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School board delays Mandarin-immersion vote

Original post made on May 23, 2007

Wanting more community input and time for compromise efforts, the Palo Alto school board agreed to delay voting yes or no on the highly controversial Mandarin-immersion choice program until June 5.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (226)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2007 at 9:04 am

This delay is not helping the AAAG in its work and probably other groups are affected by this. How can the AAAG make any kind of recommendation when there are too many unknowns. This delay is putting all the work that this committee has been doing in a very difficult situation. From the beginning, there were unknowns. Now over a year later, the unknowns have got worse. Not only do we not know whether there will be a MI program or not, but we still have to come up with a scenario that fits, but also we do not know what is happening at the high school level. Garland is still an open question.

How is the committee expected to do anything. It is working with its hands tied behind its back.

If this is a problem for one group, then there must be many other groups that are affected by this delay. This delay is crippling to this community's ability to sort out the myriad of other problems in the District.


Posted by Irked, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 23, 2007 at 9:25 am

Dana was particularly irritating last night, taking Barb Mitchell to task for using the word "hostage" and then NOT SAYING ANYTHING when the MI opponents were bashing again and again. Duncan McMillan was the most flagrant saying that if he was the police, the letter would be considered blackmail and that is a criminal action.


Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2007 at 11:10 am

If the MI vote was delayed yesterday to try and find some areas of compromise, would anyone here like to suggest where such compromises could be made?

I, for one, would rather the BOE simply stick by its original vote and only deal with a charter petition if and when it receives one, but if they still feel unable to do that, here are some ideas:

1) Tie MI to a timetable that implements it only upon the establishment of FLES – even if that means a delay in opening MI until 2009. If there's a rush to get languages into our elementary schools, shouldn't the rush be on behalf of all students?

2) Drop the mandarin language requirement for the program – that would make it open to more children and still use an immersion model that has been successfully implemented elsewhere.

3) Establish a system, clearly detailed in the plan the BOE votes on, for transparent and regular reporting of the program to show beyond a doubt that it has been cost neutral.

4) Accept that the nature, design and workability of an 'Ohlone Style' immersion program has yet to be thought through at the instructional level. Further delay a vote until it has been thought through, so that the BOE will actually be able to base its decision on the EDUCATIONAL merits of the program.


Any thoughts?

I also have some practical questions: I know that at least some BOE members insist they aren't negotiating with anyone here, just taking about possibilities between themselves. So how – practically – can a compromise on MI be forged before the next Board meeting? Who is meeting with whom? There's a town hall meeting proposed on May 31st with two BOE members. Will that be a forum for discussing a compromise or one from which a compromise might emerge? If a compromise does emerge somehow, who will be writing it up? How will it be disseminated for public comment? Will the BOE request another letter from the ten MI supporters saying it works for them? If not, why not, since that letter caused them to act in the first place? Lastly, do we have two weeks to formulate a compromise or only a week to do it and then a week to hear back from the 'ten' before the June 5th vote?

Can anyone help here? On such divisive issue I think the BOE owes it to the community to be clear about what they are doing. Perhaps someone from the BOE needs to post a clear description of the consultative process they plan over the next two weeks somewhere – here might be a good start.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2007 at 11:29 am

Simon,

My take on what happened is that the board delayed voting to give Mandy and Dana time to allow the public to vent at them. It's a political gesture that will backfire when it becomes clear that no compromise is in the works (look at the tenor of the meeting yesterday: purely adversarial; no conversation). It strikes me as a repetition of the waffling that has marred the board process from the start.

In thinking about a "compromise," you lay out demands that merely repeat long-standing opposition points intended to hobble the program but you offer nothing in return. That's not compromise.

Perhaps you'd like to offer to make MI a full K-5 program, not a pilot? Start it this fall? Promise to put it at a site where it can expand? Promise to create MI at middle and high school levels? End the talk of racial quotas?

I didn't think so.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2007 at 11:51 am

Simon - I like all your thoughts. I did a little research on public (not charter) school mandarin immersion programs and none except SF had a language requirement. I wonder if it is legal for a public school to have requirement to enter a program (as opposed to a specific class). I also like the transparency of being cost neutral.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Parent - one of the points you bring up is "put it at a site it can expand". That is exactly why now is NOT an appropriate time to start a MI (or any other choice) program.

Until we figure out where to put our students in our overenrolled district, there is not an appropriate site for a new choice program to grow to k-5 or room to expand the current programs with long waiting lists.

In a year or even six months when this issue has been figured out, it will then be appropriate to discuss adding a choice program, (and if so, what kind) or possibly expanding our current ones. It might be that we create an Language Immersion School and move the SI program and include MI (or french, or russian...)

MI is clearly not the only option and desire of the PAUSD parents, just the only one threatening to open a charter if they don't get their way.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Compromise:

Well, I think that some compromise has been made by the promise of the "Ohlone Way", which opens the program up in educational philosophical approach. I think putting it at a school that is already not "neighborhood" was a compromise.

I would like further compromise to address fears of abandoning the Ohlone way in 3 years and growing into taking 1/2 of a neighborhood school. How about a promise that the program stays at Ohlone through 5th grade? Period?

Or, if it leaves to take 1/2 of another site, it MUST stay "Ohlone Way" and not revert to "DI way", and SI goes to the other half of the new site it takes ( notice that 3 years is when we are talking about opening a new site). This would give back 1/2 of a neighborhood school, and turn the new school into the " International Language Immersion" school. It would also solve some diversity concerns about language immersion programs.

Obviously, there are big problems on both sides with ANY of the compromises, ( I can hear both sides yelling "BUT.." already) but maybe it is time for us to try to salvage this so that everybody "gives" or "caves" on something. Nobody is going to be all the way happy with any compromise, of course. But, maybe there is a way to contain the divisiveness.


Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2007 at 1:26 pm

I have been vehemently opposed to the current proposals for MI (and plan to act on it when the chance comes to vote on BOE; and by discontinuing my habit of significant donations to PIE).

But if we are talking about compromise, I like the idea of a language immersion school - if it offered after-school and summer programs for students not in immersion.

I would also want it to be 3 strand/3 languages to provide more diversity (without a language requirement for admission). German? French?

And it would have to be on a timetable that fits with reopening Garland, so I suppose in Fall of 2008 or 2009.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2007 at 1:43 pm

"But if we are talking about compromise, I like the idea of a language immersion school - if it offered after-school and summer programs for students not in immersion."

That's creative. And if there's enough interest in a third language, why not? Arabic? Japanese? But would all that fit at Garland? And I thought the district said the lesson it learned with SI was that a program needs to be two strands. And what about summer immersion camps, too?

MI could start small in portables at Ohlone in 2008, and then move to Garland once it opens, allowing Ohlone to expand its program.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Resident, Thank you for interjecting a suggestion that addresses a number of the concerns raised about the MI proposal in a creative way. It will, of course, be a non-starter for anyone who is opposed on principle to expansion of choice programs, but for those who believe there ought to be a way for Palo Alto to work this out that addresses concerns about maintaining the Ohlone Way approach beyond year three and meets facility needs without squeezing an existing neighborhood school it's worth considering.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2007 at 2:01 pm

And so it starts - MI angling for Garland, and we're not even out of the gate yet.


Posted by Interested party, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 23, 2007 at 4:37 pm

I don't think MI is "angling for Garland." I think MI is going to enjoy being Ohlone.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Here we go again. The BOE is unable to come to a decision at the present time so that we can let them know what we think. I have heard what we think time after time at Board meetings and know that the Board members have been inundated with emails, phone calls, as well as personal contact. If they had been reading the various threads on this Forum, they would have some idea what many members of the community think. What are they waiting for? Are they expecting writing in the sky? Is there a magic number of emails they are waiting to receive? Is there anyone in Palo Alto who hasn't heard all about this discussion?

Maybe they are waiting for someone to find a magic formula? Well, it won't happen. This community is very split and they have managed to come out as a very weak minded Board as a whole, and as individuals with possibly one exception.

They have been told that there are other groups waiting in the wings. They know that pie funding and the possibility of getting bonds and parcel taxes passed are in jeopardy. Yet, still they dig in their heels and hope that something dramatic may happen to give them a way out. They have dug themselves into a very deep hole and instead of trying to get out, they are waiting for it to fill with water.

Now we need them to act. We don't want the possibility of Garland re-opening to be a lifeline for the MIers. We want Garland to relieve the congestion and overflowing of students in the north schools. We don't want Ohlone taking on more students in an MI program, we want to use any increased capacity there to take in those on the waiting list and also to help reduce the congestion in Palo Verde.

There are new homes being built, being sold, and high turnover in existing home sales bringing new students to Palo Alto all the time. Are they doing anything about giving these new students a chair to sit on anywhere near their neighborhood or are they expected to be driven to BP and Briones? There is VTA bus route taking away the possibility of many Gunn students using public transport to get to school. There are issues which they should be concentrating on and are not because they are going to go through it all again on June 5th.

We must get this Board to get their act together and act not delay.


Posted by anon, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 23, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Parent,
In all likelihood, next year Briones will be at capacity, probably overflowing students to another school. All that new housing at the old Hyatt site is in our boundaries. We are already adding portables at Briones next year for expected enrollment, though we hardly have space for more portables. A playground structure will be torn down to make way for one.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2007 at 12:44 am

I get the feeling the board wants somebody to provide them with a magic solution.

Some possibilities:

1) A counter to the charter threat. How about a petition stating that the undersigned will withhold support for the next school bonds if the MI vote is overturned? It's hardball, but PACE has been playing hardball. Since Mandy and Dana seem to be responding to the threat of a charter, maybe it should be countered with a bigger financial threat--a very real one I might add. They actually might have already blown it. Since Dana and Mandy seem to want some sort of decisive no to justify their "no" vote, that would do it.

2) Put PACE on the defensive. They've been pushing at the board for years, but I haven't seen any of them respond constructively to the very real problems MI choice would create. I'm not sure why the board hasn't asked a couple of tough questions--like why should we give MI precedence over Ohlone's waitlist? Why should MI be given precedence over issues of overcrowding? If you don't want to hurt the district, why are you only looking at options that involve expense and space for the district? PACE has been allowed to push without real repercussions. I think it's resulted in a certain arrogance because there's been little accountability. The board really does take the heat.

3) Figuring out how real the charter threat is. PACE has had years to put together a charter proposal, but has never done it. That should tell you something. Unlike Bullis, they're a small group. There don't seem to be any educational experts--and more to the point, I don't think they've got the money to outsource. If PACE had millions at its disposal, I think its members would be sending its kids to the various private immersion schools we *already* have. The charter saves them money. Which means we're not talking LAH wealthy.

4) If the board calls PACE's bluff, how about offering summertime immersion and schoolyear language support? It's not everything they want, but it's the only thing I've seen--besides chartering out of the district--that gives people some of what they want without creating space problems.

Again, the board should ask PACE why they won't consider this? My guess is if they understood that that was what they could get at this time without further damaging the district, they might be more amenable than they once thought. Because they haven't had to answer hard questions, they're a bit out of touch. It's not an accident that you see almost none of them post here anymore. I think several of them didn't really get how angry people have gotten about it. They wanted their little program without having a real sense of how big an issue overcrowding is or that there's resentment already at how poor the lottery odds are at the current choice programs. (I ran into someone randomly today who was complaining about--it's not just online by a long shot.)







Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2007 at 8:15 am

OhlonePar

Great suggestions - I don't know if PACE hasn't considered the impact of a MI program on our overcrowded schools - or if they just don't care what the impact is.

I'd send your suggestions and questions to the BOE, while we may not always agree with them, I have found some of them to be thoughtful in their response to emails.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 8:42 am

OP

Are you willing/planning to start a petition as outlined in your post above? I am sure you will get the signatures you need.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2007 at 8:56 am

OhlonePar, I like your suggestions, particularly #1. If you or anyone else organizes such a petition, I will gladly sign it and help circulate it.

Other people have mentioned the possibility of trying to recall the board. Does anyone know what's required? I'm confident that if the current board were removed, any replacement board would have better sense and more backbone than to cave in to the MI supporters.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 9:25 am

I wonder if there's an equivalent Chinese expression for "Cutting off your nose to spite your face."


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2007 at 10:42 am

OhlonePar,

Your battle plan is terrifying. I hope cooler heads prevail. How much harm are you willing to expose the district to--all the students, all the teachers, the entire community--in your campaign?

"PACE has had years to put together a charter proposal, but has never done it. That should tell you something."

Yes, it tells us that they really wanted to replicate a successful, popular program within the district, not establish a separate entity. Inclusion, not isolation and competition.

"There don't seem to be any educational experts--and more to the point, I don't think they've got the money to outsource."

Why would you assume that there's a shortage of commitment, abilities and resources that MI advocates could bring to this situation? How much of the district's welfare are you willing to gamble on your surmise? If the choice program is turned down and the current leaders of PACE who favor choice over charter don't follow through on the application--for whatever reason--why, given the state's predisposition in favor of charter schools (see Dana Tom and Mandy Lowell's handout)-- wouldn't another group pick up the mantle of leadership for a charter MI school and push forward with the application?

"It's not an accident that you see almost none of them post here anymore. I think several of them didn't really get how angry people have gotten about it."

Why would they? There's no new information to bring to the discussion, and this seems to be a hostile environment for them to step into. Just because people aren't posting doesn't mean they aren't reading, so I assume PACE folks have a pretty good idea of what's being said in these forums.


Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2007 at 11:23 am

Jerry,

It's already happened. Residents now look at the board and the MI farce and the answer to the next PAUSD bond request is a resounding NO!
That's how much an MI choice program has cost us. A charter school would have been much cheaper.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2007 at 11:44 am

Jerry -

"it tells us that they really wanted to replicate a successful, popular program within the district, not establish a separate entity." The SI program IS popular - expanding it might be an option preferred by more people than adding MI. Ohlone IS even more popular - expanding it might be an option preferred by more people than adding MI. No one was given that choice.

The district should be allowed to choose which, if any program should be expanded or added. Currently a program desired by only a few is being demanded instead, kind-of a backwards process.

"Inclusion, not isolation and competition." How is a program which would benefit merely 240 kids inclusive (2 strands, k-5)? Of those kids, 120 would be required to be native Mandarin speakers, leaving us to "include" 120 kids out of about 5500 elementary students, less than 2%.

I don't doubt PACE in their desire to educate their children, their desire to add an potentially innovative program or their ability to organize and support a successful MI program. Nor do I feel hostile towards them. But if the truly wanted to be "inclusive" they would have included the needs of ALL the PAUSD students (think FLES) and included ALL the PA residents input on a whether any new choice program is appropriate and desired.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 11:54 am

Interesting comments about Grace and MI proponents no longer posting, and as well, they are noticably no longer showing up for the board meetings, no longer speaking at the board meetings, not showing up for the Terman community meetings, etc. Quote from Grace in the daily after the Terman meeting was - why should I show up to meeting without a mediator? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Of all people, she should be out there actively lobbying for a peaceful compromise [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.} As a public figure chosen to represent this community, a county board member - what is she doing for us now? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 12:09 pm

To PA Mom: Well said. Concur 100%. There is some debate over the 50% versus 30% native speakers, but the point remains.

I feel no hostility either toward the proponents. They got it in their heads to get what they wanted for their kids, and worked hard for it. I admire the dedication and hard work. And, I have no doubt it will be a great program.

I DO feel hostility toward the constant spin. Call it what it is. A fantastically enriched public program for a lucky few, while the rest not only get nothing, but some even get displaced from Ohlone, and time and energy and money has been diverted from the higher priorities ( and will continue to be) .

Please stop trying to sugar coat it with repeating that this is for the good of the PAUSD kids, and for "inclusion" etc.

It is good for the kids who win the lottery. Period.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Honestly, because they are not talking, its not even clear if there IS a compromise solution that they would consider. Have they ever even considered other mechanisms for an acceptable (reasonable) level of Mandarin education less than a full blown, full time, 1-2 strand MI program? It doesn't seem like there are any compromises they would consider. Their demands were pretty clear in the letter, they want a full MI program, by 2007. And, if not, a charter. I'm not sure where all the suggestions of needing them to 'talk' gets us.

The opponents have had lots of ideas for Mandarin and other language education alternatives, and in fact pushed the district to approve a task force to work out some alternatives.

I'm left wondering what else is there left to do besides show up for the next board meeeting and watch the board change their decsison.


Posted by Take a step back, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 12:43 pm

"That's how much an MI choice program has cost us." Correction: IF it happens, the blame will lie squarely with the anti-immersion people.

"The SI program IS popular - expanding it might be an option preferred by more people than adding MI. Ohlone IS even more popular - expanding it might be an option preferred by more people than adding MI. No one was given that choice."

One must ask: So what? Choice and charter are intended to address the needs of minorities within the district, not reinforce the tendencies of the majority.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 12:58 pm

To Take a Step:

I think it is funny that you blame democratically done opposition for the cost of this issue to the community. I guess all the opposition should have just been quiet and let it happen, like good little girls and boys. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by take a step back, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Resident,

Democracy is not co-extensive with unblameworthy.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Take a step back -

"Choice and charter are intended to address the needs of minorities within the district, not reinforce the tendencies of the majority."

Charter schools are intended to raise the academic levels of disadvantaged students in struggling school districts. Does a MI charter in PA fit that criteria?

Choice schools are intended to provide a choice, yes. But as a public school system, we are responsible for providing a choice which fills an academic need (not desire) or a choice desired by a majority of our voters. Ohlone and Hoover provide different teaching styles which benefit certain students - everyone learns differently. SI was started to fill a school which was under-enrolled. There is probably more of a NEED for a choice program for Learning Disabled, Dyslexic, or Gifted kids than for Mandarin.

"Reinforcing the tendencies of the majority" - is it inappropriate to reinforce the tendency to use common sense? To first welcome a new superintendent as part of this divisive process, to decide where students should be in overcrowded schools and to plan how to best fit any new Immersion program into World Languages for the WHOLE district? (The U in PAUSD stands for Unified)


Posted by Nosey, a resident of College Terrace
on May 24, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Parent, I don't know how they say ""Cutting off your nose to spite your face" in Chinese, but in English I can give you a couple of examples: refusing to give to PiE and vowing to vote no on a school bond proposal, sight unseen. Why would you want to harm your child and everyone else's child? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

If people are dissatisfied with this board, and since this board lavishly praised PiE's work, is that good reason to stop giving to PiE?

Previous bond measures have been supported by earlier boards. I'm not aware of plans for this board to put forth a bond measure any time soon, but the next board may do so. Are you you going to punish a future board and the children of our district because you're dissatisfied with this board?




Posted by Susan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Dana Tom wrote that a charter school will cost the school district approximately $100,000 a year. Is that right?

How much is $100,000 dollars a year to fund this charter school in relation to the total school budget? It sounds like alot of money to me as an individual but to the school district, is it alot of money? Is it 10%, 5%, 1%, or .5%? Is the BoE scared of a 'possible' threat of a charter school at a cost of x% of the funds? Are enough parents angry enough to not donate that would cause the $2.1 million dollars to PiE this year to drop to $2.0 million next year?

And does the school district really need a bond measure to pass in the next two years? Bond measures are hard enough to get approved even without the turmoil this issue is causing.

I figure two or three years after this issue settles (hopefully it can), then donations and bond measures will be back to normal. Until then there is an unaccountable loss of revenue and opportunities that should be considered.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Take a step back says that the blame for the cost of an MI program (or I presume they also mean cost of a charter if the MI program doesn't go through), would like squarely on the MI opposition.

The blame lies on the community that tried to defend itself. Sort of like blaming an assault victim for dressing too provocatively, or driving too nice a car.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Nosey - welcome to backward land where logical justifications, priorities and sound decision making are not necessary to make things happen.

I'm sure people will manage to find a way to make sure funding get's to their child's education. Perhaps through direct donations through their school's PTA. Perhaps through a forced reversal of PIE staffing rules. Afterall, we now know that threats work - they've done us all a big favor in teaching us how to get what we want.

Don't fret. The people who have money will manage to get a good education for their kid. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 1:54 pm

I have one saving grace if MI choice/charter goes through. I knew I would be sad. I have always wanted to give money to East Palo Alto. I feel for those kids. So I decided to use this opportunity to give my usual donation to East Palo Alto school district instead. It is still giving and giving for education and giving for kids.



Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2007 at 2:02 pm

The bond issue comes down to the fact that there is now a lack of trust about how the board will spend any bond money. At present, they are seen as pandering to vocal special interest groups at the expense of everyone else. If this is how they are spending the last round of bond money, why would I give them more?

Nosey, as to future bond measures, see: Web Link
School board studies $772 million bond measure

The Palo Alto Board of Education is planning to ask the community to "reach into their pockets" and vote for a bond measure scheduled to go before the public in June 2008...
...
The bond measure will go before the board for a vote in February 2008.


So, we now have a cost for MI, $772 million. Doesn't sound like being cost neutral to me.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 3:06 pm

The school board should have the sense to delay the vote on MI until just after the strategic planning this year. MI proponents should have the sense to realize that being a part of that process in a reasonable way is the best chance of getting the program with the least (not none, certainly, but least) opposition.

Menlo Park just discussed adding languages and an SI program through strategic planning. No controversy like here, because they did it right!

Well, compromise is probably the best chance, but they don't seem to understand what compromise means: "a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands." They seem to think that compromise has nothing to do with understanding the other side's needs and concerns, their definition of compromise seems wholly self-absorbed.


Posted by Amy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I have been reading this site (and ones just like it), for a long time now. I am amazed at how many people are willing to show their lack of support for the BoE by punishing students (and probably their own children) in the future by openly not voting for bonds. Why don't you run for the BoE? Could it be that you are concerned about how many people you have set youself against, that they might not vote for you?

This feels like some people are flexing their muscles, just to show how powerful they are. It is the students who will suffer, all of them, not just a few. I think that "Take a Step Back", is right. It really doesn't prove power, just anger. I object to some using their anger, and making it harder to improve our schools in the future.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Amy and Step

I don't think anyone wants to penalise the children of Palo Alto. However, if one group can use a threat to get what they want, there needs to be some leverage somewhere. A future bond may be to open Garland and if it is to open Garland for MI then of course the parents of the non Garland schools do not want to pay for it. If Garland is to be re-opened to help the overcrowding in the north then we want to be part of it. If a future bond is to pay for MI at Ohlone, then the same applies. If Ohlone is to be expanded to help the Palo Verde community and the Ohlone waiting list, then once again the same applies.

Leverage works both ways.


Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2007 at 4:30 pm

The board does not appear to appreciate how seriously many people view the route that they are currently considering. The loss of control of the strategic planning to special interest groups is a much higher price than people are prepared to pay. The board needs to understand the consequences of this decision.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2007 at 5:10 pm

From the latest Census Bureau findings the state of Montana spends much less than us per child on education and has relatively high performance on standardize tests. We should contact the Montana education system and find out what they are doing right.

By adopting their system we will then have the money to implement Mandarin Immersion and keep our schools in top notch shape.


Posted by Amy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 5:23 pm

Wow! "No More Bonds" Anger doesn't help anyone. I understand that you are frustrated. Can you not find any compromise? Even "Parent,
Resident of on Another Palo Alto Neighborhood" is willing to listen
to others. That says a great deal. Maybe PAUSD isn't what it was 20 or 40 years ago. But, what it is now is pretty darn good.

Do you honestly believe that the board is in magic bubble, and doesn't know what is being said? Do you honstly believe that their goal is to do a bad job?


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 24, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Parent,
It's a nice idea, but how much are teachers paid in Montana? Then there's the Superintendent's salary and all the staff in between. Costs for construction, maintenance, fuel, etc., etc. are unusually high in the Bay Area. There's no system to be learned here - it's just a fact of Palo Alto life.

I'm with you in theory, though. I believe there's room for fiscal improvements.

I also believe in the way you phrased your sentence (asterisks are mine), "By adopting their system we will *then* have the money to implement Mandarin Immersion and keep our schools in top notch shape."

Take care of first things first, THEN implement Mandarin Immersion - or whatever is determined to be a priority - next.


Posted by wait a minute, a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2007 at 6:28 pm


Since the bond question is being raised, I will say that we ought to vote no on the bonds regardless of the Mandarin Immersion debacle.

We passed bonds a little more than 10 years ago to improve the schools. We only recently finished that project.

A parcel tax was passed also relatively recently that doubled the old parcel tax for the schools.

I have had it up to here with bonds issues and parcel taxes.

The schools are not brand new, but they are not in bad shape. Their age alone is not a justification for tearing them down and building all over again.

3/4 BILLION DOLLARS for schools bonds ???????????????????????????

A resounding no.


PS: BTW I am a parent who had a child go through K-12 in Palo Alto (now in college) and with children in PA schools still.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 24, 2007 at 7:10 pm

I vote in favor of a bond when:
1) It addresses a critical need at a fair price.
2) I have faith that it will be well-executed.

I hope & expect that PAUSD has learned from their past B4E bond execution fiasco, so I'm willing to consider giving them the benefit of the doubt with the "well-executed" criteria.

However, I'd have to see who the stewards of the next bond are before I can give them a confidence vote. If it were this current board, today I'd have to vote no. I don't trust them enough to stick to the priorities, and to stiffen their backbone when making tough choices, er, decisions.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Palo Alto Mom,

I can see that my phrase "inclusion, not isolation and competition" is unclear without some explanation. Families of children who are in choice programs are still part of the PAUSD community. They participate fully in district affairs and are not viewed, at least by people I interact with, as outsiders to the district. In this case, inclusion would be represented by the expectation that parents and children who were accepted, by lottery, into the pilot MI Choice would be fully part of the Ohlone community as well as of PAUSD.

"Isolation and competition" is what comes to mind for me when I think of a charter school. Charter schools set their own rules and compete with the home district for enrollment and funds. It would be unnecessary and sad for a wonderful district like PAUSD to come apart in this way.

I could better understand the depth of opposition to MI Choice if the feasibility study had come back with findings that MI Immersion would cost $100,000 or more extra each year than educating the same children without the program. There you would be talking serious diversion from other ways of using those same dollars to serve other educational purposes, whether wants or needs.

I could understand the outrage if MI Immersion was going to be jammed down the throat of a neighborhood school struggling, as they all are, to meet the legitimate expectation of local residents that their child should be able to attend a nearby school, especially since our neighborhood elementary schools all have special characteristics that mean a real loss for students who can't attend them when they would like to.

But neither of these is the case. And I don't understand the kind of anger at seeing the possibility of MI Choice that would lead people to talk of sabotaging the district's ability to raise needed funds for all programs if it is approved.



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 9:14 pm

Jerry

Do you understand that if Ohlone were able to increase in size, in English, from its own waiting list, then that would alleviate some of the pressure in neighborhood schools. Many people in Palo Verde neighborhood know that they may not get into Palo Verde so they go for the Ohlone lottery as they feel that will be a second chance at a neighborhood school. If MI is in Ohlone, that may not be an option for them in the same way. Therefore, having MI at Ohlone does affect the local neighborhood.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Jerry,

Why do you find my "battle plan" terrifying? It's simply a codification of something I expect will happen anyway--split districts and angry voters result in failed bond issues. A petition or pledge would simply give advance warning of what are the likely consequences of the MI debacle.

Why do I think the charter is something MI proponents don't really want? Because they're a small group and none of them seems to be rich. The PACE feasibility study had only five donors.

And, yes, I'm more willing to live with a charter than a 600-student campus at Ohlone or a school board that votes one way until threatened by a small group of people [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

PACE's biggest problem is that it doesn't think it has to negotiate in any meaningful way. It's always had to be a full-time program ASAP--no matter what challenges the district was facing or how innately unfair to other students their demands are.

Also, some online PACE supporters have talked about the district's deep pockets and with it a sense of entitlement. It's scary to think about how there's really no guarantee that those pockets will stay deep isn't it?

I think a lot of voters feel betrayed by the board. We voted in that fat parcel tax and instead of paying attention to the strategic plan our time has been wasted on an elitist program that benefits almost no one.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Golly, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 24, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Parent, can you imagine that there's some Palo Verde families who want to be in MI and now have the option to go to Ohlone as their neighborhood choice school?

I'm one of them!


Posted by Yet another, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Parent,

By the same logic, if we could shut down the Ohlone choice program, there would be more room for neighborhood kids. Or if neighborhood children could be removed from Walter Hayes, there would be room for MI. Or if.... That kind of supposition is meaningless.

Putting MI into Ohlone displaces no kids. It's a great solution.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Regarding MI at Ohlone,

Ohlone has a longer waitlist than any other choice program. MI makes it impossible to expand the Ohlone program. If not for MI, my guess is that Ohlone would have expanded half a strand this Summer with three cubicles. Much more doable than the projected 6 cubicles for MI.

Yes, MI will cost $100K a year--just from having to bump Ohlone over the enrollment number that mandates an assistant principal. A half strand expansion of Ohlone wouldn't do that. MI will.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 24, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Parent is so obviously correct: 1. PA has a big squeeze on enrollment now, and it will get worse fast. Unlike when SI was begun; then there was slack in the schools. A choice program is easy to implementwhen there is slack, not when capacity is squeezed. But SI set a precedent, sort of, if the background is ignored. A new Choice program in PA public schools is contra-indicated at this time. 2. MI at Ohlone will add another barrier to local neighborhoods, just when the opposite is appropriate. Just as Parent said so clearly. 3. MI at a Charter school, perhaps in a PA office building, or even in Mountain View, e.g., would on the contrary, ADD capacity for public school elementary students in PA. Isn't that the big picture? And not whether $100 k per year is involved, one way or the other. (That's like half of the salary with benefits of the Assistant Supervisor just added.) My conclusion: MI at Ohlone hurts orderly public education. MI at a Charter school, while regretable to many, at least expands capacity at a time when it is needed. (It is "effective capacity," which increases when there are more school seats in PA, or when students voluntarily go to school outside the PA public schools - like MI in a Mtn View Charter school.) Conclusion: No On MI At Ohlone. Please, all special groups, wait til capacity exceeds expected enrollment BY A COMFORTABLE AMOUNT. If special optional programs are demanded, then AT THIS TIME Charters are vastly better than squeezing into already crowded schools as a Choice program.


Posted by anon, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2007 at 10:26 pm

I hope the MI supporters start a charter. Because the program involves a language program - Chinese - there will always be fighting from those who want to preserve western culture. They will find all kinds of reasons to oppose.

Grace, there's no need to wait for the Board of Education. I applaud your courage, perseverance, and your determination. Despite personal attacks, people try to blame you for all the wrongs in the district, even to the point of pointing the blame at you for refusing to donate to the school district and the down fall of all students in this distirct - keep strong.

You are not a threat. You are an American. Using the tools which the STate of California has awarded to everyone.

Opponents of MI dare proponents to start a charter. Opponents believe that proponents do not have the will nor the wherewithal to do it. They dare you start one hoping and waiting for the pleasure to watch you fall. To dare and to threaten.

I wonder why people who want to preserve the American way work so hard to punish those who strive to live up to those ideals -- belittling PACE with words like "small," implying poverty, lack of knowledge, and so on and so forth.

Just do it. For the sake of America. We are a diverse country. Please make diversity a reality to those think that all should conform to a "western model" whatever may be. The American way is diversity.

I think a Mandarin immersion charter school would be wonderful for the district. From what it appears to me, Mah and the mandarin proponents are quite competent to start an excellent school.

California law, as written by duly elected legislators, allows for the charter.

For those who don't want the charter, call your elected representatives in Sacramento. Don't be so cowardly as to attempt Machiavellian efforts to bully Americans away from using tools which the State of California has awarded to everyone.




Posted by yet another, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Ohlone's waiting list is irrelevant. There is no reason Ohlone (English flavor) should take precedence over Ohlone (Mandarin flavor) except that a small bunch with self interest at heart want that.

And as the board pointed out, there is no perfect time (expanding, declining, etc.) to introduce a choice program, so that's irrelevant to the situation, too.

If we get a charter, one problem is that it won't add capacity. The district will have to provide the charter with a school facility (not just some office building).


Posted by selective memory?, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2007 at 11:11 pm

It was the superintendent that said that "there is no perfect timing" not the board. The board has stated that now is *not* the time to start another choice program.


Posted by FLES Fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2007 at 11:40 pm

I have admired Barb Mitchell's supportive FLES comments, but highly doubt there is as unified a group as MI with a coherent FLES plan that could actually make it a reality in PAUSD.

It seems to me, the only time FLES gets any modicum of energy is when a Dual-Immersion program is proposed. FLES is then wielded more as a club to beat down support of a Dual-Immersion program --rather than touted as an independently genuinely supported movement in the district...which saddens my FLES-loving heart.

Seems to me, FLES supporters should embrace MI and work to implement MI in a way that is as FLES-like or FLES-optimum as possible as Susan Charles seems to have proposed...FLES has again regained life as a result of the MI debate...let's make FLES happen on a small scale at Ohlone--it's not illogical to start with Mandarin (Spanish would be fine too given our district/global demographic & market trends)...we can always add more strategic languages later....find a way to make MI a win-win...embrace and make MI better --make it a better vehicle to launch FLES.

Gail Price has thus far not impressed me much with her inflexibility and hostile tone...seems to me she could be more of a solution builder/mediator than she is...still hoping there's another diplomatic side to Gail I haven't seen yet --that reaches across the table to construct a creative alternate solution...talking about the need for following democratic process and rules and then baldly ignoring board speech time limits to try to monopolize conversation and bully/cow other PAUSD board members into submission really quite took my breath away in a very disappointing fashion...let's get away from my way or no way positions...lets heal this community--be constructive and find a way to make both MI and FLES happen at Ohlone in fall 2008 and get on with other PAUSD business instead of spinning our wheels, wasting time & money and getting nowhere.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2007 at 12:39 am

anon,

PACE is small--nine people signed the letter and there's never been said to be more than 20-30 members. And if they were individually rich I think they'd just do the readily available private-school thing.

Guess what? I'm not rich either. So, less an attack than a bit of inductive reasoning.

Many of your comments seem to involve projection. I, for one, am not really worried about the disappearance of "western" culture in the United States. If anything, it's a little tiresome to realize just how endemic it is in the most remote corners of the world.

And, yes, I think a charter is a better option for this group given their timeline and inability to accept a solution that does not involve overcrowding or displacement of other students.

Yet Another,

Ohlone's waiting list is relevant because there's already resentment of the choice programs because sibling preference takes away so many spots. It's already not a fair situation.

Also, there's no reason to believe that MI will be more popular than SI--SI has a shorter waiting list and fewer applicants than Ohlone. So you'd be limiting the potential of a successful program in favor of an unproven one--and given the record of SI a less popular one,

More people want more Ohlone than they want MI. (Oh, and people who want immersion programs for their kids first, favor DI next--so, it's not a case that there are all these people who wanted both MI and Ohlone.)

One of the reasons why PACE should go for a charter in a district like Mountain View is that there's been so little understanding of the reasons why people think instituting MI (or any new choice program) is a mistake. Nor is there any understanding about how destructive its tactics are--I mean we're talking about basically forcing votes under duress.

I mean, I mentioned a way of pushing back and, well, I'm a little amazed at the shock and awe--the outrage, frankly, that people might respond in a way that hurts the bottom line.

Guys, have you really been that unaware of the fire with which you've been playing? That people don't like their board being bullied? Yeah, charters are allowed by law, so is voting down bonds. THe consequences here, given the recent PACE push aren't really that surprising, are they?

As I've said, I'd be delighted with a FLES program and, really, any language programs that didn't involve displacement or overcrowding. I think a PA charter is inappropriate, but I can always hope that PACE will bond with the people in MV who want MI and find a situation that doesn't hurt either district--and would indeed benefit Mountain View.

It's so much the obvious solution, the one where everybody gets what they want that I think there's got to be a real weird irrational streak running through all this in that it's never been seriously discussed by the pro-MI crowd.

I mean from what Nico posted about the charter discussions, I just don't see Ohlone in Mandarin really being what people want.


Online Eds--since when is PACE a private individual? Your "editing" is going way past the don't-flame-other posters standard.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 1:09 am

Ohlonepar,

Some may be shocked by your suggestions, but no one who has watched this debate from the beginning should be.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
In the end, level heads will prevail no matter whether we get choice or charter. The voters will approve or reject new bonds based on their merits, not the frenzied rhetoric and contorted arguments of townsquare. Anyone who thinks parents will sit and watch as the school district falls apart to indulge a vendetta must be out of touch with this city.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 25, 2007 at 2:46 am

"Ohlone has a longer waitlist than any other choice program." "SI has a shorter waiting list and fewer applicants than Ohlone."

Wow, is that right? My impression is that SI is nearly impossible to get into. I didn't realize that Ohlone is even more impacted.

One difference in the waitlist size could be that a child of any grade can apply for a spot at Ohlone. For SI (and I assume MI) only incoming kinders can apply regardless of language experience; the uppergrade slots are only open to students who are bilingual. Therefore, if a non-Spanish-speaking child loses the kindergarten lottery, they must remove themself from the waitlist.

I intrepret that to mean that Ohlone & Hoover have the potential to relieve neighborhood school admittance pressures to a greater extent than SI, since entire families may apply.

Does anyone know the application & waitlist numbers for SI, Ohlone, Hoover and Y5?

These numbers are entirely relevant. They demonstrate how well PAUSD is serving the current needs of the district through existing programs to which they're already committed.

Let's fix what we've got before we worry about introducing new programs to the fix list. My hunch is that MI will cut to the front of that line in the same manner that they bumped themselves to the top of the strategic planning list.



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 7:52 am

"More people want more Ohlone than they want MI." Maybe, maybe not. It's irrelevant to the decision of whether to start MI.

"Oh, and people who want immersion programs for their kids first, favor DI next--so, it's not a case that there are all these people who wanted both MI and Ohlone." Yet another made-up "fact" from the anti-immersion crowd.


Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2007 at 8:16 am

Parent,
This isn't a vendetta. It is about ensuring that the board retains control of the decision making process. As soon as the board loses that control, which would be the case if they approve MI, then all subsequent decisions become suspect.

Bonds are hard enough to get approved, if the board is seen kowtowing to special interest groups then you will see a lot of people working against rather than for future bonds. That will be the legacy of this vote.


Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 9:37 am

no more bonds,
Thanks for clarifying. I thought "parent"s statement was about the MI people's seeming vendetta against our district. They have repeatedly taken a reactionary and angry view of any opposition, twisted olive branches into nasty, unwinnable arguments -- see, for example, the recent post where the poster twisted the word "small" into something sinister when all it ever meant to the opposition was "few in number" -- and it seems to me they are as or even more motivated now by beating down those who dared to point out the flaws and problems with their study as they are for their original purpose.

They really have given no good reasons for avoiding even reasonable compromises, such as other types of immersion instruction that would work better given our district's present constraints, seeking charter in Mtn view (I think they aren't doing that because they aren't really interested in a charter period), etc.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2007 at 10:12 am

anon

Yes I agree PACE should continue with the charter option and not rely on whatever the board votes. By starting a MI charter PACE can have full control on how to run the school, set the curriculum, and run the school to their liking with minimal interference from PAUSD. The state of California has set the rules for charter schools and PACE is only abiding by those rules. PACE maybe small but they are forward looking and will work hard to ensure a MI charter school would be as successful or even more than any elementary in PAUSD.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 10:20 am

Parent said: "There have always been a few mild-manner folk opposed to MI who are willing to throw firebombs into the debate in hopes of seeing something of worth burn. In the end, level heads will prevail no matter whether we get choice or charter."

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

First, there are more than a 'few' people opposed to MI. There are scores, and well over the majority of Palo Altans oppose either the program or the methods under which this program is being forced on the district (or both). The term 'few' would be more applicable to the small handful that support the MI proposal and are willing to go to any damaging lengths to get their way.

Second, the throwing of 'firebombs' as parent calls them, has first and foremost occured at the hands of the pro MI side. They have pushed pushed pushed their program, and when they failed to gain the support of the community and failed to gain the support of the board, they immediately lobbed the charter threat, they brought in a for profit charter consultant to make sure the board new they were serious about pulling the pin, then they lobbed the hostage exchange letter to back it all up. If any bombs have been thown, look no further than the group that INSTIGATED the issue, and continues to push, plot, and angle, but failed to gain support for the program through legitimate means.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The no on MI side is reacting to the threat that was presented to them, not one they asked for, nor that that they created. They are expressing a willingness to fight fire with fire. Certainly the clever pro-MI folk anticipated this response, or were they expecting everyone to finally 'see the light' in response to their latest tactics.

Parent finishes by saying "level heads" prevail when (and only when) they finally get their way. How covenient for them that the small group that MUST get their way are the only level headed folk in town while the vast majority of the community which opposes their tactics are all unlevel heads?
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 25, 2007 at 10:43 am

FLES fan wrote, "Seems to me, FLES supporters should embrace MI and work to implement MI in a way that is as FLES-like or FLES-optimum as possible as Susan Charles seems to have proposed...FLES has again regained life as a result of the MI debate...let's make FLES happen on a small scale at Ohlone--it's not illogical to start with Mandarin (Spanish would be fine too given our district/global demographic & market trends)..."

The idea of expanding an immersion program to FLES as a way of testing and then implementing it for all schools is brilliant. Why not start with SI at Escondido? SI already exists; Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn; teaching materials are readily available; Spanish is already spoken by others (staff & families) in the Escondido community. Once a FLES program takes hold at Escondido, it should be relatively easy (easier than Mandarin) to implement at all other elementary schools for the same reasons.

Not that I'm biased or anything... ;-)

But, alas, the way this district works it'll never happen until...a band of highly dedicated parents push & push the issue until they're heard above all others.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 1:22 pm

Here's more history on the good works of grace mah (County Board Member) in the Mandarin Immersion efforts - not only in Palo Alto, but in this case Cupertino.

Web Link

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Note from Palo Alto Online: Please do not paste into your comments material from copyrighted publications. You need to link readers to that material instead.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 2:06 pm

It's becoming clearer by the day that those opposed to MI don't really care about the greater good, they just want what they want on their timetable. With their tunnel vision, they'd like to kill MI at any cost.

It's more than a stretch to compare tactics here. On the one side, we have a group requesting a cost-neutral choice program, though they'll install a charter if the board is not amenable. On the other side, we have a small group threatening to recall the board and kill financing for school children if they don't get what they want. Hm, pretty clear who wants to set the district ablaze, to use your terminology.

It's worth remembering that a vocal minority threatened to vote down bond measures last time and that was what coerced the board into caving in to anti-immersion forces, and I'm sure the board hasn't forgotten those those strong-arm tactics. It seems unlikely to make a difference now.

It would be a mistake to think that charter will disappear if you kill choice. MI will be here in 2008--it's up to the board to decide whether it will be charter or choice.




Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Dear Parent -

If you read thru most of these threads, you will find the the majority of the people oppose MI based on the timing because they do not believe ANY program should be added until we have a strategic plan for foreign language, a new superintendent, a plan for the elementary schools being over-enrolled, etc.

The pro-MI group is the one with the tunnel vision time table, tied to the ages of their children.

No one but PACE really believes the program is cost neutral.

Few think MI will disappear (although some may hope it would) and many think a charter would be preferable to a choice program and would be able to benefit more students, though I personally would be amazed if a charter was in place, funded, approved, with facilities, etc. by 2008.


Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Parent,

The board turned down MI last time based on merit, they explicitly said "not now". They didn't "cave" to any strong arm tactics.


Posted by another PA mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 5:38 pm

I don't see people threatening to sink bond measures. I see people pointing out the end result of caving to PACE's tactics.

Typical of PACE, absolutely no sense of the negative effect of their tactics on the district and the debate. No one is trying to "kill MI at any cost," a paranoid statement that comes from a refusal to consider the realities of our district. Many opponents of this MI plan have voiced support of language education and immersion education, even MI in some other form, and have offered alternatives that take the constraints of our district into account.

Parents, the majority of parents in this district, are trying to protect the school district we sacrifice to send our children to. People have bent over backwards offering PACE solutions that would allow them to get an immersion program without hurting the district. But PACE will have none of it, and rails about them because they have the nerve to try to protect our district. Protect our district and the children it serves at any cost, yes -- and if it means we have to recall the board, we will have been forced into it. It is not our first choice ... (let's see, where have we heard that before? Web Link)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 5:45 pm

When the BOE turned down MI in January saying "not now" they meant that not now was the right time. They did not mean "not now" but "maybe we will think again in a few months' time". If "not now" means "not in January 2007 for fall 2007" it still means "not now for fall 2008 or the foreseeable future, or until circumstances in the district change, not until we are given enough pressure to cave in".


Posted by hyperbole?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 25, 2007 at 8:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by another view, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 8:41 pm

OK... I think it's time to start a charter school petition to teach Bengali (189 million speakers) and Hindi: (182 million speakers worldwide). All the same arguements hold about economic viability and brain development. And there are hundreds of families in Palo Alto who have ties to India. So, let's start a charter school petition. Now is the time! Or.. wait... all of the parents who didn't get into SI...let's start a charter school petition for a Spanish Immersion school. Or wait...how about a school that teachers FLES... let's start a charter petition for that.... the possibilities are endless. Why stop with MI. Apparently if we keep at the board they will give us what we want. Let's go for it!


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 10:27 pm

"My biggest reservation about MI is that it feels like a thinly veiled attempt at segregationism... an elite group of parents who don't want their kids to attend school with everyone else."

Lest someone makes another knee-jerk cry of "racism", I would like to point out that MI supporters have poo-poo'd any suggestion of a charter in Mountain View, despite (or perhaps because of?) the larger and more diverse Chinese population, despite the many advantages such as lower costs, and despite the fact that they alone would be responsible for the academic standards in a charter and it really matters not a whit which district does the chartering. Grace Mah advertised for people interested in a charter in other communities when having a list of names was a greater "threat", yet did not really act on anything with those parents. It again gives the impression of an "elite group of parents who don't want their kids to attend school with everyone else" -- especially not kids of a more diverse socio-economic background in Mountain View even if PACE could get more native speakers that way.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2007 at 1:58 am

Yet Another,

It *is* harder to get into SI--it's a much smaller program. So more people apply to Ohlone, but more people get in. Ohlone has a total of 70 K spots, of which 18 to 30 will be open to nonsibs. Escondido seems to have around 5 open spots for English speaking non-sibs.

Parent (pro-MI),

I'm not upset the way you think. I'm simply pointing out a reality and how to use that reality strategically. I have no power to make people vote against their will--there's no equivalent of a charter-school threat where a board member feels legally bound to vote for something he or she, in fact, opposes. However, given the reaction here, I can see that I have hit upon a solid strategy. There's definitely a sense of alarm--okay, a bit of a freak-out. And, frankly, it's about time these things were thought about.

I was in school when Prop 13 passed, so I'm aware of what voters will do if they don't like something.

In other words, the PACE approach of engaging in zero dialogue and no meaningful compromise is one that is much more destructive than PACE, I think, realizes. I think it was Jamie Maltz who addressed Grace Mah at a school board meeting and told her that what PACE was doing was not the way to get things done in Palo Alto.

Why? Because we are heavily dependent on keeping the good will of a *large* majority of voters.

If the majority of voters feel that the school board is knuckling under to a special-interest group, they're not going to hand out 3/4 of a billion dollars. If the demands of PACE means that my kid's at an elementary school with 600 students, there's no amount of construction that can make up for that kind of overcrowding.

You are showing naivete about the school-funding situation in this state. It is *hard* to get school bonds and parcel taxes passed because of Prop. 13 2/3 requirement. Using a charter-school threat to damage the district crossed a big line.

The supporters of MI who broke with PACE know this--it's why some of them want a charter in Mountain View because it's not contentious and it would work. But this insistence on Palo Alto and the demanding tone of the letter has been poisonous.

And, no, it's not going to be the case that this will all be forgotten in a couple of years--because if MI passes at Ohlone, it will still be horrificaly overcrowding that school, limiting access to Ohlone's program and doing nothing to alleviate overcrowding in the north cluster.

And while you may not like it, Ohlone does draw more applicants than SI (or Hoover). That MI will end up in SI territory is a reasonable assumption, though it might be less popular since Spanish is much more widely spoken in this state.

The size of the waitlist for Ohlone is occasionally published. It's a very popular choice--Susan Charles is charismatic, the whole-child approach is very cutting edge and it's less stressful than some of the other schools. (I've been happy to hear though that some of the other schools are reducing the homework load or eliminating it in K and even the lower grades.)

MI hasn't won the popularity contest here. In some ways that's what it keeps coming down to. Most people don't want the program and they certainly don't want it squeezing the elementary schools. Yes, choice programs don't have to be for the majority. However, where is it said that choice programs should be able to injure the majority by overcrowding schools and limiting the district's financial flexibility?

If we need to open a 13th school because of enrollment, why should we spend money on an asst. principal, an MI program coordinator and six cubibles? That's not cost-neutral, it's hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And that's outside of what will be pricey curriculum development since "Ohlone in Mandarin" doesn't exist. Let alone as a curriculum shown to meet district standards.




Posted by not good enough, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2007 at 10:48 am

Interesting article about kids and languages:

Web Link


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2007 at 11:49 am

Not good enough,

It goes with other things I've read. Second language exposure should be early.

Which is why I'd like to see FLES and second-language opportunities widely available.

I wouldn't worry too much about the loss of the baby skill, by the way. When you study a second language, you become aware of it again. Similar thing with singing, by the way, if you've ever done one of those mommy and me music classes--babies stare at singers.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 26, 2007 at 12:23 pm

OhlonePar,
"Escondido seems to have around 5 open spots for English speaking non-sibs."

That's what I've heard, too. Do you know how long the application list is, by any chance?


Posted by still watching, a resident of Palo Verde School
on May 26, 2007 at 12:32 pm

We need fresh ideas to solve this stalemate. The Immersion approach says that 1/2 of a class must be native speakers of the target language. So (if I understand it) Suppose that there are 40 kids in the first MI class, then 20 of them will be native Chinese speakers. Already by that definition the demographics of the MI classes will be very different than the demographics of the Palo Alto melting pot where only about 22% of the population is Asian. Can we create an MI program that more fully represents the broader diversity of Palo Alto? We need some new ideas on this one. Alternatively, should we as a city support a program that so disproportionatly server a single group?


Posted by Clementine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Still,

Actually, the standard model says 1/3 native speakers minimum.

It doesn't matter if the program represents the demographic makeup of the city as long as everyone has an equal shot at the slots set aside for their native language.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Well, not to start another fight, but just to remind you that demographics DO matter. Even Charter law says there has to be a plan to match the demographics of the District that grants a Charter. ( It doesn't require that the results actually happen, though).

I don't know the native Mandarin speaker make-up of Palo Alto Unified District. Given "Asian" means all of Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam etc, I can assume that much fewer than 22% of PAUSD is native Mandarin. If that is the case, then to try to fill to 30% with native Mandarin speakers automatically tilts the lottery toward one group of kids on the basis of language ability, resulting in inequal access to a public elementary school.

It also goes against regular ed code which specifically states that public education shall not be denied on the basis of race, religion, etc including language ability. There is a great deal of conflicting law here, and none related to dual-immersion programs in public education.



Otherwise, it is possible to create a school which appeals only to certain demographics and effectively bars others, so that there results a segregated school. The point of it was to prevent some groups in a town from "splitting off" from others and forming a Charter.


Posted by anonymous parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 1:59 pm

"We need fresh ideas to solve this stalemate."

still watching,
There have been plenty of fresh ideas. PACE members have repeated rejected any and all fresh ideas, sometimes without any explanation at all. Fresh ideas aren't going to solve this stalemate. Resolve to do what is right will solve it. If PACE members are rewarded for inflexibility and selfishness, why would they do anything else? If they were not rewarded for it, perhaps they would finally remember the goal here and consider some fresh ideas.

parent,
Your link to the article about someone stirring up the pot in the Cupertino MI program some years ago with Grace Mah's quote was very interesting. She was right there in that conflict, too. Some people do thrive on conflict, we should not reward it. We don't want this to be the way people get things done in our district. Our Board should be firm about that. Even if it is tiresome to stand firm in the face of such tactics, it's more tiresome to give in and have to deal with them forever. It's interesting that Grace Mah couldn't get what she wanted from Cupertino and now is pushing here in Palo Alto.


Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2007 at 2:22 pm

What did Grace Mah want from Cupertino schools that she couldn't get?


Posted by Brendan, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2007 at 2:29 pm

To argue against the proposed implementation of MI is OK. To feel that the district should be focusing their efforts elsewhere is also OK. I can understand these points of view.

To argue against any form of language immersion is, perhaps, OK, though I tend to think there is significant value in exposing kids to the multi-cultural (and multi-lingual) world that we live in...as early in life as possible.

To pit MI against other potential immersion programs is short-sighted (at best). While there might be other potential immersion languages, none are as practical or beneficial to our children as fluency in Mandarin is. Hindi? Maybe, but that doesn't cut as broad a swath of influence Mandarin.

While I speak, predominantly, one language, my kids will be fluent in, at least, 3 languages. This is due, in part, to efforts that my wife and I have made to ensure that this will happen. The benefits of the multi-cultural environment that is the Bay Area have made this easier for us, but immersion programs (especially Mandarin Immersion) would make this even better for our children and easier on us (as parents).

We have Spanish Immersion, already, and I'd argue that Mandarin Immersion would be of equal, if not greater value to our children. How much longer must the debate go on?

Will this end in another short-sighted (and rather stupid) non-decision stalemate that is "Palo Alto FTTH" (Fiber to the Home)? I sure hope not!

I think we all should rise above our petty differences and make the decision that is best for our children and their future. A future that _will_ be influenced (at the _very_ least) by China. If you don't like the current proposal, then work with others to change it. If you don't like language immersion, in general, then I've got a couple of good books for you to read on the subject. If you have no children, and are griping about potential cost increases (and are reaping huge rewards from Prop. 13), please just accept the fact that you are fortunate.

Thanks for you time,

- Brendan


Posted by Clementine, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2007 at 2:57 pm

Hm, well, you're right that charters and choice programs have to make an effort but don't have to achieve demographic balance.

But all kids would have equal access to the quota for their native language, so access or "tilted lotteries" are not an issue. And of course, having an MI program wouldn't prevent native English speakers from having access to public education.

Think of it like this. 1/3 of the kids are native Mandarin speakers, all of whom turn out to be of Chinese ethnicity. Suppose 3/4 of remaining slots are taken by Asian-Americans because they turn out to be disproportionately interested in this program. So now you've got 83 percent of the kids of Asian ethnicity.

No legal or ethical issues and no one is barred--it simply turns out (in this scenario) that a particular educational approach is more attractive to Asians and Asian-Americans.

Or course, it may turn out that whites are disproportionately interested in MI and take a disproportionate number of native-English slots. Again, no legal or ethical issue because access to the lottery is equal.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 3:17 pm

Clementine

Following your rationale, what about those who are white and their native language is not English? Where do they fit it? What about those whose native language is Russian, or Italian, or German, or French, or Hebrew? You are therefore discriminating against them if they say that their native language is something other than English or Mandarin, and if they want a dual immersion program what is there for them?


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2007 at 3:48 pm

To the Parent who posted the web link to the article re. Cupertino controversy about the language ratios in the early grades,

Grace Mah was accurately representing best practice in dual immersion methodology in criticizing Mandarin-speaking parents who wanted to have a 50-50 language ratio in the early grades.

Mandarin-speaking parents who place their kindergartners in an MI program are acting on faith that their children will catch up with their Mandarin-speaking peers in an English-only stream by fifth grade even though they begin kindergarten in classes where 90% of the instruction is in Mandarin.

Remember: the goal is not just learning a language but learning the curriculum. The dominant-English pupils need a heavy load of Mandarin to get started, and the Mandarin speakers are important language role models.

This is important to our discussion because I believe we can have confidence that a PAUSD choice MI program would adhere to best practices and not bend to demands that the program be watered down as was proposed in Cupertino. I don't know if the Cupertino parents were inadequately informed before they enrolled their children, but Palo Alto parents will know up front that if they want a heavy stress on English in K-2 they should not apply for the MI Choice program.

Whether a Charter MI school would feel similarly bound if complaints came from parents in the program that their children weren't getting enough English is unknown. What is sure is that if there is less Mandarin at the start, the chances of Enlish-dominant students to acquire sufficient language skills to meet curriculum expectations would be greatly reduced.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Ohlonepar,

I'm sorry you feel "freaked out," but this state of mind is not helping helping you.

It's more than a little ironic for you to complain of the "threat" from PACE (cost-neutral choice program or charter that expands space for the district) while you threaten to recall the board and halt funds needed to school our children. It's not a question of legality--of course the scorched-earth option is open to you--it's an ethical question.

It's quite clear where you come down here, but it's unlikely PA parents will vote down a bond just to help you pursue a personal vendetta.

The large majority of people I speak with are supportive of MI and they are shocked when I tell them about the mayhem here on Townsquare. Pace has engaged in five years of support-building, public education, negotiation and compromise, and people just don't understand your last-minute my-way-or-the-highway tactics and personal venom. They can't understand this kind of exclusion within Palo Alto. It is not the way to do things in our district.

You may not like it, but choice and charter are intended to address the educational needs of a minority, and Chinese-speakers are the largest language-minority here.



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 5:12 pm

To Parent above from another Parent

Who are these people you speak to all the time who are supportive of MI? I speak with people all the time, at school, church, baseball games, neighbors and I have only found one or two people that support MI at all and only one of these really knew much about what was going on, the other was a Los Altos Hills resident who happens to be Chinese, is interested for her preschool children, and the reason she is interested is because she has not had much luck teaching her children Chinese (Cantonese as it happens).

I know that there are some who are strongly pro MI, but I just don't meet them and I wonder where they hang out?

I am curious because I wonder if PACE belongs to some exclusive club or venue where they meet because of a common interest in something that the rest of Palo Alto isn't involved in? It maybe that they are all connected with the Chinese school that meets at JLS on Friday evenings? It maybe from a single preschool, church, business, etc. that they have all met and got together. I think that there must be some coomon interest that has caused them to get together other than just getting MI into PAUSD.


Posted by anonymous parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 5:53 pm

"What did Grace Mah want from Cupertino schools that she couldn't get?"

Read the article, the link is in that message above. Apparently it was a slot for her child with a certain kind of MI instruction, but she didn't get either, so (according to a Mercury News article), she sent her older child to an expensive private MI program. Now she has a younger child she is trying to force our public district to essentially provide a private education, and only on her narrow terms.

To "Parent" above, OhlonePar has made some of the most balanced, intelligent and thoughtful posts on this subject of anyone. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Brendan,
You are obviously new to this discussion. You probably should read some of the previous threads (you can look back through the PA Schools and Kids threads on Town Square quite easily and find them).

Let me ask you a question. If you had to choose between these two options, which would it be?:
1) A choice program for MI that requires its own separate school facilities in an already overcrowded district that currently offers no language education to other elementary students at all, that will require the hiring of an assistant principal in a school that otherwise wouldn't need one, and which uses resources in a way that causes ongoing controversy and makes introducing other language immersion programs all the more difficult.
or,
2) Offering language education to all elementary students in the district (with the one teacher that travels to all the schools as we already do music, per the district's own report it's not nearly as expensive as has been claimed), with summer immersion programs the way some European countries do it -- which would allow the offering of several languages, not just one, several IMMERSION programs, not just one, and would not require new facilities as most of the elementary campuses are not used during the summer. It would also allow adding and subtracting of different languages in a more simple way as times change.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm

I have met exactly 2 parents that support MI, none on the current timetable (and I chat a lot, Sunday School, Baseball, swim team, 3 kids in 3 different PA schools)

I have met dozens who want language instruction in the elementary schools.

I have met many people who find the "cost neutral" claim to be comical - I guess people think if its repeated often enough it will be true. Yes, we will be educating these kids anyway, but there will be program related costs, an assistant principal, decreased flexibility it placing kids, etc. Will we be attracting additional student to Palo Alto because of this program, further overcrowding our schools?


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 6:34 pm

"Pace has engaged in five years of support-building, public education, negotiation and compromise"

You need to speak to some people outside of PACE. Support-building within PACE does not count. Threatening the BOE does not count as public education, though I suppose it's a form of negotiation. And compromise? Whenever I've heard PACE people speak of "compromise", it's been laughable. They think taking over Ohlone rather than a neighborhood school, for example, is compromise (as has been said several times on Town Square), because it's an expediency to get a facility but isn't exactly what they want -- forgetting that this has nothing to do with "compromise" as in diplomacy, where they would actually listen to and consider the concerns of the opposition and make concession in light of those.

Things have changed a lot in five years. The district is now seriously overcrowded, in case you hadn't noticed. Try walking the walk, starting with negotiation and compromise in good faith, and you might find things will change with this debate as well.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 26, 2007 at 8:11 pm

I still think that a Charter is the best solution for both sides. As one of many founders of Bullis Charter, we had the passion to create our own innovative school, even though we receive only around $5.6k per child and LASD stuck us in portables on a middle school campus. PAUSD has space at Ohlone, so there would be no additional expense for portables. Someone quoted Matranga as saying a Charter School for 80 kids would cost PAUSD $80k. That's what it would cost if the kids were in a Choice School (plus start-up costs -- Best Practices research, curricula development, recruitment, materials, etc). It would be way less for Charter kids -- about $5.6k X 80 -- with no start-up costs to the district. Bullis Charter doesn't get a penny of parcel tax money either. It doesn't disrupt an elementary school neighborhood. (We lost the legal battle about the portables, so PAUSD wouldn't have legal costs.) Founding Partners paid the hundreds of thousands of dollars in start-up costs. It is so popular that 100s of in-district kids are turned away. And in-district kids always have priority. Grace says she has a passionate group and she now has even more influence, thanks to her County Board position.

What's the PAUSD Board's real loss? Control. A Charter would be way cheaper for PAUSD than a Choice School. It would cost PACE much, much more, but they could create the school of their dreams.


Posted by Never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 26, 2007 at 8:18 pm

At the last Board meeting, Mandy offered a plan that indicated she would vote for an MI choice program, with the contingency that no new programs be considered for some length of time - I can't remember if she was specific about how long. I can't remember that detail becuase I was so struck by Gail's shocked response that the Board is *currently* under a 'no new program' resolution. Is that true? Does anyone know how I would find out when that went into effect? Or how much weight it should carry (because clearly it doesn't carry any actual weight)?

If the Board was indeed under a 'no new program' agreement, but went ahead and strung the MI people along, that really would be deplorable, and those folks would have my compassion. Not my vote for their program or an endorsement for a charter, but a true bit of sympathy for the wasting of their time and their hopes.




Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 8:22 pm

I do remember Marilyn Cook asking what "no new programs" meant because she was wondering if that mean expanding ELL, reading/math intervention and others which could be classified as new programs.


Posted by Brendan, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Yes, I am new to the discussion. Even being new, I know that option 2 (travelling language instructor) will not work if language fluency is the goal. True immersion will produce much higher fluency rates.

Besides which, we have Spanish immersion, already. Why is there so much uproar over Mandarin? From a student population perspective, the Asian population easily dwarfs that of native Spanish speakers, and has for some time. So....why wasn't Mandarin discussed FIRST? Looks, to me, (again being new) at first glance, that some poor decisions were made when the Spanish Immersion program was instituted.

If I were to pick three languages for my kids to be fluent in, I would choose English, Mandarin, and Spanish. English, because it's the current language of business and diplomacy, and of this country. Spanish, because it could already be called the US's second language. Mandarin, because it's important to look towards a future where China, and other Mandarin-speaking populations play a much larger role.

Also, I feel that cost arguments are rather shallow coming from one of the wealthiest districts in the nation. One that votes in a ridiculous "High Street" project and won't clear money for something that will benefit future lives.

This proves only one thing to me, wealth does not walk hand-in-hand with intelligence.


Posted by still watching, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 26, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Let's support our wonderfully diverse schools! When you walk into almost any Palo Alto classroom you see kids from every nation learning together. PAUSD has worked hard to serve the needs of a diverse school population. So, can someone explain why PAUSD or Santa Clara Board of Education can in good conscience dedicate public money to a school that might well turn out to only serve a fraction of our broad and varied demographic? Haven't we tried to create a climate where diversity is an important Palo Alto value? Can we create an immersion program that supports this crucial view of the world?


Posted by calm, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2007 at 10:02 pm

Brendan: "This proves only one thing to me, wealth does not walk hand-in-hand with intelligence." I have been watching all these discussions and you said exactly what I wanted to say. Thanks!


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 10:14 pm

nancy,
A lot of us agree with you, that a charter would be the best option, and probably the most positive option, but PACE doesn't actually seem to be that keen on it, they actually seem to have used it mostly for leverage to get a choice program. PACE is also much smaller and less well-funded than the group that started Bullis. There is no big movement supporting PACE. (Since you are from another community, I would point out that many people against PACE's proposal actually support MI, just not the present proposal on that timetable given our district's present problems.)

The portables at Ohlone don't exist now, they are going in -- they weren't already there as the portables for Bullis were. In fact, only two portables were going in (for the Ohlone program). In order for the MI program to serve all elementary grades, four more portables that wouldn't otherwise have gone in will have to be installed, at a cost of over $200,000 each. Plus the campus will require an assistant principal that wouldn't have been hired anyway. There are other expenses - all the more reason that we think you are right, that a charter is the way to go.

I think you have hit the nail on the head as far as the biggest issue for the Board: CONTROL. I agree 100%. I really don't see what they are worried about. One thing no one should be worried about with a group led by Grace Mah would be lack of high standards in the education offered by the school, regardless of where it was located. Especially if it were located somewhere cheaper that could offer a larger, fuller program for a more diverse populations of students -- unfortunately, PACE itself seems to be quite averse to a school with that kind of diversity.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2007 at 11:07 pm

"Following your rationale, what about those who are white and their native language is not English? Where do they fit it?"

Presumably their situation would be analagous to that of several students in the SI program whose first language is French or Chinese but who have done fine and are tri-lingual instead of bi-lingual. I suppose the relevant categories would be "Mandarin speakers" and "other, including English". So we can set aside the worry about discrimination against students whose primary home language is neither Mandarin nor English.


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 12:04 am

PAUSD TOWN HALL on MANDARIN IMMERSION

District personnel & other professionals will meet with the public to provide a summary of charter school laws, choice schools, and financing, and to receive input from the community.

Thu May 31, MP Room, Ohlone School, 7 p.m.

Location: 950 Amarillo Ave


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 12:41 am

Parent (Pro-MI)

Please read more carefully. I'm not freaked out--you are. I'm sort of amused at this point because you seem so stunned that people could react in a way you don't like and that can't be controlled by charter-school threats.

I'm not against foreign-language instruction. I am against giving a small group of kids a perk at the expense of the other kids in the district. I'm *against* a program that means six cubicles and a student population of 600 at my child's elementary school.

As for the Chinese minority--you're tipping your hand. I think you've forgotten that the MI program was supposed to appeal to everybody, not just those of Chinese descent. Now, you're demanding that we have it because we have native-Chinese speakers in Palo Alto. So what if it's a whopping 2 percent of the population?

If you think of MI as a program that's really meant for kids of Chinese descent--and you appear to be saying that--then I oppose *any* use of school funds to create what you seem to hope will be a segregated program. (With what, a couple of tokens? Ugh.)

I don't think you're speaking for PACE here. I think you should think about some of the views you've expressed and how they might come across to someone who is not of Chinese descent. You're certainly not building community support when you express these kind of views. Instead, what comes across is an amazing sense of entitlement.

By the way, I've never suggested recalling the school board. There are elections in November and I will enjoy voting against Camille Townsend and hope to vote for candidates with backbones and some leadership skills so we can see a good end to this nonsense.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 12:47 am

Nancy,

There are no cubicles at Ohlone. Three were approved. MI would require six, which would bring the school population up to 600--a serious overcrowding of a site deemed full at 350, Placing a charter or a choice program at Ohlone would also infringe upon the expansion of Ohlone's program which currently has a large wait list.

There isn't really a good charter site in Palo Alto because our schools are so overcrowded. The charter could be placed outside the city. One of the reasons MV keeps coming up is because there's a school site (Slater) and MV could use the enrollment. It's also reasonably convenient for much of Palo Alto and would be a better site than anything available in Palo Alto.


Posted by voter, a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2007 at 12:52 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 12:56 am

Brendan,

We are not one of the wealthiest districts in the nation thanks to Proposition 13. Please take some time to familiarize yourself with how school funding works in California v. other states. School funding is very local and falls apart unless there's wide support. That's why there's a such a strong reaction to my bond-issue suggestion. The school district is *heavily* dependent on local parcel taxes and bonds, which, in turn, require 66 percent approval.

It's easy to lose a bond if voters are angry--and plenty of them are angry about the MI proposal--because after the BOE voted it down in January, PACE forced the issue with a charter threat.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 1:01 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 1:09 am

Brandon,

A couple of more answers. First, Asian does not equal Chinese. There are ethnic Indians, Japanese and Koreans, all of whom are categorized as "Asian." They don't have a family history of speaking Mandarin.

Second, At the time SI was instituted, the Chinese-speaking population was smaller than the Spanish one. Given the size of the Hispanic minority in this state (it dwarfs all of the others), it was a reasonable first choice at the time. If the population were what it is today, there might have well been a debate over which language.

Third, the schools are SERIOUSLY overcrowded. As in parents of kinders with no older siblings at the school were being told they had a 50 percent chance of getting into their local elementary. The kids who don't get in aren't sent next door, they're sent across town.

It's not that Mandarin isn't a valuable subject it's that a small immersion program in *any* language should not be a priority at this time. We shouldn't be putting in a million dollar's worth of cubicles at Ohlone when we need to reopen Garland.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 1:27 am

Clementine,

Charter law doesn't simply say that the school has to have an open lotter, it says:

(G) The means by which the school will achieve a racial and ethnic
balance among its pupils that is reflective of the general
population residing within the territorial jurisdiction of the school
district to which the charter petition is submitted.

A charter that's 83 percent Chinese in PAUSD isn't doing its job. Charter laws were written so that there couldn't be the creation of single-race academies as there have been in the South.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 27, 2007 at 3:40 am

To those who are concerned about the segregation that may occur with an MI program, I suggest you talk with high schoolers & recent alum. Find out how segregated the campuses currently are, and what causes the bit of segregation that's occurring. Students will give you a more honest low-down of reality.

I spoke with a recent Paly grad who thinks there's already a bit of self-segregation among Asians at Paly, and that an MI program would likely increase that tendency. This grad speculates that those kids who segregate themselves are doing so out of discomfort, and that exclusive programs exacerbate the problem.

This is just one opinion. An effort to gather students' unique perspectives would be helpful when making these types of decisions. We can talk all we want about wanting to avoid segregation (including the self-segregation type), but *how* is it happening currently? What are the causes?

At Escondido there is a clear, distinct community within a community. Ask any parent - or child, for that matter. It didn't start that way. The initial group of SI parents worked hard to assimilate. I think it's difficult to fully integrate when 1) the group functions as an independent organization (SIPAPA) with their own meetings & objectives; 2) they arrive as a group; 3) students speak primarily the immersion language in the classroom -- when they run out to recess are they suddenly supposed to swap languages and play with other kids? Unfortunately it doesn't happen that way as much as we'd like. Again, ask the students and you'll get a dose of unfiltered reality.

To expect MI to integrate with the Ohlone community is unrealistic. Even with the best of intentions from both parties going in (and we're not off to a good start here), that integration is just too challenging and improbable.

Although I think it's important to discuss and understand these issues, they're largely irrelevant to the board's decision.

The bottom line for me is that MI is not a priority at this time - regardless of its merits. It's not part of the strategic plan. It goes against the "no new programs" policy. It conflicts with urgent district issues.

If this board stuck to its strategic plan in the first place, we'd all be better off - yes, PACE included. The BOE pursued a slippery slope, always with a feeling that it's too late to turn back. I'd like to appeal to Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom: IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO SAY NO.


Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2007 at 8:09 am

Voter,

"YOU don't want a 600 student campus."

No, the board used to say that they wanted small elementary schools. Limited to around 350. Another example of where the board no longer appears to be in control of their decisions. They are willing to vote against their own guidelines to do whatever small interest groups want.

This next vote isn't simply a vote of whether or not to do MI, that was considered in January and rejected. This is now a vote on whether the board retains its independence.


Posted by diversity rules, a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2007 at 8:19 am

Diversity is the strength of our schools. This is where we learn to get along with people of various backgrounds. Let's keep our schools diverse and open to all. If that means tolerating a charter school in palo alto, I feel this is the lesser of 2 evils. If the charter school can't provide a diverse population, what is the recourse?


Posted by still watching, a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2007 at 8:24 am

Since we don't have the resources to give everyone what they want in this situation I think we must concentrait on finding the greater good. Who will benefit from MI compared to everyone else in the district. Public schools must provide the most benefit for the most kids or we fail. It's a balancing act and hard to do. Complicating it by asking for special treatment is not helpful to the greater good.


Posted by Brendan, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 9:33 am

What's so wrong with a charter school? Why would anyone get upset over it? Perhaps, it is the best solution for what PACE wants. I guess it could be a bit insulting to the school district, but this district needs a bit of a shakeup anyway. It may be good by California standards, but that isn't saying much...

I have purely selfish reasons for wanting MI. My kids be fluent in 2 to 3 languages, regardless of what the district provides. We'll just have to work a bit harder if the district doesn't provide more immersion programs. Having one more increases my childrens' chances of getting into one of them. In my view, I'm doing them a disservice if I don't emphasize other languages/cultures in their lives. Language immersion initiatives are particularly important due to the significant advantages they can impart on our children. These advantages not just being the comprehension of multiple languages, but also the expansion of their learning ability for their entire lives.

Regarding the voters of this district, I'll stick to my guns. Education and technology initiatives should always win out over hideous "High Street like" boondoggles.


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 9:36 am

OhlonePar,

Since the meeting is at your school site, I assume you'll come and ask your questions - if you really want authoritative answers.

PAUSD TOWN HALL on MANDARIN IMMERSION

District personnel & other professionals will meet with the public to provide a summary of charter school laws, choice schools, and financing, and to receive input from the community.

Thu May 31, MP Room, Ohlone School, 7 p.m.

Location: 950 Amarillo Ave.


Posted by candidate, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2007 at 12:34 pm

Have any board members stated whether they intend to run again in the elections in November?



Posted by also jaded, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Concerned Citizen: Who will be giving the "authoritative answers" to our questions? Will it be the same staff which prepared the feasibility study? Or the Supt who has recommend MI choice from the beginning? Or the attorney who painted such a scary charter picture? PACE? The two BOE members who have been faithful champions of MI immersion all along?
Anyone know if there will be some on hand who may be able to present some real supportive data to back up the "authoritive answers" we have been fed so far? Will the data which challenges some of the current authoritive answers finally be addressed and not simply dismissed?
I hope you can shed some light on this for me.


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 1:55 pm

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

~ Albert Einstein, 20th century physicist, creator of the theory of relativity


I believe that the community may be able to ask questions of the staff, and if one of the questions is, "what background data do you have to support the blah blah blah in the feasibility study?" I think they will try to answer it.

You'll have to go to the meeting to see if it satisfies you. Don't prejudge the meeting until you get there.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Brendan: [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You don't realize that somehow, before elementary immersion programs were instituted, people managed to become completely bilingual, biliterate and bicultural by the time they were done with college, or sooner, if that is what they wanted to do...all without even one foreign language class in elementary school.

So, if fluency is desired by the end of 5th grade, you are right, it won't happen without immersion. But, we don't normally expect mastery of our 11 year olds in any subject.

But, if the goal is fluent by graduation of 12th grade, absolutely, any kid who wants to do it can do it without elementary immersion...but with "traveling" elementary teachers, computer "labs", and intense summer programs.

Contrary to the myth that you must be "immersed" in a foreign language by 5 years old, even with a language as 'tonal" as the Asian language a person can actually become completely proficient later in childhood.

The brain stops recognizing new phonemes and tones by about the age of 2. There is nothing magic about the age of 5, but about the age of 2. After that, a person either has the ability to continue to learn different tonalities, or they don't. So, there is little difference, in brain elasticity terms, between beginning a language at 5, or beginning at at 10.

This is why you hear of people who left their native country at 2, moved here, never spoke the native language till adulthood, then started "learning" it as adults, and spoke it with the accent of their birthplace. The phonemes of the first two years are in the brain.

So, if you want to give your kids the leg up in a language when they are older, immerse them in the language from birth to 2 years old. After that it is all gravy.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2007 at 2:16 pm

To "still watching", who wrote "Since we don't have the resources to give everyone what they want in this situation I think we must concentrate on finding the greater good.":

I agree with you. WHAT ABOUT THIS FOR A COMPROMISE, I THINK IT GIVES NEARLY EVERYONE NEARLY EVERYTHING THEY WANT:

As near as I can tell, this is what PACE wants out of this at a minimum:
1) Dual immersion program with a specific percentage of Mandarin and English speakers and starting with all or nearly all classes taught in Mandarin, developing to 50% in each language by the end of elementary school. No other types of immersion programs, just this one.
2) Starting the program by this coming fall so that their kids can go.
3) Some assurance that their kids will get in the program.
4) Must be in Palo Alto, not some other more diverse community like Mountain View

As near as I can tell, this is what the opposition would like at a minimum:
1) Develop any new language programs through the strategic plan and the World Languages Task Force, so that anything proposed fits with all educational priorities.
2) Implement some foreign language instruction for all elementary students first, since they currently have no foreign language instruction at all and public schools have a mandate to prioritize educational opportunities for all students over offering them only to a small group.
3) No special programs that require separate facilities or restrict district flexibility to use its facilities in the most beneficial way for the entire district during such serious overenrollment.
4) A demonstration of leadership by the Board, that it will not set a precedent of giving in to vocal, seemingly aggressive special interest groups.

So how about this.

The Board resolves to provide the families of PACE who signed the charter letter with their share public funding for each child they would have enrolled in an MI program starting in 2008 OR 2009. They can use this to significantly defray the cost of sending their children to private schools -- there is more than one school in this region that provides exactly PACE's MI requirements as stated in points 1 & 4 above.

This would not be a special giveaway. In exchange, the families would commit to volunteering to help implement for the whole district whatever language education recommendations come out of the strategic plan and the world languages task force, including immersion education in whatever form it may be recommended. (To avoid conflict of interest, they could not then be active in WLTF, however.) The district should provide the money in an incentive fashion: if the nine are successful at ensuring implementation on the fastest expected time scale, they would be due this money for all five elementary years. There would be a sliding scale for longer implementation, so that if they lost interest and failed to be involved, and nothing happened, the funding would end the second year. If the implementation went longer than the fastest expected time scale, the remaining funding would be prorated accordingly.

This would be a contract. If both sides deliver, both sides would get nearly all of what they are after. PACE families would have the advantage that all of the kids could go to private MI programs that are exactly what PACE wants, already existing, in Palo Alto if they want, and the kids can go to the same program, there is no lottery that might exclude some of them.

In exchange, they would have to do something that ensures the opposition gets what it wants, an end to the rancor, the ability to implement languages program for all PAUSD children through strategic planning, the benefit of motivated parents who have made a contractual commitment to ensure the appropriate implementation of whatever language program is decided on through WLTF. The ability to shelve this whole mess of a debate and move on to deal with our pressing issues of overcrowding. It offers a compromise that benefits everyone, including the district, and ends the rancor.

The district already has nearly enough money to do this for next year already set aside in the event they had to investigate a charter. Why not use that money instead to settle this whole business?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Concerned Citizen: You quoted

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

~ Albert Einstein, 20th century physicist, creator of the theory of relativity

Couldn't agree more, though from your answer I suspect that we disagree on who is honestly and courageously using his intelligence against preconceived notions. And, I doubt it is a coincidence that one of the County Board of Education members uses the same quote in his signature line.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 2:24 pm

AJ: Though I doubt what you propose is actually legal, and I wonder who DIDN'T sign that letter who is waiting to start the Charter in any case, I really like the "try to resolve this and move on" thinking.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Sorry, didn't finish. Hit the enter button too quickly.

To end: I suspect the only way this is going to end is through the vote on June 4th, hopefully with SOME constraints to reassure the rest of the District that this isn't going to become a Middle School program or grow into 1/2 of another school....then we all accept it, work on implementing policies to prevent such a disaster from happening again, get crackin' on the strategic plan and the world language task force, and get over it.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Does most of Palo Alto value homogeneity and exclusiveness or do they prefer diversity and inclusiveness?

Do we want an additional school that is SO far from our district demographic? We already have one choice program which is 57-69% one ethnic group and we would be adding another which will also be at least 50% the same ethnic group - potentially more when sibling preference starts to play a strong part in the "lottery" process.

Is that fair to any of the students in PAUSD? Those in schools which do not reflect the diversity of the Palo Alto "real world" and those who will be ineligible to participate in 2 choice programs because of their ethnicity?


Posted by Brendan, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 2:43 pm

I just _love_ anonymous posters. I'd pay more attention to responders who had the gumption to identify themselves by name. I'd also be happy with any sort of compromise. I just don't like the "doors shut" attitude that has been directed towards those in favor of MI for at least 5 years now. The charter school "threat" response is a direct result of that attitude.

I just hope that cooler heads will prevail and a sensible compromise can be reached.









Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2007 at 2:45 pm

This question may seem too back to the basics--the discussion here keeps getting away from the actual program being proposed--but I honestly don't understand how the Choice MI (cost-neutral per feasibility study and administration confirmation at BOE meeting) slows or opposes FLES.

I've been listening for several months to try to follow the argument. Despite many assertions, the only specific I've heard alleged was that an MI Choice application for future federal grant money might reduce chances of a (hypothetical) FLES application from the same district. Is there more?

The attention being paid to the advantages of foreign language instruction at an early age due to the MI Choice proposal should give a boost to FLES advocates, not trip them up.

To argue that MI must wait until FLES is implemented in every school may be demanding a wait until forever. When opponents add the further demand that MI must wait for every other need in the district to be met before this program could even be considered it should be no surprise that calls for MI Choice proponents to pull their proposal have had little response.


Posted by John, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 27, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Brendan,

"I just _love_ anonymous posters. I'd pay more attention to responders who had the gumption to identify themselves by name."

And you're not posting anonymously?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 3:31 pm

To answer your basic question: diverted resources in time and money are being spent on something OTHER THAN our priorities, and if FLES is a priority, then FLES is not getting as much attention as it could. Time and money are limited resources, and must be divided. One program getting time/money brings time/money away from another. In a limitless supply of time and money, you are right, nobody could say one hurts the other. But, we have limited time and money.

More basic, though, is the question: how did this whole problem begin?Our strategic plan and goals were bypassed, our district took money before decisions were made.

So, it looks like the FLES folks don't want to repeat the problem, and are going the route of being well planned within a World Language Force, then placed within the context of the next Strategic Plan and Goals.

I think there may be some resentment about "jumping the line" by MIers, while the FLESers have been waiting since SI was implemented for the time when our District is ready to talk about a district-wide FLES. And now the FLESers get their chance ( in part thanks to the MIers who pushed the envelope) and are going to get in line and do it "right", but still have to stomach that MI successfully jumped the line, albeit with Board and Staff complicity.

In the meantime, since SI came in something like 12 years ago, about 97% of the kids have gotten no foreign language experience in elementary school, ( outside of private lessons) while 3% have gotten a phenomenal education, and the kids who "lost" the lottery have to put up with listening to the kids who "won" the lottery talk about how wonderful their experience was and how great it is to be bilingual.

Creating another program that brings in more resentment before there is some kind of a "consolation prize" in place just seems wrong.

That may be some of what you are hearing Jerry.


How can we prevent this big of a problem from happening again?



THAT is what started it all, and what continues to rankle.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Resident,

Thanks for the explanation. I share your concern about how to prevent this big a problem from happening again.


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 3:41 pm

There, my full name...and there aren't many "Brendans" the the world, let alone Palo Alto :-)


Posted by PA Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 27, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Jerry,

That argument has never made sense to me, either.

If you are for FLES, it is natural to feel regret when you see another program move forward. I can even understand (a little) the desire to thwart the other group in hopes that they will switch and work for FLES. Of course, that's unfair....

As the Ohlone principal has shown, the district could leverage MI to get FLES moving faster.




Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2007 at 3:52 pm

MI gets in the way of FLES because it has not been part of the District's strategic plan and may or may not be something that the district wants as part of a District-wide World Language Program.

Most people have a set of blueprints BEFORE they start building and the less they need to "build around" the better the structure can be.

MI could very well be a part of the building, but plan first.


Posted by JD, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Resident,

I realize you are trying to make a political argument, but you don't have the facts straight.

1. "FLESers have been waiting since SI was implemented for the time when our District is ready to talk about a district-wide FLES." False. FLES was in fact piloted at the same time as SI. At the time, the district decided it was too pricey. Since then, no one has been advocating for FLES. Someone recently mentioned starting a group, and I hope we can look forward to FLES in the future.

2. MI cut "in line." False. There was no line. When MI proponents first asked the board about MI, the board put in place a moratorium on new programs. Then, the board lifted the moratorium, MI supporters asked again, and the board took up their request. No other choice programs were in line. Also, the choice program system is designed to function OUTSIDE district priorities to address the educational needs of smaller groups. There is no question of "bypassing" the district's strategic plan; these are two separate paths.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Brendan

I know at least two other Brendan's in Palo Alto (both kids) and if you go to Ireland you will find it a very popular name. Are you of Irish heritage?


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Jerry,
There are many reasons that have already been given that implementing the choice MI program first would hurt, not help, FLES. Let me see if I can cover a few of them.

The poster above already mentioned that resources are finite, not just money, but energy and focus of parent volunteers, administration and staff. We have already had one try at implementing FLES and an immersion program at the same time, and FLES did not survive it. That's not surprising, since FLES is the harder of the two, since it serves ALL the kids in the district, and resources were already focused so heavily on SI.

What we haven't done is introduce FLES first and make sure it is on solid footing before we introduce another language program that could compete with it for resources. (Kind of like serving the broccoli first before the cake, so the broccoli gets consumed. Putting the cake first, at least with most kids, would endanger the broccoli consumption, whereas the other way around, it almost never would. We can't know that it will happen again for sure, but we've already seen it happen once and it's a good bet based on human nature that it will happen again if we do the same.)

Immersion is a big, long-term commitment for families. If families who value language are faced with only the choice of putting their child in an immersion commuter school or staying in the neighborhood with their friends and having no language instruction at all, you're going to end up with some families who make the former commitment because they value language when they otherwise would have chosen the latter as a compromise for other non-language-related benefits if some early language instruction had been available. That means some language-oriented families who otherwise would have helped the success of FLES are then committed for the long-term to immersion. (I'm not talking about people like PACEr's who would never consider anything else but a specific type of immersion, I'm talking about the larger majority of parents who take broader considerations into account and are willing to compromise on language - but find they must choose between all or nothing.)

I see this happening with SI all the time -- many families sign up for the lottery not because they think that type of immersion is the only way, but because they value early language education and there are no other language education options for their child in their neighborhood school. Again, I am not saying that immersion and FLES are the same, I am saying most people weigh lots of factors in their decisions, and with SI, if they value language, their choice is a huge commitment or no language instruction at all in school.

I've known several parents who got into the SI lottery then opted to go to the neighborhood school. Some families in similar circumstances will opt in. Again, the population of people putting energy into the language programs would be different if FLES were offered as a viable choice first, and more energy would go to FLES than otherwise. FLES needs this more than a focused immersion program does just because providing something for everyone is a harder and less glamorous task. Broccoli first.

Also, if a lot of people are invested in FLES, many cheaper options to improve fluency would flow from it, options that would likely be more acceptable and popular, such as summer immersion to augment FLES, or after-school immersion programs perhaps even taught by existing staff at schools. There's a Chinese school in Mountain View that creates fluency with just an hour or two taught in Mandarin every day. Having an existing immersion school that requires its own facilities would compete head to head with such extensions of FLES, in fact it would make their chances of implementation pretty much nil.

SI was not a stepping stone for FLES before, it was a hindrance. I have heard nothing but handwaving and unsupported assertions that MI would help FLES. There's no evidence that it would, and some evidence that it would hurt.

The issue of fairness cannot be overstated in a public school system, either. Doing FLES first simply because public schools have a mandate to provide equal access to everyone is the only reason anyone needs to give. What's the rush to implement THIS immersion program, why can't we wait to implement FLES and augment it with cheaper, more appropriate (to our district) fluency programs to see if that largely satisfies the demand for language education in our schools?

If it comes down to the wants of a few families for their kids, hence the timetable, I urge everyone to read my proposed compromise above. A new, permanent program that requires its own separate school is a big commitment in this district given the overcrowding. If MI is worth doing, there's no reason to rush into it in the face of so many problems. Except that the people pushing it have their own reasons. Why not essentially honor that and give them what they want while also honoring the needs of the district right now and not adding a permanent new program&school just because of the age of a few people's kids?

Resident,
We have to assume that the Board has some commitment that the 9 who signed that letter comprise everyone in PACE at the moment, otherwise why would they even respond to it knowing that an indeterminate number of other people could still come forward and threaten or do a charter at any time? Without that commitment that the 9 comprise the total membership of PACE, the letter is pretty worthless per the Board's purposes. (Not that I think a charter would be such a bad thing, but that's another subject.)

And as far as the legality, I suppose I should ask: why would entering into such a contract be ILLEGAL, or any less legal than making major decisions for the district based on this letter by the 9?


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2007 at 4:46 pm

P.S. Mandarin at Ohlone is most resoundingly not the same as FLES, anymore than MI is the same as FLES. Mandarin at Ohlone when no other students in the district have any language instruction only compounds the unfairness. Making Mandarin at Ohlone contingent on implementing FLES district wide, now that would be a boon for FLES.


Posted by JD, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 5:17 pm

A.J.

An awfully long post hung on an awfully weak contention (SI killed FLES) that's simply not true. FLES died its own death.

And sure there may be some families in SI who'd rather have their kids in FLES, but given the heavy commitment needed for immersion, I'd guess that list is pretty short. And if we had FLES, but no immersion you'd have lots of families signed up for FLES who'd rather have immersion.

Your what-if scenarios don't take us very far.



Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 27, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Parent, I am indeed of Scotch-Irish heritage.
====
I find myself in the strange situation of being in favor of both FLES and MI. Bit of a quandary, I daresay.

Long-term, I would say that having only a FLES solution makes sense. The district already has an "alternative" elementary school, in Ohlone, so I can understand the rationale for using it as a testing ground for new ideas. Now, might not be the right time for this, but both FLES and MI groups have waited a long time, already.

By all means, the school board should first address overcrowding, but ignoring FLES/MI will only make the issue(s) fester. From what I see, alternate plans with schedules, deadlines, and milestones need to be formed. Anything less than that and we're asking for years more trouble surrounding this(these) issue(s).


Posted by Just a thought, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Lets, for arguments' sake, say that MI and FLES were both instrumented successfully into Ohlone. The waiting list for Ohlone regular (which is long as it is) could potentially become very much longer because parents wanted FLES (regardless of which language FLES). The waiting list for MI could potentially become very long also. As a result, the waiting list for Ohlone could be extremely long and it would show in the number of disgruntled families in the district. As a consequence of the length of the waiting list, the conception could arise that Ohlone was a far better school than the rest of Palo Alto and even more families could put their names down on the waiting list for Ohlone. This would give a very false impression.

No, we should not implement FLES in Ohlone as a by-product of MI. To begin with, it has never been established that the Ohlone families are the ones in the district that are the FLES proponents. They may not actually want a foreign language taught to their students and even if they did, they may choose a different language as their first choice for FLES.

No, if we want FLES which I think we do, then it has to come in as a well thought out plan. Not as a sideline to an immersion program. There is no Spanish taught as a sideline to SI at Escondido and there is no real reason to believe that it will actually come in at Ohlone even if the principal thinks that it may. True, she may try to introduce it, but a few nursery rhymes or counting, etc. is not the same as a FLES program which is well thought out and follows a special curriculum does not appear to have been proposed.

I would like my elementary age students to have learnt a foreign language before they start middle school. The fact that it didn't happen is something they will have to overcome when it comes for them to learn a language. However, I know that at least they will be using a curriculum and be studying a language in a manner which is designed to teach to their age group, not as a shoot off from someother program which may be around on their campus.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 27, 2007 at 6:59 pm

The MI letter of 4-30-07 requesting "a real and tangible commitment by the Board" contains 4 bulleted points that the Board be "clear on the record" about. The bullet described most vigorously (....."a true commitment") is starting MI at Ohlone in Fall 2007. If the signers of this letter get the commitment they request, then the signers (different people on different versions, either 9 or 10, with 7 being on both versions), agree not to pursue the charter school. Point 1. The most empasized point has already been denied, so a convenient reason already exists for allowing this group to pursue charter whatever happens at Ohlone in 2008. Point 2. What in this agreement stops me, or you, or anyone else, from pursuit of a charter school for MI, regardless of Ohlone ? Or even spouses of the letter's signers? So the signers of the letter have an out already. And tens of thousands of PA adults also have the right to request a MI-charter, whatever happens at Ohlone. The BOE would have no assurance that MI at Ohlone would prevent an additional MI-Charter School. Whatever is done at Ohlone.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2007 at 7:07 pm

JD,
I have offered numerous good reasons that immersion competes with FLES; you have offered no justification at all for saying that FLES "died its own death." Which is no more justification than anyone else has offered so far for why MI would not endanger FLES - that is, no one has offered a shred of evidence.

We have only one experience to point to in this district, which is that FLES did not survive when implemented alongside an immersion program. Since FLES is the harder program to implement and the more fair program and consistent with the mandate of public schools, and since there are several rationales for why an immersion program first or simultaneously hurts FLES (as opposed to nothing but unsupported statements and handwaving that it wouldn't), FLES should be tried first. There is no emergency to implement MI that justifies even the possibility that it would imperile language education for all elementary students.

I do think having FLES first would impact subsequent immersion plans, and should. Wouldn't offering some intense fluency programs to ALL STUDENTS, such as summer immersion or after school intensive instruction, be more in keeping with the mission of public schools? Perhaps such programs would not be good enough for a very small number of parents, but it would be for most people who want their children to learn early language, and could choose such language education while still attending their neighborhood schools. ESPECIALLY since such an approach offers the advantage of learning more than one language if families so wish. Perhaps this is why immersion proponents are so intent on claiming that immersion won't endanger FLES THIS time around. (So what's different this time?)

"Just a Thought" - I agree with your points. Please be careful with how you apply the term "FLES", because teaching Mandarin to other students at Ohlone is not FLES for our district. If students at Ohlone were successful in getting some Mandarin instruction, this does not equate to a successful FLES program in any way shape or form. Please differentiate. When most of us say we want FLES, we want some language education available to all students in the district.


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 7:21 pm

Brendan
Prponents of FLES and MI have waited a long time. It does not obligate the district to do anything. People like to complain about how long they've been at this, but this overcrowding was never predicted. That's life. As you rightly say, we need to deal with overcrowding first. Without making any restrictive commitments.

I have one burning question about charters. So if PAUSD has to pay for space for PAUSD students once the school exceeds 80 students, but it can charge rent for students who come from other districts, as well as take their per student funding, I don't understand why a charter in a relatively cheap area woul be a financial liability. Some companies even make money from charters. Let's say the school has 25% students from PAUSD, 75% from other cities. PAUSD can charge market rates for 75% of those students, so that 75% of the facility will be paid covered. Doesn't that work out to an advantage and better facility for a lot less money for PAUSD students? A subsidy in a way of a more complete school facility.


Posted by Just a thought, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 7:54 pm

AJ

I do indeed take your point. What is proposed at Ohlone by Susan Charles is not what I would call FLES, but she has used that term. I think that all that could be done for the regular Ohlone program would be exposure to the language, not FLES.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 27, 2007 at 8:09 pm

I don't know what you mean by "charging rent." PAUSD has to provide classroom space for PAUSD kids who are in public school -- regular or charter. I don't think it can charge rent to out-of-district kids. The other district transfers funding for the kid. Simitian has been trying to get this straightened out for Basic Aid districts. It doesn't make sense to me to start a charter school with the intent of serving out-of-district kids. Better to write your charter as serving the number of in-district kids you expect to get. If PAUSD doesn't have at least 80 kids who want MI, then why on earth has the Board been spending time and $60k on this? How many kids does PACE have? How many parents want Immersion? Grace says she has enough financial and time support to make this work.


Posted by JD, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2007 at 8:27 pm

AJ,

One can sit in isolation and dream up all kinds of scenarios---as you have--in which SI hurt FLES. But in the real world of facts, certain things happened independent of these dream scenarios. In the actual world, FLES was piloted and discarded as too expensive. SI played no role in that failure. The rest is hand-waving.

As to fairness, that leads again to MI. MI is first in line. Also, MI would meet an unmet educational need for some families, whereas FLES is icing on the cake, which many may not want and which in any case we may not be able to afford as a district.

You seem to want to pit immersion against FLES, though they are natural allies. One cannot say that one is more in keeping with the mission of public schools. If the district approves of them, they are in keeping. I hope, for the sake of all kids, that we get both. I also hope that one camp does not try to take the other hostage while pushing their own cause.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2007 at 8:58 pm

I have a few comments about FLES that I hope can enhance people's understanding of its history in PAUSD, what contributed to it's shutting down in the first attempt, and what I believe it will take for it to be successful this time.

Just to credentialize myself, I was involved in the USEFL elementary school task force that promoted both FLES and Spanish Immersion in the early 1990's, and I have offered to participate in the World Language Task force when it convenes later this year. I have been a vocal advocate of foreign language instruction at the elementary school level for a long time, and have a pretty good understanding of the differences and benefits of both immersion and FLES.

While it is true that the District did decide to "experiment" with both SI and FLES in the mid-1990's, my opinion is that FLES was doomed from the start. The reasons, quite simply are two: it requires more financial and other resources to get launched compared with an existing standard curriculum such as Palo Alto had, and secondly, it requires a wholesale re-design of the curriculum, it is not simply a "plug and play" addition to an existing curriculum. People generally were and are quite satisfied with the curriculum in the elementary schools in PAUSD, and well meaning people truly struggled with how to make FLES work and not "compromise" an already good curriculum. Since the financial resources were not provided to help develop a new curriculum that met or matched the incumbent curriculum and that included FLES, it really did not stand a chance, and flamed out within a couple of years. SI of course, is alive and well.

So, without predicting specifically what the World Language Task Force will come up with, or if it will become part of the PAUSD's priorities that come out of the next strategic plan, I will state categorically that if the community does indeed want FLES, it must be prepared to have a good chunk of money allocated over the next few years to develop and fully implement a new curriculum that includes it, and the community must be prepared for the curriculum as we know it today to be somewhat different in the future with FLES included. That's the ante, if we can't get past those two things, the discussion is over, we are back to the current status quo.

I have stated before that an immersion program's development and launch has no relationship whatsoever with a FLES program from a curriculum standpoint, although obviously there are in Palo Alto other connections that some people choose to make between the two. It may be helpful for people to discuss various other "approaches" such as after school programs or summer instruction. Neither of these are FLES, and they most definitely are not immersion. I am not saying that they are good or bad, but I suggest we recognize them for what they are, and not wish them to be something other than that.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2007 at 9:25 pm

J.D., You and I are basically on the same page in wanting a FLES and even an immersion program. We're also in agreement in hoping "that one camp does not try to take the other hostage while pushing their own cause." We're in disagreement about who is doing the hostage taking, as many posters have pointed out that is essentially what PACE has done that has led us to this point.

Can you provide evidence that FLES was discarded as too expensive and that SI had no bearing on that decision? It flies in the face of the district's later report that FLES is not as expensive as has been claimed. Regardless, even if this is so, it doesn't prove your point that immersion would have no impact on FLES. Your nasty spin on the legitimate and true points I have offered for why THIS type of immersion program would impact FLES negatively doesn't negate anything, you're just attacking me. I'm only offering "scenarios" I have witnessed a great deal of in our district in real life. You're the one who is dreaming if you aren't willing to deal with that reality.

I can say MI and FLES are not equally in keeping with the mission of public schools, because they aren't. The mission of public schools is to provide equal access to education for all. The envisioned MI program does not do that, and provides a special educational opportunity for a few students when the rest get none at all.

But I see why you are arguing if you feel that MI is a "need" and FLES is "icing on the cake". You couldn't be more clear about YOUR dismissive attitude toward FLES. A lot of us happen to think FLES is more important fundamentally, and MI is "icing on the cake", that children benefit in many other areas if they have access to early language education even FLES which you snub.

An above poster has pointed out that FLES has been in line years longer than MI, and if what you are saying is true, that it was killed at the district level for money, it's not surprising that it's been difficult to revive. Proponents of this MI proposal have been louder and more aggressive, but I don't think that should create entitlement in a public school system if what they are asking for isn't a district priority. Let's not argue about whether it is -- let's get through the district strategic planning and discuss facts.

Perhaps there is one major point we could come together on, and that is the charter option. I really do not understand why the district is so against a charter. I haven't seen any concrete facts that support the reactionary fear. And I think MI proponents could build something far more valuable for our region that the contentious choice proposal. What do you think?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2007 at 1:06 am

Nancy,

PACE is small. Nine people signed the letter from PACE and, in general, it seems to have about 20 members. Grace gathered around a 100 sigs at one point for the program, but it's not clear who was in Palo Alto.

There are several people who desire MI, but not at the expense of other students and the district as a whole. Others want MI, but won't do a charter.

We would probably have to import students to have enough Mandarin speakers. There are fewer than a thousand Mandarin speakers in the city and most of them are more likely to be over 50 rather than under 5.

If you know Grace, perhaps you can ask her why she doesn't try to do this in Mountain View and get Slater. It just makes a lot more sense.


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 28, 2007 at 1:34 am

Oh come now OhlonePar, there are over 5000 potentially Mandarin-speaking Palo Altans, and nearly 1000 of their kids are enrolled in after school programs. Please refer to the following article.

Web Link

Speaking from personal experience, the Friday evening class at JLS practically fills the entire school. There may well be other valid points against MI. Lack of potential participants is not one of them.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 28, 2007 at 9:37 am

I don't know Grace well, except by reputation (good reputation). I met her when she signed our Bullis Charter petition, years ago. Recently, when I expressed concern that her group didn't have the oomph to start a charter school, she wrote to me that they did.

To the parent who said that PA schools are overcrowded -- this has been engineered by the Boards. My cynical view is that Basic Aid districts, which are funded with the whole pot of revenue regardless of how many kids are taught, have a financial incentive to encourage parents to use private schools. It has worked well in LAH, where Fremont Hills Elem. has been leased to a priv. school for decades, 40% attend priv. school, and the AAAG disregards those kids, even though a postcard survey a few years ago showed 75% would prefer to send kids to a public neighborhood elem. school. Instead of leasing campuses to Pinewood, Challenger, Stratford, etc. we could have small neighborhood schools. Of course, then there would be less money for "programs." I think that what makes LASD and PAUSD schools great are the smart kids, affluent, well-educated, supportive parents, and many good teachers (but I understand that Gunn has 45% relatively inexperienced teachers). I've never understood the mania for "programs."

BTW, I an Nancy Kelem, formerly of LAH's Public Ed Committee. I favored merging the Bullis-Purissima neighborhood into PAUSD, garnering millions in property tax, far more than needed to teach the kids, and thereby bumping the high school population to where it would be cost-feasible to open a 3rd high school. In exchange, Fremont Hills would be re-opened. Supt. Callan immediately disliked that idea because she said that private school kids would return to public school. She's right. PAUSD gets all our tax revenue to begin with, so why bother actually serving the customers?


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2007 at 9:41 am

A.J.

"And I think MI proponents could build something far more valuable for our region than the contentious choice proposal. What do you think?"

I respectfully submit that it doesn't connect with the fundamental wish of supporters of MI Choice to start a Mandarin program within their home district. Your plans, creative and seemingly supportive of MI--just not here or now--as they are, suffer from a lack of credibility because they don't overcome the impression in your posts that MI supporters are some sort of selfish nuisance rather than a significant and growing part of our community.

You suggest in your plan (several posts ago) that leaders of MI be bought off by subsidizing private schooling for their kids if they will sign a contract to help PAUSD with whatever language program is decided on through district processes.

I believe this is a misreading of motivations. Couple this with OhlonePar's misreading of the demographics of Palo Alto, pointed out above by Brendan, and the prospects for understanding and productive problem-solving are significantly reduced.

Working together at Ohlone is creative, positive and relatively well-understood as a process, given the SI experience. Having a charter school created without trying first to see if Choice MI could meet the needs of all parties except the adamant no-MI in PAUSD members of the community would be disappointing at best, costly and disruptive at worst.



Posted by observer, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2007 at 9:49 am

I agree with Brendan on his observation that we are seeing more Mandarin-speaking population in Palo Alto than we used to see. Just in my neighborhood last year only, I saw five white families moved out and five Asian (four Chinese and one Korean) families moved in, all with preschool age kids. The Chinese after-school on N California alone has reached its licensed capacity of 100 students this year and is applying a license for its max capacity of 150. There are probably 4 - 5 Chinese after-schools throughout Palo Alto, most of which are at max capacity now.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2007 at 10:03 am

As a novel way to spend my Sunday afternoon, I decided to go around the local open houses yesterday to see who was looking at what, including the new townhomes. I discovered that Asian families were the vast majority (often 3 generations) and I was assured by the realtors that if I moved in I would be able to get my kids into Gunn without lotteries.

I also agree with the comment above. Many people I know who send their kids to private schools are doing so because "if they have to drive their kids to school across town anyway, they might as well choose exactly what they want". These are people who would have gone to public neighborhood schools but were overflowed away.


Posted by PAUSD parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2007 at 11:40 am

"To the parent who said that PA schools are overcrowded -- this has been engineered by the Boards. "

Nancy, speaking as a PAUSD parent, you couldn't be more wrong. Our schools are overcrowded because we have more kids enrolling than was expected. Perhaps you are not aware of how parents at some of the elementary schools in north Palo Alto had to themselves ensure that additional strands were added to those schools over the summer to accomodate as many students in their areas as possible, but still there were overflows. Perhaps you weren't there for the chaos when school started in the fall and Churchill was totally unprepared for the number of students.

Everything cycles up and down, school enrollments too, all without sinister engineering by School Boards.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Jerry,
Your post was misreading of my motivations. Nevertheless, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt on yours.

What is the goal here, Jerry? Is the goal to get MI for Palo Alto long-term? Then it should matter what the residents of Palo Alto think in relationship to other educational goals. If a small group pushing a certain plan are running roughshod over that, and inexplicably avoiding joining in strategic planning, it's natural to conclude that their goal is different. If it's not, then the group should explain, or there is no way to reach compromise. I'm happy to revise my conclusion with more information.

Is the goal instead to get MI for a small group of dedicated parents, as has been stated many times on this forum? Then it's natural to ask why are the boundaries of Palo Alto so essential to that goal? Isn't the language program the essential goal, and the timing for these kids? Are they saying MI isn't important enough to them to, say, cross San Antonio road for? Or go to a private school for (if their expenses are defrayed, per my above proposal)? That doesn't make sense. But it does create a different sense of the importance of MI to the group. Again, I am happy to change my opinion with more information.

So if the goal is MI for a small group of dedicated parents, on a short time scale, and only in Palo Alto, that's a tall order, and it is not surprisingly causing controversy given current overcrowding and the long time since the last strategic planning cycle. So why do you dismiss my suggestion of a solution that gives that group everything that they want now, for the least amount of money, with benefits in return to the district, and removes the controversy so the district is free to move forward with its own long-term priorities?

It doesn't mean we cannot have MI for Palo Alto through strategic planning. Menlo Park appears to have introduced their language proposals through strategic planning, and not surprisingly, are facing no such controversy. The program itself doesn't have to be inextricably tied to this plan or this group, why should it be if we are talking about a long-term vision for PALO ALTO? It's very important that we know which is the case, because right now the small group is driving the issue, our school board seems only to be responding to what they want. So it becomes critical to know exactly what it is they want and why. Is there a way to give them what they want while giving the majority in Palo Alto what they want as well? Don't lay on me your own negative interpretation of my proposal as "buying off" the 9 who signed that letter. It would be buying them off if they weren't required to offer something in return -- and that something is their energy and focus, which I have considerable respect for or I wouldn't have proffered that particular suggestion. I personally see it as a compromise that offers as much of what each side wants as I can see. If I have made an error in those wants, please clarify.

I am one of many people who would like to see language education in our district, even MI, but don't think doing it this way is good for the district, for many reasons already cited by others. That doesn't even mean "against MI" or even "against MI choice" fundamentally. But I don't confuse MI-the-educational-opportunity-for-Palo-Alto with a small group of people and the choices they make.

When you wrote, "I believe this is a misreading of motivations" -- PACE's actions have spoken for them, and their words have belied their actions. If I have misread their motivations, I am open to changing my mind based on better information (though I don't see why convincing me to change my mind should be important to you) please explain what they actually are, and give the reason for your authority to say so. Not just for my sake -- it would help a lot in reaching an acceptable compromise.


Posted by Go ahead and ask, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm

AJ,

Since I believe some MI supporters will be at the town hall, I suggest you go there and ask some of your questions. Have you ever tried to talk to PACE members?


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 28, 2007 at 1:29 pm

A.J.,

There are many adjectives that could be applied to the group of parents (and others) advocating MI. "Small" is not one of them. Minority? Yes. Small? No. See my earlier post for the obvious demographic changes in Palo Alto.

Also, the role of immersion is changing. It used to be that it was instituted (primarily) to help ill-adjusted students to become more successful. I submit that it can (and should) be much more. Perhaps, the current MI is not the right approach for the district.

I would just like to see a sensible coming together of minds and ideas. This has to start with a school board that's receptive to any/all ideas.


Posted by Interesting reading, a resident of Barron Park School
on May 28, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Web Link

The Global in the Local - The biggest change the suburbs will see? Immigrants who used to flock mainly to urban areas will build homes, open businesses, and create their own communities right in the middle of Anytown, USA.


Posted by James, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Parent,

"I was assured by the realtors that if I moved in I would be able to get my kids into Gunn without lotteries."

I heard something like this when the realtors were guaranteeing entry to Addison elementary for children of a couple looking at house on Fulton. Given the overcrowding there, I don't see how they could possibly do this.
How are these lotteries being run that the realtors can make these guarantees?


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2007 at 2:19 pm

Brendan, I think we are in agreement about a lot of things, I don't want to get tripped up over definitions. I don't understand your distinction between the words "minority" and "small". People on this list have been leery of using the word "minority" meaning "not the majority" because it has been misused by people who have wrongly taken that to mean "racial or ethnic minority" in the discussions. I also don't want to confuse support for immersion education with support for this plan. There were 1000 signatures in a petition against this plan, which well outstrips the membership of PACE which has at most been 20, and only 9 people (at least one married couple comprising 2 of them) signed the letter speaking for PACE to the board recently. I don't know how you couldn't see that as a small number of people. (I did not sign that petition against, btw, I think the 1000 is only a fraction of the opposition.)

It's very clear there isn't broad support for this plan in the community. I think there would be (or would have been) more support if we could get through the strategic plan and see how much support there is for language education in the district (I think a lot), and what resources we have to accomplish it along with everything else. People on this forum seem to love making me a straw man for the opposition, but I'm actually very sad about the way things have proceeded, I think it has codified opposition to MI itself rather than just to a certain plan that doesn't work well given constraints of the district some of which couldn't have been predicted.

If you've been following this debate, you would know you absolutely cannot make assumptions about support for this plan by demographics. You'd have to delve into the history of the discussions to get up to date.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Paul Losch,

Thank you for bringing your experience into this discussion of FLES and immersion in the district. and for offering to work on the language task force. No axe to grind, aware of the differences, realistic about the challenges in getting the community to successfully implement FLES but willing to work on it in case the policy and fiscal stars are in alignment this time around. Hope there are more like you on the task force.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Brandon,

And only a minority of those Chinese-Americans are native Mandarin speakers--less than 20 percent of those 5,000. There are lots of Asian-Americans whose first language is English, just like you and me. Many of the Chinese here are Cantonese, not Mandarin speakers, as well.

The younger the denizen, the more likely the native language is English. I know young kids who have Chinese-speaking parents who, nonetheless, are native English speakers.

The MI program requires 30 to 50 percent native Mandarin speakers. We don't have huge numbers of off-the-plane immigrants here. There are *lots* of immigrants here--from all over--but the kids tend to speak English first.

Your implication, by the way, that Mandarin Immersion is for those of Chinese ethnicitiy, is a reason to oppose the program. Public school programs should be for everybody. The last thing we should want to do is create program that cater to one ethnic group, particular at the expense of everybody else. Trying switching French for Chinese here and I think you'll see the problems with the argument you're making.

I know people on both sides of the argument. The divide's not that simple. I know non-Asians who want it. I know Asians (including ones sending their kids to afterschool Chinese programs) who don't.
Take a look at the original school-board vote, for that matter.

But wanting MI and supporting PACE's current approach are two very different things. PACE lost a lot of support when they threatened the charter after losing the vote in January. People may want MI for their kids, but not at the expense of the system as a whole. A lot of them simply realize that the district really has too many other issues (and kids) to make MI a good thing at this time. I've met several who change their mind the moment they hear about the seriousness of the overcrowding.

So, yes, PACE itself is small--by their own account there are only about 20 members. Other people supporting MI have not come out in favor of the forced-choice approach.

You can see this is at the schoolboard meetings, by the way--there's been a big drop-off of MI supporters since the charter threat.

Nancy,

I don't buy your conspiracy theory. The board does not control who buys into Palo Alto and what ages their kids are. There are huge factors that affect Palo Alto's population that the board couldn't begin to control or predict.

And, frankly, I just don't think they had a lot of say in those three big south Paly housing projects being built. (At which point, Juana Briones and Barron Park should fill) We needed Garland yesterday. The MI debate has been an incredible waste of time.

Parent,

I've seen the three-generation househunt. It seems to have a price cut-off. When I look at homes about the $2 million, it starts getting very pale. The Gunn factor's big, more so than the elementary schools.

Though, frankly, I figure our housing market's just Google-dependent at this point.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 28, 2007 at 6:10 pm

The overcrowding issue is off-topic, but...

Districts hire demographers to help predict the ebb and flow of kid populations. I assume that they provide accurate, useful info. But I recall the way LASD dealt with its demographer's info: if it suited their goals, they went with it; if it wasn't what they wanted to hear, then they discounted it.

Surely the demographer informed PAUSD administrators of the likely deluge of kids from the housing developments, no?


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 28, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Nancy of Los Altos What the demographers (L. and G.) informed the PAUSD of was a yield
of 0.25 kids per housing unit, bumped up from 2006 to 2007, for condos. That's ONE
child per FOUR condos. Based on such places in PA as Stanford West (70 % SINGLE Stanford
student apartments). PAUSD has so far bought this projection. They have told the Planning
Dept. they can handle future growth. The Planning Dept. has told the City Council this, so
some of them don't worry. Some people think PAUSD is in for a huge surprise. What do
you think ?


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2007 at 7:24 pm

A.J.

I'm more than a little curious myself to find out what is happening in the counsels of MI supporters, how many of them there are, how much they represent the diversity of the community and the like. At the January 30 meeting I was impressed by the responsiveness of supporters in addressing every issue that had been raised on Jan. 9, the ethnic diversity of supporters, the favorable expert testimony by Stanford linguists and policy-makers who dealt with the same issues when SI was a controversial start-up.

It appeared that the BOE was impressed as well. (The educators who would implement the policy had already weighed in with a recommendation to approve. It's easy to overlook their professional judgement as the political noise rises around the topic. Suggestion to all: reread the Feasibility Report, available online in the Jan. 9 board packet. Virtually every argument, pro and con, raised in public debate is addressed there.)

The vote moved from a 4-1 no vote on Jan. 9 to a 3-2 final negative vote that evening, even before the board had looked squarely at the likelihood that a charter application would ensue. From subsequent developments, it appears that the 3-2 final vote against would have been 3-2 or even 4-1 in favor if the full implications of a no vote were understood.

Since then, apart from the letter that got jumped all over, the PACE folks have been very disciplined in not getting drawn into online wrangling nor, with a few exceptions, have they spoken to the board in oral communication. Frustrating, for sure, but understandable. I expect we'll hear more after the board has taken its vote. And we'll have a chance to find out how much MI supporters favor choice and/or charter.

You'd prefer a charter, I'd prefer choice. (I don't think "neither" is a possibility, but who knows?) But neither we nor the BOE knows for sure what people who are vitally interested in Mandarin instruction in PAUSD will prefer, both now and long-term.

When you think of long-term priorities of the district, do you think of a district with the current ethnic composition? I don't. Palo Alto will probably become much more Asian as new housing comes available.

How will new families perceive the educational politics of the district? How the district deals with MI will certainly play a part in shaping that perception. I'd like it to be a positive perception and believe that showing the flexibility to enthusiasticallty adopt a pilot Ohlone-MI program would make it so.


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 28, 2007 at 7:38 pm

OhlonePar,

You're right about support (or lack thereof) crossing demographic lines. My point was simply to state that the numbers of native Mandarin speakers are much larger than you think. There is a large Taiwanese contingent...virually ALL of whom speak Mandarin as a first or second language. A large portion of this group sends their children to the Friday evening Chinese school at JLS. The _entire_ school is full of students. Even if a relatively small fraction of _only_ this evening/weekend school support MI, then the 30-50% number (that is necessary) could easily be met. BTW, the only reasons I mentioned the numbers (that I've personally observed) is that you were concerned that the 30-50% number couldn't be met....NOT because I'm in favor of an all-Asian student body.

Hopefully, this will allay your concerns on this point. The 30-50% number is not a challenge to meet, provided the program still has decent support.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Brendan,

(Finally, I think I wrote your name right, sorry about that.)

Yes, there are lots and lots of Chinese schools around here. Why? Because those kids are native English speakers whose parents want them to learn a form of Chinese. Those kids are not native speakers.

Being a native Mandarin speaker in an anglophone country doesn't come easily to children. One of the reaons those parents are sending their kids to Chinese class is that the kids won't speak Chinese (though they usually understand it.)

If you want your child to speak Mandarin as a first language you pretty much *can't* speak English to them. Even then, you're pretty much battling against the ambieant lingual noise.

And, frankly, if you expect your kid to grow up and go to this country, I think it's a bad idea to make English a second language. One of the questions that immersion proponents hedge about is the effect of immersion on *written* English skills. From some of the anecdotal evidence posted here, it's written English that takes the hit. While I agree (and know from personal experience) that immersion is a very effective way of teaching a language, the trade-offs for English-speakers in the U.S. haven't been fully examined. Most of the research has focused on the benefits for ESL kids in the U.S. and Canada.

There's enough of a question mark that I'd much prefer FLES for my offspring--even though immersion would be more effective for the second language because the possible writing skills issue.


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 28, 2007 at 8:25 pm

OhlonePar,

I disagree. The majority of the kids that I've met are quite fluent in conversational Mandarin. The reason their parents are sending their kids to these weekend/evening schools, from what I've seen, is to retain and expand upon these skills (skills that they don't have exposure to during the day...), not to learn them fresh.

Please just go to one of these schools, yourself, and you'll see what I mean.

I'm not concerned about my kids understanding English. They get enough of that at home to make up for any loss during the day. Both my wife's and my parents have been lifelong educators and I'm sure they'll be around to help out if needed...I hope. :-)

My point being that the benefits of a MI program, from my perspective, far outweigh the negatives. Especially, in this increasingly Asian community.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Jerry,
That was beautifully said to Paul Losch, something we can agree on fully.

I'm afraid I don't agree about the feasibility study, though. And yes I have read it, it lowered my opinion.

One of the main reasons I would prefer to see a different immersion plan is that this SI/MI package isn't flexible, especially not for a school system the size of PAUSD. As many others have pointed out, all the reasons in favor of teaching Mandarin now have been made in my lifetime for Japanese, Russian, German, etc. Other different but equally valid reasons favor Arabic these days.

Resources are the big argument here. Implementing SI, the argument was made that it would be difficult for the next language, and indeed it has been. If we do this MI choice program, it virtually assures there will be no more language immersion programs. What happens when it becomes vital to learn Vietnamese or Portugese? Or, vital at least for a small group of parents in the district? (I'm not just throwing those languages out of a hat, btw.)

There's no question that dual immersion is a good method for teaching excellent fluency. But do we really need the Mercedes when we could get more than one Honda for the same money? Some people wouldn't care, they'd take the Mercedes, other people would find having more than one car far more valuable. If we have to decide for the good of the family, let's take a look at it with all of our priorities on the table.

There's no question that dual immersion would create excellent fluency, but there are other methods that create fluency -- perhaps not as excellent, though proponents of those methods might argue with that -- methods which wouldn't require a separate school, new facilities, a new vice principle, etc. We haven't seriously weighed those and which would work the best given district constraints -- that would be the job of the WLTF,

I hope I can convince you with your respect for Paul Losch that working through the WLTF to come up with the best language plan possible for Palo Alto is better than going round and round like this over this one plan, or locking out other ideas that could allow several languages with what really is a permanent program that takes away important flexibility from the district. And I think it's an important goal to come up with a plan that lets us think beyond our rationales for Mandarin instruction today, which allows our district some flexibility to include Mandarin and other languages down the line if we choose.

FLES with Summer immersion, for example, isn't optimal if you want year-round immersion, but kids would still develop fluency. You could hire teachers who already work for the district, letting them work through the full school year, which would be desirable for some. The programs could use empty school facilities and wouldn't ever require expensive buildings. Different languages can be added or subtracted over time in a much more flexible way. And kids would have the opportunity to develop some fluency in more than one language, which would be valuable to a whole different segment of parents. And hey, summer immersion could be a springboard for year-round immersion ... (okay, I hope I've made my point, that was ironic)

All I'm saying is, let's do this the right way, through the strategic planning (which is going on this year) and the WLTF. If there are going to be any great ideas for how to get a Mercedes AND a Honda for the family, that's where we'll figure it out. In the meantime, I"m not unsympathetic to the desires of the PACE people for their kids -- so why not consider the compromise I proposed above?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Brendan,

Learning Mandarin and being a native speaker are two different things. My first point was that we don't have a bunch of native-Mandarin speaking kinders. And not all of those parents will want their kids in MI. Cupertino, which has a larger Chinese community than do we, has this issue. Why wouldn't we?

I'm not concerned about your children understanding English, but in writing it competently. Two very different skills. English is not an easy language to write well--thus the number of kids who need remedial English at Berkeley, despite their steller grades and tests.

Hmmm, yes, 65 percent of the freshman entering Berkeley have to take all of the remedial writing course. Only 11 percent of the incoming freshies are qualified to skip the entire sequence.

Those same kids have pushed through public speaking courses--they know that not speaking and writing English well puts them at a big disadvantage in this country.

But, anyway, I think immersion/not immersion are legitimate choices, there are arguments on both sides. That there is a pedagogal downside to immersion is something that tends to get overlooked.

However, I don't think a choice that benefits very few at the expense of most (because of the overcrowding in particular) has any place in public education. I'd be fine with MI if:

A) it wouldn't lead to severely overcrowding my child's school (I think 100 kids per acre is just a little dense, myself.) Ohlone's a wonderful school. It won't be with 620 kids, two programs and at least two-thirds of its open space gone.

B) There were language opportunities for all. Right now, there's no road map for FLES, or anything because of this massive waste of time. Overcrowding and funding the opening of Garland and maybe Cubberly are huge issues.

Which brings me to

C) If PACE's lack of political finesse hadn't led to a huge rift in the district, which will make it hard to raise money here. Not all PACE's fault, more the incompetence of the board. Though PACErs seem to have no clue about how tough it is to keep the money coming.

Re: the increasing Asian population. First, that's not simply Chinese, it's many different groups speaking many different languages. Second, so what? Seriously? This is a pretty minor immigrant wave in this country's history of immigrant waves. If you're going to make that kind of argument, then really we ought to be learning Spanish, which makes for better FLES, anyway.

Though once again, I'd be fine with MI if it weren't for the impositions it will make on those outside the program. It's nice, but it's just not worth it *at this time.* Particularly, since the area does in fact have numerous opportunities to learn the Chinese languages already. This isn't about deprivation, it's about saving money for a few people. (And, yes, few, since the program can't be very big--20 kids per grade. I wouldn't count on your child being picked as one of the lucky 14 or, two years down the line, one of the seven or so qualifying for a nonsib spot.)

Yeesh, just thinking about it--Mandarin charter in MV. Take over Slater, solve everyone problems and grow a big, fat program where there's some room.

There's no equity in what's proposed. And PACE, frankly, has shown zero concern about the effects of what it's demanding.


Posted by Fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2007 at 11:10 pm

Ohlonepar,

I'm afraid there are crucial factual errors in your post.

"Yes, there are lots and lots of Chinese schools around here. Why? Because those kids are native English speakers whose parents want them to learn a form of Chinese. Those kids are not native speakers." False. Many of these schools are designed solely to teach written Chinese to those who already speak. Some do admit kids who do not speak, but even those sometimes *discourage* non-speakers.

"Being a native Mandarin speaker in an anglophone country doesn't come easily to children." False. It all comes easily to children. Just depends on the home environment.

"If you want your child to speak Mandarin as a first language you pretty much *can't* speak English to them." Depends on what you mean. I have plenty of friends and neighbors who speak English to their children outside the home, some form of Chinese inside the home, and the children are bi- or tri-lingual. But of course if the parents speak only English at home there is no source of Chinese for the children, and it follows that they won't be Mandarin speakers. Hard to know what your point is.

"And, frankly, if you expect your kid to grow up and go to this country, I think it's a bad idea to make English a second language." That's the benefit of dual immersion. They have the chance to become perfectly fluent in both. The Chinese speaking kids who finish these programs typically out-perform their English language peers in English. For them, English is a second first language.

"One of the questions that immersion proponents hedge about is the effect of immersion on *written* English skills." Again, false. All the data show there is no trade-off in terms of written English for English speakers or Chinese speakers. And no, most of the research has not focused on the benefits for ESL kids. This is all manufactured "data" made up by the anti-immersion faction.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2007 at 12:13 am

Here we go again,

"All the data"--yes, that's been said before, but when push comes to shove, no one on the pro-MI side has come up with data that shows that English comp. skills are comparable to kids who are in English-language programs. Instead, there tend to cites of studies about immersion for ESL speakers.

Which is why you'll find pro-immersion sites suggesting you supplement your child's written English skills at home.

And, of course, there *is* the grade 2/3 score drop. And, apparently, no longterm studies about these kids in college or even high school--particularly with a language as unrelated to English as Mandarin.

I'll take your word that some schools turn away nonspeakers. Hmmm, no, actually, I'll question that, too. Private schools don't tend to turn down moneymaking opportunities. So, go ahead, name one that does that.

As for the marvelous English written by bilingual kids--well, kids with a foreign language spoken at home are at an all-time high at Berkeley. So's enrollment in remedial English--89 percent of the freshmen coming in need some form of remedial English. Back in my day, there was a hue and outcry over that number being 30 percent. And that was back when a 3.7 GPA and decent SATs could get you in.

By your reasoning, first-gen kids should dominate areas with a heavy emphasis on writing. The opposite, of course, is true.

Again, I think immersion is very effective as teaching tool--but high-level writing skills don't translate that well. Maybe you don't care--lots of people don't. But you're not going to find real facts to back you up because it's not there.

In other words, other MI types have said what you have and then not had the facts to back it up. Believe me, I've already visited Lindholm-Leary's Web site and several others.

But whatever . . .


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 29, 2007 at 8:31 am

OhlonePar,

I'm not concerned with any sort of US immigration (I couldn't care less...actually), but I am concerned that my children are prepared for a world that will be more influenced by Mandarin speaking cultures. Logic and a bit of common sense tell me that China will hold increasing sway over world culture. Yes, it's likely that English will still be used for business and diplomacy, but fluency in Mandarin will be a valuable and perhaps even a necessary skill in my childrens' lives.


Posted by Michelle, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 29, 2007 at 9:12 am

Brendan, why do you think everyone else in the district should pay for your special request for Mandarin education for your children? There are a lot of private schools offering this if you feel it is advantageous for your children.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2007 at 9:55 am

Brendan -

To follow up on Michelle's comment, aside from the fact that now is not the time to implement ANY new program, I think there is resentment from the non-MI supporters that this program is even being requested.

Many people feel that if you would like your child to learn Mandarin (or tennis or ballet) it is your responsibility to provide them that opportunity, not the school districts. There is resentment at the feeling of entitlement which comes across from the PACE group, the same entitlement that keeps some parents from volunteering in classrooms and even watching their children's baseball games - someone else should be doing this for my child, my taxes etc. are paying for it...

Although Mandarin is becoming a more well used language, I have many friends who do extensive business in China and other Asian countries. While they feel it is vital to understand the customs, I have never heard any of them say that they missed a business opportunity because they didn't speak Mandarin.


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 29, 2007 at 11:11 am

"Michelle- Brendan, why do you think everyone else in the district should pay for your special request for Mandarin education for your children? There are a lot of private schools offering this if you feel it is advantageous for your children."

Michelle,

I don't, and we're already going this route with our children. I just feel that in the very near future children will be at a significant liability if they do NOT understand Mandarin, and I'm attempting to make that opinion heard.

"PA Mom - Although Mandarin is becoming a more well used language, I have many friends who do extensive business in China and other Asian countries. While they feel it is vital to understand the customs, I have never heard any of them say that they missed a business opportunity because they didn't speak Mandarin."

They probably didn't even realize they were missing them. :-) I worked in Asia, for years, and that is most definitely the case.

"PA Mom - Many people feel that if you would like your child to learn Mandarin (or tennis or ballet) it is your responsibility to provide them that opportunity, not the school districts. There is resentment at the feeling of entitlement which comes across from the PACE group, the same entitlement that keeps some parents from volunteering in classrooms and even watching their children's baseball games - someone else should be doing this for my child, my taxes etc. are paying for it..."

PA Mom...I hope you're not implying that I'm not involved in my childrens' lives. That would, indeed, be incorrect! What I'm suggesting is that Mandarin fluency is (or will shortly be) crossing the line between luxury and necessity. I'm uncertain of many things, but I'm quite certain that the future will prove me correct in this instance.

As far as entitlement goes, we'll take what we can get (from the district), supplement what we feel is lacking, and express our opinions in the hopes that our voices are, at least, heard. That is the nature of a democracy.


Posted by fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Hm, Ohlonepar, you just repeat your factual errors and add new ones. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It doesn't make sense to you that Mandarin speakers emerge from immersion programs fully bilingual, so you insist it cannot be happening. It doesn't make sense to you that private schools would turn away kids, so you insist they don't. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Your central claim is that immersion kids end up with sub-standard writing skills. Without all the hand-waving, please point to a single piece of data to back this up.

You make other erroneous claims, so let's take just one other. You claim immersion websites tell parents to supplement writing instruction at home because otherwise the kids won't measure up. Please point to a single website that says this.

Your claims, rife with factual error, undermine all your posts.



Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2007 at 1:29 pm

How many people feel Mandarin is an essential skill?


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 29, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Is Mandarin "essential"? Questionable. That's the reason for the debate.)

Is it as needed/valuable as alternate forms of education that other choice programs (like Hoover and Ohlone) offer? Maybe/Maybe not, though I _think_ so.

I would be quite disheartened to learn that the majority of the rest of the community was as vehemently against MI as some of the posters on this forum have shown.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Brendan,

I think you're making the flat earth argument. A couple of points.

1) If Mandarin's that critical, why are we offering it to a tiny handful of students and no language instruction *whatsoever* to the vast majority.

2) If it's not important, why are devoting scant district resourcese to it when there are many other priorities?

I happen to thing early language instruction is important--it doesn't need to be immersion, but there should be sustained exposure to a second language at a time when the brain finds it easier to adapt. My bilingual friends say that they "forget" their non-used language, but can pick it up again. To me, that, instead of fluency, is a better public-education goal. Give all children the early exposure to learning a second languag--particularly in terms of accent.

3) Your larger point about Mandarin. I realize it's widely spoken and China's booming. And, no, I don't think it's ever going to become the language of international commerce--too difficult for adults to learn and ongoing problems in creating an easier form of the written language. Written Chinese is cumbersome in the way alphabetic languages are not.

I mean, China can't even get China to all speak Mandarin. So useful, yes, mandatory, no. Given China's historically insular culture, I don't think speaking Mandarin is going to compensate for the extensive social networks (along with a dose of xenophobia) that are part of the culture. Also, I think China's got some major issues that are going to cramp its style down the line--with aging demographics, a population that's half peasantry--not that they won't overcome it, but I'm a little jaded having lived through the USSR and Japan as the big threat.

Which isn't to say that there aren't reasons to put your kid in Mandarin Immersion, it's a valid educational choice. Just not one that should crowd out other priorities in Palo Alto.

Longterm, I think we need, in this country, to worry about how we're not educating a huge bulk of our kids in science and general literacy. I mean, we were and still are a center for biotech, but the attitudes about and the funding of science have become abysmal.

And it does concern me that the best and the brightest going to Berkeley somehow graduate with stellar SATs and GPAs and can't write college-level English. I think we're teaching kids how to cram for tests instead of how to think and retain useful knowledge.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2007 at 1:59 pm

"Fact Checker",

Look up my past posts, you'll find the Web site--I quoted from it.

So, I notice you disagree with me, but you offer nothing to refute what I've said. I thought I'd at least get a school that refused to teach kids who didn't speak Chinese.

I *know* you disagree with me, but if you want to convince anyone of anything else, you need some substance.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2007 at 1:59 pm

I find the argument that we need Mandarin spoken, written and cultural education in elementary school on the basis of population shift to be specious. I have not, nor will I ever, support other-than-English education on the basis of "demographic" shifts. There are lost of reasons to support foreign language education in elementary school, but to help prevent assimilation is NOT one of them. This is America, the most integrated and diverse nation in the world. I am proud of that, want to keep it that way, and support nothing which encourages any other than assimilation. Other languages and cultures contribute to our society, but are a sub-set and should stay that way.

I also find the argument that we need Mandarin in elementary school for future business opportunities to be specious. The language of business is English. This is not provincial thinking, it is accepting reality, and the world, including China, knows this. There are more English speakers in China than there are in the US. If our neighbor were China..ok, I might buy into it. But, it isn't.

The real and overwhelming need is math, science, logic and analysis. That is the kind of person we hire from out of the country, not because they speak Mandarin/French/Hinid/Farsi/Hebrew/German/Japanese ( remember the big scare that was pushing Japanese on the kids?) etc..

For those who think they want to work in a field where bilingual, bicultural and biliterate is important, they can start differentiating themselves in middle school. That works great.

Now, talk about the OTHER reasons to learn a foreign language, and what the goals are, and you will get more support.

Goal: The ability to become bilingual/biliterate/bicultural by 12th Grade not 5th grade, you will get LOTS of overwhelming support, for the myriad reasons this is a good idea. Method: Solid intro to a foreign language in elementary school, with summer immersions, so that the kids have a basic conversational ability by 6th grade, with the option of continuing more intense studies at that point..you will get lots of support.

Especially since it would mean every kid getting the opportunity.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2007 at 2:05 pm

I just read OhlonePar's post: Umm..we are not the same poster under two names, though we made similar points!


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Brendan,

A lot of the negative attitude comes from how the proposal was handled. Remember, if MI goes through at Ohlone my kid's education will suffer as she will be in a highly overcrowded environment with a staff trying to run two choice programs simultaneously. The Ohlone program, which is in high demand, will lose any ability to expand, frustrating many families who already feel shut out of the lottery process because of the number of spots taken by sibling preference.

I grant that your child will benefit from MI if he or she gets a spot, but mine will get a negative impact.

It's frustrating because there's been zero acknowledgment of the effect of MI on non-MI kids. I appreciate, by the way, your acknowledging that there are different legitimate viewpoints.

After the Jan. vote, there was a softening in tone--people were optomistic about FLES and it was Draw the Line who suggested that if PACE went to a general-revenue district they could have their charter without harming PAUSD. I think there would be much more of a live and let live feeling if the overcrowding issue weren't so serious.

Both Ohlone and Hoover came into being when PAUSD was experiencing a dramatic drop in enrollment and closed a third of its school. It made sense to develop magnets at that time. Things were picking up around the time of SI, but there were still low-enrollment schools.

I would oppose the introduction of any new choice program given the district's current situation. I will however support a number of alternatives that would create language instruction on the elementary level--including FLES with summertime immersion, out-of-district charter, in-district if someone can donate a spare school building.

Or a choice program when there's real space.

What I don't support is a program benefitting a few at the expense of others. It's that aspect, I think, that has poisoned the debate. Well, that and BoE fecklessness.

(Hey Res, the funny thing is that I think we're politically on different sides, but the equitable solution here is so clear that we're in sync.)


Posted by fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Ohlone,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

My claim was that many kids are enrolled in Chinese schools designed to teach native speakers to read and write. I can back that up. I know of several, the biggest being the one that meets at Gunn.

I guess this means you'll concede that:

1. There is no evidence English comp abilities are subpar for immersion kids.

2. Immersion websites ask parents to supplement writing at home because otherwise kids don measure up.

3. Many of the kids in this area who study Chinese outside of school are native speakers whose parents want them to be able to read and write.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 29, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Two words: opportunity or threat. I choose the former, others choose the latter. It's all about attitude and mindset.

Web Link

I'm quite ashamed at the community's vitriolic reaction. Regardless of the situation, can't people see that this puts a negative spotlight on Palo Alto.

Openness and tolerance are the hallmarks of this country's founding fathers. We all should be mindful of this, in all that we do.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Brendan

I have sat back and listened to your comments and although you put forward your case very well and are coming up to par quite quickly with a difficult subject, there are a few comments I would like to make to you.

You say you are new to the area and it sounds as if you have a child who will be a kindergartner soon. If this is the case, you would choose to have them in the MI lottery and possibly the SI lottery if they both exist. If you get into these, then I am sure you will find them helpful, if indeed MI exists.

If however, you do not get into the lottery, as I see it you are in the south of midtown area and probably in the south cluster of schools, Palo Verde, El Carmelo and Fairmeadow. For arguments' sake, lets say you live in the Palo Verde catchment area. Because Palo Verde is very overcrowded, and perhaps because you live quite close to Ohlone (or Hoover) you choose to go for one of those lotteries also (you can't do both because they are polar opposites in style). If you get in there you will be in a choice commuter school. On the other hand you may not get lucky (and lucky is the word in your case due to demographic reasons) and do not get picked in any of the lotteries. You then discover that due to MI taking over the extra space at Ohlone and general overcrowding at Palo Verde and also the other south schools, you are overflowed to Barron Park or Briones. Now both of these schools are likely to have room for you, but you will have to drive your child to school every day, probably passing either Fairmeadow or Hoover on the way, and possibly other schools also. You will have lucked out and be in the unenviable position of living across town from your child's school. This will mean that not only do you have to drive to and from school each and every day, you will have to drive for playdates, birthday parties, etc. and this will probably mean you will have to drive across town for sports practices, etc.

This is the reality. MI if it comes, will mean that people will have to do that who really would rather prefer to be in their own neighborhood school which is just across the street or around the corner.

MI if it comes, will be an extremely good program I am completely sure. MI will benefit the families that are lucky enough to get in, I am completely sure. MI will teach Mandarin, chinese culture and the scores of the students will be excellent, I am very sure. But that is not the point. MI is a luxury program that takes space from neighborhood schools and which leaves the rest of the elementary schools with no language education. These students will have to wait until 7th grade to do a language (12 years old).

Is this really what you want? This is what we are talking about. Many people would have no objection whatever if we had the space and it was really open to all who wanted it. What many of us are objecting to is the unfairness of this elite program.


Posted by confused, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Parent said: "This is the reality. MI if it comes, will mean that people will have to do that who really would rather prefer to be in their own neighborhood school which is just across the street or around the corner."

Even before MI comes, there are already "unlucky" people doing this. Why MI implementation would make this situation worse? The number of total students will be the same with or without MI. With MI, maybe more spots would be opened up in neighborhood schools because a few "lucky" ones leave to go to MI.

Am I not understanding correctly?


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 29, 2007 at 4:07 pm

Parent,

I guess we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. We have a few years yet, as our kids are pretty spread out. One is already headed to junior high, and one is moving into the middle years of elementary school.

Hopefully, by the time the youngest is ready for Kindergarten, (a few years on) things will be sorted out, on all fronts.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 29, 2007 at 5:41 pm

fact Checker,

The arguments you keep harping on with OhlonePar are largely irrelevant and distract from the main issue. It doesn't really matter how great an MI program might be: it's the wrong time to implement it for the reasons that OhlonePar and Resident and Parent (and others) so articulately describe.

If the school board were to fully develop a new strategic plan which included MI -- and therefore implying that it's one of the district's critical priorities with a planned implementation -- my resistance to the program would be lessened. Of course, I'd have to be convinced that their reasoning for placing it at a high priority was sound and that the implementation was part of an overall strategy that didn't aggravate other priorities, before I'd drop my resistance altogether.

I read a little snippet today from Al Gore's book, "The Assault on Reason". It was strikingly relevant to the MI debate.

"Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less *reasoned*? Faith in the power of reason – the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power – remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault."

I view PACE's move to threaten a charter as an act of raw power. I can only hope that the school board members (all 5 of them, not just 2) will act upon reason, not fear. Some of them have demonstrated this ability consistently; others have not.


Posted by briones mom, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 29, 2007 at 5:54 pm

To Parent
Briones has had space in the past. That has just changed. Don't count on Briones as an overflow school much longer. I don't know the situation in Barron park, but they don't have infinite space either. And we have a lot of new housing coming up in this part of Palo Alto this year and next year.

Brendan,
You should read past threads about this topic, really, many of the things you bring up have been talked about at length. I promise you will find good food for thought there. Many posters have made a distinction between the Hoover and Ohlone choice programs, which offer the same curriculum as the other Palo Alto schools just a different educational philosophy, and SI and now MI because they offer an educational opportunity that is not available to the vast majority of Palo Alto kids at all. Our elementary schools do not offer any language instruction to elementary kids in any form. Many people feel this is a priority, and that adding special schools that offer a special educational opportunity to a small fraction of our kids is divisive and unfair. There are some special considerations with spanish, because it is really the second language of California, but even that has caused rancor because there remain no opportunities for the rest of the kids in the district to learn spanish in elementary school.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on May 29, 2007 at 5:56 pm

It seems to me that the next choice program should be one with an emphasis on peacemaking, diplomacy, and conflict resolution. Any similar arguing will only be evidence for the program's need... (I'm kidding! I do think we should teach these skills in school, though, as this debate has certainly highlighted!)


Posted by Fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Yet another,

I'm merely keeping the record straight about the facts surrounding this type of program.

You are right the this is not the main issue. As it happens, I disagree with your position but won't argue the point. It's clear everyone has made up his or her mind. I hope the board will make its inevitable decision soon and we can move on.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 29, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Bill asked what I think about the projection of 1 child per 4 housing units in the new development. Gosh, I dunno. I'm not a demographer. In LASD, they get 3 parcel taxes per student, which implies 1 child per 3 housing units. But LASD is almost entirely single-family dwellings.

But does anyone know how the new tax rate for the new "Tax Rate Area" (TRA) will be determined? I don't think that all neighborhoods pay the same percentage of property tax to the school district. Say the new units sell for $500k. 1% property tax yields $5k per year. Say 50% is for education. That's $2.5k. If there are 4 units per kids, that's $10k plus 4 parcel taxes. A charter school gets only $5.6 per kid. PAUSD keeps the rest.

I guess what I think is that PAUSD administrators would prefer a retirement community.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2007 at 7:13 pm

Nancy

The problem with a retirement community is that the seniors have to come from somewhere and the demographers assume that a high percentage will come from local homes which then go on the market for new families to move into. It is a no win situation. The assumption is that town homes go to new buyers who have not got children yet, but will one day and at that stage they will try to move up the ladder into a single family home.

The feeling I have had from talking around is that town homes are often bought by one of the couple in a divorce to enable the family home to be sold but the family can stay in PA to keep their kids in the same schools. This has certainly happened, but I have no idea how often.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 29, 2007 at 9:10 pm

(This is off-topic)
But, Resident, it's great for PAUSD if retirees sell and re-buy! Part of LASD's problem in reaching Basic Aid has been that around 40% of the houses haven't turned over lately. So instead of collecting $5k from each house (or more realistically $10k and up), LASD is getting only hundreds from many retirees' homes.

My gripe is that school districts should be funded per kid, regardless of home prices. It's hard enough to provide quality education without worrying about birth rates and real estate prices.

So I still think that PAUSD administrators should welcome a retirement community (at high prices). Or they should hope that new families are dissatisfied enough (e.g. long commute to the "neighborhood" school, like in LAH, or losing lotteries for lottery schools) that they will use private schools instead.


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2007 at 12:19 am

nancy,
I'm not following why PAUSD administrators would welcome a retirement community? Most retirees who sell homes get a one-time transfer of their property tax base.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Fact Checker,

In other words, you know of a *class* not a school that teaches written Chinese. This differs from your previous claim.

Once again, you offer no facts, just disagreement without even reasoning to back it up.

It's not convincing.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Brandon,

The MI issue quit being an opportunity and became a threat when the board voted it down and PACE proposed a charter if it didn't get choice.

It would remain an opportunity if PACE said, we'll do a charter in a district that could use one because we know a charter's a problem for a basic-aid district. Or we'll hold off on a full immersion program, but let's set up some intermediary language programs.

It's the us v. them mentality that's gotten so poisonous.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2007 at 2:31 pm

OhlonePar: You sure are patient!

I noted your comment that we are opposite politically, and went through and read your posts and mine...I don't get why you think that, but, oh well. We sure agree down the line in our thinking on Choice/Charter here, now!


Posted by fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2007 at 3:30 pm

No, it's a weekend *school,* perhaps the largest in this area.

That's the fact to back up my claim. We're still waiting for the facts to back up yours.


Posted by just another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on May 30, 2007 at 4:28 pm

With all the MI threads, I'm not sure where to post this. It's an idea that I haven't seen suggested yet.

How about developing a language program that's available district-wide (through summer classes, FLES, or whatever) with one of its goals being to increase the pool of eligible students for immersion programs AFTER grade K.

Currently there are a fixed number of Spanish and non-Spanish (English?) spots in SI for incoming kindergarten students. If any of these spots get vacated over the years, only students who know both languages qualify. This is frustrating for non-Spanish-speaking families who missed the initial lottery, since they have one and only one opportunity to get lucky -- unless, of course, they supplement their child's foreign language education on their own. (Not an unreasonable expectation.) It also slowly changes the Spanish/non-Spanish ratio of students in the classroom.

Beyond being an equitable program for all district students, this plan makes the *existing* immersion program(s) more responsive to changing district enrollment issues since the program can grow for _any_ primary grade, not just Kindergarten.

Here's how I'd prioritize:
1. Offer a basic language program to all k-5 students at all campuses. Possibly this would include a more intense summer Spanish program for non-SI students.
2. Open existing lottery programs to more students. Goal: eliminate or nearly eliminate the wait lists. (Ohlone, Hoover and Y5 can be expanded independent of #1.)
3. Decide whether adding another lottery language immersion is part of the strategic plan. If so, decide which language.
4. Add the second immersion lottery.
5. Add summer school and/or other programs in the second language for all students.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Ah, a *weekend school*--Hmmm . . . let's see the Stanford Chinese School. That would be the one described as emphasizing "listening and spoken comprehension" as part of its goals. Hmmm, some criticism because it only teaches simplified Chinese characters. Not tons of emphasis on *writing* Mandarin when compared to other Chinese schools.

Looks like what I'd expect--the parents speak Chinese and want the kids to speak more of it instead of answering in English. So, not what you described. In fact, it looks a lot like other language courses--written and spoken are both emphasized. Main thing is that it clearly caters to Chinese-speaking parents. No real relation to Stanford U. either except that the head has a Stanford Ph.D., borrowed interest they call that in advertising.

Resident, maybe I'm confusing you with another poster, but I thought you described yourself as a Republican at one point? I'm a Dem with some indie quirks--I don't like passing tons of laws.

Just another parent,

What you say makes sense. Lots of things make sense, but the board seems to have locked itself into an either/or situation--we're seeing PACE's and the board's inability or unwillingness to think outside the box on this one.


Posted by fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 12:07 am

Actually, it's the school that explicitly discourages kids from households that do not speak Mandarin and suggests the program is inappropriate if the child does not fully understand Mandarin or cannot speak it.

Still digging for those facts to back up your claims (immersion kids end with subpar writing skills; immersion schools rely on parents to teach writing)? I'm sure you'll let us know.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2007 at 12:40 am

Fact Checker,

Yes, I know what you're claiming. I also researched the school online--including running the translation algorithms.

It's actually a pretty good example of the separatism that people don't want to see in a public-school system. Let's see, no families that don't speak Mandarin. In other words, Chinese people only. Wow.

Did you even realize what this looks like to someone who's not Chinese? In fact, I don't know that I like public school rooms being used for a program with rules that restrict the kind of *families* kids can have.

No wonder they keep the Web site in Mandarin. I'd love to see the breakdown of the student body--is there any child in the program who's not at least half Chinese? Or is the segregation 100 percent?

Wonder if PAUSD knows it's leasing space to a racially segregated program? Fortunately, most language programs don't demand that the parents be fluent in the "heritage" language. (I mean, talk about a giveaway that it's Chinese-only.)

As for your request, I already told you you could find my cite in my earlier posts. If you don't want to do the search, don't, but it's there.










Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 31, 2007 at 5:47 am

OhlonePar,

There is no link...at least not on this topic thread. Also, most of the evidence I've seen seems to show that while early immersion kids start off slightly behind their peers (English reading/writing), they catch up quickly. I didn't see any evidence of life-long negative effects, even for tonal language immersion, like Mandarin.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Regardless of what happens, I'm sure this district will now be more open to these sorts of considerations in the future.


Posted by Question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 8:31 am

Something that hasn't been touched on but I find worrying is how we can trust that a chinese speaking teacher is not indoctrinating the students in communist theories. I know that the Chinese government is investing in US education of chinese culture. I don't trust the Chinese government and its methods. I have no way of knowing that any native mandarin speaking teacher, using materials produced in China for the US isn't infiltrating our schools in a way we wouldn't like. Who is there in Churchill or the BOE who knows enough Mandarin to be able to police this? Do we trust this individual or can he/she pull the wool over our eyes. I am sure that the parents who want MI can't be trusted, so who else can we trust?


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 31, 2007 at 8:55 am

Question....so use materials produced in Taiwan (teach the traditional character set). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 10:39 am

I think that was Ohlonepar conceding that his/her claim (Chinese schools in this area cater only to native English speakers) was wrong.

I assume he/she also has no data to back up the other claims.

I'm not sure what criticism he/she had of this private school, whose educational intent is to teach native speakers. As it turns out, native Mandarin speakers turn out to mostly be ethnically Chinese. Is he/she saying we should not allow private schools to focus their curriculum on native speakers? Or just not on native speakers who are Chinese?

Hm, this racial obsession seems unhealthy.



Posted by Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2007 at 12:18 pm

I'm getting up to speed late here. Just a quick question: since the board doesn't really seem to want to make a decision, since there's really no realistic way to have a "public debate" on MI before the June 5th vote, and since I'm sensing the public doesn't really want the board to make the decision anyway (many people seem afraid that the board isn't considering their particular point of view), why can't we just frame MI as a bond measure and put in on the next ballot? That way everyone who cares will have a say. Thanks.


Posted by another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Public schools in the US should not be focused on a single ethnic population. PUBLIC schools should deliver education equally to all students.

Private schools can teach whatever they want, and people who want that type of education (whatever that may be) can pay for it.

Charter schools CLAIM to be able to offer customized approaches to all, but they invariably create extra burdens for participation, self funding, or even in a few cases entrance criteria (although this seems to be illegal according to charter laws), that create at the very least socio-economic barriers to entry. Schools that differentiate on language, or focus on a single category of language speakers create an ethnic favoritism (ie: racism).

I think its quite racist to consider creating public schools that are separate from english speaking schools, that differentiate themselves by language, and particularly can only be attended based on language entrance criteria. I agree with fact checker - the racial obsession of the creators of these language based speciality schools is unhealthy. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Brendan: [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You think it is paranoid to think that one purpose of Communist governments around the world is to indoctrinate youth, everywhere, on how wonderful communism is and how much better the countries are that have communist govts? Have you spoken to anyone who has done the "youth tours" into China or Cuba lately, and how full of stories they are about how wonderful these countries are?

That is sort of like saying it would be paranoid to think that, if Saudi Arabia were pushing an Arabic school in Palo Alto, we should make sure we truly understand all the materials being taught and approve of the "indoctrination" that is happening.

Indoctrination happens in all public schools, it is just that, for the most part, we are either ignorant of it or approve of what type it is.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Keep tabs on what the teachers are teaching your kid(s) in the name of "history" or "social studies", "geography" or "English", it will be an eye opener.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Fact Checker,

Uh, no. Even the Stanford school focuses on spoken and receptive language. It also confirms what I said earlier that if you want your kids to speak Mandarin as a first language in the U.S., you need to pretty much speak Mandarin to them. So, even a school that caters only to the Chinese community demands that the parents be able to speak Mandarin. Why? Because kids prefer speaking English. The classes are there because even kids from Mandarin-speaking families don't just necessarily learn it. Stanford is popular, in part, because it doesn't focus solely on written language--as you claimed--and, indeed, offers simplified Chinese writing.

In other words, Fact Checker, I became aware of this issue because I have several friends who are ESL and are trying to get their kids to speak their mother tongue. The kids who seem to manage best are the ones who spend time overseas in the country where the language is spoken.

Yes, I agree that the racial obsession apparent at the Stanford Chinese School is unhealthy "Heritage language"--you run across stuff like that in the deep South. It speaks to a deep fear of assimilation. For better or worse, though, assimilation and exogamy happen in the country.

I see you're not up to a Google search. So much for fact checking.

Brendan,

The reason you don't see long-term stuff on Mandarin is that the studies don't exist. MI for English speakers in the U.S. hasn't been around that long. I was alerted to the issue when a couple of people whose kids had been through SI said that their kids' English composition skills weren't up to par. Some other people mentioned similar experiences.

Test scores at the immersion schools--Escondido here and Meyerholtz are comparably low (though perfectly acceptable) for their districts, but immersion kids are supposed to catch up. However, as I mentioned, UC Berkeley, which has an enormous number of kids from bilingual homes also has a record number in need of remedial writing courses. And these kids are *excellent* students.

Seriously, though, writing skills aren't measured by standardized tests, so the issue's been poorly tracked, particularly with something like Mandarin which is such a recent introduction.

I'm not sure, frankly, why people get twisted up about this. It's pretty obvious that writing in English takes writing in English. I mean, would anyone say that if I learn to speak Mandarin, but don't write, but do write in English, I will, somehow, write better Mandarin than someone who practices writing Mandarin?

As I've said, there are reasons to think the trade-off is worth it. Many professions don't require strong writing skills. And, as you say, your family can supplement. Also, because your kids come from, I assume from what you describe, a highly fluent English household, they're in the group that does best in an immersion setting--strong language skills in the first language correlate with strong language skills in the second.

For my offspring, I chose the other trade-off, weaker second-language skills at the outset (though with the potential to pursue fluency) and more practice in English. Of course, my choice, which is probably the preference of most parents around here is getting no support at this point from PAUSD. I have to go outside the system for it.

Which brings us back to the big split--why no second language for most children and immersion for a few?




Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Question,

I'm not too worried about Monica Lynch pushing a communist agenda. I think there is a real question about where the materials for teaching the Ohlone curriculum in Mandarin are going to come from. What are they going to do? Have a translator donate his or her services full time?

And how are California and U.S. history handled? Surely those texts don't come from Taiwan or China.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2007 at 1:22 pm

Brendan,

The cite's from some time ago, different thread. February, I think.

But don't take my word for it. Since you're seriously considering immersion for your kids, it's worth doing the research and paying attention to the biases of the researchers--i.e. language immersion studies tend to be done by people who favor it. There are some very good short-term studies, longterm (i.e. post middle-school) seem to be rarities.

PACE has been pretty much dependent on Kathleen Lindholm-Leary's work. She has a Web site, so if you haven't looked her up, start there.

I do feel like I've gotten a bit sidetracked here--because I think MI is a legitimate educational choice, just not a perfect one. But what is? And this is apart from my opposition to a choice MI program at this time (which has more to do with overcrowding, lack of language opportunities outside the immersion programs and the godawful precedent getting set here.)


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 31, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Resident,

I'm not joking. Regarding keeping tabs on my children's education, I try to make sure they're seeing accurate information. As you know, Palo Alto schools require parental involvement for checking homework, reviewing exam mistakes, etc. I haven't noticed anything way out of line in any of the materials that I've viewed. I'm quite sure I would notice if my kids started spouting nonsense.....and summarily correct it...and them. If the kids have questions, I answer them. My father's a historian, and if something ever goes beyond my reach of knowledge, the kids are on the phone with him.

As far as the communist threats and ideals, I don't pay any special attention to them. The truth is that there isn't really any _true_ communism in the world (that I've seen). Cuba, China, and Venezuela are all authoritarian (or dictatorship-like) governments in the guise of Marxist states.

That's all beside the point. We live in a free country, where even communism is allowed to exist. Each and every political, religious, and intellectual ideal should be given a level playing ground to succeed (or fail) based upon its own merits. That's not to say there are not abuses, on occasion, but an open society is leagues better than a closed, protective one.

"A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both and deserve neither." - Thomas Jefferson

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use that quote. It's one of my personal favorites :-)


Posted by Fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Ohlonepar,

Your claim (these schools cater only to kids who can't speak Chinese) is false, as you can see from the way the school discourages children who do not fully understand Mandarin or cannot speak it.

(I'm not sure you understand what simplified writing is. Your remarks imply it is for non-speakers. No, it is just the way characters are written on the mainland, as opposed to Taiwan and Hong Kong.)

Stanford Chinese school has nothing to say about race. You seem eager to tar Chinese as racist. Why would you repeatedly claim that Chinese are racist? Why do you bring up race again and again?

It's nice to see you finally giving your scientific basis for your other claims, but remarks by a friend about her kids doesn't really make the statistical grade. And unrelated handwaving about Meyerholtz and Berkeley has a lot of whoosh, but the fact remains that the statistical data show immersion kids outperform mono-lingual kids in English by the end of elementary.

So, the "trade-off," I guess, is that immersion kids end up outperforming English-only kids in English AND emerge literate in the target language. Wait, how is that a trade-off? Sounds like win-win.




Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 31, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Fact Checker

I'll believe all of your facts regarding the academic success of an immersion program.

Here are a few more facts:

An immersion program - no matter how successful - benefits only a few.

Mandarin is not a priority for most of the PAUSD parents.

The PiE benchmark study showed that in addition to funding, the one area that PAUSD lags behind the other high performing districts across the country is in World Language instruction to ALL students. MI does nothing to address that issue.

MI would be an exclusionary program based on language skills needed.

Most of the BOE are only voting for MI because they fear a charter would be worse for the district financially, they are not voting for it because they believe it is a great program to add at this time.


Posted by fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Palo Alto Mom,

I think I agree with all your points.

(If by exclusionary you mean it would need quotas for Chinese and English speakers, then I agree with all.)


Posted by Shan Phillips, a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2007 at 3:52 pm

OhlonePar:

You write: "The reason you don't see long-term stuff on Mandarin is that the studies don't exist. MI for English speakers in the U.S. hasn't been around that long.".

You yourself mention Kathleen Lindholm-Leary's and she has done work comparing CLIP (Cupertino's MI program) to many other schools in the area, including Hoover in PAUSD. In most of the tests shown, STAR etc., CLIP performed as well if not better than other schools- particularly by the 5th grade.


Posted by Shan Phillips, a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2007 at 3:56 pm

OhlonePar

You write: "see, no families that don't speak Mandarin. In other words, Chinese people only"

I will be at the meeting this evening and I would love to meet you as I am someone who speaks Mandarin fluently and you will see, if we meet, that I am not Chinese. Further, if you come to Hoover park one day I can show you my daughters who don't look "the part" but will be chattering away merrily in Chinese. This is not about race, it is about ways to have our children be bi-lingual and bi-cultural.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Fact Checker,

I'm just pointing out the obvious--the school doesn't require fluent students, it requires fluent parents. Once you start making those sort of demands, you're getting into criteria based on ethnicity and excluding kids who don't have the "right" background. Anyone who's made even a preliminary study of U.S. history will recognize these kind of games. People have all sorts of ways to rationalize segregation--funny how well the code words (heritage language!) translate.

Chinese, by the way, isn't a race (though "race" is a dubious term).

But, anyway, having grown up in a highly diverse area, I do have an awareness of these issues. And it is interesting to see how immigrants do and don't react to the big American tossed salad. As I said, I think a lot of this about fear and assimilation. People want or need the advantages offered in the United States, but don't take it well when they end up with American children--not like them. There's a reason that people write reams about the immigrant dilemma. It's a real one and it gets acted out in many ways--I think it drive part of what's going on with the PACE crowd--why compromise is so impossible for PACE. Language becomes less about global commerce and more about proving one is, in this case, really Chinese by making sure one's kids learn the ancestral tongue.

Which is fine, but I don't think it should take precedence over the district's priorities.

I don't, by the way, consider my friends "scientific" evidence--that's anecdotal. It is, however, why I started looking up stuff and found out that there were some big gaps in the research and that there was concern in the immersion community about written English skills.

Now, my cite of the number of Cal freshman who come from bilingual backgrounds and need remedial English--now, that I think is very telling. If nothing else, it speaks to a major problem with grade inflation, no kid with a 4.0 or more should need remedial English.

If bilingualism is such a great thing, why are we seeing that problem at a top school?

And, yes, I've notice you haven't refuted any of my assertions. In fact, your one about the Stanford school backs up my point about the difficulty of making kids fluent in one's first language.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Shan,

Sure there are non-Chinese who speak Mandarin. However, to require fluency in a "heritage" language from families is an effective form of segregation. (Though I'm not real interested in regulating some weekend program--big deal--though it's funny to me that it's at a public school. How would you feel if it were Arabic and taught only to kids from families with Arabic speakers?)

You're making a version of the old tokenism argument. Just because you're an exception doesn't mean that the rules don't make for a largely segregated program.


Posted by fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 4:49 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The school turns away children who are not fluent in Mandarin. You claim it caters to kids who don't speak Mandarin. Do you see how your claim is counter to the fact?

Also, it accepts fluent speakers, not particular ethnic groups. Again, you're manufacturing "data."

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You are right, though that this is about fear and assimilation. Some in the white community are clearly worried about the influx of Asians and Asian-Americans. That's part of what is driving the anti-MI gang, and in particular this kind of argument. That is why compromise has been impossible for them. Language becomes less about education and more about a way to stave off the immigrants.

Bilingual Berkeley kids have nothing to do with immersion, so these factoids are irrelevant to this discussion.

Hand-waving is no substitute for factual support. You won't convince others of your point without some evidence, sorry.




Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2007 at 5:00 pm

No, the school, according to its site, reject families where Mandarin is not spoken.

Language v. ethnic groups. Since it insists on families that speak a particular language that is large spoken by one ethnicity (unlike, say, French), ethnic segregation occurs.

The point of immersion is to be bilingual--if we have kids who are bilingual and good students who are having issues then it would help if we had more info. I think if you had data that showed that immersion was a long-term good for English comp. skills you'd cite it. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 31, 2007 at 6:00 pm

PA mom says that retirees who sell homes get to transfer their (presumably low) tax base to their new, higher priced home. Does anyone know if that's true? I know that people who live in a home for 3 years or so get a capital gains exemption for the first half mil gain. But that has nothing to do with property tax.

Any Basic Aid school district should love a retirement community because the district would collect the education tax, but there would be no addition kids to teach. In fact I heard that Supt. Callan recently said that the new agreement in which PAUSD will transfer funds for kids who attend LASD schools will NOT apply to families who live in PAUSD (and have been paying taxes) but have been using private schools. Huh? Their tax money has been spent on PAUSD public schools!


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Shan, have you ever asked CLIP to show how well the kids did that entered the program as non-mandarin speakers? Might it be easy to let kids exit the program through natural attrition, and repopulate with proficient kids, who then test fabulously?

does that mean your non-mandarin native speaker will have these results? How likely? And How can you tell?

If you have data on this, please pass it along. CLIP won't provide it when asked.


Posted by Fact Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2007 at 9:30 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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