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Tough Question - Is an MI Charter School legal?

Original post made by Asking Questions, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2007

PAUSD already offers an established, well respected, highly modeled Language Immersion program. (What PAUSD doesn't offer is enough spots in their current program - there always seems to be a waiting list for Spanish Immersion.)

A Mandarin Immersion program wouldn't be new, different, innovative, it would just be an immersion program in a different language.

Now, here's the question. Do charter laws allow a charter school to define itself based on nothing more than ethnic differentiation?

The definition of "Ethnic" by the way from Meriam Webster dictionary online: "of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background."

What if they are open to anyone who wants to join?

What if they are open to anyone, but there are linguistic barriers to entry (ie: Mandarin proficiency testing required for entrance above 1st grade) that create an ethnic bias for the program?

In other words, what if the ethnicity (language) preference built in to the program prevents people of other ethnicities (languages)from being able to realistically consider the program. (For example, Mandarin is very difficult language - some prospective immersion customers might consider Spanish, but wouldn't consider Mandarin a viable option.)

If families don't speak Mandarin at home, does this create an ethnic centric barrier to entry?

Charter Law from the Ed Code: Charter schools "shall not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability.

Is discrimination based on language = ethnic discrimination?

Is a Mandarin Charter school legal?

Comments (68)

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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2007 at 1:41 pm

In the same vein - if a Charter School must match the ethnic mix of the District, I think PAUSD is about 18-20% Asian, how do you implement an Immersion program which requires 30-50% of the students to be native Mandarin speakers?


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2007 at 2:00 pm

I have a question, but I need to preface it. I am not trying to cause a falme war or argument, I honestly want a fair answer. Here goes:

Why Mandarin? By that I mean is there a reason whay I should want my children to learn Mandarin as opposed to other languages? I can understand Spanish immmersion, we share a border with Mexico and there are many situations where. living in the US, one might want a mastery of Spanish. Why not Russian, French, German, Japanese, or any of the other major languages in the world? If we are going to consider another language immersion program, shouldn't we talk about the desirability of possibly going with another language? Why are we locked on to Mandarin?

I know that the proponents of this program have chosen Mandarin as that target language, but why? Why has there been no discussion of other potential languages? Could someone please explain why Mandarin is so important to me?


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Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 8, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Well, Mandarin Chinese is spoken in several major countries: China, Taiwan, and Singapore. From a business perspective, China has a HUGE growth potential. China's GDP growth (adjusted for inflation) is estimated at 10.5% compared to the USA rate of 3.4% annually. China is still generally poor, GDP per capita (per person) is only $7,600 compared to $43,500 for the US. The middle class is experiencing a boom right now in China, as more and more Chinese earn higher salaries, their consumption increases.

Imagine in a decade if your consumption doubled! Take everything you own and double it! Another car in the garage, twice the number of furniture, bigger house, etc. That's China's growth right now, although on a more modest, less exaggerated size. The majority of Chinese are poor and a doubling of GDP is fairly small. Nonetheless, there's still much growth and potential to be found in China.

Back in 2006: USA-"We've reach a population of 300 million!" China-"So what? We're 1 billion people larger and still growing!"

Mandarin is also the main language spoken on Taiwan. Although small and often times overlooked, this small island is full of high-tech companies. Taiwan is one of the largest producers of semiconductors, circuit boards, and LCD monitors. Taipei 101 is also the world's tallest building as of now.

Mandarin is not the supreme language everyone should learn. But China is an emerging nation and its a potential center for major investment opportunities. Although still a communist nation, perhaps one day it will turn fully democratic and advocate rights among all its citizens.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Okay, I can accept that China is an up-and-coming economy, and I have been to Singapore and Taiwan. I know that Mandarin speaking countries are prime sites for off-shore manufacturing, and people from the states travel there on business a lot. But over all, most people never go to China or the Asian countries, therefore few will have exposure to Mandarin outside the school and a few friends. Spanish is here, now, and I find that my lack of Spanish affects me daily. I got the wrong salad from Jack-in-the-box just today probably due to language difficulties. Playing devils advocate here, would it not make sense to extend the Spanish immersion program to another school rather than introduce a new language to the system that will see far less use?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2007 at 4:48 pm

But is global business conducted in Mandarin? or in English?

Please see Yahoo news yesterday - dumb ol Gates, stands up and tells congress that the US education needs to focus on Math and Science, that we can't compete globally with out it. We can't even import enough math/science expertise to keep us competitive.

I didn't see him say anything about needing to import alot of Mandarin speakers to remain competitive. What a dork, doesn't he know anythinng about global business?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2007 at 4:56 pm

The ethnic diversity "issue" is a red herring which has been repeatedly raised by MI opponents. Why don't you read the case law? Or review the SRI studies on the Effectiveness of Public Charter Schools.

Web Link


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2007 at 5:10 pm

Please, let's not go off on a tangent.

I asked a question to which I was hoping for a serious response: If we are talking about another language immersion school at all, would it make more sense to expand the Spanish immersion to another school? Or is Manderin the only choice we have? Why?

Let's not get off on Gates-bashing or ethnic diversity debates that go around in circles. Let's also try not to let emothings intrude where reason should reign.

And please, someone kill that spam and shoot the spammer.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2007 at 5:10 pm

Anonymous,

What does that link have to do with the diversity requirements of the California State law regarding charter schools? The law explicitly says that the school's are supposed to reflect the ethnic make-up of the district. The native Mandarin speaker requirment of an MI charter makes that impossible in this district. The Mandarin-speaking population of Palo Alto is less than 2 percent of the population. MI programs require 30 percent native speakers, preferably 50 percent.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2007 at 5:14 pm

JustMe,

It's Mandarin because the parents pushing for it want Mandarin. PACE's Web site gives their reasons. Some of it's China the coming world power. Some of it's a hold-on-to-one's heritage thing. Some of it's it's-harder-to-learn-later thing.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Just Me

You do ask a very valid question which has never been answered. Iknow that there is a group waiting in the sidelines to start a French Immersion discussion, which makes your question doubly valid.

The rest of the non-English speaking world has an advantage over us. They know which language to choose to learn as a second language. We don't. Over the years, different languages have come into favor, Mandarin is just the flavor of the month. It would make sense for us here to learn to speak whatever the second most popular language is here just so that we can speak to those who serve us, clean our homes, tender our gardens, cut our hair, etc. etc. For us to say that speaking another language will help in the global economy of business is just not on. Any business in Japan, China, India or anywhere else is only hiring their executives who speak good English, it is a requirement that makes sense to them. Therefore, all business will be done in English, and to say that it would be useful to be able to understand what they say to each other behind our backs would be useful, is a useful as us wanting to know what our house painters are chatting about.

English is going to continue to be the language of business. To learn any second language for an English speaker is an academic luxury and a cultural nicety.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2007 at 10:19 pm

"To learn any second language for an English speaker is an academic luxury and a cultural nicety."

Parent, putting aside for a moment the usual "screw the world, I'm American mentality" you just expressed, please explain why colleges still mandate that students come in with at least 2 years (at teh HS level) of a foreign language - just to be "culturally nice"?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Observer


Good question.

Actually, I am not American and I had to learn three foreign languages in my school, so you have my mentality completely wrong.

It is a good question as to why colleges require foreign languages. I have two suggestions. One is that it puts them in line with foreign colleges who all require foreign languages. This makes them look equally good in the eyes of the rest of the world and attractive to foreign students. Secondly, the discipline of learning a foreign language is a good academic practice. It does help with English grammar and shows that a student has had a good all round high school academic education.

Apart from these reasons, I expect there are others, but that is what comes to mind.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2007 at 9:12 am

Colleges USED to teach Latin, and if you spoke Latin you were considered educated, if you didn't speak it, no matter what other accomplishments you had, you were ignorant. I realize that colleges have improved in their perception of what constitutes "education", but they are still not perfect.

That said, I DO see value in learning a forign language: it will never hurt you (unless you speak it VERY badly and embarrass yourself), it will help with college admissions, it is good mental exercise, it helps you gain perspective, and you may actually use it someday. The questions are:
1) Does it HAVE to be immersion?
2) Are there better alternatives to Mandarin?

When I was in middle school they taught German. This was seen as a good scientific language because we were still working towards the moon and we were drawing on rocket technology developed in Germany during the war, therefore the texts were in German. Times change, so to popular second languages.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2007 at 11:01 am

Your question about "why Mandarin" got me to thinking that there would probably be a lot more support for a (located in a non-basic aid district, maybe EPA) World Languages Immersion Charter School which could teach multiple languages in an Immersion setting.

The "why Mandarin" is simply that the parents supporting the MI program and now the MI Charter are Mandarin speaking and want their children to learn the language without paying for an outside source to teach them.

As far as Mandarin being a great choice because of the growth and growth potential in China, in all my years of business, I have never heard anyone complain about losing a deal in a Mandarin speaking country because of not speaking Mandarin. English is the language of business.


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Posted by LW
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2007 at 11:30 am

You wouldn't hear of people losing deals because their people didn't speak Mandarin or any other language. However the deal negotiators that show some interest, knowledge and sensitivity to the culture in question--and can themselves or through colleagues demonstrate that they have a few people who speak the language--are more likely to be selected. It's part of rapport-building. Rapport and goodwill are further extended when visiting Americans actually speak the language enough that they are included in informal "extracurricular" entertainment not required by the business relationoship. It's not very visible stuff, so you only know about it if you experience it. Those who don't experience it don't know about it.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Nixon School
on Mar 9, 2007 at 12:32 pm

Cultural knowledge, awareness and sensitivity can be demonstrated through other ways than offering up a few words in another's native language.

One could argue that an intenstive SIX year immersion program to gain the benefits of the casual conversational proficiency such as that which you've described here would be considered gross overkill.

And purely optional.


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Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Colleges mandate a cursory exposure to a broad variety of subjects , because their first charge is to put out well rounded undergraduates who have had an exposure, and proven a level of basic academic success in a variety of academic basics. Which qualifies them to move to the next step. Colleges also require some of the arts, some of the sciences, math, English, philosphy, logic, and even some physical education and electives! That doesn't prove any of it as necessarily important or useful - its part of the college process.

The undergrad concentrates in a subject in order to claim he's got a cursory level of expertise in a 'major', but he becomes a specialist only as he goes on to graduate level schooling.

Is someone suggesting we should have our elementary grade students specializing in languages? Ridiculous. If college undergrads are still generalists, why would we have our elementary students already expected to be specialists?

I think we should be thinking about swimming instructions in elementary schools, because some Palo Alto parents have apparently gone off the deep end.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Observer - "Screw the world, I'm American mentality"???? What do the English, Irish, Scottish, Australian, and New Zealand people think when they state the fact that English is the language of business?

Perhaps a statement of fact is not a statement of arrogance, after all.

Living in an area where one elementary school alone can have 15 different languages spoken in the homes of the students means that we have to ask the questions of which language, and to what extent, and for what purpose(s) is it necessary to educate our children ( aside from English, of course).

These are not questions of arrogance, contrary to your highly anti-American view of who we are.

By the way, I AM American, and am trilingual. I learned 1 of my languages as AN ADULT, through classroom and daily tapes study for a year, then going to live in a country that spoke the language for 2 one month periods, studying while there.

k-5 immersion is not the only way. This is not a black and white issue.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2007 at 11:53 am

"Colleges USED to teach Latin..."

Just a correction to the above. You make it sound like Latin was learned in the past as some kind of useless litmus test of whether one was educated or not.

One year of Latin in high school taught me more about English than most English courses. It was probably the single biggest reason I did so well on the SAT's. Latin also teaches an incredible lesson in how Western languages are structured. (The class was a pet project by a teacher in an otherwise poor school system and was very popular.) I cannot speak Latin, but I AM far better educated as an English speaker because I had a chance to study it. I also found French, Spanish, and even Russian easier to learn as a result.

As far as Mandarin goes, it probably is extremely useful to learn the structure of an Eastern language when one is still young enough to internalize it. I think immersion is a great idea. However, I think there are smarter ways for us to implement it than currently proposed.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2007 at 12:17 pm

I also had to take two years latin in what would best be described as middle school. I found it tricky as it was full of grammar rules, but it helped me immensely with my understanding of English as a language. Even though I had been learning two other languages for many years previously, grammar suddenly seemed to make sense to me. Without Latin, I can safely say that my ability to read, write and actually understand difficult English text would severely have been much poorer now as a result. The fact that I can break down words into their original form and see how prefixes, suffixes, tenses and even sentence formation are all due to my two years Latin. Until then, I didn't even know how to conjugate the verb to be, and how you can learn any language either your own or a foreign language without understanding that concept, is incredible.

I would say that my actual ability to say anything in Latin now is still amo, amas, amat, etc., but that is nothing to do with learning Latin as a school subsject.


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Posted by Another Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2007 at 8:18 pm

Unfortunately there is no overlap between Mandarin and English - so kids are learning to learn a language, but not getting leverage for English.

Oh well, some parents are interested in specializing in Mandarin as their elective, taking time and mind share out of their regular elementary school time to do so, I guess they're willing to make that trade off for lesser outcomes in English.

It probably serves them well if they are planning on enrolling in Chinese secondary schools.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2007 at 8:34 pm

I suppose that one could argue that writing in say spanish can improve handwriting skills in English, but apart from that, I am not sure how writing spanish can help writing english. But, to say that writing Mandarin can help handwriting skills in english is only the same as saying that writing Mandarin can help any fine motor skills in the same way that writing english can help any fine motor skills.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2007 at 10:22 pm

If you're studying any kind of history besides U.S., other languages become highly useful. I was once told that British barristers studied Latin because so much early law was written in Latin. Latin was the universal second language of educated Europe the way English is of modern-day India. It was no one's, so it was everyone's.

When I hit college, I started reading books that had significant chunks of untranslated texts. Being able to read French and Latin and sometimes Ancient Greek are assumed. (Or possession of a really good dictionary.)


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Posted by Charter School Supporter
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2007 at 1:04 am

Boston.com article, Mar 11, 2007

As China's power grows, so do Chinese programs in public schools

Web Link


San Diego Union Tribune article, Feb 28, 2007

Admission rules are clarified for German-immersion school

Web Link



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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2007 at 8:54 am

Link 2 - a local school board voted to allow preference to german language speakers in german lanugage immersion class - despite fears that it may not be legal per California law. And...? That's a school board, not a court. It IS illegal, and it will be challenged. If not there soon, then here shortly.

Link 1 - a chinese book importer touting the benefits of (yet another) chinese language start up school. Gee wonder if there's any reason why he might be excited about growth in Chinese language education? But in any case, nothing in that article precludes a school district from offering language instruction to all elementary kids. Immersion isn't the only way to teach a language. Any language. A rational person might look at that second article and say - gee, we should find a way to add this important language education to the PAUSD elementary day. An irrational person might look at that article and say, gee, we need to find a way to give this important language opportunity to MY kid (Oh, there are other kids in PAUSD??? Then we can give it to another 5% of the rest of the district, and the other 95% can eat cake.)

The curious spike in Mandarin language start up program everywhere at the same time, might be everyone figuring out all at once that we're all going to be speaking Chinese in about 10years (and if anyone want's to earn a living, or go to college, they BETTER be able to speak chinese!. Or it might be a fad - boosted by the Chinese Government's admitted push to spread Mandarin across the US, coupled with the Bush Administration's doling out free money for 'strategic' languages (ie "National Defense" and we all know where that will take your kid.) Two really honorable and trustworthy sources giving us money to go out and teach our kids Chinese.

No thanks, I'll stick to Math and Science. Its funny - in China, they focus education on Math, Science and English. They're probably laughing their behinds off at us, as we take our eye off the ball and start wasting our time on Mandarin.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2007 at 1:31 pm

I'm glad to see the link to the San Diego case of the german language admission criteria.

I hope that turns in to a legal challenge at the State, mabye even the federal level, of a public school using a foreign language as an admission criteria for public education.

Amazing!


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2007 at 9:53 am

I have a suggestion for a good language to use for an immersion program, and while the proposal may sound factious, I assure you that I am making this proposal with honest sincerity.

If we are going to set up a school to immerse students in a language that they will find useful throughout their lives, I would propose English as that language. Please let me explain:

I only had a short time to listen to the local radio station last Friday wheil returning from the auto shop with my car, but I found myself listening to a presentation from someone in California education that was very interesting. One statistic he tossed out was the fact that 25% of the children in California schoold are "English learners". That's a big number, and while I am sure those "learners" have many languages they are coming from, they all share the barrier of needing to learn English. Just throwing these children into a normal clasrom and expecting them to keep up with other children who understand the instruction given to them is horribly unfair to them, I would think. As "English learners" I would think they would have special needs and need a little more attention in verifying that they actually understand what they are being taught. Otherwise we are dooming them to failure before they even start. I think a school that uses English as the common language but puts a little more emphasis on understanding might be a good idea to help them along.

I have been told by a number of sources that there are places in East San Jose that you simply don't go to unless you speak Spanish. Many of the Spanish-only inhabitants there were born and raised right here in the US, but they have never learned to speak English. Those people have limited access to jobs and opprotunities outside their community because they cannot speak the common language, they are a small society withint society, a ghetto. Aside from the opprotunities THEY are missing, think of the talent pool we may be missing in there, how mych they could help us, not just how we could help them. Those are normal, bright, vibrant children there, condemed to semi-isolation due to language, and I have a real problem with that.

If we want to do an immersion school, I would advocate an English immersion progeam to bring those children into mainstream society so that we can all benefit from the diversity. Diversity is not a positive thing when it is enforced by isolation. We need to truly share the diversity, not pocket it off in the corner.


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Posted by Language Hopeful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 10:40 am

This question about whether a foreign language immersion school is legal, is a very good question.

I would like to consider giving my child a fair crack at a dual language immersion program, but my child will be about 2nd or 3rd grade level by the time the MI program is running (if it gets running in 08, or 09.)

My child will not have Mandarin language exposure otherwise, and would hope to enter the program as an English only speaker.

Is it legal for a California public school (charter is a public school), to turn a child away because he does not have a foreign language proficiency?

Is it legal for a California public school to turn a child away because he does not have English language proficiency?

I didn't think a public school could turn away kids based on academic standards at all (like a private school can.)

If they are allowed to turn kids away based on some sort of academic testing, how can they use public tax dollars for that school?

as a public school, shouldn't they be required to accomodate students at all levels?


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Posted by Good Question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 11:01 am

As an alternative question - could there be a English Literacy Charter established, that would focus on delivering accelerated levels of English language skills, that would therefore require testing for English language proficiency at or above grade level as a criteria for admission?

Could an English Literacy charter be able to thereofore limit admission to a single language speaker category of students, and deny admission to others based on language?

(Even if, for example this meant that most kids denied were English Language Learners, who were Spanish and Mandarin native speakers.)

Is "X" Language literacy an appropriate category for accepting and/or denying admissions to a California public education, funded by California tax payer dollar?

Does anyone know who governs this? I would like to ask the State Board of Dducation, the Attorney General, or the District Attorney or something. It seems unconstitutional.


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Posted by Also language hopeful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 11:49 am

"Is it legal for a California public school (charter is a public school), to turn a child away because he does not have a foreign language proficiency?"

There are a number of charter schools in California that select students based on skills. Several of these are language immersion programs. None of these have been challenged in court. A challenge would depend on making the claim that the linguistic requirement is a proxy for race or nationallity. Far-fetched, at best.

But we haven't heard what the charter school would look like. Perhaps they'll propose a program that has both immersion classrooms and less-rigorous, language-enriched classrooms into which late-starters can be shunted. The classrooms wouldn't be balanced but the school would.

As for wanting to give your child "a crack" at a dual language immersion program, you missed your chance. All the public and private immersion programs test--usually both languages--before admitting after K or first. That was the time to start. In any case, immersion requires commitment and is not something to be approached with the attitude of "something to try out," as your phrasing implies.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2007 at 1:36 pm

"A challenge would depend on making the claim that the linguistic requirement is a proxy for race or nationallity. Far-fetched, at best." from also language hopeful - how many non-Chinese native Mandarin speakers are there, much less 5-7 year olds?


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Posted by also language hopeful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 1:46 pm

"how many non-Chinese native Mandarin speakers are there, much less 5-7 year olds?"

Very, very few. Your point?


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Posted by Moi
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 13, 2007 at 1:52 pm

Think about INTENT. Look at the ethnic imbalances within PAUSD schools. Are some schools heavily white or lopsided ethnically on purpose? Some of it's just where people live, and some of it's what people choose. When a school/program is oversubscribed, the admission criteria are based on first, meeting the admission requirements, if any, and second on equal opportunity (non-discrimination). Ethnical diversity and balancing are desirable, but not absolutes.


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Posted by Good Question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 2:18 pm

here's the California charter education code wording pertaining to admissions. The policy of testing for proficiency of any kind, could be challenged simply on the fact that it violates this ed code statement. I don't see any need to bring ethnicity in to question at all.

(2) (A) A charter school shall admit all pupils who wish to attend
the school.
(B) However, if the number of pupils who wish to attend the
charter school exceeds the school's capacity, attendance, except for
existing pupils of the charter school, shall be determined by a
public random drawing. Preference shall be extended to pupils
currently attending the charter school and pupils who reside in the
district except as provided for in Section 47614.5. Other preferences
may be permitted by the chartering authority on an individual school
basis and only if consistent with the law.


Just because its never been challenged, doesn't mean it can't be challenged.

(And it says - preference MAY BE PERMITTED BY THE CHARTING AUTHORITY. It doesn't say MUST BE PERMITTED.)

Charter schools are still public schools.

However, if they felt they HAD to prove that language was being used as a proxy for ethnically discriminatory admissions, are you suggesting it would not be possible to go to California or Bay Area demographic statistics and find a correlation between Mandarin language proficient speakers and Asian (or Chinese) ethnic population? So in other words, you are saying there's a significant population out there that speaks Mandarin, that is not Asian (or Chinese)? Really?

Making that connection doesn't sound far fetched at all to me.

In fact, I bet there is a pretty high correlation. If they had to prove language was being used as a proxy for ethnicity, I bet they could pretty easily make the argument that the program would be ethnically biased.

Now, if as you suggest, the MI Charter plans to abandon their original idea that they would be a full fleged dual immersion program (that reaches 50/50 Mandarin/English by 5th grade, and delivers Mandarin and English fluency by 5th grade to its graduates), then they will be departing from their originally conceived MI Choice program proposal, and go to something more like a FLES type "language enriched' school.

And then it seems like a couple things happen - a less compelling value proposition for people who were after a true MI, highly differentiated dual immersion model, and it creates a more complicated and complex and costly school to operate, (offering every level to everyone). You'd have every level of English and Mandarin in every grade (?). How many teachers and aids would something like that take? Sounds daunting.

I'm sure a lot of the competitive PAUSD parents would be disappointed by this watered down compromise concept, and would question the charter's ability to deliver this complex model. I bet it would not appeal to very many Mandarin proficient families who were looking for a high powered PAUSD quality education in Mandarin, who wouldn't be thrilled about having their kids share the classroom with all levels of Mandarin beginners (waiting around, not getting enough attention, etc.)


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Posted by also language hopeful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 2:31 pm

"Other preferences may be permitted by the chartering authority on an individual school basis and only if consistent with the law."

Enough said.

"are you suggesting it would not be possible to go to California or Bay Area demographic statistics and find a correlation between Mandarin language proficient speakers and Asian (or Chinese) ethnic population?"

No, just that it's irrelevant. I'm sure there is a correlation. The proxy question hangs on intent, not how demographics turn out. It would probably turn out that the program would not be ethnically representative of Palo Alto. The question would be: was that the intent of the program? Or did they have a specific educational goal in mind by setting a target for the linguistic makeup? That's why it's far fetched to imagine you can show the linguistic preference is a proxy for ethnicity.

I don't know what their plans are but it seems unlikely they will abandon full-fledged dual immersion. But maybe they'd opt to run an enriched program on the side to get around the charges about ethnicity. You may be right that it would be too complicated.


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Posted by Can't believe my eyes!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 2:37 pm

If you're now talking about a 'language enriched' classroom, and not a full dual immersion school, why wouldn't PACE be partnering in friendship with PAUSD on the World Language Taskforce, where PAUSD is looking for ways to bring language enriched education to all PAUSD elementary students???

PACE requested a rigorous and rigidly defined MI program which was declined by the board on several issues (demographics and complexity being two of them), and now they would suggest they won't be able to deliver a full fledged MI program just like it, either?

But yet PACE is still out to punish PAUSD district for declining to provide it for them??? Wow, selfishness rises to new heights...


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Posted by Simply grateful
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 13, 2007 at 2:53 pm

PACE has shown itself to be a model, grassroots organization working for the betterment of our community.

Despite the selfish rejection of a choice program for narrow political reasons, PACE still seems to be working toward giving us a charter school and making PAUSD a better district.


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Posted by Look Again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 3:33 pm

"Other preferences may be permitted by the chartering authority on an individual school basis and only if consistent with the law."

Enough said? Are you sure? Look again...

The "may be permited by the Chartering Authority"

The chartering authority (PAUSD) has the perogative (not the charter school). And "may" is may, not must. So the charter authority can, but doesn't have to, permit other preferences.

But even so, think about the other preferences the district allows, and doesn't allow, because of what's lawful. What kind of preferences are lawful:
-sibling preferences
-neighborhood boundaries
-parents employees at the school
Any others? Not really. Because there aren't many that are lawful in a public school system, mainly seem to be geographic related preferences that are lawful.

And as to intent - if it can be shown that the program set up language barriers to entry, knowing full well the correlation that exists - that wouldn't be construed as intent? And are you sure that 'intent' must be proven when it comes to matter of unlawful segregation? Well, I don't know, I guess it would call for a civil rights attorney at that point...

And to Simply - improving PAUSD? Are you sure? Take another look at sample program statistics for similar programs. You won't find better - you ~might~ find equivalent if you pick the 'right' demographic population to study, at the 'right' grade level, but more likely will find sub-par results relative to PAUSD.



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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2007 at 4:36 pm

Charter schools have to meet different criteria than ordinary public schools. Thus, while the various public elementary schools of the PAUSD may not be demographically balanced, the code on charter schools say that a charter school needs to reflect the demographic balance of its district.

I'd be be curious to see the demographics of the German charter school's district--if it's more than a third Caucasian then you can probably create a charter that could conceivably match the demographics of the district. PAUSD doesn't have the right demographics at this time for an MI charter to reflect its demographics.

Basically, a charter in PAUSD can't legally have the demographics of Hoover. If it looks like that's what an MI charter will create then the board has some legal justification to turn it down.


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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2007 at 5:28 pm

this whole charter idea sounds like a total mess, it will create hardship for this district.


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Posted by Not buying
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 5:47 pm

There is absolutely not one single 'admission criteria' for PAUSD public schools. Its all based on where you live (neighborhood boundary lines), sibling preference (or parent working at school).

Even PAUSD choice programs are 'pure' lottery. (And if one of them is not a pure lottery - then lets have a word with the Board - its against district policy.)

Moi is confused "When a school/program is oversubscribed, the admission criteria are based on first, meeting the admission requirements, if any, and second on equal opportunity (non-discrimination). " Doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

"Admission Criteria" is only applicable in a private school. There are no admission criteria in any PAUSD schools.

When Barb turned down the choice program on 1/30, she said she could not support a choice program that included any admission criteria that a kid could not voluntarily qualify for.

Yes, let's talk about intent. Intent to create exclusive educational opportunity in a public school (paid for by public tax dollars) that only a certain group can qualify for. (Ok, to be sure, ~anyone~ can try to make it in the program, but only those who actually speak Mandarin can make it in...

Please. It would be like the military setting up a criteria for a size 13 shoe for entrance to the army.








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Posted by Moi
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 13, 2007 at 10:58 pm

PAUSD does indeed have admission criteria, starting with residency. Then there are the preferences, usually for siblings. Charters too have admission criteria. Anyone can apply, but district residency preferences kick in if there are too many applicants. Language skills in either Mandarin or English are an admission requirement for immersion.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 8:31 am

Moi - that's exactly what two entire posts above yours said - the only limitations for admission to Palo Alto public schools are physical boundary lines, sibling preference, and parent teaching at the school.

These are all location/boundary based criteria - nothing to do with academic qualificiation of the child, ethnic background of a child, or anything else related to abilities, skills, background of the child.

A requirement of language skills in either Mandarin or English are discrimanatory and will be proven to be illegal.

And by the way, this program goes even one step further and ELIMINATES ENGLISH speakers from qualifying for admission past 1st grade, because it will test for Mandarin proficiency at that level.

In fact, the PAUSD Staff quietly REMOVED the wording from the first pass to the second pass of the PUBLISHED MI feasibility study that said the MI choice program would have the requirement that students speak either Mandarin or English. The school district knew very well this was illegal, and removed it from the wording of the feasibility study.

Charter schools are also public schools, and as posted above are not allowed to have academic admission criteria based on proficiency, abilities. The only admission restricts they are allowed to have are the same ones the public schools are legally allowed to have - location based.

You are confusing a charter school with a private school, much as PACE and the MI supporters have been doing all along with the MI proposal. This is a public school district, and a charter school is a public school, subject to the same requirements to accept all students who come, without prejudice of any kind, just as any public school - the only exception being that a charter school isn't bound by the physical boundary lines of the school district - its got to have even MORE OPEN admissions than a school district (not less).


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 9:02 am

Parent,

I can see you disagree with the idea of using skills to screen for admission, but as far as I can tell it is legal. Can you say why you think it is not? A number of charter schools and regular public schools around the state already base admission on certain skills.

You're right that a charter school is a public school, but some public schools may and do base admission on skills.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 11:40 am

Re: The comment that Barb turned down the Choice program on 1/30..actually, she voted for it. She indicated she would oppose it at the meeting in the middle of January,for the reasons ( and more) about admission criteria and diversity, but changed her mind.

I suspect that somebody, somewhere, is going to have to have the money and time to fight the idea that it is acceptable for any public school to have academic based admission criteria, especially ones that have criteria that result in race-based differentials, such as language proficiency..if you have to be either English and/or Spanish proficient, for example, that pretty knocks out an awful lot of kids in the Bay Area from attending an SI school, as an example. I think we have overlooked this on the basis of helping out one group of our disadvantaged kids, but when it comes to popping the intent of Charter schools on the head and starting charter schools that have the effect of attracting the advantaged over the disadvantaged...well, somebody, somewhere, in this "bastion of equal opportunity" state is going to wake up, see that the intent is now being used to start GATE schools and Immersion schools, see the racial segregation effect, realize we have come full circle, and start to fight it.

I wonder which District will be the first? Looks like it probably won't be ours, unless a bunch of people get together and pledge a lot of money for legal fees.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 12:10 pm

"I suspect that somebody, somewhere, is going to have to have the money and time to fight the idea that it is acceptable for any public school to have academic based admission criteria..."

This strikes me as unlikely.

It would have to be a legislative (or referendum) fight, not a legal one, and I haven't heard of anyone (besides a few in PA) who is opposed to admission criteria, let alone is willing to make the long haul for legislative change.

A ban on criteria would force PAUSD to dismantle SI at Escondido. It would also spell the end for Lowell High and High School of the Arts up in S.F. There are many public CA schools--charter, choice, and standard--that use criteria.

Why do you object to their use?


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Posted by Serious Question
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 14, 2007 at 12:18 pm

I'm not familiar with Lowell and High School of the Arts. What's the criteria for admission? Do they deny admission based on skill or--?


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Lowell uses test scores, gpa, essay to screen kids. The arts school relies on auditions.


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Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Well, perhaps PAUSD doesn't have to fight in court, but they certainly can deny it based on the law - and let someone else fight it in court.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Resident - you're right. I should have put the 1/16 date in that post instead of the 1/30. Barb DID go back on those concerns which she stated on 1/16, she ignored her qualms about diversity and biased admission process, and voted for the MI program on 1/30 anyway.

If there are public schools using student performance criteria for admission to public education, under california ed code, then I'd say it's illegal. I wonder if a pro-bono civil rights attorney, ACLU, or such, would take this case?

I guess it would take someone who's been turned down from such a program (SI???), to file a complaint with the state or the county or to contact the ACLU. It doesn't sound unheard of to me.

Hmmm. All of a sudden I'm wondering if my upcoming 4th grader should apply to the new MI charter school... I wouldn't mind striking a blow for social justice...


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 2:34 pm

"Well, perhaps PAUSD doesn't have to fight in court, but they certainly can deny it based on the law - and let someone else fight it in court."

The district is very limited as to what reasons it can use to turn down a charter. It cannot reject a charter just because the charter uses admissions criteria, which are legal as best I can tell.

"If there are public schools using student performance criteria for admission to public education, under california ed code, then I'd say it's illegal."

What part of the code?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Admissions criteria are legal for charters. Criteria that limits diversity isn't. The law on charter schools was devised to prevent all-white academies, so there's a diversity requirment that regular public schools do not have.

The MI charter has a very real issue that way.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 4:14 pm

No. Admission criteria are not legal for Charters. Absolutely not. Please read the posts above for copy and paste from the California ed code wording.

They must admit all. If space limited they hold a random lottery.

The chartering authority MAY allow other admission criteria as long as they are lawful.

Go look at the lawful reasons for limiting access to public education. Boundaries. That's it.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 8:18 pm

Hey Parent,

I see what the law says, but I know there are also GATE charters--but perhaps those charters assume that the students will self-select?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2007 at 10:17 pm

OhlonePar - not sure why or how they're allowed to exist. A couple theories...

1)They've never been tested in court?

2) Prospective parents get a heavy dose of 'parent information session' educating parents about how detrimental failure is for kids that are not suited to the program. Effectively scaring parents away before they have to be turned away?

3) They don't turn anyone away, even after testing, and let the rigors of the program self-filter kids out?

Again, maybe all it would take would be a parent or two that have been turned down from a public school to challenge this practice?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 1:41 am

I looked the article of which I was thinking and, yep, it's a GATE program that accepts gifted and non-gifted. So, yeah, scare 'em off during the application process.

Which is different than having to meet a specific narrow language requirement.

My recollection is that Grace Mah and PACE originally considered a charter program and then decided a choice program would face fewer hurdles.

I keep wondering how serious the charter proposal is. If PACE really wants a charter school why push it in a district where it's become a political hot potato and, thus, more likely to be subject to legal challenges?

It seems like you'd either want to move the charter to a friendlier district, where there would be less inclination to challenge the charter's legality, or hold off a bit until tempers had died down.

If PACE still really wants a PAUSD choice program I think the charter push is also a mistake--just because it creates further resentment.

Never give fuel to the opposition.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2007 at 10:05 am

Ohlone Par - you said something intriguing there. a GATE program that accepts gifted and non-gifted.

So it would be very interesting to learn specifially how this school actually admits (and turns away) prospective students - it sounds like test scores and academic performance standards are not the entire story.

I wonder if a concerned friend of PAUSD (Ohlone Par??) would be willing to contact that school directly and find out the whole scoop? Share more details with us?

I suspect that a lot of these charter schools that have 'criteria' are actually running a selection process that relies on more informal undocumented ways of scaring off the 'unqualified' candidates (like through 'information sessions), but their formal processes actually allow for admission of all students?

It would also be interesting to hear directly from a school that does have formal entrance exams or criteria, on their position on how and where that process is justified by California or Federal law. If its legal, they probably know exactly how to justify it - they probably have to justify it all the time to their own community. Alterntatively, their governing board of education should be contacted to find out.

It would be interesting to get the whole scoop on the specifics.

(I bet we'll find, as we find when we dig in on most of what the MI folks are telling us, that they're only giving us a tiny bit of the picture - the part that supports their goal.)


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Posted by pa mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2007 at 2:57 pm

The original question of this poster may soon be moot, as two BoE members want to revisit the possibility of a MI choice program. Ohlone, get ready for some big changes.....


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Posted by Parent too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2007 at 5:51 pm

pa mom - Would that the PAUSD board could over write California State Law - they can't.

If admission criteria are illegal, they are illegal. The board can not make the question moot by revisiting an MI choice program.

If language testing for admission is illegal for a public school, then its illegal for a choice program or a charter program.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 6:59 pm

If they revisit MI now, they won't have the support of Ohlone's principal. She specifically said that there could be no delay in approving the MI program if it was wanted for Fall 2007.

Two's still a minority. Who's the third vote going to be? Barb, remember, approved MI because Susan Charles was willing--but only with no delays.

What's changed? Nothing but the charter threat.


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Posted by pa mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2007 at 7:18 pm

OhlonePar, I agree with you that nothing is new here, except for the charter threat. All the other issues with MI still exist. Still the BoE is revisiting this issue and maybe Ohlone won't be ready for MI this year, but certainly 2008 is an option. I know this is off point to the thread, but with two board members who voted no asking to revisit the MI choice program and two who are already on board with MI, we are now looking at yet more distict time and energy being spent on this issue, and also the possibility of a decision reversal.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 10:11 pm

pa mom,

Was this the last board meeting? Yeesh. This board has a serious case of the wishy-washies. The least they could do is table the discussion for a year and get back to work on all the other issues facing the district.

Do you have a link to the recent recidivism? I thought it was only a meeting ago that they decided they needed to move on . . . Gail Price must be rolling her eyes.

I don't suppose they could, like, move ahead on FLES or anything they've actually voted to do.


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Posted by pa mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2007 at 10:49 pm

OhlonePar - Here you go: Web Link


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 11:44 pm

Gee, sounds like caving into pressure for me. And setting a *bad* precedent. I mean, heck, the charter proposal hasn't even been put forward, but the board's already cowering in its boots.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2007 at 10:06 am

Very worrying. And what is also apparent from the story on the same link is Grace Mah's candidacy for Santa Clara Education Board. If she is testing the waters here, it must mean that she is considering a place on our PAUSD Board as an alternative option. It seems that Mandarin and language issues will be the hot topic when we re-elect the BOE here and we must be prepared for the kind of fight we are not used to here.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2007 at 5:10 pm

I wonder if the MI debate is relevant to the whole of Santa Clara rather than just Palo Alto. If Grace uses that as the only point in her manifesto then she may not have much following outside the small MI community in Palo Alto. I know little about the other two except that Barbara Spreng is active in PTA matters and I think she is a member of the AAAG.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2007 at 5:24 pm

Okay, can I admit I'd be sort of amused to see a one-trick pony on the board? Santa Clara County has *such* a diverse population with so many needs. There's something to be said for seeing beyond Perfect Palo Alto and our Perfectly Prepping Our Offspring.


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Posted by Board Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2007 at 10:37 pm

Read the board packet for the comparison of MI as a choice program and MI as a charter school. Lots of information.

Web Link


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