School board examines Mandarin Immersion


Parents, administrators and outside consultants on Palo Alto's pilot Mandarin Immersion Program Tuesday told the Board of Education the three-year-old offering has been successful and should become permanent.

With 88 K-3 students in four classrooms at Ohlone School, the program has achieved surprisingly good academic results, according to Xiauqui Xu, a Stanford University graduate student and native Mandarin speaker who has been involved in assessing student proficiency in Mandarin and English.

The goal of program organizers was an enrollment of one-third from Mandarin-speaking backgrounds and two-thirds from English-speaking backgrounds. That balance has not been maintained precisely and is "something to watch," said Assistant Superintendent Virginia Davis.

Ohlone Principal Bill Overton said Mandarin-Immersion families have integrated well with the rest of the school.

"You can see it in playground activities, and when all the grade-level teachers meet," he told the board.

A $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education has funded start-up costs of the Mandarin program, including development of curriculum materials through the fifth grade.

School board members questioned program representatives on testing, staffing, financing and admission policies of the Mandarin program.

The item will return to the board at an unspecified date for further discussion and a decision as to whether the program should become permanent.

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