Cupertino schools. The parents that stayed with the program were the ones that were least concerned about quantitative academic metrics.

Remember that CLIP is a young program, and that it's first class is graduating from the eight grade only this year. The program had some growing pains in its early years.

There are also a lot of incorrect assumptions about the language abilities of CLIP's kindergartners. The fact is that English is the first language for almost all the kids in the program, both the Chinese and non-Chinese. I'm sure all of you know immigrant couples that predominantly speak their native tongues at home. Ask them how difficult it is for them to get their kids to speak in their "native" languages. Without formal training, it doesn't happen. So the advantage that CLIP's Chinese kids have over the non-Chinese kids is often exaggerated.

And in response to the Cupertino stereotype discussed here, yes, my kids go to after school educational activities. They don't go there to "get ahead" but to instead to keep up with the rest of the class. Sadly about 5% to 10% of Cupertino's parents are hyper competitive, and they ruin it for the rest of us.

But my kids still go to cub/girl scouts, music lessons, baseball, soccer, and other less structured activities, and they're in bed every night by 9:30. They feel some stress at school, especially around STAR testing. But they're still really happy, fun kids, and not impassive math droids, as some would like to believe.

In response to those obsessing about the Asian versus White API scores at Meyerholz, my guess is the primary cause for the difference socio-economic. A little over half the kids in Meyerholz are in CLIP and the others are there because it is their neighborhood school. Some numbers: in 2006 about 15% of Meyerholz kids were white, and about 10% of Meyerholz kids were "socioeconomically disadvantaged." My observation is a lot of the white kids at Meyerholz are in single parent households, and they do have more to worry about than most of their classmates.

Web Link

Incidentally, it looks like at Ohlone the White kids outscore the Asians by a little, so go figure.

Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2007 at 6:56 pm


The Asian scores at Ohlone are not broken out--you seem to be making an erroneous assumption that ESL kids are Asian. This is not at all the case. It's a bit of everything--Spanish, Turkish, German, Hebrew. Why do you assume that an ESL child is nonwhite and Asian?

I do not assume that the Chinese-American kids in CLIP were native Mandarin speakers. However, if the adults (and Grandma and Grandpa) can or do speak Mandarin, that's an advantage. Yes, the kids often don't want to speak Mandarin, but they grow up hearing it in a way kids in a monolingual household does not.

Do you know if the whites are more socioeconomically disadvantaged than the Asians? You also make it sound, in terms of numbers, that there are very, very few non-Asian CLIP kids. Is that correct? Has that always been the case? If there's been attrition, does it follow the general trend of the district?

And how are writing skills in English assessed/tracked?

Posted by rightrightwe, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 30, 2008 at 3:22 am

woman student microsoft ibm head free red student red

Posted by Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, a resident of Woodside
on Feb 20, 2009 at 1:32 pm

I have just completed work on a chapter entitled "Student Outcomes in Chinese Two-Way Immersion Programs: Language Proficiency, Academic Achievement, and Student Attitudes" for a book on foreign/second language programs in the US. This chapter draws on data from two Chinese two-way immersion programs in California, one with a community like PAUSD and one with a more diverse community of Chinese and Caucasian students of different socio-economic and parent education backgrounds. There were 320 students in grades 4-8 in this study, which included native Chinese speaking, English speaking/Chinese ethnic background, and English speaking/other ethnic background students. Regardless of the student backgrounds, overall, I found that by the end of elementary and into middle school, native Chinese speaking and native English speaking students had developed fairly high levels of oral proficiency and reading/writing proficiencies in Chinese. Students rated their language skills in Chinese at fairly high levels and felt that they had acquired the language skills to engage in a variety of communication exchanges. In addition, the students were outscoring native English speakers in English only programs when their achievement was measured using the California state assessments (CAT6 and CST). In many cases, the achievement of Chinese immersion students far exceeded their peers, even when their peers were English speakers with parents who had a post graduate degree. Furthermore, the students had gained multicultural skills as defined by their responses to a variety of items examining interest and knowledge of Chinese culture and comfort in interacting with students who were different from them linguistically and ethnically. These results are consistent with the kinds of results we have for students in Spanish two-way immersion programs.

If you would like further information about this data, you may view or download my PowerPoint presentation given at the Immersion Education: Pathways to Bilingualism & Beyond Conference sponsored by the Center for Advanced Research in Language Acquisition, October 2008,

Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, Ph.D.
Professor, San Jose State University

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Couples: Parallel Play or Interactive Play?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,512 views

Just say no
By Jessica T | 6 comments | 1,474 views

Palo Alto quietly gets new evening food truck market
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 999 views

SJSU Center for Steinbeck Studies to Honor Author Khaled Hosseini on Weds Sept 10
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 812 views

Candidate Kickoff Events: Public, not just for supporters
By Douglas Moran | 4 comments | 471 views