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Why All This Controversy Over Mandarin Immersion?
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by Shan Phillips, Midtown,
on Jun 16, 2006
All the opposition to this new program puzzles me. Of course there was some concern when Hoover, Ohlone and Spanish immersion were started. However, these days I hear nothing but positive feedback- with a few exceptions from lottery losers.
I for one will be happy to see a new program if for no other reason than it will help alleviate overcrowding in schools. Some of the parents in the crowded north side schools where space is scarce will no doubt opt for this new program and in the process reduce overcrowding.
Palo Alto and the Valley were built on innovation- lets not be scared of something new!
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Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 30, 2006 at 4:38 pm
From the school board packet of March 28, 2006 (page 56 - 59):
In Nov 2000, the Spanish immersion program was reviewed by the school board for its move from a pilot program to "on-going status". From the school district memo:
"...the Board authorized the creation of the Spanish Immersion Program, which began as a kindergarten class in fall 1995... The Board assigned pilot status to the program, providing for continued program growth by adding a new kindergarten class each year through the pilot period, which concludes in the 2000-2001 school year. In authorizing the Spanish Immersion Pilot Program, the Board stipulated that it:
•Develop bilingual proficiency and literacy in Spanish and English.
•Acquire knowledge in all academic subjects as outlined in the District's Curriculum Standards.
•Achieve academic proficiency at or above grade level in English and Spanish.
At the time pilot status was assigned to the Spanish Immersion Program, the Board directed the administration to include the following data in the final report to ensure full compliance with Board Policy:
(a) Programmatic Impact, including costs, student services and school climate;
(b) Enrollment Summary, with data for native English and Spanish-speakers; and
(c) Academic performance. These areas, as well as information regarding middle school implications, are summarized for your review."
These standards were set forth when SI was started, and the additional data on the programs effectiveness are included in this report.
With regards to Student Achievement:
"The goal of this analysis was to gain insight into the performance of students participating in the Spanish Immersion Pilot Program in the areas of Reading, Math and Language (Attachment A). Results revealed that the students enrolled in the Spanish Immersion Pilot were at or above the grade level in math and language."
With regards to School Climate - Transition Committees:
"Two key elements have been central to the positive incorporation and acceptance of the Spanish Immersion Pilot Program at Escondido School:
•The active participation of parents of students enrolled in the Spanish Immersion Pilot program
•The School Site Council
The leadership provided by these two groups has significantly contributed to the overall acceptance of the Spanish Immersion Pilot at Escondido School."
With respect to School Climate, the AIR survey was conducted:
"...the survey indicates the views of non-immersion parents at Escondido became slightly more favorable toward the presence of the Spanish Immersion Pilot from the first year to the next, and teachers became significantly more accepting of the program. In part, the shift in view can be attributed to increased opportunities for immersion/non-immersion teachers to work together across the curriculum and immersion/non-immersion parent participation in PTA, School Site Council, school committees and other activities."
With respect to Enrollment:
"Successful implementation of Two-Way Immersion Programs is achieved with enrollment requirements.
Spanish Immersion Pilot Program students come from throughout the District, including the Voluntary Transfer Program, and are distributed by original neighborhood schools (Attachment E). Enrollment in the Spanish Immersion Pilot Program consists of: children of employees (5), East Palo Alto-VTP students (35) and 12 elementary school neighborhoods (128). This ethnically diverse student body also includes Free and/or Reduced Lunch recipients, English Language Learners, disabled and GATE students."
With respect to Fiscal Impact (Student Services, Parent Contributions, and School Budget):
"The Spanish Immersion Pilot Program has not negatively impacted Special Education, school psychology or library programs/services. All students at Escondido are provided the same continuum of services as any other site with a similar enrollment. The allocation of Special Education and school psychology services is based upon multiple factors, such as staffing formulas, the total school enrollment, location of Special Day Classes and Individual Educational Program (IEP) caseloads.
When the Spanish Immersion Pilot was established in 1995, the parents of students in the Spanish Immersion Pilot assumed the responsibility to raise funds for Spanish-language books and educational materials. The parents organized the Spanish Immersion Parent Association of Palo Alto (SIPAPA), and its fundraising activities have been similar to those of PTAs and booster clubs, grants, direct appeals and a few small fundraising events.
SIPAPA raised funds to purchase approximately 1,670 books for a Spanish-language and bilingual library. Nearly half of these funds were from grants; fundraising events contributed about $2,000, with direct appeals accounting for the remainder. By the end of the school year, these funds will have purchased a minimally complete Spanish-language library. A similar amount has been raised and spent on classroom books and materials, largely from direct appeals.
During the spring of 1997, the School Site Council reviewed the preliminary budget for the 1997-98 school year, to determine if the Spanish Immersion Pilot Program was having a negative effect upon the discretionary income allocated to Escondido. The School Site Council concluded that the income generated by the Pilot Program enrollment paid for all program-related expenditures.
Since the Board of Education assigned Pilot status to the Spanish Immersion Program (1997-98 school year), the District has either allocated or encumbered $3,276 for program costs. This expense does not include administrative, secretarial and/or consultation time of District administrative staff, representing approximately 4-5 full days per school year."
SUMMARY FINDINGS (from the Nov 2000 staff memo):
"When the Board placed the Spanish Immersion Program at Fairmeadow and Escondido Schools, the response of the community was mixed. There was considerable concern that the choice program would result in a loss of resources (fiscal and human) for the host school and that the program would compromise the school's climate. The combined efforts of (then) Fairmeadow Principals June Schiller and Escondido Gary Prehn, parents of the Spanish Immersion students and parents of resident students resulted in a majority of parents at each school ultimately viewing the program as an asset to their communities."
The SI program, like the other alternative programs in PAUSD, are oversubscribed with long waiting lists of students wanting to get into the program. This fall, SI's enrollment has been increased to accomodate eventually two strands (two kinders, two first, etc.) in the four-strand school.
I believe the program has earned its great model reputation, being often visited by other schools across the nation.
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Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2006 at 7:37 am
Here's the complete article, talking about the difficulty for adults to learn Chinese, but reiterating that for children, it's easier. Grace
Is It Too Late to Try?
By Austin Ramzy
Posted Monday, June 19, 2006; 20:00 HKT
When the humorist Dave Barry went to Japan in the early 1990s, he attempted to learn the language by reading a paperback phrase book, Japanese at a Glance, on the flight over. "That is not the method recommended by experts," he wrote. "The method recommended by experts is to be born a Japanese baby and raised by a Japanese family, in Japan."
The language of the moment is Chinese, and the expert advice is depressingly similar. If you didn't start speaking Mandarin while you were in diapers, it's highly unlikely you'll ever be mistaken for a Beijinger. The U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Institute ranks Mandarin as one of five "exceptionally difficult" languages (the others are Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean). The average English speaker requires 2,200 class hours to reach proficiency, according to the Foreign Service Institute. That's more than three times the amount of time needed to master French or Spanish. If you could somehow make learning Chinese your 40-hours-a-week job, it would take you nearly 13 months¡ªand forget about technological shortcuts. "Computerized language-learning programs and materials have helped marginally," says John Berninghausen, professor of Chinese at Middlebury College in Vermont. "But there are, at least thus far, no magic bullets."
It's not just Chinese that vexes us. Our ability to effortlessly absorb a new language¡ªany new language¡ªbegins to decline by age six, according to Robert DeKeyser, a professor of second-language acquisition at the University of Maryland. By the time we are 16, we have lost just about all hope of being able to speak a second language without a telltale accent, DeKeyser says. The reasons why children have a remarkable capacity to absorb new languages that adults generally lack are unclear. Some researchers studying the brain believe the answer may lie in a fundamental process by which grey matter develops. As we age, nerve fibers in our brain become sheathed in a protective coating made of fats and proteins. This coating, called myelin, boosts the speed of signals moving through the brain, but it also limits the potential for new connections. "It's as if you have a lot of tracks where people walked around the countryside and somebody came down and put asphalt on them," says Mike Long, who also teaches second-language acquisition at the University of Maryland. "Those roads are stronger and better, but they also limit possibility." In other words, adults find it difficult to alter the way they communicate because they become wired for their native tongue.
Difficult¡ªbut not impossible. In some areas, such as vocabulary memorization, older students can actually outperform younger peers. "Adults shouldn't say 'I'm too old to learn,'" says Long. "All over the world, millions of people have become extremely good in a second language, even when they started in their 30s and 40s." You can't expect to soak up Chinese like a sponge, but you do have the ability to concentrate and to study for hours on end. Unfortunately, if you want to learn Chinese, that's what you'll need to do.
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Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 8, 2006 at 6:48 pm
Yes, Jamie unscrambled the enrollment numbers that I posted (TownSquare didn't translate the tabs separating the columns).
The two prior PAUSD 11th day enrollment reports are in the board packet archives.
Sept 28, 2004, pages 66 - 73:
Oct 14, 2003, pages 53 - 60:
SI has been a 1.5 strand program for a number of years. That means there's 30 kids per grade, so there are combo classes (K1, 23, 45). That is, as you'll see in the "table" below, there is a "straight" K and "straight" 1st (each with 20 students) and a combo K1 (10 kinders and 10 first graders) to have a total of 60 kinder and 1st graders.
The reason for 1.5 strands I believe is from the initial class size of 25 when SI started 11 years ago, so when class size reduction was implemented across the district, the number of students for each grade was bumped up from 25 to 30 for each grade. This fall, with the increased demand of SI, the program is moving to two strands, or 40 kids per grade (starting with Kinder this fall).
I'm going to try to create a table here to show the yearly SI class sizes (Jamie, much obliged if this doesn't work, for you to unscramble it again!):
SI in 2005 (note the combo classes K1, 23, and three combos for 45):
SI in 2004 (note the combo classes K1, 23, and three combos for 45):
SI in 2003 (note one combo classes for K1, and three combos for 23 and 45):
SI continues beyond K5 to Jordan for middle school. I do not have the enrollment numbers for SI in middle schools.
Looking at the class enrollments through the district, 2003 had 9 fourth and fifth grade classes with 19 kids, and 2004 had 3 (in addition to SI's 3).
For Cupertino MI, here are the numbers (another attempt at making a table, forgive me if it gets messed up):
Notes on these numbers:
1) Cupertino Unified does not participate in Calif's class size reduction for kindergarten. Kindergarten classes can have as many as 30 students per class. Only for 1st - 3rd grades is the class size limited to 20 students/class.
2) After 3rd grade, Cupertino allows about 30 students/class.
3) This chart was received from Jeremy Nishihara, Communications Manager for the Office of the Superintendent (email@example.com)
4) Cupertino's Mandarin Program goes up to 8th grade.
5) We can only estimate how many classes there are in each grade, since this information was not provided.
Numbers can be interpreted in many ways. The success of Cupertino's MI can be seen by the jump from 24 kinders in 2001 to 64 kinders in 2002. That is, after two years of the program, the program was allowed to expand to meet the request of the community.
The first years of a new program (the "pilot" class) always struggle with higher than average attrition due to a number of constraints:
1. The first class starts small since it is the first and least risk-taking.
2. In the beginning of a new program, parents, students, and staff have different expectations (commitment, fluency achievement, English exposure, etc.) resulting in higher early attrition. As the program matures, expectations are better matched, and attrition is low.
According to the Cupertino numbers, the first pilot class had in 2000, 19 students, then 14 students in 2001, then 9 students in 2002, then 6 students in 2003, then 6 students in 2004 (in sixth grade). So, the class sizes for one set of kids over time through sixth grade:
19 -> 14 -> 9 -> 6 -> 6 (pilot class started in 1998)
For the successive classes:
19 -> 19 -> 19 -> 18 -> 18 -> 22 (second class of kids started in 1999)
28 -> 31 -> 38 -> 39 -> 37 -> 34 -> 26 (third class of kids in 2000)
25 -> 29 -> 40 -> 37 -> 35 -> 32 (fourth class)
64 -> 60 -> 49 -> 47 -> 45
64 -> 67 -> 66 -> 60 (kinder class started in 2003)
59 -> 60 -> 60 (kinder class started in 2004)
60 -> 60 (last year's kinders will be all moving to first grade)