A NIMBY speaks to Mandarin Immersion
Original post made
by NIMBY, Nixon School,
on Jan 20, 2007
I find it interesting that Karen Karpen and Glenn Krasner had a letter to the Editor published in the Town Talk yesterday about how disappointed they were about the Board being poised to reject Mandarin Immersion.
They wrote from Tripoli Court in Los Altos Hills, a street whose school is Nixon. Nixon stood no chance, whatsoever, of becoming the site for MI, now or anytime in the future. Expedient of them to be disappointed, isn't it?
How can anyone interpret the history of MI in the way these two do? Plummeting funds in the District when the moratorium on new programs was instituted is suddenly "shabby treatment" of MI. Creating a choice program policy BEFORE instituting a new choice program is suddenly seen as throwing hurdles before MI, not PLANNING. And, how did these two conclude that the Board required MI proponents to fund the feasibility study? I remember a certain person waving a check in the air to the Board and promising more where that came from.
Asserting for the umpteenth time the high success of the SI program, given that it is a FACT that there are children coming out of it who STILL are not biliterate and bilingual in Spanish, is manipulative. And lends credence to the opponents' claim that we need to set criteria for deciding which languages we teach.
If not, we end up with 2 poorly documented immersion programs being used as clubs to beat the District into accepting another one, instead of just one poorly documented immersion program.
It is laughable that these 2 actually think we shouldn't plan for the "logistics" of program placement before instituting one, as if it is perfectly natural to plunk 240 students into a new program in the district without planning for how, when, and in what context to do this. At least it is consistent with their dismay at the Board for creating a policy for new choice programs several years ago before instituting one.
The piece de resistance is the urging of proponents to start a charter school. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online.] At the very least, it smells fishy.
Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 21, 2007 at 4:09 pm
You are a brave and decent young man, coming to the defense of your parents and your education. I have no doubt your parents are proud of you. Please, go enjoy the gifts you got and use them well. Nobody is arguing that what you received wasn't a great thing, and I am sure we are happy for you.
But, please understand, what we want is for the high school students of 10 years from now to be able to be in your shoes,( and K-5 immersion is not the only way to get there) and say what you can't say...They will be able to say that every one of their friends had the same opportunity to get to the same place. I don't know if you did or did not choose to go down the more intense track in math in high school, but if you didn't, at least you had the same chance since kindergarten to choose this as your fellow students. Your fellow students did not have the same chance in foreign language.
At the time our district went this way, that seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Not as many people were interested in foreign language at a young age...and there was not much thought given to the effect on the rest of the district. It was all new and ready to be tested. Ok, we have tested it, and have learned. The discussion now for most of us is not about whether or not we did the right thing in starting SI then or whether or not it should continue. They are independent of each other.
By the way, NIMBY is reverse irony, related to supporters of MI who already got foreign language for their kids and have nothing to lose by supporting MI now, or who support MI knowing there is no cost to their own school or kids, for whatever reason.
Now, to the rest of you..
The rest of you, frame it any way you want..this is a problem of the two sides having a different vision for the District.
One side thinks that the way we have made decisions about our programs, and the programs we have implemented, are good. They like the way we have done business in the past. They want to keep making the same decisions in the same way.
This side clearly is very happy with the idea that our District should become a district of different specialty or language immersion programs at each site, with feasibility studies for the programs funded by private anonymous donors, and with the assumption being that all lottery choice programs are good.. and wants to force us further along that road by pushing for MI right now, OR ELSE.
This side is quite comfortable with the idea of starting MI right now, at Ohlone, knowing that in 3 years it will either have to move to a new site, which forces us to decide to open Garland right now and that half of those neighborhood kids won't go to Garland, or to make very painful decisions about Ohlone, such as forcing it to lessen the number of kids who can have access to Ohlone, which will displace Ohlone "wannabe" kids.
This side wants what it wants NOW, knowing that if it gets it, by name calling, negative framing, threatening or guilt ( you took our money, you owe us a program), then we will not only be stuck with MI now, we will not be able to stop the next immersion program from starting at yet another site.
This is the vision of this side. It is a valid vision, and one that has been embraced by some other districts, the idea of every school site and program being by semi-lottery and specialized. Of course, to say other districts have done this without saying that they have done this in a desperate attempt to attract students to their failing districts would be ..disengenous..to say the least.
Say all you want that " an MI program now doesn't take away from anybody else". This is false. It takes away the spots from the Ohlone wannabes who will STILL be denied entrance, even with more modulars. It takes resources away from the District, as it already has, that could be used for the good of the whole district's priorities, and it takes away from the future vision of this district by forcing us down a path we may not want.
The "other" side does not want us to be forced closer to this future for our District. It wants to change for the better the way we make decisions.It wants us to evaluate what has and has not worked in our district, measure where we are in meeting our goals, assess the reality of our District and its resources now, and assess what the community wants for its children. It wants us to make planned choices about our district, with an eye toward the consequences of our choices on the future.
We are betting that this community, if given a voice, does NOT want a district where each school becomes a specialty immersion program. We are betting that this community would prefer to assess which of our programs we need to continue improving, which are good as they are..and then choose which new one we should work on for EVERYBODY.
We believe that if foreign language has become that important, and risen to the top of our District's priorities, then we need to devise a way to bring it to all the kids in a given grade in our district, not a few lottery "winners". To make it all even worse, it is now coming out that the lottery winners in our current programs are not even from a true lottery, but a semi-lottery, weighted by location or by ability to write essays. This does not help the pro-lottery argument.
But, we want a plan first for what our goals are for foreign language instruction ( complete fluency by 6th grade, or enough so that those who choose to do so can be completely bilingual and biliterate by 12th????..all kids have access? or just 50%? or 5%??). Depending on the goals of the District for the kids, we choose the kind of foreign language program that we want to offer to ALL the kids in the District, or at least all the kids in any given grade. Perhaps we start working our way into the "rest of the world's" model, from South Korea to France to Israel to Russia to China to Japan..of foreign language instruction for all the kids beginning at..pick an age. Most countries start around 9 years old. And, somehow, with this model, kids who choose to become fluent in that language ( usually English)..do so as high school students or college students. The proof is in the number of foreign peoples who move here and draw on their education to rapidly become completely fluent in English. Or, in the number of Americans who move abroad and become rapidly become completely bilingual in their chosen country.
We can do this, slowly but surely, in a way that is consistent with our priorities, our funding, and our enrollment growth. If we plan it well, and given we have so many models to emulate, we could make this happen over a few years with no disruption to, without hamstringing our sites or enrollment options, and with no resentment from those who "didn't win" the lottery.
Like the proponents keep saying, we have been down here before, and we have heard all these arguments. And, frankly, that proves our point. The only difference is that now we have at least 300 resentful families with kids throughout the school district who are watching the "lottery winners" develop great foreign language skills....while they got nothing for the first 6 years of school...and wondering why our school district is even thinking of starting yet another immersion program with the same problems.
I have heard a lot of proponents say "oh, but if my child or if I hadn't gotten in, I would still have been happy for the ones who got in". Of course. We can be happy for the "winners", and wish them well..yet still wonder why our district is even thinking of creating even more "have nots" in a district committed to excellence for all. Don't forget, for every kid who got into SI, for example, anywhere from 3 to 9 did not, depending on the year.
If we had known our district was no longer desperate for resources and was looking for "what to do next", maybe we could have all worked together to come up with a complete foreign language plan by now, and be trying to put it into the context of all our priorities and pressing issues. We might even have been at the point of implementing foreign language for all who want it in summer school post 5th grade and in middle school..with classes that could handle these kids in middle school well on their way to planned.
I think we are wanting to stop how we, as a district, tend to just jump into major projects without regard to consequences or need.
We do not want to repeat this with every new program every year.