News

School board to set calendar, discuss Mandarin

Palo Alto Board of Education take up two hot-button issue Tuesday night

Two hot-button issues will come before the Palo Alto Board of Education Tuesday night -- a proposed change to the academic calendar and the district's controversial Mandarin Immersion Program.

The board is set to vote on a calendar shift that would conclude the first semester before the December holidays, beginning in 2011-2012 -- meaning final exams would come before the break.

The board also will discuss a recommendation by Superintendent Kevin Skelly to boost the status of the three-year-old Mandarin Immersion offering from a "pilot" to an "ongoing" program.

A vote on Mandarin Immersion will not occur for at least two more weeks, school officials said.

Based at Ohlone School, where all classrooms and restrooms are labeled in both English and Chinese, Mandarin Immersion now serves 88 students in four classrooms -- two K-1 and two 2-3 grade level classes.

Mandarin-Immersion families have become versed in "the Ohlone Way," pitching in with the school's farm chores and taking leadership positions on the school's site council and Core Values Committee.

With an initial enrollment in fall 2008 of 40 K-1 students -- one-third from Mandarin-speaking backgrounds and two-thirds from English-speaking backgrounds -- the program has grown each year, with attrition of two students from each class.

Departing students, whose reasons varied from "not enough academic Mandarin" to "moving to Hoover Elementary," were replaced from a waiting list.

Though samples are small, STAR test results so far show Mandarin Immersion students slightly lagging the general Ohlone population in English Language Development, and on par, or slightly ahead, in mathematics.

The pilot Mandarin program was initially approved 4-1 by the school board in June 2007, with then-board member and now City Council Member Gail Price dissenting.

The vote carried an amendment specifying that there is no "intention or direction that there will be a middle school program for MI students."

Start-up costs for the program were funded by a $300,000 grant from the Federal Language Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Education, enabling the district to collaborate with researchers at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley on developing curriculum and assessment methods.

Comments

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2010 at 11:04 am

It's amazing. PAUSD offers zero services for gifted elementary school students, and yet there are plenty of resources for this special interest group.


Like this comment
Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

The only reason there is a Mandarin program is because the supporters were going to create a charter school. So those of us dissatisfied with lack of programming (gifted, language or Singapore Math) for our kids need to get together and put into motion the paperwork for a charter school so we can get the programming our kids deserve!!


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Posted by mmmmMom
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Pathetic.
Ready to upgrade the program to "ongoing," but STILL no district wide program for ALL elementary students to study a foreign language. (And no, do not pretend that after school, for fee programs qualify.)

It is a disgrace.


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Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 8, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Ohlone is very very overcrowded with the addition of Mandarin. The families are wonderful but the school cannot handle this many children.


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Posted by Where's the full analysis of MI?
a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2010 at 4:32 pm

It looks like the district has already decided about making the MI program permanent. I hope the school board questions the merits and (hidden) costs of the program thoroughly.

Issues like:
- teacher turnover
- additional time for the principal to "integrate" this program, manage hiring new and replacement teachers, managing a school within a school (they are separate programs, separate lotteries) and managing parent expectations (just to name a few)
- displacement of families who are on the waiting list to get into Ohlone
- eventual size of this program, one strand at the moment - will it grow beyond that?
- How many kids in the program are enrolled in or need additional mandarin tutoring outside of the "pilot" program to keep up?

Has the district gotten extensive feedback on this program from anyone who isn't a huge supporter?

There's more I'm sure...


Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm

The crowding at Ohlone is completely insane at this point. Particularly with the construction taking up approximately two-thirds of the playing fields. Most of the kids in my kid's classroom don't even go outside at recess.

I was kind of amused by the report that claimed that the MI program folks were integrated into the rest of the school. People are polite, but, frankly, MI parents care about their program and that is ALWAYS their priority. Also, they tend to be more uptight and rigid in how they manage things--with some, but not enough, exceptions.The tendency has been for MI parents to step into some type of volunteer role and then drop it when people don't act the way they demand. Hey, I wasn't surprised when one of the program drop-outs did so because there was an opening at Hoover. (This is in the PAUSD report.)

A famous MI parent, for example, co-chaired the PTA the first year--and has since disappeared. As in, not on campus and not on the committees.

The buddy classroom interaction is limited and doesn't accurately describe the true social situation--MIers play with MIers (speaking English, I might add)--because they are their own strand. There's no real reason that they would get to know the kids outside the strand. To the bulk of the Ohlone kids they're sort of a curiosity.

Meanwhile, the Farm is at capacity and showing the strain. Given that Susan Charles okayed the program in attempt to keep Ohlone at the Amarillo site, this is ironic.

As expected, the MI report is fundamentally dishonest and one-sided in its discussion of the program. Once again, it's all about the MI crowd and the hell with the rest of us.




Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Where's the full analysis,

The program is very difficult for the kids who don't have parents who speak Mandarin. As you may have noticed, the MI kids do score below those of the main Ohlone strands. It's worth remembering that Ohlone does not have high scores for this district, so we're looking at MI scores that are substantially below the district average.

There's has been an attempt to start Mandarin classes for the parents because of the lag issue with kids from English-only households.

The Ohlone Way takes place in English, which means any crossover programs, such as P.E.,art, science on the Farrm, happen in English.

And, yes, the program has been a huge distraction--and we're on our way to 600-plus elementary school.

Thanks for nothing, guys.


Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 9, 2010 at 3:13 am

Can anyone point to a subject where people said how can this be better or how can it be made to happen? Or even noticing that there is a world out there that their children will have to live in?

I can believe that people in PA die complaining bitterly about the color of the drapes in the room - happy to depart complaining, their favorite activity.


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2010 at 9:46 am

Congratulations Kevin Skelly for trying to boost the status of the three-year-old Mandarin Immersion offering from a "pilot" to an "ongoing" program! This is what makes Palo Alto such a vibrant community. Thanks to all involved in the program!


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Posted by MI-still not fair
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

OhlonePar,
Good to hear your description of Ohlone, as you are there. I hope that you will come to the meeting tonight. There will not to be a vote- but a discussion. You make some excellent points.
The FLAP grant could have been applied for for Spanish and Mandarin. That would have been better as we teach Spanish in our schools. And I hear that those classes could use some funding.
I wonder about the percentages of the ethnicity of the students in the MI classes. They are legally supposed to have the same percentages as other classes.



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Posted by Link to PAUSD MI report
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2010 at 10:43 am

Here's the link to the district written report on MI.
Web Link.

Of note: the number of applicants to this program has dropped from 140 to 69 for the most recent school year. That's quite a drop for a program that has 88 currently enrolled with 22 kinder openings per year.


Like this comment
Posted by Fait accompli?
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 9, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I would like to know if the first MI teachers were given tenure last spring. I was told by a board member at the time the program was being implemented that the teachers would be hired as temps, so they would not be on the tenure track. But what happened in reality may be a different story.

If the teachers have indeed been given lifetime employment in our district, that pretty much says it all, doesn't it? What else would they do here?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 9, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Continuing in the lines of fairness, there are currently 22 kids per grade in the MI program. Assuming every single one continues to the middle school (and SI drops to 18-19 by 5th grade) there would be a class size of 22 kids compared with the current Spanish classes at Jordan of about 30 kids. The unfairness continues...


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 9, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Fait accompli,

I think even if on tenure track, the teachers aren't eligible yet. I know that one teacher was let go from the first two. There's been a real struggle with getting the right set of teachers for the program. It's worth noting that the classes do have aides and consultants, etc. The fact that the test scores in math and reading are notably below the rest of Ohlone, which makes them well below the district average, should be read with this in mind.

Do the MI classes look, ethnically, like the rest of the school. No, not really, I would say, though, your typical MIer has one Caucasian parent and one Chinese parent. The program is really challenging for kids who have no at-home reinforcement in Mandarin and is becoming less ethnically diverse as it progresses.

I suspect the drop-off in applications for two reasons. Parents concerned about their kids learning English and doing well in school look at the scores and head to Hoover or a school with a strong track record. The immigrants I know want their kids to do very well in school and that means having English down cold. Some of them see MI *slowing* down the immersion process.

On the other side, as I say, kids who come from an English-only household find it a real strain.

People have talked for *decades* about how we should be bilingual, but the pattern in the United States is for mother tongues to die out in families by the third generation. Some friends of mine who are the children of immigrants tell me that they just didn't want to do it. They wanted to be like other kids and feel American. And that means operating in English.

Also, many Chinese parents I know send their kids to Mandarin or Cantonese classes outside the public schools because those classes are where they meet families like themselves. The public schools, on the other hand, are where they and their families meet and interact with families from different backgrounds. They like having both.

Oh, and to the general flat, hot and crowded argument. We don't need fluency in Mandarin to compete, we need to stay on top in the technical fields.


Like this comment
Posted by Carlito Ways
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2010 at 10:50 am

Right on, looks that Kevin Shelly is already laying down the road for a smooth transition when time will come when the Chinese will oficially take over the USA as one of their colonies, due to the astronomical debt owed to them and adding up on a daily basis and the inability of the US to pay back.

We should be focused on basics, instead of wasting money in silly experiments. We know the routine, you run out of money then you are quick to place a measure in the ballot for a new parcel tax. You want to be fluent in another language? I bet the majority can send their kids to a private language school.


Like this comment
Posted by Discontinue it, or keep it as a pilot
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2010 at 9:14 am

Please weigh in. Write your thoughts to the School Board. If they receive no emails re changing the status of MI from pilot to ongoing, they assume that our community is ok with it.
However, I read the study and there are few details. But all of the details show as mentioned that there has been a drastic decline in applicants, 4 students left from both classes, two teachers left or were let go, the texts needed to be designed( expensive,)and the classes are nto cost neutral. They got a grant for more than half a million, that P.A. has to match. And still, their testing scores were lower that the rest of Ohlone.
They call this a success. I don't think so. Still no focus on foreign language for all elementary students- because it would cost too much.
Keep it as a pilot at least until they have gone through 4th and 5th grades- and revisit it then.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 16, 2010 at 10:41 am

Discontinue it or keep it as a pilot - excellent suggestion!!!


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Posted by RST
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm

My understanding of this process is that the Board set up criteria to gauge the success of the program when they voted to start the pilot in 2007. Those criteria are listed in the board report, and are paraphrased below:
1. enrollment (ability to fill classes and backfill for attrition)
2. ability to find and hire qualified teachers
3. students making progress academically, and in Mandarin
4. ability to find/develop k-5 curriculum
5. cost neutral -- after spending of FLAP grant for development be revenue neutral to district
6. program integrated into Ohlone
7. parents and teachers have a positive perception of program

The program is meeting all of these criteria according to Superintendent Skelly’s report and principal Bill Overton (and other’s) comments at the board meeting. So, it would be surprising if the board didn’t vote to make the program ongoing. If they don’t, what was the point of coming up with the criteria and what is the decision process based on?

I also see no advantage to keeping it as a pilot. I can only think of disadvantages. It makes teacher recruiting challenging. It would be hard to convince an experienced teacher to give up tenure someplace else for a pilot program. Some families are hesitant to join a program in "pilot status." The long debates over the program have also caused a lot of churning up. I think this debate is causing racial tensions in Palo Alto. I think it would be better for the community to have a decision on this. And I hope the decision agrees with the report and with the presenters last week and the program becomes ongoing.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm

RST - I used your criteria and pulled information from the report. Data can be taken multiple ways. The most important reason to keep this as a pilot is the ability (or lack of) to backfill spaces in the program once the incoming students need to be fluent at grade level in Mandarin and English.

To use your points:

1. enrollment (ability to fill classes and backfill for attrition), 10% of the students left the first year and 6% the second year. These spots were filled from the wait list because the "fluent at grade level" requirement has not kicked in yet. It might be prudent to see what happens when the simple wait list can't be used.

2. ability to find and hire qualified teachers - how about the ability to retain the teachers, half the teachers hired in the two year period have left.

3. students making progress academically, and in Mandarin – student are significantly behind the rest of Ohlone in progress made in English and Math, no mention of progress made in Mandarin, but one parent pulled their child out because of the lack of academic Mandarin

4. ability to find/develop k-5 curriculum - the initial curriculum used " proved to be insufficient for the Ohlone multi-grade approach and difficult for teachers to use."

5. cost neutral -- after spending of FLAP grant for development be revenue neutral to district – most of the FLAP grant money has already been used up

6. program integrated into Ohlone – " integration of the programs is an ongoing challenge"

7. parents and teachers have a positive perception of program – the MI parents report a positive perception. No mention was made of the perception of the rest of the Ohlone parents.

BTW – In the report, I finally found the advantage that MI brings to Ohlone " Classrooms and restrooms at Ohlone have room numbers on their doors in both English and Chinese characters. "


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Posted by RST
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Here is my take on the report... remember that the report is presenting the criteria as being met, and is recommending aproval.
And I think that the quote from the actual report "interest in the immersion program has continued to exceed availability" answers your concern about atrition.
1. enrollment (ability to fill classes and backfill for attrition) – “Interest in the immersion program has continued to exceed availability”
2. ability to find and hire qualified teachers – program currently has 4 “highly qualified” teachers
3. students making progress academically, and in Mandarin – “MI students showing similar achievement levels to English-only students”
4. ability to find/develop k-5 curriculum – district purchased curriculum and improved on it
5.cost neutral -- after spending of FLAP grant for development be revenue neutral to district. K-12 development will be done by year end. Program will be revenue neutral.
6. program integrated into Ohlone – MI parents are “…active members of leadership groups at the school.” And there is an “increased sense of diversity to the community.”
7. parents and teachers have a positive perception of program – “Parent and teacher feedback has been extremely positive and enthusiastic”


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Interest in the program is down 51% in just 2 years. English applicants are down 56% and Mandarin applicants are down 38% from the first year. At the current rate of decline in interest, including the 10% attrition rate, there won't be enough Mandarin applicants in 2 years and that is without the "fluent at grade level" qualification.

There are currently 4 "highly qualified" teachers but teacher turnover is 50% in just 2 years.

Only 30% of MI students tested as advanced in English vs 51% for the rest of Ohlone. Barron Park, which the most economically challenged student population and a large ESL group, had 35% score advanced.

50% of MI students tested as advance in Math vs. 67% of the rest of Ohlone. Barron Park had 45% score advanced.

Parent perception of the program is positive from the MI parents' point of view. No mention is made of the opinion of the Ohlone parents as a whole.


Like this comment
Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 5:48 am

There really is no rational reason not to make this an ongoing program. The board set out criteria to be met, the program met them, and the district has confirmed that.

The program has been a success and is doing a great job of educating students.

A failure by the board to upgrade the status would certainly cause problems. It would lower parent interest in the program, make teaching positions there unattractive, and send a message to the community that the board is an arbitrary body. It would also be a betrayal of families that have their children in the program. And of course, you can bet it would lead to a divisive community debate that would harm the district.

And it certainly wouldn't mean the end of Mandarin in the district. Interested parents would find the arbitrary, tenuous support of the district unacceptable and seek a less arbitrary foundation for the program: charter.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:47 am

Q -

The criteria hasn't been met and parent interest is already down 51% from the initial year. The students appear to be adequately educated in Mandarin, but are far below the rest of Ohlone and most of the District in Math and English. (See above post!)

This program should be kept as a pilot until we see if the enrollment is sustainable when open spots at the upper grades can only be filled by student that are fluent in mandarin at grade level.


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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 8:03 am

Palo Alto Mom,

It's irrelevant whether demand is up or down. It is strong and sustainable. I mean, how much would the program have to oversubscribed to meet your new criterion.

As for math and English, there was no statistically significance between the MI kids and Ohlone kids, according to the district.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2010 at 8:03 am

The program should remain a pilot until several criteria have been met.

First, the program needs a permanent home and as yet that may or may not be Ohlone. Ohlone was told that they would host the program for a 3 year pilot and the change of status and the venue are not the same discussions.

Secondly, more discussion should take place on the serious nature of attrition, class size and integration of curriculum at the upper grades. How can a classroom with half the time spent on English reading, writing, literature study and essay grammar, prepare a student for 6th grade English? The fact that all other classrooms have more students in higher elementary grades and MI cannot grow in this respect must be addressed.

Lastly, the numbers applying for this program are getting smaller and keeping teachers are serious problems. I was under the impression that at least in the first year the teachers were already in PAUSD and happened to be able to speak and teach Mandarin. Now it appears that finding and keeping teachers is not as easy as we were told.

For the BoE not to address these serious questions would be to do everyone in PAUSD an injustice.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:19 am

Q -

We can agree to disagree as to what is "strong" demand, but starting in 2nd grade, any new students is supposed to "demonstrate grade-level bilingual fluency" per the District. There has been a 10% attrition rate per year and interest is decreasing every year. I would expect such a "popular" new program to have increasing, not decreasing demand.

The District never stated that test scores were not statistically significant. They actually said that "third grade dual immersion classes are demonstrating similar levels of achievement to children in the English-only classes" but that it that may be because those students attended "kindergarten in English". The 2nd grade class showed an "expected lag in English proficiency".

Math is definitely an issue, with only 50% of MI students tested as advanced in Math vs. 67% of the rest of Ohlone vs. 90% at Hoover (which I mention because one of the students that left went to Hoover).

The District report also stated that there were 2-3 students in each grade that were struggling in both languages, I would assume they would be at a higher risk for leaving the program than the other students.

Until this program can show that MI continues to be sustainable at the higher grade levels, it would be irresponsible for the District to commit to making it permanent. If it can show that it is sustainable, then of course, we should continue to offer it.

And as far as your bringing up the old charter threat, I think a totally separate campus (charter or choice) for any immersion programs (or choice schools in general) makes perfect sense. They are by definition commuter schools, so a convenient commuter-friendly location makes sense.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:27 am



All the results on this MI pilot show that it has failed to deliver value to its students, to Ohlone and to PAUSD.

The program should be phased out ASAP.

Any residual market for MI can be filled by the private sector.


Like this comment
Posted by Not a failure
a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:41 am

Not sure where you come up with your conclusions, Sharon. There is no evidence whatsoever to state that "this MI pilot show that it has failed to deliver value to its students, to Ohlone and to PAUSD.". Please provide some facts to back up your claims.


Like this comment
Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:47 am

resident,

Well, you've dreamed up some new criteria you'd like to impose, but why should the district care? I mean, what if I shot off an email to the board about how they should, say, revamp reading instruction--why should the board care about my armchair quarterbacking?

As for your worries about students being prepared for sixth grade English, that is the typical uninformed concern. But it turns out that immersion kids do better in English than English-only students. Just does, even if it is counter-intuitive for you.

palo alto mom,

"We can agree to disagree as to what is "strong" demand," Sure, but it's the district that says it's sustainable, not me. If you disagree, then you should have something to back it up (and share it with the board).

"The District never stated that test scores were not statistically significant." At the meeting, they certainly did. They said they did a statistical analysis and found the difference with regular Ohlone kids to be statistically insignificant, but, yes, one does expect a lag in an immersion program. Normal.

"And as far as your bringing up the old charter threat, I think a totally separate campus (charter or choice) for any immersion programs (or choice schools in general) makes perfect sense." That would be ideal, but I think it would stretch district resources.


Like this comment
Posted by Better in English.
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:58 pm

"immersion kids do better in English than English-only students."

Is this really true as stated? It doesn't seem to be true for MI at Ohlone; where is it true?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2010 at 5:00 pm

If the BOE said they don't consider the difference in the English scores to be statistically significant, I'll believe them. And I think anyone with common sense would realize that kids learning two languages would be a bit behind in both.

I don't think anyone would consider a 17 point difference in the math scores statistically insignificant.

Q - If "immersion kids do better in English than English-only students" do the SI kids at Jordan score higher on the STAR tests than the rest of the school?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm

This argument that immersion students do better at English than English only is only half the story. I expect that students doing English grammar, literature studies, etc. need a certain number of hours to be competent to reach 6th grade proficiency, just looking at the time factor alone. If an English only student has studied 10 literature titles for x amount of hours they have had 10x units of practice. If a child learning English and language y in a FLES type of program, they still have 10x units but also the benefits of understanding language and grammar rules better. But, an immersion student, although having the benefit of understanding foreign grammar rules which ultimately do improve English, have only half the number of hours available their English literature skills can only be half or 5(x/2).

As someone who learned Latin and 2 other European languages in conjunction with English in my schooling, I do understand how learning a foreign language improves English skills. But, to do this you must not cut the number of hours learning English in half.

Learning to write a composition is not the same as learning to study Dickens, Shakespeare or Austin and satisfactorily critique them. The amount of time spent on vocabulary and reading comparative literature in the same language is necessary to do a good job of this. Reading Hugo just won't do it.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm


The language of the USA is English.
Kids need to learn to be proficient in speaking, writing and reading English first.
If parents want they can send their kids to immersion programs on Saturdays---the German School in MP has such a program.
It is not the responsibility nor the wish of PA parents to cater to the political or cultural propaganda of alien governments-- German-Israeli-Chinese-Indian or Latin American.
Ethic parents can do that on their own time on their own dime as Hebrew-Hindi-Arabic-German etc already do.
There is no justification for special treatment of Mandarin or Cantonese over the other languages spoken by billions, the MI program is unfair, divisive and should end.


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Posted by RST
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Resident,
Your argument that if spending “x hours” in English is good, then spending 2x hours in English must be 2x better sounds logical. If you look at actual PhD level research done on immersion education, it isn’t true. I think the theory is that immersing developing brains in bilingual environments actually stimulates the cognitive functioning of the verbal parts of the brain. Spending “1x” in English plus “1x” in Spanish/Mandarin/Ojibwa/French leads to “2x” (or more) verbal gains. One of the leading researchers in the area is Katherine Lindholm-Leary if you care to google her. Her research has shown that children in immersion programs do as well as, or better than, their monolingual peers. The gains statistically don’t lock in until 4th or 5th grade. 2nd grade standardized test results in English often show a dip, that closes up by the end of elementary.


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Posted by RST
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Just in case the reference to Ojibwe is confusing, Minnesota has 3 Ojibwe language immersion programs.


Like this comment
Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:28 pm

"The language of the USA is English."
Perhaps, but immersion programs are not new to the US or Palo Alto. In order to do business with the outside world, we need a new generation of speakers that are proficient in foreign language. Look how our war on terror has suffered because of a lack of arab speakers.

"Kids need to learn to be proficient in speaking, writing and reading English first."
The kids are not learning a foreign language at the expense of english. Learn the facts about immersion programs, Sharon.

"If parents want they can send their kids to immersion programs on Saturdays---the German School in MP has such a program."
Ridiculous comment. Clearly some people are not aware of what an immersion program is

"It is not the responsibility nor the wish of PA parents to cater to the political or cultural propaganda of alien governments-- German-Israeli-Chinese-Indian or Latin American."
And you are speaking for whom, Sharon? Which parents. there are plenty of kids enrolled in immersion programs in PA--this has been happening for years.

"Ethic parents can do that on their own time on their own dime as Hebrew-Hindi-Arabic-German etc already do."
Once again a complete lack of awareness about the purpose and sucess ofimmersion programs.

"There is no justification for special treatment of Mandarin or Cantonese over the other languages spoken by billions, the MI program is unfair, divisive and should end. "
There is no special treatment for the MI people. In fact if you check your facts, I think you will find that there may be more chinese speakers in the world than English. The program is not unfair, it is only divise to you and should continue.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:30 pm


The Katherine Lindholm-Leary research has been completely discredited by selection bias.

Even the Governor of California has made it clear--immigrants need to learn proficiency in English as a first priority and--as he says--turn of the Spanish and Mandarin TV programs at home.

The 80s hype about bilingual education was false and it failed socially, educationally and academically.
It is what it is
Enough is enough

Let us focus upon our kids and Americas fundamental interests first.

End the MI program in PAUSD.


Like this comment
Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Sharon is confusing the need for immigrants to learn English with the need for our country to generate a new generation of bilingual speakers--both for our economic future and our need to fight global terrorism.
But why is the MI program being singled out for termination?


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Posted by RST
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 11:07 pm

It would be helpful, and add credibility to your points if you backed up some of your statements. For example the comment, “The 80s hype about bilingual education was false and it failed socially, educationally and academically.” Can you give any support to that comment? Did you read it online, hear it on the news, or do you just have a hunch it might be true?
I'm not a lawyer, but I think that your comment about Dr. Lindholm-Leary's work is potentially libelous. Discredited by whom?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2010 at 1:48 am

Palo Alto Mom,

You make some excellent points. And, yes, the board should leave MI on pilot status. There's been an ongoing problem recruiting native Mandarin speakers (there just aren't that many in the district and not all those parents want their kids at Ohlone.) And the scores should be a concern, given that Ohlone isn't close to a top scoring school in the district.

As usual, various immersion proponents are really, really confused about the research. Yes, ESL students do better than their peers who aren't in immersion. In other words, learning math and reading in Spanish helps when transitioning to English.

The HUGE bulk of immersion research is done on ESL kids and how they most effectively learn English and mainstream. It doesn't *apply* to English speaking kids learning Mandarin in an *English-speaking* country.

Non-ESL kids in immersion classes have lower average test scores than
their English-stream peers (i.e. the discrepancy at Ohlone is typical.)

What immersion proponents will tell you is that immersion kid test scores catch up in the later grades. However, there's a big problem with this claim--it doesn't factor in attrition, which is an issue in all immersion programs.

Kids who have problems in immersion programs drop out, ergo, there's an artificial rise in scores because of it. You only need a couple of kids with problems to drop to see a score jump. Even with that, however, the test scores don't surpass those of kids in English-only strands.

Also tests don't test everything. It's hard to test writing in a meaningful way--and back during the MI discussions years ago I looked for research in this area. Could not find any. Written expression is, by far, the hardest language skill to obtain.

I feel a bit sorry (only a little bit, mind you) for immersion parents, they've really been sold a bill of goods on this stuff. It's so trendy right now and so much of the research is either poor or misinterpreted. Lindholm-Leary's research, for example, tends to be small in scale or not applicable to the program at hand--and, yet, MI proponents seem to think her work's the end-all/be-all without actually having looked at it.

At the same time, these same parents are ignorant about some of the big issues that have come up with immersion programs in other areas.

It's just odd, frankly.


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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:01 am

Ohlonepar,

Sorry, I just have to point out the confusion in your post.

The many research studies on bilingual immersion kids clearly show that both the ESL and the target-language speakers out perform English-only peers. In other words, MI kids, both English and Mandarin native-speakers, can be expected to do better than other kids in the district. This is merely what the research tells us.

The whole attrition thing was a red herring invented during the adoption of MI. I wouldn't pay it any heed. I think that propaganda comes from a parents who would like their kids to be bilingual but are timid of trying something they are unfamiliar with. Out of worry, they engage in wishful thinking: "It can't be that good--there must be a problem with immersion."

No, actually, there isn't. The kids actually do emerge bilingual, biliterate, and with better English skills than native English peers. It's win win.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 7:08 am


The most effective language immersion programs are those run by the Mormon Church.
After high school Mormon kids spend up to 2 years as missionaries --- they go all over Asia, Africa, Europe etc.
They have a brief crash course before locating to say Japan and for the length of their mission they learn and speak the native language-Japanese-and rapidly become fluent and literate in the chosen language.

Key lesson--if you want Mandarin Immersion then go and live in China,
if you want Japanese Immersion--go and live in Japan.

MI or other immersion programs have no place in the PAUSD.
They add no value, they are a drain on our resources, they are divisive and detrimental to our kids and schools---it is a lose lose.


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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 7:14 am

Sharon,

"The most effective language immersion programs are those run by the Mormon Church." Possibly--are you aware that little Utah has 14 Chinese immersion schools?


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Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 7:39 am

Once again we see a statement from Sharon without any supporting evidence. She claims that the Mormon Church has the most effective programs. Any evidence of this?

She might be interested in reading this:
Web Link

SHe claims that they add no value, are a drain on our resources, are divisive and detrimental to our kids and schools. But we see no proof to back up this claim.

Immersion programs have been around for ages. They have been shown to be successful.

Sharon claims, in other threads, to be supportive of our country, yet she fails to see the need to generate a new generation of people that are multi-lingual. This is important for our economic future as well as our fight against terrorism.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:03 am

Q - I don't think you can call "the whole attrition thing was a red herring invented during the adoption of MI" since 10% of the students left the first year and 6% left the second year. The ability to backfill those spots is a real concern. Especially since the rest of the District has 24 kids in most of their 4th and 5th grade classrooms.

All the other schools, with the exception of the MI and SI classrooms, can grow their classrooms from 22 in 3rd grade to 24/25 in 4th. Can MI add 4-6 kids who are fluent at grade level in 4th grade or do they just get to have smaller classrooms than everyone else?

Debating whether we should have chosen Mandarin, whether immersion is effective, etc. is really not the point anymore. The program exists. The issues are whether it is serving the students enrolled and whether the program can be self-sustaining, both from remaining cost neutral to the District and from its ability to back-fill student slots as they leave the program and whether the program can retain the flexibility required of every other classroom in PAUSD (except SI).

If I were an MI parent, I would be very concerned about the Math test scores being 17 points off the rest of Ohlone, especially given that Ohlone is not high on the PAUSD test scores to begin with. I would like to know what the plan is to raise the scores, at least in line with the rest of Ohlone.


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:04 am

These special programs which give a few lucky students an enriched education should be routinely evaluated to make sure they meet a specific condition: they do no harm to the ‘unenriched’ students. All 4 programs – and in particular the language programs – violate this condition to varying degrees.

Ohlone and Hoover address the needs of children who respond better with alternative learning styles. These students aren’t getting additional education which the rest of the students in the district do not have access to; they are getting an educational style which helps them learn the same content. However, they are getting these needs addressed in what could be neighborhood schools. There’s no way around this problem since every location is in a potential neighborhood boundary. The best they can do is to be located in an area that’s not impacted. Over the years and decades, this can pose a problem since impacted regions change over time. Should these programs get shuffled around the city as student population densities change, or do we leave them put?

Spanish Immersion is best understood with a bit of history. It started in Fairmeadow and relocated to Escondido in the mid-late 1990s in part because Escondido had a large campus but served a relatively small neighborhood and therefore had the capacity without displacing neighborhood kids. The program – at that time – served the rest of the district by providing a choice for driving across town rather than being overflowed against one’s will. As students enrolled in SI, their seats opened up to neighborhood kids. This would be known as a win-win.

Two things happened to throw off the balance and fairness of the program: 1) Escondido’s neighborhood population grew; 2) SI grew from 1.5 strands to 2, requiring three additional classrooms. As a result, neighborhood students are being overflowed because of Spanish Immersion. This blatantly violates “do no harm”; in fact it violates the district’s Policies and Procedures. (There are solutions, but this post is already too long.)

Mandarin Immersion violated the condition because it harms an existing program to which the district is already committed. Ohlone’s not being a neighborhood school does not relegate it to second class status as far as the rights of its students and families. If you’d be up in arms if any other neighborhood school underwent the changes happening at Ohlone, then those changes are not appropriate for Ohlone, either. Furthermore, when the district pits the entrance lotteries of these programs against each other, that in itself does harm to the losers.

Finally, SI and eventually MI take away valuable classroom space in the upper elementary grades. These empty seats cost the district and crowd other classrooms. The immersion students get the benefits of a language education AND reduced class size, while their counterparts experience increased class sizes as a result.

People will have varied opinions of what’s fair and what’s not. My own opinion is that Ohlone & Hoover provide learning style benefits at a fairly low cost to the rest of the district, while the immersion programs provide an additional instructional element at a not-so-low cost to others in the district. The costs should be routinely evaluated and corrected so we don’t burden some for the benefit of others.

This cost-benefit analysis should be part of *each* program’s evaluation criteria.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:15 am

Yet another parent - well said and I totally agree. Both SI and MI should be evaluated in terms of their effectiveness and their cost to the other PAUSD students.


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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:52 am

palo alto mom,

My specific comment about attrition was directed at the idea that a little random googling by opponents had uncovered a previously unknown (gasp!) gapping hole in all the academic research.

As for it being a problem in terms of keeping the program filled, that has not been the case with MI or the other programs in the area that PAUSD studied--that was the conclusion of the administration and board. Not a single person in the district is concerned about this.

You're right that the question should be whether it serves its students and is sustainable--that's what the criteria amount to--and the district staff have concluded that it does and is.

yet another parent,

Sorry, I don't see the harm. Every kid gets to go to school, and the schools are relatively small and spread around the city. Closing all four choice programs would not eliminate "overflowing."

I have no idea what your complaint is regarding an "additional instructional element." You seem to be saying that all non-MI kids suffer because they are not in immersion--even though the vast majority would not want to be immersed in Mandarin. Yet, non-Ohlone kids are not suffering even though they're not at Ohlone. Really?


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

Q, I thought I was clear, but apparently you'd like for me to spell it out. When a lottery program bumps a neighborhood kid from attending their neighborhood school, that program has caused harm to the neighborhood kid as well as his/her family and neighborhood friends.

My point and request to the district is that they evaluate the impact these programs have on the rest of the district and take corrective action as necessary.


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Posted by RST
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:51 am

another parent,
I think that lottery programs also open up spots at neighborhood schools. Kids that would have been taking seats at Escondido, for example, are choosing to drive/walk/bike to Ohlone/SI/MI. Thus opening seats for famlies that don't want to be overflowed from Fairmeadow.


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 18, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I don’t see the fairness of displacing an Escondido family so that a Fairmeadow student can get a language education and another student can stay at his/her neighborhood school. There’s something broken with the system when a regular neighborhood kid must bear the multi-year burden for the benefit of others. The district agrees with me on this point, or at least their Policies and Procedures do. They don’t do a good job of observing their policies.

The same could be said about MI displacing kids who are hopeful to find a teaching style which matches their learning style, although this is where the argument becomes a slippery slope of “my program’s more important than yours” or “I was here first”.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2010 at 5:58 pm

No Q,

That's not what the research tells us, though I know that that's how PACE presented the information. You need to actually look at the data.

Immersion kids score below their peers in the middle elementary grades (as is shown in the Ohlone and Escondido programs). Scores improve in the upper grades, but, no, they don't surpass those of kids in the mainstream classses--they catch up. However, this "catching up" phenomena doesn't really factor in the attrition issue--i.e. kids with problems drop out.

The "perform better" stat is misleading--it refers to ESL kids in immersion classes v. their ESL peers who are thrown into English-only classes. Basically, these kids don't fall behind in subjects like math while learning English--opposite really of the experience of an English speaker in an MI class.

But thank you for playing. I've found it an interesting area of research over the years. You should try doing a little yourself, it's good for the brain.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm

An Professor @ Stanford Education explained the Katherine Lindholm-Leary MI research methodology as follows.
1-Take a group of people

2-Throw them into the deep end of a swimming pool

3-Some sink and drown-some float and make it to the edge of the pool

4-Scoop out the survivors

5-Claim we have a proven way to train people to swim

6-Throw these survivors into the pool again-many will survive

7-Then claim - we have proved our hypothesis- our method of swim training works

You can call that method "research" if you want--most academics and regular people would say it is selection bias and invalid


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Yet another parent,

It drives me nuts just how damn irresponsible the school board has been about the overcrowding issue. They used a slight drop in numbers one year to put off re-opening Garland because they're addicted to the income from Stratford. Meanwhile, they throw away money on huge two-story buildings at existing schools.

No long-term thinking, no thinking through problems.

While I'd have never voted in MI unless I were trying to recruit students to an empty district, I think we'd all be happier if the MI and SI programs went to Greendell because it's a good commuter school site. SI at Escondido has been a problem. With typical short-sighted thinking, the board opened a north-cluster-only second SI strand--it's that second strand that resulted in Escondido neighborhood kids getting bumped.

Re: choice programs. To me, Ohlone and Hoover sort of represent two ends of the educational spectrum in the district with the neighborhood schools falling in between. In that sense, I think they fill a useful function--Hoover siphons off the hypercompetitive test-score obsessed parent and Ohlone taking on the less-stress child-centered types. The schools are sort of pressure valves so the stuff doesn't have to be duked out in every elementary school. I've also been told that Ohlone, for many years, was the place certain kinds of "problem" kids were sent, though as demand for the program has increased, I think that's a bit less the case.

While I think there are arguments to be made for immersion, I don't see either immersion program filling the kind of valve function Ohlone and Hoover do--they're not alternatives in the same way. They're not exemplars of particular educational philosophies


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Posted by The real sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:43 pm

"An Professor @ Stanford Education explained the Katherine Lindholm-Leary MI research methodology as follows."

Care to provide us with a link to this explanation?


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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Yet,

Again, no harm. Killing MI would not end overflowing and might increase it.

OhlonePar,

Yes, yes, we've all heard of the dip in early elementary. But you get the rest of it wrong. The research shows that immersion kids outperform monolingual peers by the end of elementary school. This has been studied for multiple languages, including Korean, Spanish, and Mandarin. In particular, ESL kids do better in English than ESL peers and better than native English speakers. Just a fact.

It is a well-known phenomenon. I suggest you read the literature. There is no dispute about this in the field.


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Posted by Question for Q
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Nov 19, 2010 at 6:25 am

Q: Yes, immersion kids do outperform non-immersion kids by the time they reach high school.

Question for reflection: What came first, the program or those who choose it and are the lucky lottery winners/

But, no matter, all that counts is that a few kids get great language education, and the rest get nothing. After all, isn't that what the American Education System is based on?

May as well hold a lottery and give double the resources to half the kids who need an education. Who cares about the 50% who get no education? After all, I am sure research would support that those lucky 50% who won the lottery would do much better by high school.




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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 6:47 am

Er, why blame the tiny little MI program for that? I mean the reason we don't have more language education is a lack of money and a lack of support from the broader community.

But yes, MI is in line with the best in American education, giving a choice to families in the district but not forcing the program on those who don't want language immersion.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:46 am

Q,

I have read the literature. That's why I am kind enough to point out your error.

Hmmm, so ESL kids perform better than native English speakers. Must be why Hispanics are such a wealthy educated group in this country.

You want high test scores--direct instruction, not immersion, is the way to get there. As I've pointed out, immersion studies, such as Lindholm-Leary's are flawed in that they're small and don't factor in the effects of attrition--i.e. the poor students are more likely to drop and this leads to an artificial score boost.

I suppose at some point, we'll get to discuss the disaster of some of the earlier MI programs. At which point, I'll get around to putting up the various links (yawn) again. Or do I just need a Web site--immersion:reality v. the miracle?

Critical thinking--an excellent skill to develop in any language. You should try it. It would require that you read more than PACE's talking points and the abstracts of the research. You need to look at how the data was collected.


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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Ohlonepar,

"ESL kids perform better than native English speakers." You're not a careful reader. This should read "ESL kids in immersion programs," in which case it is true.

Small reading comprehension errors like this make it difficult to parse what you read and undermine your claims to understand the research.

You've said many times you think that you, working in isolation, despite the handicap of knowing nothing of the field, have managed to tap the power of googling (and your critical mind) and uncover a previously unnoticed hole in all the research. Can you hear yourself? Doesn't this strike you as a little silly?

No, there simply is no evidence that there are any problems with the research.

And, hard as it is to accept, the research shows that immersion kids (native speakers of English and native speakers of the target language) outperform their monolingual peers in English. A no brainer if you value language.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm

No, Q, you're not a careful writer.

But, anyway, I was just in another thread and realize that you just kind of make stuff up.

So, I'm gonna play pin-the-tail on the Q.

What is your evidence for your claim that project-based learning is the norm for immersion programs?

And, sweetie, you know *nothing* about my background. Don't make assumptions not in evidence, kiddo.


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Posted by Q
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 1:36 am

Well, that gets at the heart of the matter. You're reading things you don't understand, and you blame others for your own misreading. No wonder you were confused by the immersion literature.

Er, sweetie, it really isn't up to me to do your research for you. I don't doubt you listened attentively to presentations at Ohlone on their approach, but that is a small world. It's clear you are unfamiliar with the wider world of education.

Please do check it out. Project-based learning is the norm in immersion programs.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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