I wasn't able to attend Tuesday's night’s board meeting but I did manage to read the Feasibility Study and talk to some proponents on how it went.
I am a proponent of the Mandarin Immersion program but I must admit that I was a little embarrassed by the Feasibility Study. Where is all the supporting data, the backbone of the study? I expected to see many appendixes with charts and numbers that showed without a doubt justification for every significant statement in the body of the study, especially ones regarding costs. After all, PACE did pay $66,000 for this 22-page document.
The opposition is already leery that the Mandarin Immersion program is a ‘done deal’ as they put it, with PACE paying the bill and the key players of the study being strong proponents. If you have the hard data, please put it in the study. As it stands now, the Feasibility Study reads like it was a road trip to several successful Mandarin Immersion programs where you chitchatted with the schools. For $60K, we needed to push those schools to get the hard data that would sell this program.
It would be a great selling point to both the board and the opposition, if you had a cost neutral chart comparing the seven schools showing each of their start up costs along with the on-going costs associated with the first three years or at least an average yearly cost and compare it with their regular classroom costs. And spell out the material costs they had. If they could stay cost neutral and didn’t get free material, that says something. Then the report could say something like “All Mandarin Immersion programs we visited were able to achieve their goals of staying cost neutral (see appendix B).” And then Appendix B would show yes this school was cost neutral, and yes this school was cost neutral, and this school was close, etc. In other words, prove to the readers without a doubt. Such a powerful statement that would make.
Also, instead of saying that we’re not worried about finding Mandarin/English teachers, in fact we have some that we didn’t even know we had. How about strong statements that says: “We are going to need 12 Mandarin/English teachers in the next six years and we have 14 already available to us right here at PAUSD.”
I was also hoping that you gathered data regarding the children in 4th and 5th grades of these Mandarin Immersion schools that showed the percentage of children with only one language spoken at home. This would prove that the attrition concerns are unfounded if you could state that “Seventy percent of the 4th and 5th graders have only one language spoken at home and they still remain at 95% capacity”. No more attrition discussions. And it would show that these schools are providing language opportunities that the parents can’t. Wow! If you can get that data and that percentage is high, get it in the study.
I’m sorry for coming on so strong, but with the Board asking more and more detailed questions and the holidays upon us, I’m afraid we won’t be prepared for Jan 9th.