PAUSD Immersion Programs--'Choice' or 'luck' Schools & Kids, posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 12:58 pm
I'm wondering if we need to stop referring to PAUSD programs like SI and MI as ‘choice’ programs. Wouldn't it be better to call them 'luck' programs? For the many, many parents who applied to SI this year and were not offered a place (wasn 't the figure three in four?), what PAUSD offered them really can't be called a choice.
Most of my friends with kindergarteners who ‘lost’ the SI lottery are now PAYING for Spanish classes at the same school for their children. Surely that's plain unfair.
Maybe there was a time when SI was big enough to satisfy everyone in the district who wanted language instruction. Clearly that's not the case any more. My guess is that MI, if adopted, would also be oversubscribed. Wouldn’t implementing MI, then, just make a bad, unfair situation worse?
Hoover and Ohlone are also ‘choice’ programs – but they at least offer the same curriculum as all the other elementary schools. Plus a child can enter them at any point, unlike immersion programs, where children without the relevant language can only enter at Kindergarten.
So sure, let’s give ourselves the luxury of immersion programs, but not until everyone who wants to join one is allowed to (so it is really a choice), and when every child in a PAUSD elementary school has the SAME curriculum—that means mean offering ALL PAUSD students the chance to learn a language in elementary school BEFORE any more language immersion programs get voted through.
Other public school districts in California offer languages for all in elementary grades. With some leadership and the kind of passion that the proponents of MI have shown, we could have languages for ALL rather than just a lucky few.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 8, 2006 at 1:14 pm
Yes, Simon, I agree. That is why I have taken to calling them Lottery Alternative Programs.
Choice implies that 1) Anyone who wants it, gets it 2)It doesn't remove the choice of those who want to go to their neighborhood school.
Unfortunately, the number increases to about 1,000, or 1/5th, PA school kids who lose their choice to go to their neighborhood school if another Lottery Alternative program serving 240 elementary kids is put into our district.
How do I get this number? About 80% of kids in our Lottery programs are not neighborhood school kids. So these kids displace the local kids who would have gone to the school if it were still a neighborhood school, who then have to drive to a school further away.
About 20% of our elementary school kids, 25% if MI passes, are in Lottery Alternative programs. We have about 5,000 elementary kids. Assuming MI passes, that would mean about 1250 kids in such programs, 1,000 of them commuting and displacing 1,000 neighborhood kids, for a total of 2,000 commuting kids, 1,000 of them involuntarily. I like choice, but I like it for all.
Posted by There is a BETTER way!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 1:51 pm
Did you know that PIE estimated it would cost about $2M per year to give language education to all our elementary kids, in a FLES format similar to that offered by the 5 excellent benchmark schools?
Sounds like alot??? Not when you realize that the Mandarin Immersion program ALONE will cost $1.4M per year for TEACHERS SALARIES ONLY. And that program would only reach 40 new kinders per year, total of 240 kids per year, or 5% of our elementary population.
But guess what, MI will ALSO need dedicated mandarin speaking classroom aids, would likely require TWO teachers per classroom , plus curriculum development from scratch, program directors and TOSAs, special assessment development, supplemental technology, Mandarin library, and more district resource staff time. So the total price tag would be well more than $1.4M per year!
$2M sounds like a GREAT DEAL to deliver language education to ALL our elementary students. Then EVERY CHILD would be able to partake in the benefits of early language exposure, if PAUSD is really keen on the idea of language education...
MI: $1,400,000/240 = $5,833 per student per year (AT THE BARE BONES MINIMUM)
FLES FOR ALL: $2,000,000/5000 = $400 per student per year
PLEASE WRITE TO THE BOARD NOW! ASK THEM how they will justify a vote for Mandarin Immersion.
If FLES is good enough for the best school districts in the country, why isn't it good enough for us? The benchmark study proves that we settle for far worse then best on many many fronts (technology, libraries, art, classroom aids, etc.) Why all of a sudden do we need to offer the cadillac of language education to a few lottery winners?
Posted by Midtowner, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 3:05 pm
What's the goal? If PAUSD wants to graduate a handful of 5th graders each year who are fluent Chinese speakers, then MI is your program. If you want every 5th grader to graduate with the basic skills learn Mandarin in Middle and High school then you need a different approach.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 3:17 pm
Your comments are confused.
The MI program will be cost neutral; language education for all would certainly not be. So, it is language for all that is, in your phrase, a luxury.
The comments about what constitutes "choice programs" are sophistry: it is clear to everyone that these are programs (MI, SI, Ohlone, Hoover) that parents opt into. They are also all oversubscribed. Sure, in a perfect world, every kid could get into all the programs every year. In reality, ramping these programs up and down every year would be very expensive and unfeasible.
The information about curriculum is also wrong: SI and MI are required to have the same curriculum as the rest of the district.
Posted by choices are good, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 3:33 pm
It is my understanding that the Spanish Immersion program cost less than $20,000 to start up and the ongoing costs of the program are zero. It costs no more to teach a student in SI than it does to teach a student in any other program or campus in PAUSD. So, I am confused about the math on the $1.4M claim. Since you mention teacher's salary, then is the argument that you need x number of teachers for y number of students? These students live in PAUSD and will go to school in PAUSD, so we will be paying those teacher's salaries no matter what school the students are at.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 5:10 pm
Choices Are Good -- I agree that any MI students would otherwise be in another class, so I think the salary argument is weak (although I've heard there are plenty of other hidden costs to MI that make the cost-neutral claim one I'm I'm yet to be convinced by). My point is that even if MI is cost neutral it's still not right to privilege a lucky few over the rest.
Bill -- I still feel it's not real a choice if you choose to opt in and you are not allowed to. Sure, the costs to ramp up and down to meet fluctuations in demand would be a waste of resources. If a just few people lost out each year, fair enough. But when demand WAY outstrips supply, I think there's a real problem.
As for curriculum -- SI and MI have the same curriculum with one HUGE difference: the addition of a language. If you don't want call it a curricular item, fine, but those lucky kids in SI are learning something (skill in a language) during school time that no others are allowed to learn. In my book that's an expanded curriculum if there ever was one.
As for cost-nutrality, my feeling is that even if MI costs no more than regular classes, it's wrong to offer it only to an elite (or if you prefer, lucky) few. Sure, language education for all would cost more, so let's apply for those grants etc. in the name of all students.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 9:38 pm
Wellwisher, I don't know the details of this proposal, but I think this varies somewhat by program, the variables being how many strands you have, how many grades, and what ratios you have of target/English by grade.
In some programs, one teacher will teach a group of kids in Chinese, for example, and then swap kids and teach a separate group in English. In other cases, one teacher does all the Chinese and another does all the English.
Simon, I agree that if demand vastly outstrips supply it is a problem; I just don't think the solution is to eliminate the supply entirely. If SI is in such demand, that sounds like a good argument to expand the program. I would guess that only a small percentage of PA parents will want their kids in a Mandarin immersion program, which will be demanding on kids and parents, but I could be wrong.
Re: curriculum, I just meant MI kids would have to master the same content mandated by the district. Sure they'd come away with something more--or at least something different--but then so do Ohlone kids. Not all parents want what Ohlone has. And not all parents will want what MI will offer.
I am interested by the idea of language for all but skeptical of tossing different languages here and there into the elementary schools at great expense. I've seen language success in Europe and Asia, but in every case there is a national language policy that structures the program. So, for instance, you can't start with German, switch to French a few years later, and then take up English. You become committed to, say, 10 years of English. If language is a priority for the parents of this district, why hasn't a group formed to face these difficult questions and make a proposal as PACE has?
Posted by Better Way, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2006 at 10:22 pm
Who said language was a priority? If the community says it is, then it should be a priority, and everyone should have access. If its not a priority, then its not, then why are we wasting our staff's time? OUr community's time? Our Board's time? The priorities are (should be) found in the District strategic priorities, the community priority survey (Bregman survey, March 2006), in PIE benchmark study, and in the Elementary and Secondary SIP plans. No where in any of those does it say we need more choice programs, and elementary language come in low at best. (PIE Benchmark is the only thing that suggest we should go after language at all, and that suggests it should be FLES.) Closing the achievement gap is the biggest issue in PAUSD right now.
With regard to the $1.4 vs $2M: provided to show that $2M isn't all that much when compared to the size of the MI program, for how much better of a program you would receive in terms of reach and equity. Also, $1.4 clearly is not the complete cost of MI given $1.4 only covers teachers salaries. The only way we'll see the whole cost of the program is when Marilyn Cook deems us worthy of seeing that info. At that time, they'll tell you its cost neutral because someone else is going to foot the bill for the incremental. (There WILL be the incremental costs as described above, or else they're lying. There will also be incremental district costs that NEITHER SI or MI 'count' in determining they are cost neutral. By the way, when was the last time SI reported out their 'cost neutral' financial picture?
Even when MI comes back and says they are cost neutral because someone else is paying (for now), that doesn't meant that there is no extra per student funding going to that program. If they come back and say the program holds incremental costs of anything more than $100,000 per year ($400 x 240), which would be less than one incremental employee, then it costs more on a per student basis then FLES.
This says nothign of the fact that SI (and MI) will enjoy much smaller class sizes than normal. SI is running at 18 or 19 at the 4th/5th level. Standard 5th grades in PAUSD are running at about 22 (off the top of my head, perhaps someone will correct that.) I wonder if our grade level performance would improve across the district if class sizes were reduced across the board by 4-5 students per classroom.. Another example of inequitable distribution of resources.
The MI conception is really a luxurious program, for very few lottery winning students, for a low priority 'issue'. That very few students will be interested, is even more reason that PAUSD should not consider it. Shame on them for dragging it on THIS long.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 6:35 am
Bill - My guess is MI will be over subscribed. Here's why:
A lot of people are pointing out that language instruction is not a priority in Palo Alto. My response is that maybe it's not among the wider general PA population, but survey parents of children entering Kindergarten -- the people directly afffected by this, and the 'customers' if you will for whatever PAUSD deigns to offer them next year -- and I think you'd get a very different picture. For evidence of how differently they might be feeling, look at the enormous numbers wanting to enter SI--a radical way to teach languages if ever there was one. If so many wanted SI, you can bet that many, many more parents of 5 yr olds feel language is a big deal. I dont' see any reason why MI wouldn't be the same. I'm from Europe and I'd love my children to learn Mandarin.
Better Way - I think the district needs to stick by its priorities, too. And it needs to listen to its constituents, which maybe means no new languages programs right now. I would argue that that is too bad, though.
Skill in any language improves your English and makes you less insular--goals that parents of young children here I believe treasure--even if they are not shared more broadly.
For those reasons, I do not see languages as a luxury. It's why I want them to be available to all children and not a lucky few. Create a language program for all (in one sense it doesn't matter what language you choose, just the fact of learning to another grammar etc. is helpful) and you improve English skills in all and you keep kids in their neighborhood schools.
Posted by choice is good, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 7:43 am
Simon, as a parent of a preschooler, I completely agree that language instruction is a high priority. And your point that SI is oversubscribed completely supports this. I actually think that starting a MI program will relieve some of the over subscription to SI. I think people that are interested in language (a lot in Palo Alto) might apply to both lotteries.
I agree with you that language should be available to all elementary school students. But, that is a completely different thing than an immersion program. There is a lot of energy and momentum behind doing MI right now. PACE has spent 5 years working on developing this program and the support and energy for this program is happening now. The feasibility study is happening now, the vote will happen soon (in January?). Let’s do MI now and foreign language in elementary schools next. They complement each other.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 9:39 am
Which is the same thing they told us when they started SI. "We'll just start this specialty language program now, and start up a world language program next. They're not mutually exclusive."
And yet, here we are, 11 years later, no language program. And another group claiming they're not mutually exclusive.
I think we should hold language education hostage until the school district (with the help of all these fabulously motivated parents and special interest group), comes up with viable strategy to offer language equitably across the district.
Maybe if the people who are so desparate to get it, can't get it unless and until they come up with an equitable plan, we'll get some energy around solving the problem in an equitable way, instead of an "I got mine" way.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 10:13 am
I agree entirely with the high value you attach to language learning, and I think youâ€™re right that MI would be oversubscribed.
My guess, though, is that there would be less demand than for SI. But what if I am wrong and demand is even greater? Suppose parents of 1 in 4 kids wanted immersion? Wouldn't that be an opportunity? Couldnâ€™t we ramp up both SI and MI?
As for language for all children, is there a parent group working toward this?
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 10:19 am
I with 'Parent' here. I'm very concerned that approval of MI would allow the School Board to feel like they've done enough and to go no further for another eleven years! Unless you can guarantee me that wouldn't happen (and there's no way you can), I don't think we should vote through MI.
So, Choice is Good, I say let's NOT do MI now. While MI and languages for all shouldn't be mutually exculsive, let's hold off on MI until we have languages for all elementary students in place.
Besides, while there's a lot of energy and support for MI, there's also a lot of opposition. It's by no means uniiversally loved.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 10:31 am
Wow, thanks for being forthright about taking MI hostage. Why stop there, though? Why not hold lots of issues hostage until you get what you want? Break out the ammo. Maybe you could bring the district to its knees! Neat!
Seriously, youâ€™re not making sense when you blame SI for the lack of a language program. I guess you put yourself in the category of â€śfabulously motivated parents,â€ť so please tell us what you have done to realize your vision in the last 132 months. Just hit the high points for us. Research? Petitions? Parent groups? Spoken with researchers? Other districts with successful programs? Meetings with board members?
What? Canâ€™t hear you: speak up. Oh, that is awkwardâ€¦. Nothing, huh.
Why donâ€™t you come back with your jackboots and handcuffs and bullhorn after youâ€™ve put in a little sweat on this campaign that you are so deeply (intellectually) committed to.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 9, 2006 at 11:00 am
I am getting pretty tired of hearing how wonderful immersion programmes are both here, in the media and elsewhere. These type of programmes are a luxury when there is an inability to teach language, not only in the elementary schools, but in the secondary schools to a satisfactory standard. The choices in languages at this level are being changed and messed around from school to school all the time. Paly and Jordan students are taught one set of choices and JLS, Terman and Gunn another set of languages. These choices are changed around from one school to another and as parents we have very little say in the matter. The fact that there is a requirement for at least two years, preferably three, as a graduation requirement for the high schools is meaningless when we talk about any language being taught in elementary schools. If we did have a program for teaching language in elementary schools, how would it affect the graduation requirements? This is possibly nothing to do with immersion, but it shows that languages are a mess in this district. We have already been told that our high school classes are much too big and different levels are being taught in the same classroom.
To me, what is really needed is a complete overhaul within the district of all language departments starting at the top and moving backwards. This may be the wrong way to do it at first glance, but seeing the problems we have we may as well put them at the top of our list of priorities and see how the elementary levels can complement a good secondary level, rather than putting more stuff into the mix and hoping that by the time are immersed students get into high school we can sort it out then, seems to be putting the cart before the horse.
Language education is very important to all students, not a select few. There are many other choice programmes available in the Palo Alto area, they are called private schools. If someone wants their child in a choice school and are willing to pay for it, then let them check out the German School or the International School of the Peninsula, and the others. Lets have the language department in PAUSD be something for everyone, with the goal of getting all students through their language requirement satisfactorily before trying to worry about the select few being immersed.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 11:12 am
Good idea, I had never thought of looking up any actual information on MI, talking to every single board members, writing letters, researching immersion and language academic findings, researching SI, talking to Simitian, talking to lawyers, tlaking to press, talking to Cupertino's School MI program director, researching San Francisco programs, reading the Calfornia Education code, developing counter proposals, talking to community members, researching PAUSD policy statements and board meeting minutes for the last six years, reviewing all school SIP plans, attending all board meetings and working sessions for past year, etc etc etc etc etc.
In fact, the only thing I haven't done is write a check to PAUSD for $140,000.
Talk about holding the district hostage, lets talk about PACE threatening to open up a charter school unless the district agrees to MI choice program.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 11:13 am
Hey, Bill, can we hold off on the hyperbole?
I don't know where Parent's children are in the system, but mine aren't even in kindergarten (the first due to start next year). So some of us have only just started getting concerned about school district issues. So give us a chance.
That said, I think you are right that to get any action on this it would help if parents got together to advocate -- watch and you may see such a group emerge soon.
Sure, there's been little vocal pressure for languages-for-all, yet. Another reason for that might be that while MI has been high profile within the small community that’s regularly involved in School Board matters, it seems to have only come to broader attention among parents this year. Opposition to MI has, I would say, grown hugely this year as the Board has seemed more and more likely to push it through. That possibility has galvanized quite a few people to articulate a desire to see a world languages program to the Board and elsewhere. I don't think I was alone, for example, in voicing that request to the Board in personal emails.
Posted by John, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 11:42 am
Having moved here from the East last year, I can say that Palo Alto is way behind in it's language instruction compared to comparable schools in the East. The priority should definitely be on extending language instruction into the earlier grades, instead of starting another immersion program.
Posted by wellwisher, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 12:11 pm
Hmmm... Just thinking out loud here -- and for the sake of discussion here goes... Since SI is turning away so many kids each year, what happens if we work to expand SI and create an international choice program that incororates MI ... this way we keep the same number choice programs and just add incrementally rather than starting something completely new...
Posted by k, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 12:11 pm
I suggest further consideration of the MI idea without rushing into it. We all know foreign language instruction is "important" but there are so many ways...
My kids study a foreign language at the high school level and we have been generally pleased but I do have concern about one specific aspect: large class sizes. This was true at the middle school level, too, I was dismayed at the huge classes we encountered. My casual understanding is that class-size reduction matters with foreign language instruction but there are mixed reports about effectiveness in other situations (elementary level academic classes).
It seems the district may want to address other issues before offering MI (I understand there is a published list of priorities). For another example that we see on a daily basis, what about renovating/replacing the ancient, small Paly theatre (earthquake safety supposedly a major concern)? That affects a whole lot more people. I was told years ago that it and the large Paly Admin building are way out of date (out of code?)
I just don't see MI as a priority, particularly when there are suitable options for learning Mandarin in the community and we are constantly being asked for money by the district and schools. Does the district feel confident property tax revenues will increase in the next several years (I would wonder...)to easily support adding this MI program?
If MI goes in, would this mean they have small class sizes while our middle and high school foreign language classes remain (in our experience of 5 years with foreign language) oversized? Just a few basic reasonable concerns here.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 9, 2006 at 12:24 pm
This is exactly the way I think we should be tackling this problem. Not only are the sizes of classes too big at the high school level, there is very little continuity. Several years ago as our daughter was planning for 7th grade at Jordan, we chose German as her language elective for many and various reasons and were assured that the language was continued through High School. She followed through into Paly, but German 1 and 2 and 3 were often in the same rooms and rumours abounded about its demise. When our son entered JLS (due to Terman opening and boundary changes) we chose to go for German with him, for the added reason that his sister could help him and they could converse togeter with the prospect of them visiting Germany together sometime in the future. German was then an option, but during the summer everything changed and he ended up with no language in 7th grade. He is now a freshman in Paly and although we asked for German (which was in the prospectus) he got Spanish. Now we have nothing against him learning Spanish, but this is a completely new language to our family and we had no particular reason for this to be his language choice.
The reason I have gone into all this is to explain that language is not the choice it is supposed to be at secondary schools. These high schoolers are overcrowded in classrooms with more than one level being taught and often not being taught their first choice language. This to me seems to be a real problem and until all this gets sorted out, elementary language instruction, while desirable and important for those at that level and their future, is not helping with the mess that already exists for our present high schoolers.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 12:38 pm
Paly Parent -- sounds like another very good argument for holding off on MI until the District gets its languages act together across ALL grades. Can we hope that this will happen before any more ad hoc decisions? I hope so.
I hope, too, that you'll write (and get your friends with children in high school to write, too) to the board and ask that they really first come up with (or at least set plans in motion to create) a comprehensive, comprehensible languages strategy before they go ahead on MI. They'll certainly be hearing from me.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 2:39 pm
I think language immersion programs are the smart way to go: learn your regular curriculum better, plus another language, plus gain cultural sensitivity at the developmentally appropriate time to do so.
Cost neutrality is icing on the cake: I would support these programs if they weren't cost neutral.
It's great Palo Alto has a Spanish immersion program. It sounds like we should try to expand it!
I also think that Mandarin immersion is a great idea. My boy will be entering the Palo Alto school system in three years. I hope that MI is in place by then, even if the program's popularity means that his enrollment into MI won't be guaranteed.
Posted by choice is good, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 2:47 pm
Hi Simon (and others),
There is already a precedent in PAUSD for both choice schools and immersion schools, i.e. Spanish Immersion. This program is very popular and in fact, as you point out earlier, oversubscribed. Building on a successful program, like SI, by adding a Mandarin Immersion program based on it, is not ad hoc. To me it makes sense to build on what you know and do well. I think it in no way takes away from doing a full FLES effort. But I also think that MI and FLES are such different undertakings, they should not be tied together.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 2:51 pm
Simon, I wish you luck in organizing a group to lobby for language, and I hope there are no niggardly calls for holding your vision hostage to unrelated matters.
Iâ€™m getting the drift here now: Letâ€™s â€śhold MI hostageâ€ť until the district has a world languages program for all elementary kids, language class size is reduced in middle school, language class size is reduced in high school, the Paly theater is renovated, there is more continuity between middle and high school language offerings, and there are more high school language offerings. Did I miss anything? Cold fusion, maybe?
A dash of reality: MI will not affect any of these problems. Forgoing MI will not fix the Paly theater or improve class size in high school because MI is a cost-neutral proposal and so does not take funds away from other programs.
MI will not delay (though it could accelerate) a world languages program.
Posted by r, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 3:08 pm
I keep hearing that MI is going to be "cost neutral". If that were really the case then we should be able to offer SI/MI to *all* students in Palo Alto and it would really be a *choice*.
This would also solve everyone's problem with not providing a "language program" for all students. Since, if the parent wanted a language option, they can choose one of the immersion programs.
So, for MI to go through, it should be made available to *all* students within PAUSD that want to go to it and not just a select few. Especially since it isn't going to cost anything for this to happen.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 3:20 pm
MI already HAS delayed a world language program, as it has delayed a refresh of PAUSD's three year strategic priority setting cycle, as it has delayed district staff from reporting progress on its existing strategic programs. (see notes from August's Board Working Session). It has diverted hundreds of hours already of district staff time used on the grant and countless more on the feasibily study that could have been spent on priority matters. Not to mention the board time diverted from truly CRITICAL matters.
Marilyn Cook's time, is NOT being reimbursed by the program. Nor will be any other of the incremental time spent by district staff or the board, on managing and monitoring a new and different choice program. (Staff in Finance, staff in HR, staff in Assessments, etc.)
The simple and undisputable fact is that the more we chop up this district into specialty choice programs, the more complexity we drive into the system. Complexity is more expensive. Resources are finite, time is finite.
NONE of this is taken into account when they tell you this is 'cost neutral'.
The idea that this district has the capacity to run itself as an infinite series of micro private schools is FALSE.
(And the repeated argument that we have PRECENDENT to set up choice programs because we already have a few, is a completely false logic. Two wrongs don't make a right. Just because we have a few that we tolerate, doesn't mean we want more, or can ~handle~ more. And just because SI is oversubscribed doesn't mean people want more new choice programs.
Maybe they just want more Spanish Immersion???
Maybe people want more language opportunity???
I don't know - has anybody asked the poeple on the SI waiting list if they'd just as willingly sign their kids up for Mandarin? (I did, they said no.)
You know Spanish has alot of very logical overlap with English. The Spanish and English alphabets are almost entirely the same. Once you teach a kid to decode in Spanish, they can decode in English. Puncuation is about 99% the same (with the exception of a few ~'s here and there.) There is very high level of phonetic overlap between the two. Plus the MI experience in Cupertino looks like they have a continually high attrition rate... Maybe its not JUST LIKE SPANISH???
Lets see if the feasibility studiers are even bothering to ask any of these questions.
(Paly's Theater Renovation? Cold Fusion? Transparent and ridiculous attempt at making us all sound like blithering idiots. We're trying to have a logic conversation. I guess that escapes you and so maybe your tactic has backfired.)
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 4:43 pm
Blither if you like, I wonâ€™t hold it against you, but â€śidiotsâ€ť seems harsh and rude.
That wacky litany was taken from posts by you and your cohorts here (well, OK, the cold fusion was my own rhetorical flourish), and it demonstrates the stingy, weird nature of these arguments. The bottom line is that you want to "hold MI hostage" until you can buy everything on your shopping list of items you'd like from the district.
No proposal for a world language program exists, so MI did not delay such a program. You begrudge the time that staff spends studying this, but that is what they do. Would you prefer a slapdash process with no scrutiny of proposals?
MI is a rich program that would cost us nothing to implement. Letâ€™s not be afraid to try something new.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 5:02 pm
Please point me to where it says "Hold MI Hostage" in quotes.
I see 'hold language education hostage until this community starts working together on a viable program that would be delivered equitably across the district'.
Actually, I still don't think this sounds like a bad idea. Lets stop and get a cohesive strategy together. And lets not approve any more programs until we do. If people are motivated for language education, they'll work together to make it happen all that more quickly. Its only a motivator to people if half the people at the negotiating table aren't making an end run on the planning process - otherwise, why do they have to sit down and come to reasonable solutions? Everyone else is left fending with the leftovers.
I don't think I'M the one expecting to "BUY EVERTHING ON YOUR SHOPPING LIST OF ITEMS YOU'D LIKE FROM THE DISTRICT". I haven't asked for anything from this district except equitable neighborhood schools, which is something they're supposedly committed to anyway. Those shoes fit the folks on the other side of this argument.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 5:21 pm
Actually, you are the one who said "hold language education hostage." (There's only one language proposal out there, so we all understood your meaning: hold MI hostage.) There is no issue of equity here: the program is cost neutral.
So your point is: block MI until you get the things on your laundry list (enumerated above--minus cold fusion, obviously). Besides being wrong-headed, this approach is morally wrong and divisive. To achieve your narrow goals, you threaten others.
Ask yourself, what if we all tried to block proposals and bring gridlock to the district unless we all got what we wanted.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 7:59 pm
Thanks, Grace -- I'm not sure how the article adds to the debate here, though. Most of the posters here, both pro and against MI wouldn't quibble with the idea that Mandarin is an important language to learn. The question is whether it is right to afford that privilege to just a few children in elementary school rather than using the energy that is behind MI to the benefit of all? What's your line on that?
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 8:09 pm
To Parent and Bill -- Dana Tom, for one, has spoken (to me at least) about his support for a world languages task force that the District ought to get together to sort out the whole languages mess it is in. I'm fairly sure the rest of the Board are aware of this idea and that it's been advocated for by quite a few other people in the community. So I'd say that MI is not the only proposal out there.
Parent says all she/he wants is a cohesive and equitable language strategy. Call holding off MI until such a strategy holding it hostage if you like, but it also seems like good sense. Work out your broad language priorities first and then see what that does to plans for immersion or any other language programs in elementary school. Use the passion that is being shown by both supporters and opponents of Mi to the betterment of languages for all.
Bill says there's no issue of equity if MI is cost neutral. My original point was that even if the program is cost neutral, it is not equitable to make the quality of education in the city a question of chance. So I disagree with him there.
Lastly, on the idea that if MI is 'free' (which is very much up for debate) then why not have it anyway? My fear is that if we get MI first that will be as far as we get with languages at the elementary level for the foreseeable future – see arguments to that end above.
Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006 at 9:07 pm
Just to add to the mix here, many people continually say that SI is and has been cost neutral in arguments to promote MI. There has never been any definitive financial information put out by the district to support this - only broad claims of cost neutrality. Shouldn't we do a thorough audit of the complete SI budget and what this program has cost the district over the years before we add yet another choice program for the few?
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 10, 2006 at 8:01 am
I have to point out, again, that this not about whether language instruction is important or which languages are important...like others in this area, I am trilingual, and completely support foriegn language instruction, as long as our basic are adequately addressed first.
This is about using public resources to set up limited private schools, giving a limited few a choice, at the expense of others' choice for a neighborhood school. It is about using time, which IS NOT cost neutral, to devote to a program which does not benefit all who qualify, does not promote our list of community priorities and does nothing to address the top strategic priorities of our District. Because it is a good language with a good program that had some money put into it does NOT mean our District has to proceed in this way. The hyperbole about "hostage holding" can equally be applied in reverse, Bill, as in "give me this program or I won't give you this money", so I hope we can revert back to discussing the issues.
Most successful folks I know run their homes, their businesses and their lives in a fashion whereby their priorities are cared for first, and anything extra is paid for with money and time which is the "cream" after all the foundations are taken care of. I think that we are only asking our Board and our District to run themselves in a cohesive way as well. That is what I am hearing from most folks.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 10:06 am
I have been thinking about one point you made in your last post. That is that a Mandarin immersion program would use “public resources to set up limited private schools.” If you are against all choice schools, I can see how you would look at it that way. As a person who grew up in poverty and wants my kids to never experience it, here is how I look at it. Knowledge of 2 languages, especially Mandarin, will provide my kids with more economic opportunities than being monolingual will. Currently if I want my kids to be bilingual and bi-literate in Mandarin then my option is to send them to one of the local private schools, if I had $15,000 for tuition that is. While it is true that MI will probably be oversubscribed, there is a better chance of getting in the PAUSD lottery than of $15,000/year miraculously appearing in my lap. Currently, only the wealthy can afford Mandarin Immersion and that to me is what seems very unfair.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 10:14 am
I want to further clarify my last post. It would be unfair if a program that has community support, is cost neutral, and provides access to people who don’t currently have it, is held up by all these other things, like overall FLES strategy. In my opinion.
Posted by What About Closing the Achievement Gap?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 12:03 pm
What I think is unfair is that this district still has 639 students BELOW or FAR BELOW BASIC grade level achievement in English Language arts. 279 in the elementary schools and 360 in the secondary schools
In Math we have 321 Elementary students BELOW or FAR BELOW BASIC grade level achievement. And we have 697 in grades 6 and 7 that are BELOW or FAR BELOW in CST General Mathematics (Grades 6 & 7 Standards).
If its so free to offer special programs, why aren't these kids first in line? The numbers that need this attention are not that much more than are being proposed to receive a new language enrichment programming.
We are a community that has the resources but not the will to close the achievement gap.
In the SIP reviews all the elementary AND Secondardy school principals said closing the achievement gap is their biggest priority and their biggest unsolved problem. They said they know how to find them, they just haven't done a good job of helping them so far.
This is NOT an optional priority for PAUSD. How do we justify leaving this many kids behind?
The majority of the kids in our district are high achievers, and we do a very very good job of offering plenty of enrichment opportunities for high achievers.
How do we justify talking about MORE enrichment opportunities for high achievers when we are leaving kids out all together.
Think about the future for children that are that far below basic academic standards, and how PROUD we are as a community to say that we have a measly 600 kids that we are willing to throw away.
This conversation on who should get more enrichment, and whether my kid will have better job prospects if he is proficient in not one but TWO languages, while we blithely ignore the kids in the achievement gap for the very most basic skills, is pathetic and disgusting.
There should be a moratorium on ANY further high end enrichment programs until PAUSD gets it act together for these kids. Every single one of the board members should be called to account for the 600 kids they are choosing to ignore if they choose to install more high end enrichment programs first.
If you agree, please make sure the board hears you. You can write to the board at:
By they way, when asked, in their SIP reviews the principals and Mary Callan said; reaching kids earlier, as early as kindergarten and preK is the right way to close the achievement gap.
We already have a meager choice program in this district called Young Fives, but it serves only 40 children on a LOTTERY basis. (VERY FAIR?!) If ANY expansion of choice program is on the table, it should be expansion of Young Fives to all who need it.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 12:08 pm
I have to point out that it was an opponent of MI who cheerfully suggested holding MI â€śhostageâ€ť and that the MI supporters have not threatened to hold any funding or anything else hostage.
As for rhetoric, it would help the debate if youâ€™d stop using loaded terms like
â€śprivate schoolâ€ť and â€śeliteâ€ť to describe MI. Neither is accurate.
You are making two arguments against MI (I think).
1. MI is not fair because will not be cost neutral since staff time must be devoted to studying this.
Response: My understanding is that this is part of what the PACE money went to. Doesnâ€™t that make it cost neutral? Also, the board has already ordered a feasibility study, which is underway, so the time has already been spent. It cannot be unspent.
2. MI is not fair because it will be oversubscribed, so not every child would be able to take part.
Response: The same holds true for all choice programs (and many other aspects of the school system for that matter), so this puts you in the camp of opposing all choice programs. However, the district has a policy of choice programs, so you are swimming against the current of popular opinion and the board.
Simon has a related point.
3. MI endangers a comprehensive world language program for the district.
Repsonse: There is no proposal and no group organized for this, so MI endangers nothing. But maybe his point is more in the realm of hypothetical: If he and some like-minded parents were to one day get around to organizing such a proposal, it would be undercut by a pre-existing MI program. Letâ€™s leave the selfishness of this line of reasoning to the side. Does it make sense? I think everyone involved in this debate would acknowledge that immersion and FLES answer different needs and have different goals. So it canâ€™t be that he is worried MI would answer needs he would like to see met in another way (the needs are distinct). I think his is a more political point: If MI is in place, it will be more difficult to rally support from parents and the board for a world languages program because these people will not understand the different aims of immersion and FLES. Simonâ€™s realpolitik amounts to a tactical move of trying to steal (or divert, depending on your point of view) the passion of parents pushing for MI, and harnessing it to his own project. It seems to me that if Simon seriously wants a program, he should be able to make a strong case for it without reference to MI. If his case is weak, it won't make a difference either way if MI has been blocked (sabotaged, depending on point of view, of course).
MI is a cost neutral program that meets a need by some members of our community. It fits within the districtâ€™s choice policy. It would not impact world language or other curriculums. Approving it will not take away from other priorities or funding. It is no more unfair than Ohlone or Hoover or SI.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 12:29 pm
Bill must be reading a different board. I think the current on this board is clearing opposed to MI in favor a cohesive world language strategy. Bill is the only one swimming the other direction...
1. The district staff time is NOT 100% compenstated. Marilyn Cook's time is not being compenstated, and over 300 hours were spent this summer on the grant alone. Countless more hours will be spent in district overhead in all department to maintain and run another choice program.
2. Youre right! There IS opposition to ~any~ more choice programs as it is an unfit way to run a public school system. And just because we tolerate the ones we already have, doens't make them fair, doesn't imply we want or can handle more, and it certainly doesn't entitle special interest groups to more of their own.
See PIE Benchmark study that says we already are overboard in our use of choice programs relative to our peers.
The only criteria for new choice programs isn NOT simply getting in line and writing a check.
3. Bill is taking advantage of a rather circular argument that there was a group organized around MI, so the board approve for feasibility study, which LOCKED IN scarce staff resources on this program for a prolonged period (There is only so much time to go around from Marilyn Cook, Becky Cohn Vargas, Irv Rollins, Norm Masuda who were assigned to this project). Therefore any ~other~ options are locked out of investigation while the MI proposal is on the table.
At the time of the original MI proposal, there was a long stream of motivated and interested parents standing up asking for a world language task force to precede MI. It was only because a CHECK was being waived in front of the board, and the promise of a Grant, that they voted for MI investigation over a WL task force. The grant is now declined, and could just as easily next time be requested for an all inclusive program, if the BOARDS NEXT DECISION is to investigate a world language approach.
So bill argues that, by virtue of the fact that Staff resources were locked in to the MI investigation, that the MI program should now be locked in.
Very circular, and false, logic.
4. Case for a world language task force is quite strong, has wide community support, supported by most on this string, supported by PIE Benchmark study. Again, Bill appears to be using selective perception.
Posted by another parent supporting MI, a member of the Fairmeadow School community, on Nov 10, 2006 at 12:36 pm
sorry, Achievement Gap, but there will always be an achievement gap. that's the reality, despite bleeding heart arguments and valiant efforts. short of giving each of those kids private tutoring, and a better home environment to develop learning skills, there will always be some who won't meet the gap. how many of those kids have you adopted, tutored, or contributed money to their cause? the federal government and state, and school district have separate money set aside and mandated. money that would not go to any choice program. and it's a lot more than the $68k that PACE contributed to the feasibility study.
it's ok if you're against all enrichment programs, including those currently in existence. there's a few of you out there.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 12:48 pm
Bill -- I guess I just don't agree with you that MI and FLES are that different. Do immersion programs and FLES really 'answer different needs and have different goals?' I guess the goal of the former is earlier fluency, fine. But that's about it. The PACE website says: "Immersion education is an exciting and innovative program in which children develop the ability to speak, read and write in a second language." Wouldn't FLES in Palo Alto also be "an exciting and innovative program in which children develop the ability to speak, read and write in a second language." Students would do it slower, but at least they'd all get a chance.
Also, I'm not against MI per se.. I'm against going ahead with it before the district has come up with a comprehensive world languages strategy. Such a strategy may well dictate in the end that MI should be the first thing on its do-to list. It may also decide that there are better languages to put in immersion programs and other languages that should be given higher priority in the district. That’s what I mean about deciding on MI right now being ad hoc. On something so important like adding more ‘choice’ schools I don’t think we can afford to be purely reactive to whichever group of parents comes up with an idea for a choice school next.
And while there is no organized group for FLES, it has been discussed plenty by Board members and among others as I mentioned above, as has the idea of creating a world languages task force that would give the district the strategy input it needs. So MI is not the only languages option in the ether.
Lastly, to your idea that to oppose MI because it would be oversubscribed would be to oppose all choice programs. I think one can say: why make a bad situation any worse? Because of the addition of a major curricular goal (see my argument above) I think there is a real difference between ‘choosing’ immersion or not and the choice of Hoover, Ohlone or a neighborhood school, where you have the same curriculum delivered with different teaching styles (but not that different, Ohlone is not THAT progressive and Hoover is nothing like as ‘strict’ as the achievement –obsessed schools I went to in the UK where your lessons were beaten into you). That leaves SI as a special case. I’m happy letting it be until there’s a world languages strategy in place—and part of the strategy discussion should be a very thorough assessment of SI’s achievements and failings. I’m just suggesting now isn’t the time to start a new immersion program – even if it is being offered to us ‘free.’
And to ‘Another parent’ – I for one am not against enrichment programs at all. I’m against randomly assigning student enrichment and stuffing the rest.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 2:36 pm
Since the topic is now on achievement and Mandarin Immersion, I thought I would share an interesting article. In San Francisco they opened their 3rd Chinese Immersion program (They have 2 cantonese immersion programs and have just added Mandarin). I think they plan to add a second Mandarin program at Jose Ortega school next year. They picked a school with an "achievement gap" and that has over 72% free lunch students as the location for the program. Here is a link to the article:
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 2:52 pm
Iâ€™d suggest you check some of the literature on immersion to see how different the goals are. Do you yourself have any foreign languages?
Parent, your thoughts are increasingly strange. Iâ€™m afraid there is overhead whether the kids are in MI or not. To insist that MI have no overhead is to insist that it cost less than the rest of the district. Itâ€™s not enough that it be cost neutral; now you want it to run at a discount. I guess next youâ€™ll want it to generate income!
Be serious, youâ€™re not bothered by the choice program, just this one. Why donâ€™t you go after the general policy of choice in the district? Try it, and youâ€™ll find out who is swimming upstream.
Bear in mind: there is no movement for a world language program in this city. Your â€śstream of motivated parentsâ€ť was just a group of citizens who came to a meeting to oppose MI. It will be a movement when you have gathered a group, done research, met with experts, etc., and moved past nay-saying to a positive proposal. Until then, it is wishful (negative) thinking.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 3:41 pm
I think the argument that since everybody can't have it, or doesn't want it, we shouldn't offer it is thin. It would lead to ending AP classes, robotics, the football team, virtually any elective. There are plenty of worthy things that PAUSD offers that only a few directly benefit from.
Posted by ex private school kid, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 3:45 pm
Yes, if parents want something for their kids, then they should be willing to pay for it.
My parents, though far from being able to comfortably afford it, sent me to a private school. Their reasoning was that they didn't like what was being offered in the local school system and they wanted something better for me and my sister in the way of education and also in the peers we would mix with. So they were prepared to pay for it.
My father left for his job before we woke up and was often not home until just before we went to bed. My mother did work at home while we were at school or while we were doing homework, and I often remember helping her with various menial tasks which was part of her "job". For years I wore hand me downs of hers which she cut down to fit me or else she would use the skirts of her 50s and 60s style dresses to make clothes for me. My sister always had my hand me downs. She also unravelled her own sweaters to knit sweaters for me. She actually quite enjoyed this so it wasn't as bad as it seems. We didn't have vacations, but occasionally visited relatives in different areas as vacations, usually mixed in with family weddings or re-unions. It wasn't like this all through my childhood, but at different times we did go through periods like this and the one luxury we had was our private school.
What I am saying is this. If parents really want something bad enough, they can find ways to pay for it. If someone in Palo Alto really wanted a $15,000 private education for their child then there are always ways and means for it to happen without expecting public schools to give it to them for free.
Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 3:49 pm
Thanks for the URL and details about Starr King elementary. I read the entire article and found many things interesting, including the following paragraph at the end of the story.
"The program has brought more Asian American and white students into the elementary school. But those students are largely separated from the African American and Latino children who are mainly in Starr King's other kindergarten classes. The two groups generally play and eat separately. Just putting them in the same school so the diversity statistics look good isn't good enough, Rosenberg said."
Driving a choice program into an under-enrolled school doesn't 'save' the school, nor benefit the kids already there. SF should evaluate why the school is under-enrolled (boundaries, fear of diversity?) and work towards solutions to help those kids.
In spite of someone who implied above that we should give up on underprivileged kids, it's a valiant effort.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 4:01 pm
Its hard to believe anyone living in silicon valley wouldn't believe that complexity adds cost to a system, (sort of like believing the earth is flat or something), but hopefully a simple (real) illustration will help. The Escondido SIP plan showed that the SI students are tested on standard testing PLUS also they are assessed using a special assessment tool unique to Spanish. So we add a special assessment tool to the school district for this special school. The adminstration, evaluation and reporting of the results of that special assessment is added to the work load of district staff (Garrison's dept). Add Mandarin, and so we'll add another all new assessment required.
So, when you add more special different stuff, you add more workload to district staff.
The same will apply to HR: How will they hire two teachers per classroom? How will they hire and assess Mandarin Speaking teachers? How will HR do performance evaluations for Mandarin results? Will they have to hire a Mandarin speaking HR managers for this? If not, will it all just be so seamless an effort in HR that they won't even notice they're doing something new? What would logic tell us will happen to district staff workloads?
You do that enough, and eventually they either stop doing stuff for the rest of the district, they do less stuff for the rest of the district, or they start having to hire new people.
(capacity? MC tells us they are understaffed already by 14 people, not restored by Measure A. Do they have room to just keep adding workload and complexity?? Often teams in this situation are looking for ways to reduce complexity and workload.)
Yes, choice programs add complexity. Yes, EXISTING choice program add complexity. Yes, NEW choice programs add MORE complexity. Yes I disagree that PAUSD has the capacity and resources to continue to grow its choice program offerings.
So bill, Far from suggesting that MI should exist without overhead, or that it could or should run at a discount, I'm trying to explain in as simple terms as possible that it will run at an overhead premium. MI will exist with new, different and incremental overhead beyond what exists today. Surely your work on the feasiblity study will provide us with department by department impact analysis on the new program??
PAUSD will not be compensated for the full incremental costs to the district, and should not be considered cost neutral.
I will not support any new choice program in this district until and unless it can be shown that PAUSD is meeting is basic priorities first. The PIE Benchmark study would be a great place to start. The elementary and secondary SIP reviews would be another excellent place to look for strategic priorities. I do not favor using public school system resources (including district overhead) for academy style lottery based programs (of any kind) that confer lavish benefits on a few random 'winners'. Public schools should be equitable.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 4:05 pm
Dear ex private school kid,
It sounds like you have a wonderful supportive family and that is great. I also have a wonderful family, who also cares about education, but I spent my entire childhood on welfare. It is relevant to this conversation because when you say “If parents really want something bad enough, they can find ways to pay for it.” I think that you don’t really truly understand what” the achievement gap” means.
I can and do send my son to a private pre-school (a mandarin immersion one to boot) but your post, while well intentioned, really hit a nerve with me. I sort-of agree with “anonymous” above. In my mind there are a number of great things this program would bring to PAUSD, one of them is actually opportunity for all. Not everyone will get in, but everyone will have a chance. Also, why is this program the “private school”? Do you feel the same way about Spanish Immersion?
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 4:17 pm
Dear "concerned parent",
The line in the Starr King article right after the quote you picked is:
"Our overriding goal is for all our kids to interact and get along with one another," he said, adding that integration is in the works."
The program was a month old when this article was written, call me an optimist, but I think things will start to integrate. I also think that diversity is a step in the right direction. It will benefit the students of ALL races (Asians, Whites, Latinos, Blacks) at the school. I agree with you that it is a valiant effort.
I also think that SF is very different from Palo Alto. I didn't think of this as directly transfering to the current MI in PAUSD discussion, I just thought it was an interesting article, sorry maybe it was off topic.
Posted by Pauilne, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 10, 2006 at 5:58 pm
Dear Anon and Anonymous:
I want to clarify..I never said I am against the Alternative programs we now have. I am not. I am against CONTINUING DOWN THIS PATH TOWARD DESTROYING more neighborhood schools. Remember, for every person who chooses a non-neighborhood Alternative school, another kid loses his "choice" of a neighborhood school.
Neither am I trying to "outshout" anyone. I just keep repeating the same points.
As for Nico - nobody is saying all programs have to be for all folks. We are saying that program development should be for ALL WHO QUALIFY.
Therefore, if we are going to have foreign language in elementary schools, it should be for all who qualify, not a few lottery winners.
Ok, FYI, I am done with this thread, it is getting nasty. See page 11 of the PA Weekly this last Wednesday if you want more information of opposition. Also, please go to www.paee.us if you want more information.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 7:37 pm
Ah, parent parent parent, you flatter me. No the feasibility study is not mine. Unfortunately, my kids are too old for this program. I'm just a disinterested observer who knows a good thing when he sees it. For the sake of the district, I hope it passes. I know you disagree.
The overhead issue is grasping at straws, and the rest of these arguments are rehash. I don't think any of this helps your cause, nor will making a circus of board meetings.
The proposal for MI has been around for years, and the board is looking at it because it is far-sighted and well put together, makes great educational sense, is cost neutral, fits neatly into the current choice framework, and meets community needs. The board has heard all of this and your take, too, and they will make a judgment.
Perhaps this time next year, as I pass my local school, I will hear cries of "Ni hao" across the playground.
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 8:28 pm
Bill -- I'm looking back at your posts here and they are mostly just repeated assertions with very little evidence or argument backing them up. I'm sure you'd agree that simply saying that something is so doesn't make it so. I've consistently tried to back up my opinions with arguments. How about you doing the same?
So: What is it that makes you think immersion is so different from FLES? What is it, exactly, about the MI proposal that makes it far sighted? Why, specifically, do you think MI makes great educational sense, better sense than the many other things that the district could (and I'd argue should) focus its energies on first? Which community needs do you think MI meets and meets better than any other program (like FLES, for example), could? How do you respond to the argument people have been making here that the choice system is at breaking point and that before any more choice programs are added the Board needs to decide how many choice programs it wants to accommodate (i.e. that fitting into the current choice framework isn’t a good thing if the framework is poorly conceived in the first place)?
Can you convince those of us skeptical of the merits of MI instead of just swatting at us? To paraphrase your line to Pauline—I don’t think that helps your cause.
To answer your earlier question, I had five years of Latin and five years of French in school. I wish I'd had more. The Latin I use everyday and I wish it was more widely offered.
Posted by Simon Sez, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 9:24 pm
So, you clearly haven't read the earlier posts about the MI proposal to see how it fits with policy, is benchmarked against other immersion programs to be cost neutral, and the 1985 PAUSD studies which compared multiple foreign-language delivery models and showed immersion to be the most cost effective for highest fluency delivered.
Posted by nimby, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2006 at 9:41 pm
Bill from Triple El said: "Perhaps this time next year, as I pass my local school, I will hear cries of "Ni hao" across the playground"
Awesome! Are you volunteering your local school to house this program then? That would sure make the placement problem simpler if a school actually volunteered to house this new lottery program. But so far it seems no one is stepping up to say "not only do we want this program, but please put it here!" So far all I've heard is a bunch of NIMBY support. ("Sure-they can have the program, so long as they don't destroy my school"). So let's hear from the rest of the Duveneck community: are you willing to turn your school into a half-neighborhood, half-lottery program site? I'd be far more willing to support any new lottery program if there was a school community that actually wanted it. So here's my challenge to the MI proponents: Propose a school site where 50% of the neighborhood wants the program. I don't think the debate would be nearly so contentious if we knew that the neighborhood where the program is to be placed actually wants it.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 6:54 am
Sorry to answer for Bill, but Simon Firth here are my thoughts (as a supporter of MI) on your questions.
Is it okay that MI fits with a 'choice' policy that appears close to breaking point?
I am curious why you think we are close to a breaking point? I think the opposite, every year there is higher and higher demand for the existing choice programs. In recent years, kindergarten sign-ups in lotteries for alternatives are on the rise, with 40-50% of applicants turned away. That means that over a third of PAUSD kindergarten parents are willing to forego the convenience of a nearby school in favor of alternative programs. You may not want a choice program, but many people in Palo Alto do.
Do you really believe that it will be cost neutral?
I think it will be cost neutral. We will know for certain in less than a month when the feasibility study is finished. Perhaps we should re-visit cost neutrality when we have more facts.
Does cost-effectivenness trump equity?
Again, equity for who? I am sorry but I really believe that this program will take nothing away from your neighborhood schools. And it will greatly benefit the people who dream of another language immersion program in PAUSD.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 8:13 am
I think that nobody is stepping up to say “please put it here” because the program hasn’t been approved or rejected yet. I would guess that no matter what campus they suggest, some neighbors will be supportive and some will be resistant. Also, if the lottery for MI is similar to Spanish Immersion, then there is preference shown for kids within the school’s boundaries. Choice programs over time tend to draw more and more of the "neighborhood kids."
I would also be VERY surprised if the answer the feasibility study came up with was moving kids out of a neighborhood school and moving MI in. That would seem to make the most people unhappy and that wouldn’t be good for the campus or the MI program.
The reason why there is an “Attendance Area Advisory Review” process happening right now is because the reality is there is growing enrollment in Palo Alto. There will be more strands opened at existing schools and/or a 13th campus opened, regardless of MI. If you look at the AAAG data on Barron Park (your school) you currently have the luxury of a Kindergarten class size of 14, while students are being overflowed (to Barron Park and Briones) from schools in the North because they are coming up against their 20 student max. That problem is being addressed by AAAG and I am sorry to be blunt, but you are probably going to have more kids in your backyard soon no matter what. This will be either through boundary changes (your backyard is getting bigger) or possibly through adding a choice strand at your school. Please note: your school is not the only one that is under-enrolled, and I have NO IDEA if it is being considered for MI, and I am not even a member of AAAG, I just looked up the data on Barron Park since it is your school. Also, on page 15 of the AAAG meeting packet from September 11, 2006 there is a slide called “Possible Options for Dealing with Mismatch between Facilities and Geographical Distribution of Students” that has lists “change attendance boundaries” and “locate a choice program” as 2 possible options.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Triple El neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 8:22 am
I agree with Nico here. I think MI supporters have laid these points out many times, so Iâ€™m not sure what could convince you.
As to FLES vs immersion: Youâ€™ve studied foreign languages, so you know what thatâ€™s like and can imagine what FLES might look like. You also have a reasonable idea of the results one could hope for. You, rightly I think, see this as an addition to the curriculum. You began listing some of the benefits above somewhere: some knowledge a foreign language, increased English knowledge, etc.
OK so far. Then you assume that immersion is like that but more so. You seem to believe that immersion kids just get a double-extra portion of something good in their curriculum. I think if you read up on this youâ€™ll find you that this is not how researchers or teachers see it. As you increase the amount of time devoted to the target language, a threshold is crossed and something different happens: the curriculum is delivered in the target language. They learn history in the language. They learn math in the language. Immersion is not an addition to the curriculum but a different way to deliver it (think Ohlone or Hoover). Of course, immersion kids come away with a language skill that is orders of magnitude greater than FLES+middle school language instruction+high school language instruction can provide. But immersion kids also gain problem solving skills, cultural awareness, language acquisition skills (for third and fourth languages), a world worldview, English language skills (Cupertino mandarin speakers! test among the best at English in the district), etc. that do not come with FLES.
Once you pare back the hours in the target language to FLES levels, all these benefits fall away. So no, parents who favor immersion do not have similar needs, and FLES and immersion are not as similar as you assume. Also, many parents seeking FLES will not want to commit to the extra demands of immersion. I think if you do some reading on immersion you will agree with me.
Tying immersion to world languages, besides being dilatory, makes no sense. Suppose we had a world languages program. How would that change any thinking on immersion? Would it alter your non-arguments about equity, choice programs, neighborhood schools, cost neutrality? Naw. Youâ€™d be right here trying to make the same points.
Posted by Wanted to know, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 8:42 am
Thanks, Bill and Nico, for clearly explaining the differences between immersion and languages for all kids. It's not the same, despite some opposers clamoring on one side to "get the same equitable foreign language education for all" but not willing to put in the commitment that immersion requires. And the benefits are clearly different. Fluency vs. exposure. Duh!
Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 8:56 am
Bill -- thanks for your thoughtful response. You say "immersion kids also gain problem solving skills, cultural awareness, language acquisition skills (for third and fourth languages), a world worldview, English language skills (Cupertino mandarin speakers! test among the best at English in the district), etc. that do not come with FLES." I think those do come with FLES, also, just maybe not so dramatically. I had FLES and I feel they improved my English, broadened my worldview, helped me learn a third language and raised my cultural awareness. I'm not sure about problem solving--I think there are greater influences on that skill than languages, whether taught by FLES or immersion. I think we'll just have to disagree on this.
As I think I've said above, I'm not against immersion per se. So FLES could exist with immersion, sure. But because, unlike you, I feel that FLES and immersion have similar aims that puts them on a continuum, I'm suggesting is that we hold off THIS decision until the entire subject of languages is considered properly. It's been considered before but I think times have changed -- many more parents than before now seem to want language instruction as central part of their children's education, not as an add-on.
Lastly, when it comes to publicly funded education, equity of access to enrichment programs is really crucial to me. Because I see immersion and FLES as connected, I'd have little problem with immersion if everyone had the chance to learn languages when young. So if we did have an elementary languages program I'd not be here arguing for a no vote on MI. I'd be supporting it -- so long as it could find a home (like a reopened elementary school) that did not displace families from their local school.
A last thought -- I'd support the entire district being taught in immersion! Of course it's not going to happen, but if that was the only way to get languages into the curriculum, I'd be for it. I think languages are that important. It wouldn't even cost anything to implement, since immersion is cost-neutral, right?
I think I'm repeating myself too much now, so I'm done with this thread. Good to debate with you Bill and I hope to meet you in the flesh some time. All the best.
Posted by Interested Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 4:39 pm
What I am seeing here is causing me to worry a little and perhaps someone can explain it to me. If a new kinder is going into an immersion classroom not understanding a word of the target language I can understand that as the days wear on she will start understanding a little and begin to learn the language. I can see also that at some point in the day as reading and writing skills are being taught, that English will have to be spoken or else the reading and writing of English will suffer. What I fail to see is how can this child who knows nothing of the target language, on their first day in the classroom, learn any math, or science, or social science, etc. etc. Music and p e can easily be picked up by someone who doesn't understand the language, (although in Kindergarten I know we don't have specialised teachers teaching pe, music and art, but in 1st grade and up I presume that the immersion students have regular pe, music and art teachers who don't speak the target language) but I can't see how they learn the other stuff. So do we have any figures for how the average SI first grader compares in scores with the average non SI child in math, etc.
The reason I ask this is because a friend of mine moved to the US when her daughter was 4 years old, entered kindergarten as a completely non English speaker and was so behind at the end of the year that she was asked to repeat Kindergarten. Her second year in Kindergarten improved her English immensely and she caught up completely in the other subjects. She is now one of the brightest in her grade level and speaking to her, you wouldn't know that English was a second language. Her immersion into English was exactly the same as someone entering a SI or MI programme might be, but it did hold her back for a year and I am wondering similarly if this is in effect the case in SI?
“ In the early years, immersion teachers realize that their students will not understand everything they say. They use body language, visuals, manipulatives, exaggerated facial expressions, and expressive intonation to communicate their meaning. In kindergarten it is common for students to speak English with their peers and when responding to their teacher. As the years progress, students naturally use more of the immersion language. To draw students into using the language, teachers often use songs, useful phrases, chants, and rhymes and carefully structure the day with familiar routines.”
The experience described above would be very different from a non-English speaker entering an all English speaking class with only English speaking children and teachers.
I also really don’t want to “stir the pot” with Simon Firth, but here is another quote from the same Website that addresses cognitive development:
“In addition to reaping the social and economic advantages of bilingualism, immersion learners benefit cognitively, exhibiting greater nonverbal problem-solving abilities and more flexible thinking (see reviews in Met, 1998). It has been suggested that the very processes learners need to use to make sense of the teacher’s meaning make them pay closer attention and think harder. These processes, in turn, appear to have a positive effect on cognitive development. However, a high level of second language proficiency is needed in order to experience the positive cognitive benefits that come with bilingualism (Cummins, 1981). From the standpoint of academic achievement, over three decades of studies consistently show that immersion students achieve as well as or better than non-immersion peers on standardized measures of verbal and mathematics skills administered in English (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000; Genesee, 1987).
Posted by alum, a member of the Escondido School community, on Nov 11, 2006 at 6:27 pm
I'm highly skeptical of all the claims about MI being revenue neutral, no need to wait until the district gets elemenentary foreign language instruction in place for all students, MI will benefit the host school etc.
In 1997 when Spanish Immersion was forced on Escondido School by decision of the principal -- whose own child was enrolled in the program!!! -- we heard many of the same arguments:
* Spanish Immersion would be cost neutral,
* the SI program would provide special benefits to PAUSD children who were native speakers of Spanish (most of whom are from relatively disadvantaged homes compared to the six figure incomes required to buy houses in this town. These native speakers would flourish with their culture validated in the classroom, leading to a reduction in the achievement gap for participating Latino children,
* participants would be chosen in a fair lottery,
* children in Escondido's "regular" program would benefit from the presence of SI on campus,
* yes, acquiring a second language could hold back fluency in reading and math in English for the first few years, but by 5th grade achievement across the board would be on par with regular classrooms -- and the children would also have near-native fluency in Spanish,
* costs and results would be evaluated objectively before the "pilot" was made permanent,
* the next step was to develop a world language program that would benefit all PAUSD children, and
* out of concern for the neighborhood children walking and biking to school, all the out-of-neighborhood families assigned to Escondido school would carpool to minimize their traffic impact.
What really happened is very different:
* SI parents devoted themselves to fundraising for their children's classrooms only, and successfully lobbied both the principal and the district office for many more resources than were allowed to the "regular" classrooms. Library purchases, for example, were disproportionately favoring the SI program for years. Meanwhile, the neighborhood schools where those children would have gone were deprived of the energy and $$$ from SI families.
* Native Spanish speaking children from disadvantaged backgrounds were almost all squeezed out of the program by 4th grade. I haven't heard anyone claim claiming achievement gap benefits for the SI program anymore. Don't know what came of the claim that SI could not be successful without at least 1/3 native speakers in each class.
* The lottery results somehow turned out so that key organizer's children all managed to win spaces in the program -- even one who lived in Cupertino and needed board approval for an inter-district transfer!! And because sibling preference is allowed in all the district's so-called "choice" programs, there were years when only a tiny number of children from College Terrace and Evergreen Park were accepted into the program. Of course, families from Escondido Village, who were more transient, were effectively excluded from participation.
* The "evaluation" of the program after the first 6 years just looked at the achievement levels of the children who had not dropped out of the program. There was nothing objective about it. The board seemed to focus only on the fact that the parents whose children were still in the program were happy with it.
* Nothing whatsoever was done to develop the promised language program that would benefit all PAUSD elementary students, not just the chosen few whose parents waved checks at the district for their private school within a school.
* After initially high carpooling by the "founding families" of the SI program, there's been a big dropoff. Traffic congestion on Stanford Avenue is much more of a problem with all the parents driving from Los Altos Hills and all across town, because the only access to the school is via STanford Avenue. Non-neighborhood parents park across residents' driveways, and are too much in a hurry to teach their children to cross at the traffic signal -- they cross midblock to go in via the back driveway.
So now we're being asked to believe all the benefits imagined by SI supporters will accrue to children learning a language where children have to learn 3000+ characters in order to read at a basic level. Right. What kind of equal opportunity will there be for blacks, Latinos, or poor children of any race/ethnicity? What will happen when all the children who turn out to have learning disabilities get pushed out of the MI program because they can't keep up?
Bottom line: Cost neutrality is a joke. The feasibility study that should be happening now should be about a foreign language program that would benefit all children. Until that happens, parents who want MI should find a private school that gives them what they want and not try to get public funds to achieve something that is not a PAUSD priority.
Posted by Interested Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 6:54 pm
Thanks for the info. However, I still can't see any information how 1st graders, or even 2nd graders (where they have to do STAR testing presumably in English) compare between SI and traditional classes.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 8:05 pm
Hi Interested Parent,
After some google-ing, I couldn't find the STAR test scores broken out. Escondido school as a whole did really well in english and math. The english language arts score in 2006 was 71% with a state average of 47%. I think this data includes 2 strands of neighborhood and 2 strands of SI kids.
I am not connected to the SI program, so I am not sure how you could, or if you could, get STAR data by class. Or compare SI to non-SI classes. Maybe you can call Escondido on Monday and see?
In the link I posted earlier to the immersion research I found, they do address a "lag in English." I pasted the quote below. Maybe this is what you are concerned about? Some immersion programs ask students and parents to commit to stick with the program through 5th grade for this reason. I have to say from my personal experience with immersion, I never witnessed this lag. Also, the SI program doesn't teach only in English, they start out at something like 80%Spanish and 20%English and drop to 50%/50% by 5th grade.
"Many parents are initially fearful that immersion may have a negative impact on their child’s English language development. But research consistently finds that the immersion experience actually enhances English language development (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000). It should be noted that full immersion students’ English development may lag temporarily in reading, word knowledge, and spelling while instruction is occurring exclusively in the immersion language. However, after a year or two of instruction in English language arts, this discrepancy disappears (Genesee, 1987). It is important for parents to understand that this lag is temporary and to be expected."
Posted by Interested Parent, a resident of Atherton, on Nov 11, 2006 at 8:49 pm
Thanks Nico for your research.
I know it didn't quite come across in my post, but I was thinking not so much of English as those results were what I expected, but more in math and science. I strongly agree that learning a foreign language is actually a boost in learning English as grammar, punctuation, word meaning, dictionary skills, etc. get boosted by learning any foreign language and for that reason alone a language is a good idea. I had to learn 2 years Latin, and it was that which enabled me to understand language skills for all languages, grammar, tenses, word placement in sentences, word ending, prepositions, etc., all of which really helped me in my essay skills, etc. But I am more concerned about how much the students may get left behind in math and science as so much of what is learnt in Kindergarten in these subjects is mathematical building blocks which help all future math learning take place. For example, learning to count to 100 in English is very tricky for some students, but extremely important to enable the young mathematicians see patterns on the 100 number square. If on top of trying to understand the patterns, they are stumbling over the foreign language of counting to 100 in ones, twos, fives, etc. they are in effect making what for some may be complex enough already, ten times harder.
I know from my own schooling, that those students who were good at languages (including English) were not necessarily the ones who were also good at math and science. Those who were good at language were often also good at art, history, geography, and other subjects where being able to write descriptively was an asset. The language skills of really being able to think in the language and feel the language, then write it, was very different to those who attacked the language as a science by following the rules and strictly translating the material after they had made their initial assessment of the assignment in English. In other words, there are two different ways of learning a language, either by feeling/intuitive learning, or by scientific/rules/translation learning.
From this first hand knowledge of my own school experience I have no doubts that some will succeed in getting an all round education from an immersion program much better than others. I do know of one family who got lucky and got into SI and tried it for about a semester before giving up because their child was getting nowhere in both the language and other subjects. This child was having emotional, behavior and other problems before he changed schools and as soon as he was in a traditional classroom, all these problems changed and he returned to the happy child he was before. I expect he was unusual in not being able to cope with it, but it did happen to him and I would be very surprised if he was the only one whose family gave up at some time to return to the traditional approach. It would be interesting to know if there were figures about this available also.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 11, 2006 at 10:13 pm
The story in your post above about the boy who was happier in his neighborhood school is interesting. To me it shows how important it is to have choices. Some students will thrive in traditional classrooms, some will thrive at Ohlone, and hopefully some will thrive in a Mandarin Immersion program. Kids and parents (and kid’s and parent’s brains and personalities) are not all the same. They won't all thrive in the same environment.
The idea of a Dual Immersion class was dreamed up last year in response to a rather drastic achievement gap between the school's English-only and English learner students on the annual STAR exams.
"We went back to our data and we knew we had to do something different, even though we've had a bilingual program for years," Santana said. "We visited several different schools and the top programs again and again were Dual Immersion."
And the academic rewards are substantial as well, educators say. Though one might expect a student's English skills to suffer if most of the class time is spent learning Spanish, the program's proponents say their research indicates that students who make it through the program outperform English-only students in the long run.
"There is that catch-up year, when you might see them performing a little behind on their English tests," Dizon said. "But having that second language gives students a different understanding of English, and they do very well on tests."
Posted by alum, a member of the Escondido School community, on Nov 12, 2006 at 12:09 pm
Since the MI proponents are flooding this thread with repetitions of assertions about the benefits to those lucky few who win the lotteryr, let me point out that no one has responded to my report on the reality of what happened at Escondido School in the first years that SI was imposed on that school.
Also, the points made by Better Way on November 8 (and many others who are challenging the spin that MI advocates keep sending out 24/7) are being (conveniently) ignored. I've pasted them in at the end for reference.
The low class sizes for SI in the upper grades should be a major scandal, given what the regular classrooms don't have the option of smaller class sizes as more and more students come to the PAUSD.
And yet what we keep hearing about is "research" showing the benefits to individual children who don't get washed out of a language immersion program?
As Simon noted in the first message on this thread:
"So sure, let’s give ourselves the luxury of immersion programs, but not until everyone who wants to join one is allowed to (so it is really a choice), and when every child in a PAUSD elementary school has the SAME curriculum—that means mean offering ALL PAUSD students the chance to learn a language in elementary school BEFORE any more language immersion programs get voted through."
Amen to that!
Post by Better Way on November 8:
"Who said language was a priority? If the community says it is, then it should be a priority, and everyone should have access. If its not a priority, then its not, then why are we wasting our staff's time? OUr community's time? Our Board's time? The priorities are (should be) found in the District strategic priorities, the community priority survey (Bregman survey, March 2006), in PIE benchmark study, and in the Elementary and Secondary SIP plans. No where in any of those does it say we need more choice programs, and elementary language come in low at best. (PIE Benchmark is the only thing that suggest we should go after language at all, and that suggests it should be FLES.) Closing the achievement gap is the biggest issue in PAUSD right now.
With regard to the $1.4 vs $2M: provided to show that $2M isn't all that much when compared to the size of the MI program, for how much better of a program you would receive in terms of reach and equity. Also, $1.4 clearly is not the complete cost of MI given $1.4 only covers teachers salaries. The only way we'll see the whole cost of the program is when Marilyn Cook deems us worthy of seeing that info. At that time, they'll tell you its cost neutral because someone else is going to foot the bill for the incremental. (There WILL be the incremental costs as described above, or else they're lying. There will also be incremental district costs that NEITHER SI or MI 'count' in determining they are cost neutral. By the way, when was the last time SI reported out their 'cost neutral' financial picture?
Even when MI comes back and says they are cost neutral because someone else is paying (for now), that doesn't meant that there is no extra per student funding going to that program. If they come back and say the program holds incremental costs of anything more than $100,000 per year ($400 x 240), which would be less than one incremental employee, then it costs more on a per student basis then FLES.
This says nothign of the fact that SI (and MI) will enjoy much smaller class sizes than normal. SI is running at 18 or 19 at the 4th/5th level. Standard 5th grades in PAUSD are running at about 22 (off the top of my head, perhaps someone will correct that.) I wonder if our grade level performance would improve across the district if class sizes were reduced across the board by 4-5 students per classroom.. Another example of inequitable distribution of resources.
The MI conception is really a luxurious program, for very few lottery winning students, for a low priority 'issue'. That very few students will be interested, is even more reason that PAUSD should not consider it. Shame on them for dragging it on THIS long. "
Posted by No flooding here!, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 1:01 pm
Last time I checked, this has been a healthy - balanced discussion:
Opponents – Total 39: Simon 12, Pauline 4, Better way 2, Midtowner 1, Parent 7, Paly parent 3, John 1, k 1, r 1, achievement gap 1, another parent 1, ex private school 1, nimby 1, wanted to know 1, alum 2
Supporters – Total 34: Bill 11, choice is good 3, Phil 1, Grace 4, anon 1, anonymous 2, Fairmeadow parent 1, Nico 9, Bye Pauline 1, Simon Sez 1
Besides, this isn't a popularity contest. Educators are making a professional feasibility study about a potential new program. If there's info to be learned, they're supposed to find out officially, not thru hear-say:
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 1:14 pm
In multiple conversations with the district staff involved in the feasiblity study, you will see that they will not be providing any information about whether the program works, specifically they will not be giving us any insights into why model programs have such high attrition rates.
The Mandarin model program in Cupertino has a very high turnover, about 8% per year of students do not return. That's ongoing, not just poor start up results.
That means that test scores in later years tell you ZERO about the effectiveness of the program - because you begin testing students who come in as bilingual proficient.
In the SIP review the principal of Escondido, said, gee he didn't know what the SI attrition rate was, he thought that about 3 or so exited from third grade last year 10%! Three not alot, well, do the math and figure out how many that would be year over year.
If they don't prove it, its not proven.
Its experimental and they're not willing to pony up the data to prove it works. Even right here at home.
When is PAUSD going to start showing us the statistical data for their own programs? (Well, for Ohline and Hoover, they are because they sit in their own schhool alone. But no one has any visibility of any relevence about SI. Nor do we have any for Cupertino's program, nor is the feasibilyt study going to provide any.
Never apparently. The "We don't know but we're getting alot of money for it" school of performance evaluation is going strong right here in good ol PAUSD.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 1:28 pm
If PAUSD opens a new school it will be a neighborhood school in that neighborhood.
So MI want's you to believe that if we open a new school and they get placed in that school, they want you to believe (through a wave of a magic wand) ~no one gets displaced~. False. The same number of kids get displaced from a newly formed neighborhood school.
I find the most interesting and informative comments on this thread to be the ones from the Alum from Escondido. Will the feasibility study return ~any~ information showing us the results of SI based on demographic details? Peformance of original entrants versus proficiency tested entrants? Any demographic statistical performance whatsover?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 2:26 pm
Response to Grace in "what comes around goes around". Yes, its unfortunate that all the same arguments exist as did in 1994, and all the same issues exist as did then. None have been answered, no performance results for SI or other MI programs exist today. We see data at the total school level only, we see no cost/revenue data for program, we see no attrition/turnover data, we see no demographic data, we see no impact analysis at the district department level, we see no balanced post mortem information from parents who have attended, no study of the reasons why children drop out. Nothing to help us answer these questions.
What we have all over again is a special interest group buying a slice of PAUSD, with nothing better to offer than 'we've been working on this for four years and so we deserve it'. And "since PAUSD is doing it in Spanish, we should be allowed to have it in our language", and "we'll pay for it, so why should you care". NOt a single good compelling reason why this should be a priority for PAUSD.
What IS the benefit for PAUSD? (We understand the benefit of language education for the 40 (or less) kids per year that will graduate with this fabulous enrichment, and we understand the benefits to the parents of those kids who won't have to pay $16,000 per year for private school) What I mean is what is the benefit for PAUSD? I haven't heard any in any of the posts or materials I've seen so far.
Posted by Nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 4:03 pm
I just spent some time, ok a whole bunch of time, looking into your assertion that “The low class sizes for SI in the upper grades should be a major scandal.” And have found out that this is actually not true if you look at the numbers. SI has LARGER than PAUSD average class sizes in K-4th as well as in their 4th/5th mixed class. In 5th grade they have 2 less students than the class average for PAUSD and again this is ONLY in grade 5.
4th grade data, SI has slightly larger than average class size:
The average 4th grade class size in 2006 in PAUSD was 20.6 students/class. SI has 21 students in it’s 4th grade class. It is average or above average (depending on where you put the decimal point).
4th/5th mixed strand, above average?
I am not quite sure how to tally this one, but SI has a “half-strand” class that is mixed 4th and 5th. This is not due to attrition, but Escondido school and SI started with a program that was 1.5 strands. Ohlone is the only other campus with mixed classes. The “mixed class” 4th/5th average class size this year is 19.4. There are 20 kids in the SI mixed class, so also above average class size.
5th grade data, SI has smaller than average class size
The average class size in PAUSD for 5th grade is 21.1 students. SI 5th grade has 19. So I guess that SI is “getting over” with a smaller class size by 2.1 students (but not the 4 or 5 per class that alum suggests). Don’t tell anyone, but Juana Briones is “getting over” too, they also have 5th grades at 19 and 20.
SI has above average class sizes every single year except 5th grade.
Grade level, PAUSD AVERAGE, (# in SI)
1st, 19.7, (21)
2nd, 19.7, (20)
3rd, 19.7, (20)
4th, 20.6, (21)
5th, 21.1, (19)
I think this hardly constitutes a scandal. I linked to the AAAG information in an earlier post. If you want to check these numbers I think you can find them at the PAUSD Website by following the link in my earlier post. Can we put class size and attrition to rest now?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 6:36 pm
Nope, you don't count kinders as returning students. Do the math since 2000, without counting new year kinders. The average is definitely 7-8% do not return. Besides even at 4% attrition per year, that means you have 81% of the kids that start remaining by 6th grade. If PAUSD was graduating 81% of kids from elementary into middle school, there'd be a firestorm. Heads would be rolling.
The real question is WHY? Why such high attrition??? Has anybody gathered feedback from more than just 2 or three parents of people who have left the program early?
At at that rate, regarless of why they leave, the test scores at higher grade NO LONGER PROVE THAT THE PROGRAM WORKS. The test scores at the higher grades are testing kids who learned to be bilingual somewhere else..
There is no reason to believe PAUSD's results will be any different! No evidence or data has been provided to prove anything else!
Posted by Looking for Public Disclosure, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Nov 12, 2006 at 6:43 pm
Who are the contributors to PACE? Specifically who and in what dollar amounts contributed to the $140,000 for the feasibility study?
PIE discloses their donors by dollar amount. Our political contributors are required to be disclosed. Its generally accepted principal that those who would seek to buy influence in our public agencies should be disclosed?
Why are we not receiving this disclosure? Will this be part of the feasiblity study results? Why not?
Secondly, were the 900 signatures on the PACE petition validated to be PAUSD residents? Will that be part of the feasibility study report? I think its absolutely relevent to understand if we have one signature from a PAUSD resident and 899 from Cupertino, San Francisco, Mountain View, and China who would like to see PAUSD spend its resources on this program.
Will the feasibility study show us the validation of residency on the 900 names?
If not, how does the Board know this is not being driven by one or two wealthy families, or other special interest group? That's not a rhetorical question. I'd like to know how they Board knows this to be a valid request supported by the community?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 6:58 pm
Fact Checker: They had 330 kids enrolled last year in Cupertino MI. Not counting the new kinders in 2006 (because they weren't in the program base last year, they're new to program this year), they had 305 1st - 8th enrolled in the program for 2006. That's 25 kids less this year than last. -25/330 = -7.58% Not returning.
Per 11th day enrollment stats from Cupertino MI program director.
I hope this is not an indication of the type of 'information' we are going to receive in the feasibility study results.
This is a very good reason why people should voice their opinions to the board that a presentation on 12/12 and a decision on 1/9 is going to be absolutely unacceptable. That will leave about 3 days before break, and about 3 working days after break, with no board meeting or public discussion in between, and extremely limited time for public or board review (and scrutiny) on the feasiblity study. Shame on STAFF for suggesting such timing. They've had over six months to pull this stuff together. Surely they can give the Board and the Public more than 6 working days to review it???
Why would we be seeing that kind of an attempting to manipulate timing like that? I can't imagine.
Posted by Not buying, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 7:06 pm
OK Nico, hows this for scandal. Lets as the District Staff why the SI program, was allowed to increase its Kinder class by 10 this year to 40, was told to only pull from the three North Palo Alto schools that are overcrowded? And were also told to make sure they got the 1/3 native speakers which are so difficult to find...
Did they get board approval for that?
(Did they get board approval to expand to 40?)
Could it be that our "Lottery" choice programs are not populated by lottery, but actually by manipulation to suit the needs of the latest staff problem? And who gets to decide what STAFF problems are met? Is there any oversight on how our choice programs work?
And by the way, if you look at history prior to this year, you'll see the 4th/5th SI classes running at 18 and 19 per class. Average class size in PAUSD has been running at 22...
Posted by Fact Checker, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 8:04 pm
The relevant numbers are for enrollment in grades 1-5 this year compared with K-4 last year. Of 268 kids, 257 returned, for a year-on-year attrition rate of 4 percent.
Your numbers including grades 6, 7, and 8 are irrelevant to this discussion. (Many immersion families will choose to mainstream their kids after elementary school, but that shift in middle school is no reflection on the elementary school program.)
The 4 percent seems pretty small, especially when you consider that families pull children from schools/programs for many reasons: e.g. they move away, have other siblings in other schools, etc.
You equate children who leave the Cupertino program (whether because they move away or are dissatisfied or whatever) with kids who do not graduate from elementary to middle school. That doesn't make sense.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 12, 2006 at 9:49 pm
Thank you for clarifying the conveniently arbitrary line we should draw in the Cupertino MI program that tells us when the program is no longer liable for its results. That X number of families choose not to carry forward into middleschool level, even though the program is fabulous, and the ultimate goal, as we understand it, is to graduate high school as bilingual, biliterate, (preferably with AP Mandarin under one's belt), I find it puzzling that the Cupertino program wouldn't consider attrition after 5th grade as a problem.
However its good to know that we shouldn't expect steady enrollment after 5th grade. Perhaps we should take a copy and paste of this string for 2012 when PACE pushes for MI classrooms in PAUSD middleschools, which I guess will be unneccessary overkill given parents prefer to mainstream their children at that time (but not before).
However, there are couple problems with the statistics that both you and I have, which I'm sure the feasibility study will clear up for us.
One is, how many children really are leaving hte program? We can only see net numbers in the enrollment figures, so we know the attrition is actually worse than presented. To illustrate my meaning, we heard from the Escondido principal in the SIP review meeting that about 3 kids left the SI program at third grade last year. But mysteriously, the year over year results are steady at 30. Which means attrition is being covered up by re-enrollment.
What's wrong with that?
Nothing, except this. First, we don't have any idea of how many kids are actually attritioning this program. (He wasn't sure, they're not keeping track, etc. etc. so forth.)
Second, for kids to re-enter they must be tested as bilingual at grade level. Which means so much for the lottery concept AND so much for any 1/3 2/3 balance or any demographic balance that may have been present during the lottery process.
Third, once you start admitting kids that are tested for proficiency, TEST SCORES lose their meaning. Its impossible to say that the higher grades are showing improved test scores due to the fabulous results of this program, unless you show us the test scores for the kids that started the program from kindergarten. Otherwise, the tests are rating kids that learned to be bilingual somewhere else. (or we don't know, the test results are now tainted.)
Additionally, as I mentioned, at 8% attrition, this means the program would be graduating about 65% by 6th grade. At 4%, this means the program would be graduating about 81% by 6th grade. Unacceptable success rate either way.
No matter how you cut it, Cupertino's statistics are bad. And the test scores for performance of the students left in the program are in question. The only ones who will surely be more than ready to dispell this will be the feasibility study.
Surely they are interested in an unbiased study into whether this program actually works, before they bring PAUSD down this path? Surely they must be.
Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2006 at 10:32 am
Thank you "alum, a member of the Escondido School community", I hope someone is listening at the board level. It is absolutley amazing that SI has been allowed to continue without a complete evaluation of all the facts - cost neutrality, academics, attrition rates, class sizes(and not just for last year),lottery equity, false claims, etc. And now we want to add another private school choice program to PAUSD? Since you are an alum, from what I understand, problems continue with SI lottery enrollment,. The neighborhod priority enrollment has never been realized, hearsay has it that this year, one person even moved into the neighborhood temporarily to apply to SI, got in, and then promptly moved out of the neighborhood. Couple that with larger than average numbers of PAUSD employee kids who "luckily" get into SI, the scandalous Cupertino resident and resident celerity's kids miraculously winning the SI lottery when neighborhood kids are kept out. Nobody has ever held SI accountable, glad to know someone else out there actually knows the truth.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2006 at 11:10 am
Well, I think it makes a difference because PACE is giving $140,000 to PAUSD to buy 1/2 of a school for their special interest program.
I don't know if the school district knows who the donors for the lights of the gym were or not, but its a capital improvement that will be around for 20-30 years, a long time to come, available for use by everyone in the community, so I think its an apples to orange comparison. I hardly imagine a new gym floor or stadium lights carry the same kind of controversy for the community, but there's one in every crowd. If it bothers you, this is information you should definitely ask for from the Board, it should be public information!
The signatures on the MI opposition came from the elemenetary and secondary schools in Palo Alto, gathered in about two weeks at the end of last school year. Many more (not counted yet) have been gathered since school started back up this year. The school board seems to be showing little interest in the over 400+ signatures against MI, but they're more than welcome to research every single one of those if they wish, as they validate the PACE petition. Fair IS fair after all!
We have asked the board, repeatedly for this information. No response, or the response is that they are not asking these questions! If they're not asking, how do they know? Are they failing in their due diligence on this critical decision?
Maybe if a few more community members started to ask this question of the board, we'd start to get some answers.
The last sentence of Grip's post - I don't even get, so I won't venture a comment. Maybe she'd like to elaborate on that for the folks?
Posted by nico, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2006 at 12:05 pm
OK, so I am getting sucked back into this thread by your earlier post. And it’s a post with a really nasty tone to boot. It is obvious that you are strongly opposed to MI and your questions are leading and asked in a very accusatory tone. I like nothing more than actually discussing immersion, you don’t seem to want to discuss, you want to condemn and that is not interesting to respond to. We just disagree. I will however give these final questions the benefit of the doubt and answer them as if you really wanted answers.
Who is PACE?
PACE is a not for profit Palo Alto parent volunteer organization.
Who are the contributors for the $140,000 in start up money for MI?
First of all, your $140,000 figure is completely wrong, I am not sure where it came from and why it keeps getting spread. In fact $68,000 was donated to PAUSD to go towards Mandarin Immersion costs. Probably most, if not all, of that $68K was raised by, or facilitated by, PACE. PACE asked people in the community and it’s members to donate whatever they could afford to PAUSD. People sent in checks. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I will tell you that I have personally contributed $500 and a lot of time and office supplies to PACE. When I have more to give, I will because I think a great new program for PAUSD and it’s children is a great cause. We have also had fundraising dinners at Hobee’s and may sell bumper stickers in the near future. PACE raises money the way any other not for profit group raises money.
Will the 900 signatures be validated as PAUSD residents?
Why should they? This seems like a huge waste of effort to me. I don’t think there is any doubt from anybody, including you, that there will be a lot of interest in this program. Many of the posts on this thread fault the program for potentially having more demand than supply. Also, on a practical level I don’t have time to do this, PAUSD doesn’t have time to do this and I am pretty certain that Grace doesn’t have time to do this.
We have also asked the school board if there is any doubt about community support and if doing the signature validation (or getting more signatures), would confirm that there is demand for MI. So far we have heard they don’t have concerns about there being community support, or concerns about the demand for the program, or concerns about the validity of the 900 signatures.
I really think that at the heart of your questions is an accusation that PACE is somehow dishonest. I think you hoped that the answer to the funding question was something like “oh, Hu Jintao sent us a check” so that you could say we are a puppet of the Chinese government. And the answer to the 900 signatures was “oh we made them up” so you can discredit PACE as liars. Sorry, I am unable to give you any of the answers you seem to be fishing for. And it has been my experience over the last 9 or so months (since I met Grace and started volunteering for PACE) that the PACE people are neither puppets nor liars. We, probably actually like you, truly believe that what we are working towards will be great for Palo Alto and PAUSD. We are a group of parents in Palo Alto who want to make a positive difference. If you would like to meet me, or PACE to see for yourself, email me at email@example.com
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2006 at 12:52 pm
No, I'm just asking for a list, much like PIE publishes. Much like political campaigns are required to publish. I believe the dollar ranges required in those cases are in approx $250 range for disclosing contributions. Will PACE provide a similar list?
$140,000 was pledged for the feasibility study and first year start up (you can see the amount in the 8/29 Board Study Session materials.) You obviously are on the inside track of the feasiblity study to know how much is actually getting spent of that money. The rest of us I guess have to wait for the feasibility study reports on 12/12. By the way, we have asked for the data that PACE and the STAFF are using to create the feasibility study, and have been told the rest of us must wait until they're ready to publish.
You confirm that the Board is not interested in validating the 900 signatures, or even asking who the financial contributors are. And that it exactly what is puzzling and concerning - not who the contributors are, but why the board is not asking for this information and disclosing it publicly. Its about transparency in government.
I'm wondering what gives the board the ability to say there is community support behind this proposal. A waiting list for people signed up for SI is hardly enough of a signal of community support for another Choice program or for an intense Mandarin Immersion program that will saddle this district with complexity and cost for years to come. As stated previously, an SI waiting list may just be people looking for more language education, or it may be more people interested in Spanish, or it may just be a way for people to try to stay in their neighborhood school.
I would like to understand the Board's non-anecdotal methods for validing the community support for MI. Are there any?
I would like to see a validation of the 900 signatures, since they seemed to believe there is broad community support for the program and the PACE petition was used in the original presentation as proof of that community support. Board vote to go forward with the feasibility study was predicated on that petition plus a pledge of funding.
The fact that the board is not even asking seems to indicate their decision making abilities are impaired on this matter. Or. They are distracted by other priority issue?
And I would like to see a list published of donors for the $140,000 and a validation of the 900 signatures, as proof that the board is making a well considered, unbiased decision. "I'll take your word for it" is friendly but not necessarily a sign of good decision making. Public officials need to be held accountable.
Posted by Another Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2006 at 1:54 pm
I certainly DO doubt (very much) that there will be very much interest in this program. Which is why demand analysis is such an important part of the Board's duty in this decision.
I doubt parents will be willing to experiment on their children in this fashion in large numbers. Any parent asking the questions and doing due diligence research will find that Mandarin Immersion programs in the US are either in an experimental start up phase, are designed to target english learners (not English speakers with no mandarin background), or are targeting a mix of english proficiency with very mixed and unclear unproven results.
(I spoke to one very happy SI parent who said if the SI program was in Mandarin, that would be a whole different story. She wouldn't do it because the language is so different, and the ability to help from home would be so minimal. She is not a Spanish speaker.)
I for one wouldn't be willing to gamble, and I would be alarmed if very many parents in PAUSD would be willing to forgo the PAUSD public education, one they are already paying a premium for in terms of property costs, to do an experiment on their five year olds.
In fact, I think it will ~ADD~ to the achievement gap at the 2nd and 3rd grade level, and we'll find ourselves playing catchup for many more elementary kids. I hope they all make it through to the other side, and I wonder if the MI payers will foot the bill for the catchup costs for those kids?
Undoubtedly there are always outliers who opt for a gamble, so surprised I will be.
It would be a clearer benefit, with a higher chance for success, and broader reach, and better long term economic prospects for the students, if we started up a district wide science intensive program. I will never understand how PAUSD would go forward with MI before addressing its highest priority issues.
Posted by Tulley, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2006 at 4:55 pm
I, too, am interested in hearing more about PACE. Who is donating money for the feasibility study of Mandarin Immersion? Is it a few individuals, corporations, local businesses, other entities? I think that when there is pressure to alter the course of the district backed up by money, with disregard for the stated priorities of the community, then I'd like more information as to who the players are. In addition, I will be hoping to see that all this is within the PiE guidelines.
Also as to demand outpacing supply, I think that if there is a big demand, that demand is for foreign language study for elementary students, not necessarily Mandarin, and not necessarily in the immersion format.
Get A Grip
What was that last comment about? FYI, I signed the petition in opposition to a new MI program at a PAUSD elementary school (outside the school grounds, by the way). What was your point with that question anyway?
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 19, 2006 at 8:19 am
I think a lot of conflict over this issue would have been avoided if the Board had simply approached this issue in a thoughtful manner.
If the Board had decided that now was the time to discuss whether or not to pursue foreign language instruction in elementary schools...fine..then they could hold public discussions, then decide yes or not. If the vote was yes to consider foreign language in the elementary school, then the Board could have proceeded in a logical manner to build analysis: would parents of YOUNG children support this path? If so, what kind of program? Which language or languages? What percent of students would we try to reach? How would we determine which students qualify for the program? Would it be on the basis of only kids who are at the Basic level or above to avoid stressing "achievement gap" kids? Would it be an "elective" in the elementary school? Would every school have an "immersion" strand to allow all the neighborhood kids who want it to immerse, and the rest of the kids to choose it for 30 minutes per day?
What was lacking was an approach to this issue which utilized all the incredible brain-power, paid and volunteer, in this district. It would have simply taken forming a Whole Language task force, one which addressed the issue of foreign language instruction throughout the District, with one Board member, one Staff member, one foreign language teacher present, and many community members. Then, just create a safe environment for all questions and solutions to be put on the table, the facts researched and well examined over the course of a year, and come up with a program, or programs.
This is too big of a decision to make on the basis of "we have to apply now for the grant and Mandarin is important and immersion is the best way to learn a language..and here is the money to pay for the feasibility study".
Of course, even with this process there would have been unhappy people, but given this community, we would have seen that the research had been done, the analysis of who and where and what and how would have been thorough and transparent, and the solutions would have been the best we can create.
Heck, we put more thought and community input into the calendar than we did into launching the process into another foreign language program!
If after a thorough process such as this we had come to the conclusion that yes, we want to continue down the path of turning our district into one of specialty lottery programs, people like me would have respected our representative taxation, given that all points of view would have been carefully examined, and wouldn't have gotten our knickers in a twist.
For me, personally, this has been about bringing our Board to a point of proceeding in an orderly fashion to address the priorities of our district, in a way that has broad support of not only the community but the principals and teachers, and in a way which doesn't overstretch either the Board or our District Staff. We have so many issues on the table, I believe everyone in decision making positions is suffering from sheer lack of time.
Posted by Escondido Parent, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2006 at 7:42 am
Well, wouldn't that be nice if that was the way business was done in PAUSD. There is precedent, however, to proceed with MI just as its proponents wish. Just look at the way SI was pushed through by a small number of devoted parents who used the benefit to Spanish speakers as one of the many reasons why this was such a good idea. The reality was that the early proponents who helped SI along and helped the board see what a great idea this was all got their children (and siblings) into the program, along with a high proportion of PAUSD employee kids and a very low number of native Spanish speakers, not to mention the neighborhood kids who have been shut out of this program. So to me, MI looks like it is just business as usual at PAUSD. No one has ever bothered with a complete and impartial audit of SI (financial and otherwise). Shouldn't that be a first step when even considering another lottery/luck/choice program?
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2006 at 3:25 pm
I was a member of USEFL (United Supporters of Early Foreign Language), which was one of the two groups that studied foreign language immersion in the mid 1990's, and whose work is referenced here and elsewhere regarding the outcomes and benefits of immersion, FLES, other approaches that we studied. While we definitely were an advocacy group for foreign language instruction being introduced at the elementary school level, our work product generally is well regarded for its thoroughness and objectivity, both then and now.
At the time of our work, my daughter, now a PALY junior, was in nursery school. Her mother and I considered applying for her to be in Spanish Immersion, but elected for her to go to our neighborhood school instead for a variety of reasons. I must take strong exception to your blanket accusation that people such as myself received the type of preferential treatment you describe in terms of our children getting access to this program. Didn't happen that way, plain and simple, and I should know, if anyone does.
I continue to be a strong advocate of foreign language instruction starting at the elementary school level, and feel it is even more important today than I did when I spent 9 months of my evenings and weekends developing our study and report. I think that immersion and foreign language exposure both have a place in Palo Alto schools, but they are very different approaches, with different outcomes, as our report describes, and as is mentioned in this very long string.
Our family, which has no roots in Spanish or Chinese speaking countries, believes so much in the benefits of children acquiring foreign language skills. To whit, our daughter has taken Spanish every year she has attended Palo Alto schools when it was offered (starting at Jordan Middle School) and she has taken private Mandarin lessons for 3 years now, studied in Beijing last summer, and wants to go back to Beijing to study again next summer. She is an excellent student in both languages, and her English skills are pretty darn good too. (BTW, she also does well in math and science, to speak to a question asked by some in the string earlier.)
Is my daughter better off and better prepared to face the challenges and opportunities of college and a career beyond because these language skills are part of her education foundation? You bet she is! At the end of the day, isn't what this whole matter is all about? I am not one to project the approach my family has taken onto anyone else, but I think our experience can be instructive, and takes some of the abstraction out of the arguments against language programs. I also suspect one would be hard pressed to find parents who regret their children being exposed to and learning other languages, starting at the earliest grade levels.
Lots of comments on this string, some arcane, some thoughtful, some paranoid. Anything that is done is going to have problems, issues, and unexpected occurences. But, as a parent who helped develop the policy and immersion program we currently have in PAUSD, and as a parent who fostered and encouraged my own child to develop foreign language skills, I can say unequivocally that those are two things of which I am most proud.
I hope when we all look back at this time a dozen years hence, our community has a similar sense of satisfaction about its language policy and programs, and the impact they have had on each of our own children as they prepare to be part of the world they will live in this century.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2006 at 3:41 pm
Escondido parent makes a very key point. We don't have current public reporting on SI.
We coincidentally have detailed performance reporting on Hoover and Ohlone only because they sit alone in their respective schools, so all the site reporting requirements apply to them. But SI is combined with Escondido school overall, so we don't see performance, demographic or financial reporting results separately for SI.
Our choice guidelines say our programs should operate cost neutrally, operate at costs equivalent to PAUSD standard per pupil spending, achieve equivalent student outcomes, achieve eqivalent demographic balances, etc. So the fact that we are not requiring ongoing reporting of our ~current~ language immersion choice program says we don't really even know for sure how well it is working on all these parameters. Its all anecdotal. Or based on indirect evidence (like waiting lists.)
Tax payers are not being served at all by allowing our district to install permanent new specialty programs with some pretense of parameters for operation, and then never bothering to check performance against those parameters.
The issue of public support is also not being addressed in any way. In fact so far the issue of public opinion on this is being largely ignored by the Board. How is the board able to say with confidence that there is public support for MI? I don't understand where that has been shown to be true.
Why aren't they saying one (or ten?) PAUSD parents have come forward with this idea and with the $ to support it? What evidence do they have that it is any more than one (or ten?) PAUSD consituents involved in driving this? Is there any information out there that I am missing?
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2006 at 3:52 pm
Since you feel so strongly about it (language immersion), do you support rotating the program from school to school? It seems to me that Escondido has had its fair share (and much more). Escondido used to be a neighborhood school, but no longer.
Is Walter Hays or Addison or Duveneck ready to accept an immersion program? Escondido (College Terrace) would be happy to give it to the 'have' schools. The 'have not' programs get 'dumped on', because we have have no political clout in Palo Alto.
Simple question: Is Walter Hays willing to become the immersion program for Mandarin or Spanish Immersion? Who will step up to take on the burden of language immersion? When Russian and Arabian and Persian and Italian and German come down the line, which school will step up to take them on? Don't forger Latin and Sanskrit.
BTW, Paul, where did your kids go to elementary school?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2006 at 5:20 pm
Paul, thank you thank you thank you. Thanks for confirming that parents that want to give their kids language exposure can do it without relying on the public elementary system.
And also you confirm its not necessary to immerse kids from Kindergarten, in order to provide them with second or even third language proficiency.
And, what you just wrote tells me that the public school system should be putting language way down on the priority list because there are other viable ways for parents to get that for their children.
I think the public school system should hold as its first and foremost priority to deliver a basic education to ALL students (leaving zero behind), and secondly to hone the delivery of those basics to meet as many higher end and lower end achievement levels as possible, and thirdly to offer enrichment programs that all children can have access to and that can be delivered equitably across the district.
Specialty programs with narrow reach, and that cater to the preferences and desires of a narrow special interest subset should be left to private schools.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2006 at 10:12 pm
Please do not put words in my mouth.
To be clear, I believe that foreign language instuction programs should be high on the priority list, the opposite of what you apparently believe. We both are entitled to our points of view, but be careful not to bend what I say to something diametrically opposite to my contention.
You have expressed quite cryptically what you believe the philosophy of public school instruction should be here in Palo Alto. I am not sure I entirely understand what you mean in your second point around achievement levels, and I am not sure I understand your third point either about equitable delivery.
But, I will use a few words that are from your statement to make my point of view more clear:
1. I believe that exposing our children to foreign language should be considered a BASIC part of their education. My work on USEFL some years ago reinforced my opinion about this
2. Mastery of a foreign language is a HIGHER END ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL that many of our students should be striving for, and we should have an educational environment that fosters their opportunity to do so
On your third idea, equitable delivery of enrichment programs that all children can access. Maybe you can give me an example of enrichment programs that fits the description to help me understand what your words mean.
Assuming that there are some, I don't know that I can agree with you that an enrichment program should be allowed only if it is accessible to all, that's a pretty strict screen that many programs in Palo Alto and in other school districts cannot pass through. It also implies that a program can enrich all who take it, which seems counterintuitive to me. Lastly, there can be variants within an enrichment umbrella. For example, maybe there is a "music enrichment program" for any student, but for those who are really serious and good at music, there is something different that is more in keeping with their skills and interests.
My own belief is that a school district like PAUSD derives some of its excellence and strong outcomes for its students by offering a diverse number of educational programs, many of which are not intended for every student, but for the students for whom they are appropriate, they make their experience far better. Some programs that we have would be awful if they were taken by "all comers." The reason they are strong programs is because the students in them are motivated to get deeper on the area, and they are with students with the same motivation.
You are right, there are ways for families to develop foreign language skills outside of their public school education, and our family happens to be one that has elected to go that route, along with the instruction in Spanish that has been provided to our children and Jordan and PALY. But, both of my kids would be much more proficient had they been in immersion programs, and many children who do not get exposed to foreign language until middle or high school are too late in their development for it to be a meaningful part of their education. That is not rhetoric, that is straight out of the study that USEFL provided to the PAUSD BoE a dozen years ago.
More fundamental to me is what some others have mentioned about how exposure to foreign languages affects all students in a profound way. Sure, a family can do something on its own, but that does not impact the community the way exposing foreign language to many students does. My preference is that we have both immersion for those who would like to pursue it and something like the FLES program in all the Palo Alto elementary schools.
We have had our kids in public schools because we felt that there are many benefits to attending public -vs- private schools. I don't think foreign language is something that only those attending private schools should be exposed to. Many fine public school districts in this country and virtually all schools in the rest of the devleoped world have language instruction for their kids from the early grades. That is the example we should be following. I highly doubt that there are school districts with foreign language instruction programs which are using Palo Alto as an example of why foreign language instruction should be discontinued.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 10:33 am
1. Agree. Then it should be accessible to all students "for whom it is appropriate" or whom are interested.
2. Example: Our existing elementary Music program
I believe well more than 40 students per year in PAUSD would like to receive this benefit. In fact if it qualifies as a 'basic' then it needs to offered to all. We can't hold back 'basics' from most students.
That your family would have been 'more' proficient if they would have been able to get public immersion program... Well I would have been more proficient at (name your favorite topic here) if I would have gotten a (name your favorite topc here) immersion education from PAUSD 20 years ago, but that's not the public's job is it? Perfecting school for every possible subject for every possible need, desire, whim? Its not viable. And then we get in to arguments on which ones are better and more worthy, and who gets to be the big lotter loser that gets zippo.
My point is you decide what the basic are and you give basics to everyone. You can customize the delivery of those to reach differenct achievement levels (remedial, AP etc). You can start offering enrichmetn opportunities, like Science labs, Art teachers, Field Trips, Music programs, to all students as your resources allow.
Posted by interested bystander, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 10:47 am
Still wondering why we don't take a little extra time and have a full audit of the SI program -- costs, successes, failures, etc. so that we have an intelligent, objective basis for evaluating the need/feasibility/potential pitfalls of MI.
As for the music issue, it is my understanding that -- at least at one elementary school I'm familiar with here -- inclusion in the instrumental class in 4th and 5th grades is by lottery. So music education in Palo alto has also been reduced to a "luck" arrangement. Parents who care about their children learning an instrument have to cough up the cost of private lessons, ifthey aren't lucky enough to win the lottery.
And let's discuss GATE, a program that was supposed to provide stimulating academic differentiation for children who needed more challenge. Across the district, this program has taken a big blow. At least one school I know of does not even identify children who qualify, let alone provide a modicum of funding for advanced worksheets or other materials. So there's another example of a program that would benefit many more kids, not take away from neighborhood schools, and allegedly already exists -- and could stand some attention.
There are material differences in the education children are receiving across the district, depending on which school they attend. This inequity really ought to be addressed before ANYTHING else happens with MI.
As for the host site for MI, I'm guessing that MI is going to land in one of the least privileged school sites with the least clout. If it's such a wonderful opportunity with such widespread support, I'm wondering why the schools seem to be falling all over themselves to explain why their campuses are not the right place for the program.
Posted by Yet Another Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 10:47 am
Yes I do agree.
There are some excellent private schools around. If someone wants a special program, find one that suits your needs and go there. If you can't afford it, find some way of cutting back on the things you do for yourself for fun and invest in your children's future instead.
Posted by Yet Another Parent - again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 10:55 am
I am not sure if you have your facts correct. At my children's elementary school, and I think it is common practice for all PAUSD elementary schools, there is a music program for all. In 1st - 3rd grades a specialised music teacher comes in once a week and in 4th and 5th grades various teachers come in twice a week. The 4th graders learn recorders and if they are already doing a string instrument, they get the opportunity to join the 5th graders. 5th graders learn one of a variety of instruments and are expected to provide their own instrument although there are some available from the district which may be available by lottery. At the end of the school year there is a concert where all the different classes get the opportunity to perform (4th and 5th graders). Music is then compulsory in 6th grade although it can be voice, and then becomes an elective for the rest of middle and high school.
Posted by Interested bystander, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 12:44 pm
Yet Another Parent --
I was interested to read your information on the music program. I have been told that instrumental music is available BY LOTTERY ONLY -- that is, every child is not allowed to participate, only those children who win the lottery. So yes, they have a "opportunity" to play instruments, like kids have the "opportunity" to be in the SI program. I should think that providing access to existing programs (instrumental music, GATE, who knows what else) to each child in each school, and equalizing the level of education at each school in the district, would be the logical first step before we add any new programs. I'm not saying I disagree with MI, or even that I think every elementary school should offer language, although I myself speak several. I am just perplexed that, at a time when the Benchmark study shows serious gaps in the education we are offering our children, and the Board is saying the entire Math program needs rethinking, and not every child can participate in supposedly District-wide programs, we would find it appropriate to add a program that will benefit a tiny proportion of the District's children.
Posted by Yet Another Parent, a member of the Terman Middle School community, on Nov 21, 2006 at 1:36 pm
At Palo Verde school all children get to play an instrument and parents do have to provide that instrument. I believe you can opt out of this program, but I have no idea if anyone chooses to opt out. This is not an opportunity to learn an instrument, it is in fact open to all children, and this can be carried on throught their middle and high school years on an elective basis.
Comparing music and language programs is comparing apples to bananas, there is no comparison. Language introduction is taught as part of the wheel in 6th grade and then after that becomes an elective in 7th 12th grades although 2 - 3 years is a graduation requirement. There is also a graduation requirement for l year performing arts at the high school level and this can be music if a student desires. It is still an elective though.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Thanks for your reply. Here is my take on what you stated:
--If there were foreign language instruction as part of the basic instruction rubrik, meaning it was offered/accessible to all, you are OK with it. Do I have that right? I am not asking if you support the idea that foreign language should be part of the basic program, merely do I have your thought in principle right that if we have it, all should receive it?
--Similarly, I perceive the principle you have extends to any programs that are above and beyond the basic, which you may view language as being, along with other examples you cite such as science labs and music. If it is offered, it should be available to all. Do I have that right?
--If I do have it right, there appears to be "room" in your framework for customizing delivery of programs for different achievement levels, for example advanced or remedial, if a program lends itself to such an approach. Art may, field trips may not, for example.
--It also appears, if I understand your framework, that alternative teaching methodologies that accomplish these (leave language out of it, just stick to what we have at present) are acceptable, but they should be available to anyone who wants to participate, not limited to a certain number of students. So, for example, if Ohlone's program is oversubscribed, we would need to come up with more capacity somewhere (?) to accomodate anyone who wants such an instruction method. I don't want to put words in your mouth, so please tell me if I am following your thought process accurately and fairly.
If I am close to the mark on my understanding of your principles and framework, it would appear that the following issues present themselves to Palo Alto schools:
--What do we do about existing programs that are geared toward different achievement levels or instruction methodologies if they currently are oversubscribed? Say, Young 5's?
--Should there be foreign language exposure (i.e. something like FLES) as part of our basic elementary school program? If the answer is yes, what does that imply for alternative teaching menthodologies, of which immersion is the prominent example, for those desiring a more advanced acheivement level? If the answer is no, that I where I part company, since I believe that foreign language instruction should be part of the basics.
--If there are benefits to some of these different achievement level and different teaching methodologies that can be accomplished, should we consider introducing new ones, even if they will be oversubscribed? Not at the expense of meeting the basics, of course. But if resources are such that demand outstrips supply, are we better off not offering it at all? Or should we offer it to as many as is feasible, with an assurance that those who do participate are equitably selected, no favoritism, but not all who wish to participate will be able to do so. Adding to the Music program, to use one of your examples?
--If we want to introduce new instruction into the district curriculum, and the level of effort to do so across the board requires some planning and time to get implemented, do programs that would fall under that, but which are part of an alternative teaching methodology or achievement level, get put on hold until the entire curriculum is overhauled, even if these other programs can be implemented on a different, faster time frame? What's the "on-ramp strategy," or is there more than one that is possible?
If I were to describe the Palo Alto schools currently, I would say that we have a number of different programs and teaching methodologies to meet the various demands and interests of our diverse student body. It goes without saying that all the basics must be covered--that is the foundation all our students must have. We are able to customize delivery, and do so with several schools and programs we have in place, but not everyone can participate who wants to. Despite the fact that each one is not universally available, the aggregate of them provides most of our students educational opportunities, and as a result, on the whole our students get an outstanding educational experience, and the District is recognized as being one of the better ones in the country.
I happen to believe that foreign language exposure starting at the elementary school level is a big gap in our instructional approach, and all our students should have such exposure. I also believe that immersion faces the practical realities no different than other programs that are not available to all who want to participate, and fits in with the need to provide foreign language education starting at the elementary school level.
This has become a discussion more about what do we do above and beyond the basics, less about language instruction per se. If we are to apply a set of principles to this question, they should apply to anything other than what is included in the basics, if such items are to be given full and fair consideration. Applying them selectively, which is how I preceive how some are treating the Mandarin Immersion question, makes for an unlevel playing field.
I am OK with people questioning MI because they don't think it is a District priority (as I and many other believe language should be), and wanting to be sure a new program does not get introduced at the expense of something fundamental that is not getting done. I recognize that there are practical matters around implementation that attend any program or initiative that is undertaken. I would like for us to think less about "hunkering down," and instead be asking ourselves what the role language instruction should have in preparing our kids for the world in which they will live. But, maybe I am too idealistic....
I also think no matter what someone's opinions are on this matter, the PACE people have demonstrated a great deal of dedication and professionalism in their advocacy for this initiative (full discolsure, I have no affiliation whatsoever with PACE.) If you want to recognize something that makes this community special, PACE is a fine example of how volunteers who are passionate about something can make a difference and help our community reach and grow.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 2:44 pm
I am not able to answer that question. That is the sort of question that our elected school board members and our achool administration have to address as they make decisions about how our school district will operate. It would be presumptuous of me, as a parent with a point of view about the importance of language instruction, to do so.
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 2:54 pm
It is presumptuous to assume that ANY school would be willing to take on an immersion program. It destroys the neighborhood school concept. If you are going to push the immersion concept, then it is up to you to also provide some certainly as to where the program will go.
How about if we just agree ahead of time that it will go in at Walter Hays? Or Addison?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 3:03 pm
If there are basics they should be offered to all students. If we are leaving some students out of the basics, then we are not doing our job as a public school system.
I believe we can stop here, because I don't believe PAUSD has adequately covered its basics.
However, if the basics were covered,
If we have alternatives delivery methods to reach different learning approaches (still about the basics), then if they are valued by the community and oversubscribed, (and are effective relative to our expectations for PAUSD performance standards, meet our policy guidelines, and are cost efficient use of public resources), then I believe that expansion of those program should be given priority over new speciality programs.
I have no idea if our currente alternative choice programs meet the criteria set forth in the distrct policy guidelines because we have inadequate reporting on these programs today. For example, no financial reporting has occured to prove they are cost neutral and that they are similar in cost per pupil to other program (Ohlone and Hoover, may be visible because they sit alone in a school, so this may be visible for those schools. I don't know I haven't studied it.) But it would be difficult for me to defend explanding current choice programs without a regular reporting on the variuos guidelines we've set forth forth those programs.
So we're not here, but assuming were were, I'd go to the next level.
If we cover our basics, and are ready to move into specialty enrichment areas with limited reach, limited appeal, etc., then our community should enter into a prioritization process to discuss which ones should be offered, and how best to offer enrichment with the broadest reach possible.
In essence I feel the immersion approach to language is like an olypmic training camp for atheletes, the 'perfect' training ground. We give all kids some PE, we offer some PE electives, like afterschool teams (which we pay extra for in PAUSD) - and because the overall community has prioritized sports and PE in. But what we don't offer is olympic level training camps for our atheletes. If they are qualified and wish to take it to the extreme, they go out and find that training privately. Which is appropriate. We certainly can not offer olympic training camps, and no basic PE classes at the same time. We can't even say, we'll open an Olympic training camp, and maybe later talk about basic PE classes.
FYI, I think you and I personally part company on language as a basic and perhaps even language as the next most important priority. However, if I saw a sound decision making approach using district and community priorities as the basis, I would support language instruction for all as part of the basics.
My personal lean would be that we have not met the requirements of basics for all because we have an achievemnt gap population that is not being properly addressed. All secondary and elementary principals said in their SIP reviews that closing the achievment gap was their number one unsolved priority issue, and more effort was needed there (none mentioned language).
I feel that if any program deserves to be considered for expansion to reach all who need it, it would be the Young Fives program, for addressing the achievement gap. Its practically a sin that children who need the young fives program are being turned away. Those will be the children most at risk in the future. In my opinion, that's not an optional enrichment, that's a basic.
Lastly, I don't agree that because PACE has been persistent that it validates their program, or makes it any better of an idea for PAUSD. In fact, I think the board is making a big mistake if they take on programs reactively, and out of context of a strategic priority setting process because of one vocal, persistent and cash rich group.
(Al, I hear you, I agree.)
It sickens me to think half a school is going to get eviction notices to vacate their neighborhood school family, so a special interest program can get their cozy little spot. Its a travesty of justice as far as I'm concerned. Its messed up.
Posted by anon, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 3:03 pm
Please ask your AAAG representative about the discussion on Monday night which covered the placement of choice programs. For Briones, Lynn Kidder, ljkidder@ earthlink.net, 493-6575; and Lori Krolik, lkrolik@ sbcglobal.net, 856-4343.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 4:27 pm
Just a quick reply. I am spending way too much time on this.
In general, I think your thought process in your last e-mail is quite sound, and I appreciate that. Thinking about anything using such an approach is a thoughtful way to go about it, and reasonable people can come to different conclusions and make different choices along that pathway, as I think you and I do around language.
One thing that I think neither of us has an answer to is are there programs in place or proposed that are going on at the expense of the kids who are not achieving at targeted levels? I happen to agree with you about expanding Young 5's. I am unclear if some of the other concepts we have been discussing are impeding our community from helping our children achieve at level. There may be other factors that are contributing to that. It is something I have not studied enough to understand that, but care should be taken here. Maybe we only can do things to close the achievement gap, and other things have to be on hold until we have in place measures to do that. Maybe we can do other things concurrenlty with closing the gap, one does not get in the way of the other.
I am skeptical about it being a pure trade-off between the two, with the limited understanding that I have of the achievment target issues. But, if there is information out there that can help the community understand the trade-offs better, let's have a look at it, it is an important thing for us to address.
As for enrichment, the tricky part here is that going deep on something, as any enrichment program is typically designed to do, and broad reach as you suggest sounds great in theory, but is that how it really works? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but I think we have many programs in place which will never have a broad reach, but are an important part of the education tapestry in PAUSD. Are we wrong to have them? Personally, I think not, I think we are better for them, whether our own kid participates in them or not. But that's my opinion, my bias, it's a good topic for people to chew over at some social function, and I am sure the thinking would be all over the board.
Neither of us will change the other's mind about what an immersion program is all about. But, I am not sure that I see the Olympic training analogy. After 11 years of Spanish Immersion in Palo Alto schools, do you think that is an apt description of it? I am hard pressed to come up on the spot with an alternative analogy, but there has to be an alternative that is closer to the mark. It is not that elite a program, it is closer to the other programs, such Hoover and Ohlone. Truly elite does not have a place in public school education, on that we agree.
And yes, I agree with you that there are some gaps in our data and knowledge about a number of things we have going on in many programs in the schools now. By all means, let's get the data and use it, progress is being made there, thank you PIE. Much of my advocacy for language is data driven, as a result of my efforts some years ago to get Spanish Immersion introduced. That data does suggest quite strongly that language exposure has a great deal of benefit to children at the elementary school level, on a variety of measures.
To close, what the PACE people are working on in Palo Alto is comparable to what is going on in many many communities all over the country. There is a larger context to what they are doing locally, a good context in my opinion. Part of what they are doing is something my group failed to do 12 years ago, and that is to get our School Board to figure out what the policy and priority is around language education in our school district. Much will be settled when the Board and Administration choose the policy and priority this district will follow around language going forward. It looks like that will happen fairly soon, 12 years after it first was raised here in town.
Posted by Third Party, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 4:34 pm
This opposition to a new immersion program would make sense if the program diverted funds from other things.
But the district has set the bar high: new programs cannot not cost more than regular classrooms. So this program wouldn't divert funds from any priorities. And by forgoing immersion, the district would not have any more money for Young Fives, FLES or any other special interest.
So fairness is not an issue.
It makes you wonder why opposition to Mandarin immersion is so vehement and bitter yet has no problem with other choice programs.
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 5:04 pm
I have a big problem with SI. MI is not different. Why? Because these programs take over a neighborhood school.
Spanish Immersion was originlly dumped on another school (El Carmelo, as I recall). They hated it, and exerted enough pressure to get it dumped on one of the politically weakest schools, Escondido.
Where will MI get dumped?
If you assure me that it will be Walter Hays or Addison, I might become a little more relaxed about it - because I would then be assured that it will never happen. Walter Hays and Addison (and Duveneck) would raise holy hell about having their nests disturbed!
The elites always want what they want. But they rarely sacrifice anything real. Money, for them is not a real sacrifice. If their kids get put out in portables, while the immersion program dominates the campus (like Escondido), or (heaven forbid) their kids get outed and have to attend another school, there will be a macho protest!
Before there is any further movement on this MI thing, please inform all of us in Palo Alto which campus has been chosen to give up its neighborhood identity. Also, who is now willing to take the SI yoke off the neck of Escondido?
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 7:11 pm
I don't think you understand. Immersion programs are TAKEOVERS!
Just LIMIT the choices for MI to ONLY Walter Hays, Addison or Duveneck. If those kids need to "switch for the greater good", the response will be atomic! In other words, immersion programs will be as dead as the Dodo bird.
It works this way: The elite, who want their kids immersed in a given language, form a group, and provide political pressure, and money. They fractionate the argument, in order to avoid issues like neighborhood school obliteration. They state that they are the future. Anybody opposing them is accused of not understanding the future. They enlist organizations that promote education, like the PTA and PACE. They even get those organizations with money (e.g. PACE) to give major money. They stay quiet about where such a program will be sited (notice what Paul Losch has just stated: "presumptuous" to assume anything). In the end, the elite get their program, and it is sited at the non-elite sites.
Who is going to take SI away from Escondido? We want our neighborhood school back. It used to be a wonderful thing, but once SI took over, our community garden was paved over, and our own kids were put out into portables, while the SI kids took over the main buildings.
If, and when, this happens at Walter Hays, you will get the picture....
Heads up to anyone who gives to PACE: Beware! Your $$ may be your own demise!
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Atherton, on Nov 21, 2006 at 7:13 pm
It seems that many of you should look up the AAAG meetings on the PAUSD web site. Many of these things have been discussed in depth and you can come to the meetings and speak at Open Forum. However, most of what you have to say is not new.
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 7:29 pm
Since you are from Atherton, it seems, what do you know about Palo Alto neighborhoods?
At least tell me what AAAG has to say, specifically, about destroying neighborhood schools in THIS town. Since you state that "Many of these things have been discussed in depth...", you should be able to tell all of us where language immersion programs will be sited, and how they affect the neighborhood concept.
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 7:45 pm
oops - sorry finger slipped
I am not from Atherton and what has been discussed is or will be in the minutes. No decisions can be made by the AAAG. They will just put in a recommendation to the Board. Many possible sites have been discussed for all the choice programs including the opening of a new site. No decision has been made about anything. All the schools, plus many interested parties are represented by the AAAG. If you are connected to a particular school in PAUSD your school office or PTA or site council should be able to tell you who your rep is. You can look at the minutes or come to the meetings or speak to your rep. But, once again, no decision has been made just various possibilities discussed if MI should go ahead (which is not up to AAAG). No decisions have been made at all and there are no secret meetings discussing this subject (as far as the AAAG) is concerned.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 21, 2006 at 9:10 pm
Hmmm. Does anyone else find it strange that a group (AAAG) that was formed by PAUSD to grapple with the questions surrounding what to do with growing enrollment and student distribution, is spending time discussing where to put a program which has not even been presented to the Board, let alone voted on? Why is the District spending the time of all the volunteers discussing this? Shouldn't that have at least waited for after the feasibility study presentation by the District Staff (headed by Dr. Cook, who is setting the format for the AAAG), or better yet until after the Board vote, so as not to spend time on a subject which is supposedly not a "given"?
I wasn't there, so obviously am only commenting on the part that struck me as odd in this thread, and thinking that if I HAD been there, I would have wondered why the District was spending my time on something supposedly undecided.....Unless maybe this is part of the Feasibility Study data gathering? But if that were the case, then I would assume there is some data gathering on how many parents with children entering school in the next couple years would (1) want this program and (2) want it to be at their own neighborhood school. This would be seem to me to be part of feasibility data gathering also, if that was the point of putting this topic on the AAAG agenda.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2006 at 11:21 pm
I find this thread dominated by a few haters of MI. Why they hate it so much is not for me to say, and I can only agree with Paul that PACE shows us a fine example of civic volunteering and passion. And no, I have absolutely no connection with PACE or MI.
As to SI and MI placement, let me just say that while many years ago Escondido was indeed concerned about placing SI there, in the recent years they swear by it, and it seems this has worked very well for both. SI was placed in Escondido not because it was the "politically weakest" school, but because it had one of the largest area, and low enrollment at the time. As to MI it is up to the board, but off the cuff Barron Park seems a possibility -- not because it is "politically weak", but because it is one of the smallest schools so it has the space.
Please, enough of this scare tactics of "yokes" on school's necks, and similar. The fact that some of you like only neighborhood schools doesn't make everyone that disagrees with you a fool or an enemy.
Posted by KS, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 9:38 am
Addison already has enough problems with space with on-going over enrollment issues! The overcrowding there is already horrendous.
From the current AAAG proposals it seems like the only scenario that would lead to any change in the Addison boundaries is if the district opened a 13th school, and even then not all scenarios lead to relief in the Addison neighbourhood.
I doubt there's any chance of MI going there (or are they going to kick local kids out of the school for this?)
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 9:56 am
I wish that many of you on this thread got in touch with your school's AAAG reps. That is why they are there. To represent you and your opinions at the meetings. Many schools have done surveys of their parents. Many have kept updating their schools within the regular newsletters. Have you asked the reps what is going on? If you care so much about any of this, it would seem logical to me that you asked your reps.
MI was never an agenda item in itself at a meeting. It was a subitem talking about all the choice programs and not given any more discussion than any of the other choice programs. Some MI proponents have taken their allotted 3 minutes to speak at the public forum, but no opponents have done so. These 3 minutes allotted do not form the basis of a discussion item, just information only which can be used in discussion.
There is no way as far as I can see from what I know of how to contact future potential kindergarten parents. When enrollment starts each January for the following fall, that is the first time the district knows how many and who are applying. I know it sounds weak, but the only data they have to go on is birth rates for the previous 5 years by postal code from Santa Clara County. So for this reason, I doubt if a survey of future kindgergarten parents could be managed.
Once Again, I urge all of you interested in what is going on at the AAAG meetings to ask your reps.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 11:43 am
I'd like to add to Bystander's comment that there's another way to speak to the BOE about neighborhood schools. Today's PA Weekly has an "ad" which you can fill out and mail to the BOE so that your voice will be heard. I also urge you to speak up in any and every way you can because the clock is ticking towards decision-making time.
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 12:03 pm
When Escondido got invaded by the SI group, our neighborhood kids were kicked out of their regular classrooms (aka exisiting school buildings) and put into portables that were thrown up on top of our community garden, and extending into the playing fields. As a matter of common courtesy, the SI kids should have been required to take the portables (over at the far end of the playing grounds, where they could maintain their isolation/immersion).
Please remember that SI previously existed at El Carmelo (at least that's my memory of it). Why did it need to move to Escondido? Answer: The El Carmelo people hated the invasion of their neighborhood school, and demanded that it get moved! It was easy to dump on Escondido, because it had many kids from Stanford (graduate students), and there was little, if any, true political clout.
Addison should be willing to put up portables all over the place, including its playing field, in order to benefit from MI. Why are you whining?
OK, so now let me suggest a rational approach: Set up a charter school in an empty industrial building in Palo Alto. Kehillah HS has done this, and it seems to be a going concern. Allow any number of such charter schools to form, according to whatever immersions are demanded by the parents. Make sure that SI is included in this. This would be a win-win, because we could reclaim our neighborhood schools, and the immersion folks would have the isolation they need.
Posted by KS, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 12:52 pm
You're missing the point. Addison is already over-enrolled. It can't even handle the kids that are there (even with the extra portables). You should see lunchtime there - it's just a mess! At least the children in Escondido actual stayed at their school (I'm not saying that they aren't suffering, just that they weren't sent to another school).
I agree though that a decision on where MI will be placed needs to be made *before* a vote is taken on whether it should be introduced. This will give impacted parents a chance to get much more involved.
I would hate to force this on any school where the majority of the local parents/teaching staff didn't want it (as seems to be the case for Escondido).
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 1:16 pm
That's a fair response.
I think you are a bit naive about impacted parents getting a chance to express their views. That was done at Escondido, to no avail. Political clout matters, period. Do you think there is any current neighborhood school that WANTS an immersion program?
The most straight-forward solution is the charter school model, as I mentioned above.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 22, 2006 at 2:41 pm
To Wolf: I am not a "hater of MI" as you state in your post. I completely support foreign language instruction, I completely agree that immersion is the best way to learn a second language, and I agree that Mandarin is one of many important languages. I just think that if we decide foreign language instruction is important for our District, it needs to be provided to ALL QUALIFIED STUDENTS WHO WANT IT, and not take away the choices of others who want to keep neighborhood schools.
I just don't want ANY MORE lottery alternative programs. That is not an MI hater. This is neither a stance of asking to eliminate the program we already have. I fully support keeping WHAT WE HAVE, I just don't want to keep going down this path, unless and until we decide that what we want is a District that is all alternative programs, and all children, unless they are lucky enough to live close enough to the program of their choice, have to commute. If we were to go through a deliberate process where we as a community CHOOSE this path for the future families, then I would support it.
I don't like us just continuing this slide toward an all alternative program District without long-term planning that this is what we actually want, versus deciding that what we actually want is to decide what programs are basic to our District ( which may very well end up including foreign language instruction) and then making sure all children have access to the basics in our District.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 22, 2006 at 2:56 pm
To Wolf: You hit on a major difference between MI and SI, one of many.
In this case you discuss that when SI went to Escondido, it was perceived as doing a service in that it was going to stabilize a low enrollment school to keep it from getting on the chopping block, and unload enrollment stress on other parts of the District. If I understand the history correctly, there were not enough neighborhood students to fill the school. I didn't hear of any neighborhood kids being overflowed, ( were there any?), and if nobody was, then it was a reasonable solution to a problem.
There is no such problem in any school now. In fact, we are busting out of our seams.
There is another difference. Spanish Immersion programs are well documented to help the higher risk children in the programs achieve at a higher test score level in later years than their peers. In other words, it is at least a partial solution to one of the District priorities concerning helping one of higher risk populations close the achievement gap. We don't have this issue in the MI debate.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 3:08 pm
Al, John -- you are paranoids!
Escondido was "invaded" by SI. Its "neighborhood kids" were "kicked out of their regular classrooms ... and put into portables" because of SI. Wow! Perhaps this was a part of Building for Excellence and their regular classroom were being renovated at that time? Naah! Impossible! That would be too simple of an explanation!
I repeat what I had said. Escondido had low enrollment at the time, and was a natural choice for SI. El Carmelo area population was growing, while Escondido was mostly out of the way and hence its low enrollment, and SI parent couldn't object to driving as theirs was not a neighborhood program.
KS - Don't take the words of one or two people from Escondido community as a gospel with regard to Escondido attitude to SI. Get the community survey data instead; talk to the staff and not to couple of SI/MI haters. And yes -- talk to your AAAG rep, get the enrollment data and do your homework. Rumors and speculations are fun, but don't confuse them with data.
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 4:59 pm
No, it was NOT about "Building for Excellence"! It was an INVASION by SI, pure and simple. You show your ignorance of the situation, because you were not there.
El Carmelo hated the SI invasion from the beginning. They got rid of it, because there was an even weaker step-sister, namely Escondido.
Escondidio was NOT underpopulated. My kids were in 25-30 classrooms throughout, and all classrooms were full. When SI invaded, they took over the place. Our neighborhood kids were turfed into the portables. This is the straight truth, Wolfie. You can fantasize all you want, but that won't change reality.
At least get your facts straight.
Once you have reality in focus, please tell me what would be wrong with the charter school apporach.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 22, 2006 at 7:10 pm
Wow, Al, you were there? I sure wasn't, I just remember the brouhaha in the papers, and the assertion that SI was going to a school which would help keep the school open.
If your kids were in 25-30 per classroom at the time, it doesn't sound like underpopulated to me.
Could it be that your kids were in the older grades and they were full, but for some reason the kindergarten and first grades were almost empty? Just trying to understand the difference in history here.
thanks...and maybe I should take this time to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Thank goodness we live in a country where we can give any opinion we want about any subject we want want without some government person coming to our door to "disappear" us!
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 7:43 pm
What "brouhaha in the papers, and the assertion that SI was going to a school which would help keep the school open" are you talking about? Escondido was NOT underpopulated, at any grade level, when SI took over (and when my kids were there).
This SI thing at Escondido was a pure and simple TAKEOVER! It happened because Escondido did not have the political power to fight back (like El Carmelo did).
Look at the pro-immersion responses on this thread. They never want to commit to where the MI deal will go. As long as it doesn't affect their own local school, that is fine with them. The rest of us need to fight for our own neighborhood schools.
This entire thing is transparently fraudulent. If the immersion group(s) want to isolate themselves, let them open a charter school. I am NOT against language immersion. I AM against allowing immersion to destroy the school down the street from me.
One more time: Will Walter Hays agree, AHEAD OF TIME, to take the MI program?
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 10:14 pm
Not to criticise, but just to give some information. PAUSD would consider overcrowding when a three strand school (i.e. a school that has three classrooms at each grade level) is unable to keep its three classes below 20 for k - 3 and 22 for grades 4&5. If the school had 20 - 25 students (before minimum classroom size) in 2 classrooms rather than 3, this would be classed as underenrolled. With the exception of several schools which are allowed to be 4 strand schools, the rest are expected to be 3 strand schools and if there are only 2 strands at a grade level then this is underenrollment.
Posted by anonymous parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2006 at 11:13 pm
my kids are older and wouldn't be affected by the MI debate - but I STILL am concerned about the idea of younger kids being turned away from their neighborhood school if MI takes up space somewhere in this district. Some people purposely purchase a home near an elementary school with the reasonable plan that their chidren will attend/walk to that school. One attractive feature of P.A. is the charming local neighborhoods. I did NOT enjoy commuting to take my kids (years ago)to (private) elementary school when we lived in another city - I do not recommend commuting out of your neighborhood with young children - it's not the best thing.
A parent who lives one block from Duveneck recently told me her child almost didn't get to attend Kindergarten at Duveneck owing to overcrowding, which seems outrageous to me as this family has lived here for four years or so and certainly expected their child to be able to attend the neighborhood school. Those who move in during the middle of a school year do run the risk of being diverted - that is different.
If MI goes forward, I will oppose MI being placed at Duveneck as this program would not benefit the majority of our neighborhood children.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 23, 2006 at 10:34 pm
Al is right on. Once upon a time, PACE threw around some idle warnings to the board (maybe still are) that if they don't get MI as a choice program, they'll start it up a charter school.
I say yes yes yes! I'm all for that. I think it would be an absolutely fair solution. They'd get their average 'per pupil' dollars from PAUSD, and they'd get a site (maybe), and they could go off any have their school. And they'd get to find out for themselves just what it means to be 'cost neutral', and how simple as pie it would be to teach kids to be mandarin-english bilingual. (Good luck finding credentialed teachers, maybe as a charter school they'd think twice about the need to hire two teachers per classroom, or buying IPODS for all the students.)
Its completely UNfair and UNreasonable to ask a public school system to bear this burden, to take over one of our existing neighborhood schools for a special interest group's private whims, and to expect us to bear the complexity and overhead structure of another choice program.
(Yes, I don't like any of the choice programs PAUSD is running. I think its unfair to make public education available through a 'lottery' system, and I think they need to all start reporting out in detail on their cost neutrality, their performance statistics, demographic reach, etc., and they ought to be shut down if they are failing to perform or violating policies. (Guess what Board - a waiting list is not a report card on suitability of the program.)
And by the way, if PAUSD opens a new 13th school - that's still a neighborhood school for folks in that neighborhood. MI would still be diplacing 240 kids from their neighborhood school. You don't get around that by putting them in an as-yet-to-be-open site.
And - Did you know Marilyn Cook and Irv Rollins are running the AARG AND running the MI Feasibility Study. Could it be that they are ensuring the AARG creates a self fulfilling solution for MI, to make sure MI gets the best possible solution it needs for success? Stacking the deck? Built in biases? Confict of interest? I don't know, just wondering that these two projects are so interdependent and you've got the same two foxes guarding both henhouses. Are the best interests of the community's attendance area issues served by looking out for MI?
As for Wolf's claims that we should go ask Escondido for information about the Escondido community's satisfaction with SI. Well first of all, YES, the FEASIBILITY STUDY is going to be using SI as the great model of success, so they SHOULD be bringing us back all kinds of data on the success of SI, including the satisfying experience of the community - without full information the BOARD members won't have all the data they need to make a well thought out decision - right Wolf?
Secondly, when you tell us about the community experience (or attrition rates, test results, demographics, etc) at Escondido, that should be reported separately between SI and non-SI. Right? Because asking Escondido how they like SI, is sort of like asking the foxes how they like hens right? Of course Escondido's attitude toward SI has changed dramatically since SI moved in. Becase now when you talk to "Escondido" you're talking mostly to SI!
Never fear, all this will be sorted out when the feasibility study presents MI. Right wolf? Because the BOARD couldn't possible have made their minds up already, without full information?
And if they don't bring the BOARD full information, surely the BOARD is smart enough, fair enought, and representing their constituency fairly enought to ask for all the information? Or do they already have their minds made up? Any insights on that wolf?
Finally, I'd like to know who donated the $140,000 in start up funds? Wolf, how can the board claim this has community support when they don't know who the $140,000 comes from? Is that even from Palo Altans? Is it from outsiders? Is it one person? Or three people? How can the board claim community interest?
Was it by the 900 signature petition? Who validated the residency of the petition signers? Will that be part of the feasibility study? I just really want to know how the board thinks this has community support?
Posted by Third Party, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 24, 2006 at 10:07 am
It only makes sense for the AAAG to think ahead to the possible scenarios; this doesn't imply any decision has been made. We should all support advance planning, whether we support MI or oppose it.
It doesn't matter where PACE's money comes from.
Despite these paranoid comments, the board has not made a decision.
The more ranting I hear from MI opponents, the more I root for MI. It's reasonable to have concerns about neighborhood schools or about how quickly the program could grow to accomodate more kids (if there is demand). But the apolyptic predictions are silly.
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 24, 2006 at 11:26 am
Hi 3rd Party: Paranoid rantings? I love the way you participate in intelligent, civilized and reasonable discussion. I woke up this morning with no intent to be sarcastic, but I am really getting tired of these kinds of comments in response to factual and valid points. In fact, I guess I should be happy, comments like that tell me we are hitting a defensive nerve.
As to your comment that we should support planning ahead. Of course I support planning ahead. This is what several of us, actually 330 people in 2 weeks of petition gathering, asked for before the Board voted in to proceed with the Feasibility study. All the petition asked for was that we step back and examine the questions surrounding the delivery of foreign language in our District. We didn't ask for the Mandarin Immersion proposal to be scrapped, we asked for a Whole Language task force to be formed to examine WHAT goals we have when it comes to foreign language, to WHOM we want to deliver it, for HOW MANY of our students, how to pick WHICH LANGUAGE to deliver, ..etc. In other words, to actually PLAN how we will address the question of foreign language in our District, instead of slide toward a program with no overall planning. We didn't get that.
If our District had planned this with 1/2 the care it put into planning how to pick our next school calendar, we wouldn't be here. Instead, it was in a big hurry to take advantage of the Grant application...which was denied, but which oddly enough is now being touted as not relevant to whether or not to continue down this path.
I DON'T support ramming a program, one of the rams being to use a volunteer committee that was formed for the purpose of dealing with attendance issues to "plan" where to put a program which hasn't even been presented, let alone approved. If it were truly an open discussion of CAN another lottery alternative program help solve some of our attendance issues, or would another lottery program make our attendance issues harder to solve, then it could be seen as within the purvue of this committee. If the committee had decided that another lottery alternative program could help with some of our student enrollment problems, THEN I could see a natural extension of the process being to ask the committee where such a program could best serve that goal. Not being there, I don't know if this discussion happened first and just didn't make it to the minutes, but it certainly isn't in any of the minutes I have read.
Seems like simple organizational management to me.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 24, 2006 at 1:41 pm
And why doesn't it matter where PACE's money comes from? One of the main premises of the board approval for the feasibility study was that there was broad Palo Alto community support for the MI proposal.
How did the board get that idea? Where did it come from? (Just Because PACE brought a fat check, and a mystery petition?)
Do we let just anyone with a fat checkbook buy 1/2 a school in PAUSD?
How do we know its not just one person's bright idea, pet project? Are these even Palo Altans?
So we are OK reserving half a school, displacing 240 neighborhood kids, countless hundreds of hours of Palo Alto tax payer district staff resources, etc etc etc. And we have no idea if this is one guy's idea, three guys' idea, or is actually got some relevent amount of community support behind it, or even if these are Palo Altans lobbying this.
How do we know??? This is not a trivial question. In all arms of government, the public normally demands the right to know who is funding what campaign, who is buying lunches, plane tickets, golf games, for whom, and what is received in return. I venture to guess most voters look at the 'paid for by' statements on most political campaigns before they vote (big clue: paid for by tobacco companies usually means the tobacco companies have something to gain...)
It matters. Why would we do this to PAUSD if we don't know if there is ~any~ Palo Alto constituency behind this?
(What I REALLY want to know is, why isn't the board asking? I find it odd they don't even care enough to find out.)
Posted by Third Party, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 24, 2006 at 5:32 pm
Hi Pauline: Well I didnâ€™t say paranoid, but your points do seem extremist and exaggerated.
One example. The AAAG, as I understand it, is supposed to help plan for issues related to attendance. Conceivably, MI could have an impact on attendance.
As you suggest, AAAG could ignore MI, since it is only a possibility, and proceed with its work. This approach, letâ€™s call it the Rumsfeld Doctrine, runs certain risks: that you arrive at a situation for which you are unprepared: the known unknown of MI.
Alternatively, AAAG could consider contingency plans in case MI is approved. In that way, the district would be prepared for the future. I donâ€™t understand what you think the downside of being prepared is. The unknown unknowns, perhaps?
Having a contingency plan for attendance does not mean the AAAG has approved MI. It does not mean the board has approved MI. It does not mean that a fox is guarding one henhouse or that two foxes are guarding two henhouse or any other nonsense.
It does seem as though some MI opponents are willing to latch on to any detail, no matter how unrelated and absurd, and try to turn it into an argument against MI.
Parent, you seem fixed on the money because you're confused about choice programs: They don't actually purchase schools. It doesn't matter where the money came from because the board will evaluate whether starting an MI program serves PAUSD.
Posted by wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 25, 2006 at 1:49 am
If Al feels slighted by my calling him paranoid, I am happy to apologize, but I will still suggest that does a checkup for Alzheimer's. I checked the records and indeed in the fall of 1996 Escondido held the lowest enrollment of all neighborhood schools -- 341 kids, compared to about 390-410 in most other schools. In the fall of 1997 SI was moved to Escondido -- actually from Fairmeadow, and not from El Carmelo. While checking the records I also checked when the Building for Excellence happened in Escondido. What a surprise -- it did happen throughout 1998 to 2000. So much for the SI "invasion", "taking over" and Farimeadow's "political clout" (Fairmeadow's clout??? Duveneck, maybe!). Hey, but nothing like a good urban legend.
Guys -- please calm down! How low can you get? Can anyone get lower than the "Who validated the residency of the [900 MI] petition signers?" I know, I know, the evil Fu Manchu is behind it all, and Goldfinger donated the $140,000!
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 25, 2006 at 8:43 am
Wolf, nice diversionary tactics. I guess there are some questions which are not going to be answered, no matter how many times they are asked. Makes me wonder why all the mystery. Maybe this too, will become an upban legend. Too bad, because this is, after all, a public school district, the decision ought to be made in a public forum, with public disclosures. If the evil Fu Manchu and Goldfinger aren't footing the bill, then who is? I suspect that if this was not your own pet project, then you would be asking the questions as well. You are too savvy not to want to know the answers to this question and others which have gone unanswered.
One other observation: Too bad that Grace and others are not using their considerable talents and tenacity on a project which has broader benifit to all the children of this district. Imagine!
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 25, 2006 at 1:59 pm
The definition of full is if all grade levels are full at either a three or four strand school. The number of classrooms has nothing to do with it as portables can always be placed in a school until such time as the agreed number of strands are full. This is PAUSD's definition of full.
Posted by John, a member of the Escondido School community, on Nov 26, 2006 at 2:40 am
When my kids went to Escondidido, there were no limits on kids per class, like there is now. If there had been a limit, several more classrooms would have been necessay to meet the limit (e.g. 20 pupils per class. grades 1-3). The simple fact is that the school was full, and there was no more room at the inn. Then SI got dumped on us! That was the end of our neighborhood school, just as Al has stated.
Since there are now some data proferred by a couple of posters, please provide the source of your data, as well as the written policy that strands are the determining factor in placement of immersion takeovers.
Posted by CP, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Nov 26, 2006 at 11:28 am
In response to the following exchange:
Parent: "Do we let just anyone with a fat checkbook buy 1/2 a school in PAUSD?"
Third Party: "Parent, you seem fixed on the money because you're confused about choice programs: They don't actually purchase schools. It doesn't matter where the money came from because the board will evaluate whether starting an MI program serves PAUSD."
I don't think "Parent" meant literally buying half a school, but figuratively in the sense that money tends to help individuals or groups get what they want. In fact, it DOES matter where the money comes from, in terms of paying for staff, which is a big chunk of the expense for education.
PAUSD's Board of Education explicitly prohibits the expenditure of site-raised funds for staff. This is the reason for the existence of Partners in Education, which allocates funds on a per-student basis district-wide; only those funds can be used for staff.
In order for MI to get off the ground, at least some of the funds raised by PACE would have to go towards staff expenses, and the question is, will the BoE make an exception for MI?
A number of people including myself are waiting to hear the answer before donating to PiE this year. We feel that making an exception for MI would be the start of the dismantling of districtwide fundraising, taking us back to the days when the wealth of the parent body at a given school determined the number of classroon aides and other supplemental staff.
Posted by MI Supporter, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 26, 2006 at 12:38 pm
You cheap wimps. I contributed $600 to PiE ($100 over the suggested donation of $500 before Nov 1, so it would be matched by the challenge grant), and contributed an anonymous amount to the MI feasibility study.
Posted by Third Party, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 26, 2006 at 12:54 pm
CP: Oh, I get what you mean: Parent was making a silly claim to taint her opponents.
What do you mean in saying, more evenly, money helps "groups get what they want"? As I understand it, the feasibility study would not have happened without the MI money. Is that what you mean? It's the district that set this policy, so why hold it against MI that they follow the rules?
Who said the MI group will pay for staff? Last I heard they were just paying start-up costs, not on-going staffing.
Be realistic, the question of where the MI comes from is irrelevant, and bringing it up is yet another attempt to muddy the water.
Posted by CP, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Nov 26, 2006 at 1:45 pm
Third Party: Actually, I was just supposing what "Parent" meant, and making a general statement about the power of money to get things done--just look at the beautiful new Paly pool, the stadium lights at Paly and Gunn, and so on. Those were privately financed expenditures.
I'm not categorically opposed to MI, if it's revenue-neutral to the district, if it is not a trade-off with providing foreign language instruction to all elementary students, which is a high priority in our community, if appropriate space can be found and transportation issues addressed, and if it doesn't violate current district rules about raising private funds for staff.
You say you thought they were just paying start-up costs, not on-going staffing. I had heard that at least initially, there would be two teachers required per classroom, resulting in a high level of staff expenses that would be paid through voluntary donations from MI families and PACE funds. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Posted by SI parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Nov 26, 2006 at 3:48 pm
In immersion classrooms, there is one teacher per classroom. That teacher is bilingual and biliterate. The MI program would follow that model. You may have heard that two teachers were *proposed* (not "required") to have two strands. But certainly not two teachers per class.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 26, 2006 at 4:06 pm
"When my kids went to Escondidido, there were no limits on kids per class, like there is now. If there had been a limit, several more classrooms would have been necessay to meet the limit (e.g. 20 pupils per class. grades 1-3). The simple fact is that the school was full"
Indeed until 1996 the only "limit" on class size was -- if any -- in the bargaining agreement between PAEA and PAUSD. So most classes were at about the same size, abbout 28-30 kids. In the fall of 1996 Pete Wilson rolled out class size reduction (CSR) in K-3 (initially funded only in 3 out of these 4 grades, and if I recall correctly PAUSD chose to do it initially in K-2) so suddenly there WAS a limit. A new one, of 20 kids in the CSR grades. This immediately created a need for more classrooms, and BoE was used to provide much of this space.
"please provide the source of your data"
I used the 11th day enrollment reports from the time. You can go and visit PAUSD offices to inspect them if you wish. More recent reports can be found on PAUSD web site, but not that far back. Possibly CBEDS records can also help, but I am also unsure they are online for those years.
"as well as the written policy that strands are the determining factor in placement of immersion takeovers."
I cannot provide you with written policies. First, because there were no "takeovers" except in your heated imagination. And second because there are no written policies for common sense -- if you disagree, please provideus with a written policy for your own common sense.
On a more serious note, PAUSD had policies for total recommended school sizes, but I don't think it gets down to the "strands" or similar. These are indeed driven common sense. One staffs classes based on the enrollment and desired class size. Nobody in his right mind would keep classes half full on purpose. "Full" is essentially what the Bystander said it is. If you really are so distrustful of what you are told, why don't you spend some of your own time going through the board minutes at the time and check what were the arguments for SI move to Escondido? I really don't need to waste my time to satisfy your distrust.
"Staffing costs" are costs for hiring dedicated staff, and not the costs of one time chunk of staff's work. In other words site funds cannot be used to hire someone to fill a position since PAUSD believes that site funds are too volatile for such on-going purpose. But one-time expenditure, including "start up costs" clearly may include some amount of staff's work, e.g. in preperation of curriculum, or planning logistics. These are NOT "staffing costs."
Finally I can't see the reason why initially MI would need 2 *teachers* in the classroom. Possibly you confused it with a teacher and an aide, like in any other classroom. It makes no sense, and I fear you may have misunderstood or misheard it. Can you check it please?
Posted by John, a member of the Escondido School community, on Nov 26, 2006 at 7:04 pm
In other words, Wolf, there is no policy on where to site immersion programs. It is just what your and others 'common sense' tells you and them.For instance, if the BoE decides that it will get too much political heat by siting SI at Fairmeadow it makes common sense to site it at the least politically powerful school in town, Escondido.
Common sense tells me that the immersion programs should be sited at a charter school. Then we wouldn't be having this argument. Wolf, what is wrong with this idea?
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 26, 2006 at 7:15 pm
Noting is particularly "wrong" with it. If indeed that is what you think, convince the PAUSD board and you are done. I am even guessing that if you convince PACE that you will support them in their request for a charter school, they may even not object too much to your effort of trying to convince PAUSD.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 26, 2006 at 10:58 pm
I don't think this is a relevant question and I fear you try to muddle the water.
Still, since you asked. I think that any group like MI or SI that shows broad and long term support and commitment, and that its request is broadly aligned with the educational mission of public schools, should be taken very seriously by the public school district with an eye to accommodate it.
I also support the right of any group of parents that can show a broad and sustained support, and that has enough smarts to put an attractive and cohesive educational program together, to start a charter school. And why not? These are their kids, and it is their tax money.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 27, 2006 at 11:08 am
Re: two teachers. Marilyn Cook said in study session on August 29th that they were looking at the need to hire both a Mandarin Speaking and an English speaking teacher to teach these classes. We've also heard from Grace that supply of qualified mandarin bilingual teachers is an issue. We've also heard (I believe Marilyn mentioned in that same meeting, but also info available through Cupertino) that Cupertino uses two teachers per classroom in their MI program. We've also spoken to headmaster(s) at private chinese schools in the area. One of their biggest challenges is finding qualified teachers - and private program don't even need California teaching credentials. PLUS, you'll notice if you watch the papers and do a little digging you'll notice that MI programs are suddenly coincicentally and miraculously springing up all over the bay area at the same time (SF, Burlingame, PAUSD, Mt View, Fremont, etc..)
So demand for these California credentialed teachers is increasing. So if we find them at all we'll pay a premium, no doubt. (Hope the MI parents are getting their checkbooks ready for that incrmental cost.) But the point is, plenty of evidence and even statements from our own PAUSD assistant superintendent and others, that we will have a hard time finding credentialed qualified mandarin/english bilingual teachers and will look at the need to hire one of each.
We don't have to debate this here, because the feasibility study results will tell us all about this.
But even if they come back and say, we're hiring two half time teachers to share these classrooms. Well, that's a quality issue parents of the program will have to decide if they like. Its their 'choice', and if that seems like an ideal arrangement to them, that's up to them.
But more importantly, are we supposed to believe the hiring process, the management of teachers, the payroll process, the review process, training and development, benefits, all that is completely free? No, there's overhead that goes with hiring and maintaining, and training each employee, no matter how many hours they work, and so we'll be operating this program at a higher overhead rate than our standard classrooms. That's incremental cost.
Posted by CP, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Nov 27, 2006 at 1:01 pm
So how does that work in Cupertino in the lower grades, where, I believe, 70-80% of teaching takes place in the target language? One full time teacher can't be in two places more than 50% of the time. I guess that means they could have a part-time teacher for the English portion of the class, but don't they still need two bodies for the Mandarin portion, even if each of them is only there 80% of the time?
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 27, 2006 at 2:00 pm
The point that Parent isn't getting is that all teachers hired by PAUSD are credentialed in English. The MI teachers will also have the Mandarin BCLAD credential, certifying they have the qualifications to teach Mandarin.
Those Cupertino and Escondido bilingual teachers teach both in English and the target language. They do not have separate hires for the English portion of the classtime.
Since the new MI teachers are still teaching the same number of Palo Alto children, they are not incremental hires. They will most likely replace the natural attrition that the district has every year. For instance, if you look at this coming Tuesday's school board meeting agenda:
At the elementary level, we have hired 32 teachers. All regular classroom teachers hired for elementary classrooms are fully credentialed. Chart 1 shows the number of new hires as a proportion of the total staff of each elementary school. During the hiring process, principals strive to hire new staff to create a balanced representation of a range of ages, experience, and diversity at their sites."
The MI teachers, two a year (if a 2-strand program), will not require extra screening or staff training than other teachers. And guess what? Palo Alto doesn't pay its bilingual teachers any more than regular teachers (like most school districts).
To be perfectly clear, an example of how the the two bilingual teachers teach:
Teacher A teaches 80% of the class time in Mandarin in Room 1
Teacher B teaches 80$ of the class time in Mandarin in Room 2
When the content is taught in English, the two teacher switch rooms (or the kids can switch classrooms) such that
Teacher A teaches 20% of the class time in English in Room 2
Teacher B teaches 20% of the class time in English in Room 1
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 27, 2006 at 3:11 pm
The part of your formula that you seem to avoid is: TWO extra classoms (assuming two strand). This is a hit on the neighborhood school. It happened to Escondido (big time!). Where are rooms 1 and 2 (if not 3 nd 4) going to come from? Sure, it allows some small level of relief at other school sites, but it is a major impact on the unfortunate school that gets targeted.
The other issue is the fractured nature of the school environment. Since I was there when it happened at Escondido (sounds like John was, too), there was a natural divide in terms of school 'culture'. I just asked my son about his experiences. He said it didn't much matter to him, since "they had their group, and we pretty much had ours." I would submit that this is not a healthy neighborhood school model. Along the same lines, the immersion parents tend to be real activists, and pushing their own views. They act like anyone who is not happy with the new relationship must be some kind of reactionary. Again, not a neighborly thing....
This is a clear case where a charter school could solve the problem. If MI and SI (and any other 'I' programs) are willing to open up their own charter school, this would all be a non-issue. I am FOR immersion (choice) programs, but I am AGAINST the takeover of a neighborhood school to achieve otherwise commendable goals.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 27, 2006 at 8:13 pm
Third Party: I can;t wait to see PAUSD's unbiased analysis on how MI will serve PAUSD. It will be enlightening.
Al, If you want to see 'activist' in action, take a look at the misleading headlines in the PA Daily today, and the quotes within that story, where one private citizen (not even employed by the school district as far as I'm aware), seems to have appointed herself the determiner and spokesperson for PAUSDs future.
What's also being avoided above is the supply of these wonderfully credentialed teachers. I understand they are hard to find. (So if they can't find a credentialed teacher, I assume they'll need to hire one of each to meet requirements?) That we currently hire ONLY credentialed teachers and the MI teachers are going to be hard to find? What are the implications? If they can't find credentialed teachers, does this prevent the classrooms from opening? Also sparse supply means higher cost - high demand and low supply means those teachers will be in demand, and will probably be able to get more.
Posted by Wolf, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 28, 2006 at 7:35 am
Wolf : you are living up to your pseudonym with your comments about "broad support" above.
As for your assertion that 900 signatures gathered over 4 YEARS signifies broad support in a town of, what...65,000? Anybody know? Versus 330 signatures gathered over 2 weeks in just, maybe, 3 schools... Give the opposition 4 years and see what happens.
Better yet, ask the Board to approach this in a professional way and not take straw polls, just do what we in opposition have been asking. Start a Whole Language Task Force..study what the community, who pays the bill, the teachers and the principals, who have a few ideas about how and what to teach, want for foreign language instruction. Determine the goal of foreign language instruction for PAUSD, which grades, how many children in these grades, what type of program to fit these parameters, criteria for selecting a langauge etc. Present a couple, even 3, options to the Board and community for discussion. Discuss, problem-solve, use all the incredible brain power in this District and community. Decide on a plan. Start it. Test the results. Adjust. Continue. etc.
In other words, plan.
If this had happened, there would have been unhappy people, there alwasy are, to be sure, but it would have been a professionally managed process that TRULY would have broad support, if done in a transparent and complete manner.
Posted by A.J., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 10:35 am
I signed a petition for MI early on, but this was long before I realized that there was no language instruction at all in early grades. I also did not realize that this would mean displacing kids in an existing neighborhood school.
I would much rather see us prioritize making some kind of elective language program available to all kids in the district -- as an after school elective, the way Bullis Charter School has offered its after school electives. This way, only the people who want language instruction would take it (I expect it would be a high percentage of families, but not all); other classes could be available for those who don't, and no one who doesn't want the additional school hours would have to participate if they chose not to. Additionally, we could offer more languages than just Mandarin, and children could be grouped by interest and academic level for these classes, rather than by age.
So, even though I was an early booster for the MI program, now that I know more, I'd really rather have some kind of after school language instruction available for the kids -- maybe even with some kind of whole family instruction component, so the lessons could be integrated into life.
If language instruction were available to all in early grades, I would still be in favor of the MI program. But given the lack of ANY language instruction (or even music at this point), I'd say I am strongly against adding MI for now.
I am very strongly in favor of offering some kind of language instruction to all early grades -- and soon!! In an elective model the way Bullis does it, it truly would be a CHOICE program. THEN we could turn our attention to MI.
Posted by KS, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 10:47 am
Calling 900 signatures "broad support" is taking liberties. MI no doubt does have support but it isn't broad in any sense of the term based on your numbers. (What about commissioning an independent survey similar to that for the libraries to guage the real support level?)
Note: I'm not for or against MI as long as it doesn't displace any local kids, doesn't cost any more or take up any existing resources. If this is the case go for it!
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 12:32 pm
"Since the new MI teachers are still teaching the same number of Palo Alto children, they are not incremental hires."
Grace, this is your quote, so I assume you have analyzed it.
I doesn't compute in my mind.
If school 'X' needs to open up two new classrooms to absorb 40 new MI kids, then it must hire two new teachers to teach them, right? If those 40 kids come from, say, 10 other schools, that is an average decline of 4 kids per school. Therefore, the non-targeted schools will either have 36 kids in one class or 18 kids in two classes. Guess what? There will still be two classes with 18 kids in each class. In other words, 10 schools will benefit, but having smaller class size, and one school will be impacted by having to give up two classrooms. AND, Grace, there WILL be two ADDITIONAL hires. The only way around this is to ship kids away from their neighborhood schools, in order to balacne the numbers.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 12:59 pm
Looking for validation on the number of signatures from Palo Alto. How many are from Palo Alto.
(Also the above listing of the different signature lists at different times is not clear. Ending with 900 is that the sum of all of the above? Any duplicates there? There needs to be a validation on the number of signatures from Palo Altans. Are there still 900?
Also looks like last time an enrollment list was gathered was in 2003? Those kids are no longer eligible for Kinder entry. What is the current list for 2007 entrance? What is the current school district residency and demographic makeup of that list?
Posted by Get a Grip, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 1:16 pm
Al, kids don't come in 20-pack sets. For instance, if two overflow classes at Barron Park were converted (not opened up new) to MI, and the number of overflows to Barron Park decreased by 40, we'd have a wash.
That's not logic, it's math. Get it?
Parent, who are you? And as I asked before, can you confirm or deny that a number of signatures collected for the MI opposition petition were collected at a local synagogue?
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 1:34 pm
Get A Grip, what's with the synagogue question again? I don't know where the signatures were gathered, but I didn't sign it at a local synagogue. Would there be a problem if I had? Are you speaking in code or something? Clarify, please.
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 2:52 pm
It gets a little bit tiring to explain the basics. It would help if people made a minimal effort to check some elementary numbers before they expressed their so-called informed opinion; or read petitions before they sign them.
Palo Alto population is about 60,000 (5/2005 Community Profile) but that includes everyone -- registered voters, non-registered citizens, children, and non-citizens. About 50% of this is the voter pool, and about 50% of that actually voted in the last PAUSD elections (Nov. 2005) for a total of about 17,000-18,000 votes. Since the people that actually cared to put their names to the MI petition should be compared to actual voters, those 9000 (well, 9000 less 1 for A.J.) represents about half of PAUSD population. Note: The 60,000 do not account for bits of LAH that belong to PAUSD, but the 17,000-18,000 votes do.
Another way to look at it is that PAUSD currently enrolls about 11,000 kids. Even if only 50% of the 9000 signatures belong to people with children in PAUSD -- a rather conservative assumption -- the MI petition represents about half of PAUSD parents.
If that ain't broad, I don't know what broad is.
But I particularly liked the largesse of KS that wrote:
"I'm not for or against MI as long as it doesn't displace any local kids, doesn't cost any more or take up any existing resources."
This is on the level of "I am for deposing Saddam in Iraq if it doesn't cost us any American life, doesn't harm any Iraqi, and doesn't cost us any money." Or, better yet, "I am for intervention in Darfur" under those same conditions. And even then KS is not for MI, just "for or against." How generous of KS!
Which brings me to another question. Did any of those who rave against "displacement of children" from neighborhood schools bother to look at this year's 11th day PAUSD enrollment report? Last year we had 290 (~6%) elementary students attend neighborhood schools outside their attendance area. Not a small number but also not a disaster, esp. given that quite a few of them were between adjacent schools like Palo Verde and Fairmeadow. This year this has dropped to 29(!) students, or much below 1%. Talking about issues that do not have a broad appeal...
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 3:11 pm
First 900 names were mentioned on this petition. The last post infers a petition of 9000 (- 1). Elsewhere, there has been at least one poster who said that they signed before knowing all the facts so presumably has changed their mind. It seems that there are a core number of people who are really interested in MI apart from Grace and Nico, and some people who have signed the petition before knowing all the facts. Are these people parents of preschool children or are they planning to have more once MI takes effect?
None of this adds up. Please don't let us quibble any more about something that a very few number of parents will support either financially (?) or by putting their children into the first kindergarten class.
And, looking at the data about how many kids have been displaced from their neighborhood schools is almost irrelevant. From the anecdotes I have heard, the majority of the kindergarten applicants who did not get into their neighborhood schools in the North cluster for this school year, ended up going into private schools. I feel sure that the only reason these families chose that option was because if they had to drive their children to school each day anyway, they might drive them to a school which was closer than Barron Park. We have recently opened Stratford School in Palo Alto, and I am sure that this school is filled with dissatisfied Palo Alto parents, some of whom may have chosen public schools rather than private if they could get into the local school.
Posted by Tulley, a member of the El Carmelo School community, on Nov 28, 2006 at 3:50 pm
Get a Grip, here's an interesting thought. Since you seem to have a problem with any signatures being gathered at synagogues, how about looking at this whole thing from another angle. Let's pretend that 900 signatures were gathered at a local synagogue in support of a proposal for Hebrew Immersion program in PAUSD. Let's pretend that there came a time when a check for $140000 is waved at the BOE and it looked like it was all systems go for implementing this HI proposal. Would they be counting you as one of their staunch supporters, touting the virtues of language education by immersion? Or are there only certain languages which deserve special consideration?
And while were on the subject, how comfortable would you be that those signatures represent the PAUSD community? How loudly would you be questioning the source of the funds? How lax would you be willing to be regarding the PiE guidelines? How concerned would you suddenly become about neighborhood schools? How about district priorities? At the beginning of the MI discussion, the concept that the board was approaching a slippery slope with choice programs was pooh-poohed. But the precedent is being set; it takes a few hundred signatures and some generous contributions and the district could be asked to set up immersion programs at Hoover, Walter Hayes, Fairmeadow...I'll be looking forward to seeing all those who fought so hard for MI front and center, loud and clear, at the BOE in support of all the other language choice programs, and other choice proposals. Wolf, Grace, PACE members; be there or be square, as they used to say in the olden days.
By the way folks, don't get excited that I chose Hebrew as an example. I was just following Get a Grip's lead. Feel free to substitute any language you think may or may not have significance to this district and/or globally.
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 4:35 pm
"Al, kids don't come in 20-pack sets. For instance, if two overflow classes at Barron Park were converted (not opened up new) to MI, and the number of overflows to Barron Park decreased by 40, we'd have a wash."
Grip, MI kids DO come in 20-pack sets! If there is a perfect overflow situation at BP, then where will the overflow go, without displacement?
I do not follow your logic.
Unless there is some extreme constellation of circumstances, there WILL need to be additional teacher hires. There is no way to avoid it.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2006 at 4:42 pm
Wolfe - that was Nine Hundred Signatures on the MI petition. Not Nine Thousand. Nice math though. No wonder you're so in favor of mandarin as the next big thing for our public schools, YOU know how to divide and multiply so the next logic thing ~everyone~ must need is a second language, right?
Lets try again.. If there were 900 signatures, and we assume about 50% are valid (valid current residents of Palo Alto), that would be 450 signatures supporting MI. That's 450/5000 = 9% of PAUSD Elementary. If we take that as a % of the total PAUSD student population 450/11,000 = 4% If we take it as a % of Palo Alto voters (I have no idea if your 18,000 voters assumption is correct, but lets take it at face value)... 450/18000 = 2.5%
And guess what, the other side has ~at least~ that many signatures, and they're all current 2006, and they're all Palo Altans (that WILL stand up to a validation because they were gathered from schools)... So we can offer to do a side by side validation of signatures by a neutral third party, shoot I'd even be willing to let Becky Cohn Vargas or Marilyn Cook (gasp) do that neutral survey - would that be helpful for you???
(Pssst secret: The board has said they pay no mind to petition signatures anyway. Which is excellent for me, because I have 35,000 signatures, and a check for a $200,000 for an ROTC immersion school I'd like to open at Garland next year. I guess no one will mind that those signatures and money came from the military recruiters down in Washington, who will look forward to all those yummy 'strategic' recruits at the end of the program.)
Validation of the extent of the REAL support for MI is a challenge the Board should be willing to take - not four years, how about another month or two to create an all new unbiased, neutral survey to confirm community support for THIS proposal. It would be a very simple and very cost effective test of how broadly the community supports this program. Why wouldn't they do this??? Its a big committment for the district! Is there any good reason to rush in to this? Would there be anything to fear from this sort of test???
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 10:32 am
All Palo Alto residents should have detailed information on the financial implications of MI, particularly since it is not on the list of PAUSD priorities.
There are two key financial questions that I’d like to have answered:
(1) Who provided money for the original study and startup?
As has been asked on this forum, where did the $140,000 startup funds came from? We need to know specifically who donated that money. Are the donors all Palo Alto residents? Parents? Organizations? Businesses? How much did each donor contribute?
It’s important for us – the public and taxpayers – to have transparency in the entire MI process and that would start with the names of those who put up the money to start the process.
This is particularly important to avoid the notion that anyone with enough money can determine what programs are implemented in our schools. This also begs the question, what exactly is the process for introducing new classes/programs?
(2) How much would the MI program cost?
Some say the program would be cost neutral; others say it would run into the millions of dollars.
Will more teachers and aides need to be hired? I assume we would have to find teachers fluent in Mandarin. Are they paid more than other teachers? Would we need one Mandarin-speaking teacher for each subject? Again, various opinions have been presented.
Since we taxpayers will foot the bills, it’s essential to understand the startup and ongoing costs. And what priorities currently on the PAUSD list would NOT be accomplished?
Posted by Pauline, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Nov 29, 2006 at 1:31 pm
Wolf, not only do you need to get your numbers right re 900 signatures verus 9,000, you need to look at all the attendance numbers and include the number of kids displaced from not being able to go to what would have been their neighborhood school had it not been an alternative program. Therefore, the number jumps up considerably when you look at all the schools, INCLUDING OHLONE AND HOOVER AND THE SI COMPONENT OF ESCONDIDO, and realize that if you take into account that NO MORE THAN 25% of the kids attending these schools are "neighborhood" ( I am being generous to make sure I don't err the wrong way..the stats hover around 20%), then you do the math of 75% of those schools are non-neighborhood kids, which means the kids who would have been neighborhood kids are being displaced to schools further away. So, after all the math comes down of displaced kids PLUS kids going to non-neighborhood school alternative programs, you end up with, currently, about 1600 kids going to non-neighborhood schools. If MI goes in at 240 kids, you add 400 total non-neighborhood kids to the number for 2,000 kids, which is 2,000/5,000 elementary kids, which is just a little bit higher percentage than the 6% you concluded.
You are right,to quote your sarcasm "It gets a little bit tiring to explain the basics. It would help if people made a minimal effort to check some elementary numbers before they expressed their so-called informed opinion" and to paraphrase your sarcastic question "Did any of those who rave against "displacement of children" from neighborhood schools bother to look at this year's 11th day PAUSD enrollment report?" I say "Did you bother to read how we arrived at the displacement numbers?" I have written this multiple times, and it is fully explained and supported in the opposition paper at www.paee.us.
Sorry, everyone else, for you being subjected to my return sarcasm. I am tired of it coming at me and it is time to send it back. I won't do it again.
Posted by choice is good, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 5:17 pm
I think that your French immersion and international baccalaurate program sounds great. Did you know that ISTP (a private school in Palo Alto) recently started an IB program?
How you would get started is by contacting PAUSD and asking for a copy of their 6 page document titled "Guidelines for Developing, Implementing and Expanding/Replicating Large-Scale Alternative Programs." I was unable to find it online. The district office phone numer is 650-329-3709. I don't want to discourage you, but you actually need to do a lot more than get 80 students and 800 signatures. In fact students and signatures are not even mentioned as part of the required process. PACE I believe used this guideline as part of their process for proposing a Mandarin Immersion program.
Good Luck Jenny! It's really great to hear about energies being channeled for building something postive instead of trying to destroy something. Again, good luck, I love your ideas!
Posted by curious, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 5:31 pm
Pauline's math on the number of neighborhood students displaced by Hoover/Ohlone/Escondido is very suspect. For example there are 137 kids from North Palo Alto who are in those "choice" programs. If those programs didn't exist, those 137 kids would still not be going to their neighborhood schools - they would be overflowed to some school in South Palo Alto or Barron Park.
If Hoover/Ohlone were converted to neighborhood schools, it still wouldn't make a major difference; Hoover is very close to Fairmeadow, and in order to fully utilize Ohlone in a neighborhood school mode, kids from Oregon Expressway would need to be part of the "neighborhood".
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 6:13 pm
I did see your (or similar) calculation in some past thread. They didn't make sense to me then, and they still don't make sense to me now. Let's walk through your calculations:
"if you take into account that NO MORE THAN 25% of the kids attending these [choice] schools are "neighborhood" [...] then you do the math of 75% of those schools are non-neighborhood kids, which means the kids who would have been neighborhood kids are being displaced to schools further away."
There are currently 843 kids in these 3 choice programs, so 75% are ~630 kids.
"So, after all the math comes down of displaced kids PLUS kids going to non-neighborhood school alternative programs, you end up with, currently, about 1600 kids going to non-neighborhood schools."
This is where your math makes no sense, neither here nor on www.paee.us . Even if we assume that every one of these 630 kids is "displaced" -- and I will show in a moment why we should not -- this comes only to 630 kids. Yet in your (and paee.us) numbers you count 100% of the kids as displaced, and then you count BOTH the neighborhood kids and the choice kids as non-neighborhood. That is how you come to the "1600 kids" number.
Counting the whole 100% is just a math mistake; counting the choice kids as non-neighborhood is intentionally misleading. These kids (or their parents) chose this programs, so they PREFER not to be in the neighborhood schools. Such calculation for the purpose of estimating the number of commuting kids wouldn't be necessarily incorrect. But you use the term "non-neighborhood", hoping to evoke in the careless reader the impression that they were DISPLACED AGAINST THEIR WILL. They were not, and you are being dishonest in this usage.
"If MI goes in at 240 kids, you add 400 total non-neighborhood kids to the number for 2,000 kids, which is 2,000/5,000 elementary kids"
Here you just use the same arithmetic to grow the number to even scarier 2000 kids, assuming two full strands for MI.
The whole analysis above is targeted to create a large and scary number, to appeal to the fearful parents that their kids will be "displaced" from their neighborhood school. Nice try!
The reality is that our neighborhood attendance areas are quite disparate in size. While some are reasonably compact (e.g. El Carmelo, Escondido) other are quite large (e.g. Addison, Fairmeadow, Barron Park) and one is huge (Nixon). Consequently already today a significant fraction of elementary children needs to commute to their neighborhood school. Add to that that 3 areas span El Camino and one spans Alma, and it is quite clear why a large fraction of elementary kids will not walk to school no matter what.
Next, let's consider what a non-local "choice" kid does to a "neighborhood" kid. There are three separate things that happen. First, the all neighborhood attendance areas grow a little since there are fewer neighborhood schools; then the kid that lives close to the choice school needs to walk to his neighborhood school which is presumably farther away; finally, a space is vacated at the SOURCE SCHOOL of the choice kid, so neighborhood kids from that area do not need to go farther away since otherwise his local school might have been full.
As you can see the picture is quite mixed, and the overall results are unclear. However, PAUSD wisely placed Hoover next to Fairmeadow so the second argument almost doesn't apply to it. Also wisely, the choice schools tend to be not in north Palo Alto (served by Duveneck, Addison, Hays) which are already the MOST OVERSUBSCRIBED. This tends to accentuate the advantage of the third argument, that the choice kid actually releases the pressure at the source school.
Finally, the proof is in the pudding. PAUSD has this year AT MOST 29 kids that do not attend their neighborhood schools not out of their own choice. This is a tiny number, much less than 1%, and from the argument above it seems reasonable that choice schools actually help in keeping this number low. While there is no conclusive proof that they do, it is clear that the choice programs provide for the needs of 800 satisfied kids not in a "one size fits all" manner. It is also quite clear that throwing numbers like 1600 or 2000 "displaced" kids amounts to nothing more but propaganda and scare tactics.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 6:33 pm
As you are part of the Palo Verde neighborhood, you will be able to understand the following. According to the data by AAAG, Palo Verde School has the most resident students in its nighborhood. If it wasn't for the fact that many of these resident students attended Ohlone (also within the Palo Verde boundary) and Hoover (fairly close), this would be the largest school in the district if they all attended their neighborhood school. Now you could argue that if Ohlone was not a choice school, it would return to being a neighborhood school and therefore many of these students would attend that campus as their neighborhood school you would be quite correct. If however, the Palo Verde residents had not been "lucky" to get into the choice school and for some reason the only "lucky" ones were those living elsewhere in the district, then Palo Verde students would be overflowed all oover the place or there would be portables all over the present small campus. Nixon you say is huge geographically, but the number of residents there is quite small as many of these areas are not populated the way Palo Verde area is. As you must know living in the neighborhood, Palo Verde has just in the last couple of years taken away its last portable, one has been on the playing field for nigh 20 years. Do you want to see more growth at Palo Verde?
Now I am not necessarily an advocate of choice schools. However I am an advocate for Palo Verde School. If it means that someone buying a home 1/2 block away from Palo Verde School can actually get their children in, then that is a good reason for keeping Ohlone (and Hoover) where it is. Yes there are other areas highly impacted by the fact that they have too many students for their neighborhood schools i.e. the North cluster, but that same situation would happen if these choice schools would move. This is one of the things that AAAG has been discussing in great depth.
What we have is what we have. Yes the present scenario is inherited from those in the past who thought it a good idea at the time. At the time, the schools were closing and choice had less impact on the neighborhood schools than they do now. I don't want to say like it or lump it, but the fact is these things are not going to change. So trying to work out all the figures and talking about displaced kids is practically irrelevant when it comes to what is being discussed in this thread. AAAG has been trying hard to make sense of all this and take into account things like peer streaming, traffic issues, new housing, and so on and so forth. If you would really like to know the whole picture, look up the minutes and if you know a real solution, then speak up. There are at least AAAG members and Board Members waiting to hear and everyone wants a simple solution. But, I warn you. It isn't there!
Posted by Al, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 6:57 pm
"For example there are 137 kids from North Palo Alto who are in those "choice" programs. If those programs didn't exist, those 137 kids would still not be going to their neighborhood schools - they would be overflowed to some school in South Palo Alto or Barron Park."
North PA kids would be the last to be displaced. If push comes to shove, the Tinsley kids will be displaced. If, for some odd reason, that doesn't work, the NPA kids will 'overflow' to private schools. The rich schools will always dominate the political system. That's just the way life works in Palo Alto.
This entire argument is misplaced. The straightforward solution is to allow charter schools to open up to fulfill the demand for choice programs. The NPA families will be a very positive force, to make sure that those charter schools are solid and successful.
The neighborhoods would then have their schools back.
Why is there such silence, by the propoents of MI (and SI), about the charter school solution?
Why are we all fighting each other, when there is such a simple solution? Can't we all just get along?
Posted by Been There, Done That, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Nov 29, 2006 at 8:06 pm
Just ask any of the board members what they think about charter schools, and you'll get a lot more information than you know what to do with. You clearly haven't heard about the Bullis Charter School and the pain and agony involved and COST born by the proponents and opponents.
Talk about fighting each other, that's more divisive than this MI discussion will ever be. The latest redistricting hearing at the Santa Clara County Board of Education, set for Dec 7 will be a good eye-opener for you, if you care to come.
California Charter Schools - California Department of Education
Read about charter schools in California and link to a variety of charter school resources including funding & grants, laws and regulations, assessment issues, special education issues, and the Charter Schools Advisory Commission.
Posted by k, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 8:51 pm
If you read through this entire thread, one can see that the entire focus should NOT just be on determining numbers... numbers of students potentially displaced if MI were installed, etc. That's something but not everything.
There are other concerns, too, that need to be addressed by the BoE. I still have a concern with overall world languages instruction in PAUSD, and I believe the needs of all ages, including high school students, should be looked at. My preference is for a focus on district-wide priorities rather than a plan that would benefit so few.
Posted by curious, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2006 at 6:53 am
Al writes "North PA kids would be the last to be displaced. If push comes to shove, the Tinsley kids will be displaced. If, for some odd reason, that doesn't work, the NPA kids will 'overflow' to private schools. The rich schools will always dominate the political system. That's just the way life works in Palo Alto"
This is not true; there has been overflow from the North Palo Alto schools into South Palo Alto, but kids attending from the Tinsley settlement are placed in the North Palo Alto schools.
By the way, not all kids in North Palo Alto come from rich families. There is alot of condos, multiresidential and apartments, especially around downtown and Alma, a much higher percentage of housing units than in other areas of Palo Alto. Most of these units are occupied by middle class families getting by, and wanting their kids to go the excellent schools in Palo Alto.