Is Mandarin losing its status as flavor of the month language?
Original post made
by Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 16, 2007
Trade with China is one of the arguments as to why Mandarin should be taught (or immersed) in our schools. I remember Russian and Japanese being given similar weight in past years. Now that there seems to be an ever increasing list of consumer recalls on products that are manufactured in China (pet food, toothpaste, Mattel children's toys, baby bibs, etc.) is the trade argument soom to become defunct? The fact that Mandarin is flavor of the month is possibly tied to these type of problems being overcome. The coming toy buying season may show a shift in what American consumers are prepared to buy and this in turn may show a shift in whether Mandarin remains to be a useful language for our children to learn.
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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2007 at 4:04 pm
Here's a link to a study (by Grace Choi, International Education Administration and Policy, Stanford School of Education), that asked the question why do people sign up for Mandarin Immersion, and what are their Concerns about the MI program. (Interesting that it was studied in Aug 2006… I wonder why we don't see any of these Concerns in our PAUSD feasibility study, when we KNOW PAUSD staff was using Stanford Education department expertise for that study???)
It was a study based on surveying parents that chose two local MI programs. It gives a lot of great reasons why those who want MI think MI is great. But even amongst all the fawning over the reasons why MI is wonderful, a few balanced points come through..
1) Honest researchers know there need to be cautions against biased data. As an illustration, the author of this says (from the researchers own words) (p.36)
"The sample also suffers from selection bias. Families participating in the study were not chosen at random; rather, volunteers were recruited from each school representing only those willing and able to share their experiences. This group may only not include
families less satisfied with the schools or their regretting their choice to enroll their child."
In other words a lot of families talking about how great MI is, from a selection of families that think MI is great is biased.
And here are some of the finding of "concerns", which support the issues of concern that we've been talking about on these threads in PA Online.
2) English language development is a concern. It's not a trivial non-issue. This study found that the ethnically Chinese were often more concerned with this and chose to opt to an English language education for this reason: (p.29)
"Parents mentioned that other parents at the school were concerned about English language development, despite the school being a dual language immersion program (thus teaching students in both Chinese and English). The parents mentioned that ethnically Asian parents (speculating that they were more recent immigrants than others)
were more concerned with their student's English language proficiency and performance on standardized exams (such as the SAT, in the future) that require heightened English language abilities. As a result, some parents opted to enroll the student in an English-only program, with the expectation that the student will be able to learn Chinese later on or at home."
3) MI REQUIRES (not optional), significant at home supplement help, and that translates to significant at home resources (time and money): (p29-30)
"Finally, commitment is necessary, and in large doses. A lot of support is required and must be given in order to maintain (and supplement) language learning, which is another concern mentioned by the parents. As mentioned before, many seek outside support
(nannies, day care centers, baby sitters, etc.), and especially parents who are not native Mandarin Chinese speakers. Even when the parents do speak Mandarin, outside help is still sought. Additionally, in order to maintain the learning opportunities of their children, parents have to spend extra hours outside of school to ensure that their children learn adequately and compete well with mainstream students, while still endeavoring to acquire another language. Some parents also help their children by setting up programs on their own and look into China/US exchange programs as well as family trips to China."
So, PA Mom, the program is NOT social-economic level playing field when compared to 'average' public school experience. (i.e.: Apples to Oranges compare). Furthermore one could easily see that ANY students in ANY programs that were devoting this type of supplemental resources after school would easily outperform any public school district norms. It's misleading to suggest that the immersion methodology itself, or the study of Mandarin, is creating higher performance outcomes. Studying and resources are creating higher performance outcomes.
It also shows that this program is not reachable by a socio-economically diverse population. Only parents with time and money are going to be able to sign up for this program. This FAILS a key guideline in the PAUSD choice program guidelines.
4) Administration plays a key role: (p.30)
"The administration plays an important role as well. Administrators at both schools said that they need to be sensitive to issues that may not exist in other schooling environments. They need to be sensitive to the changing nature of the Chinese language much more than other languages since the Chinese government is re-evaluating the structure and use of the language within the nation, and thereby causing concerns among the parents with children in these programs. The schools have made efforts to follow the changing trends (such as the move from traditional to simplified characters) and address
the concerns of the parents as the schools by changing their established curriculum from using phonics to teaching actual characters. Differences in philosophy about how and what to teach students among parents as well as between parents and the administration created tension as all parties continue to desire more information about the most effective methods of teaching for increased educational opportunities for the children."
Funny, that our PAUSD feasibility study completely ignored the cost and EFFORT required by the administration, (in fact staff went as far as to DENY any significant invovlement required by administration.) The feasibility study is a farce. The BOE MUST require that our choice programs meet a bar of 'cost neutral' INCLUDING the resource drain of district administration. And our Superintendent MUSTS insist on adequate reporting to enforce cost neutrality. (Or the program should be declined because PAUSD doesn't have the extra resources for such an undertaking.)
This research paper does a pretty good job of presenting the Truth, both sides of the story, with intellectual honesty.
PA Parent, I'd like to see you start talking about the MI program with some realism and intellectual honesty. I think you are leading MI prospective parents down a rose colored path because YOU want MI to happen (and for that you need 20 kinders and 19 other first graders to show up in 2008.) We need to start seeing some Truth - for the kids, the families, the district, and the tax payers. Lets have the truth.
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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2007 at 12:53 pm
As usual, you didn't address the issues. The MI kids' scores are included within Meyerholz's. They're not separated from land mass of Meyerholz. Beware making bad analogies.
Chinese kids are not the majority of bilingual kids--that they perform well in school is not proof that bilingualism means better performance in English, particularly given that the largest number of bilingual kids in this state (and country) are Hispanic and perform poorly next to their monolingual peers.
Conclusion: bilingualism is not the factor determining high performance. Just to support this, Indian-Americans outperform Chinese-Americans--their families are much more likely to speak just English at home.
And let's discuss the notion of "peers". The Chinese immigrant community is relatively small and well-educated. When comparing it to the general Caucasian population, you're not comparing just families of equal social-economic-status, but a much wider range. This is true even in Palo Alto. Thus, Nixon, which has the wealthy LAH white kids also has a higher API score for its white kids than it does for its Asian kids.
At this point, Cupertino has a sizable Asian majority in its schools--, so, yes, I think it is toploaded with a high-scoring group of kids. Particularly given that Cupertino was not, in its whiter days, a particularly wealthy community. And, once again, Meyerholz isn't a steller performer--and the white kids there are performing well below the district average (and PAUSD's district average).
There is a similar self-selection issue with CLIP, of course. Families who found the program too difficult dropped out, thus artifically boosting the averages. What this tells us isn't that the CLIP program teaches Mandarin and improves the scores of everyone. It tells us that MI is, frankly, such a hassle that the few kids who could hack it are bright and well-supported by their families.
Would those same kids have scored even higher at, say, Faria? Sure looks like it. (By the way, I'm glad to see that Hoover's demos have improved slightly--I hope its admins continue to work for a school where kids from any background will feel welcome.)
In fact, why is that monolingual DI programs consistently outscore their immersion counterparts? (And unlike CLIP, the DI programs don't have student turnover issues?)
Immersion isn't a single program. There are many types of immersions. The one you're supporting, MI, is poorly studied and the one being proposed--the MI/Ohlone mash-up hasn't been studied at all because it doesn't exist or have an existing model.
Spanish immersion is a different kettle of fish--very different learning demands and very different group of native-speakers. They don't, as a group, do well in school.
I really wish you would quit spouting vague talking points. This is your pet program, but you seem to be unable to come up with anything substantive that counters Parent's (or my) points. You also seem unable to acknowledge that there are real, unresolved issues here. I mean, there's a passivity here. You fought for this program, I assume you're going to put your kid in the lottery and, yet, you substitute a sort of faith in place of analysis. That doesn't strike me as a good way to get a program that works.
I'm a choice program parent. As charming as Susan Charles is, she had little to do with my interest in Ohlone. I love the program for my child, but I honestly don't think it's right for every child and I would never claim it was. In fact, when I look at the average STAR scores for white and Asian kids at Ohlone and then look at the overall much lower score, what I see is that there are some kids where Ohlone probably isn't really working--or, possibly, a teacher who's not got a handle on the program. You can see that sort of thing grade-by-grade. One year of kids will consistent perform better than the year following it. That says to me that that grade has some high-fliers who would bring up scores anywhere.
It feels like you're trying so hard to sell your program that you don't really look at what it is and what will really happen. I mean, it shouldn't be parent and me who are asking the hard questions.
It should be you.