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Mandarin immersion study conflict concerns

Original post made by Lisa Steinback, Downtown North, on Jun 8, 2006

I've got that queasy feeling again....

After attending the Palo Alto school board's Town Hall meeting last week on the Mandarin-immersion proposal, I had a sinking feeling that something's not quite right. The board passed out a FAQ sheet and then answered questions from the audience.

The proposal is for a new magnet school where 2 percent of elementary school children in our district would learn Mandarin Chinese. The board has given approval for a feasibility study to be conducted over the next six months, after which the board will vote again on whether to approve the new program.

One parent got up and requested that it not be referred to as a "choice" program, but instead be called a "lottery" or "luck" program, since her children had already been unlucky in two prior lotteries in the district. My stomach felt acidic when I discovered that the non-profit Palo Alto Chinese Education (PACE) is paying up to $135,000 for our district to complete the feasibility study, which includes designing the curriculum and selecting a school site.

My heartburn kicked in when it was explained that most of the district personnel working on this project had also designed the Spanish-immersion program or are teaching Mandarin in Palo Alto at the high school level. PACE is also writing a grant proposal on the district's behalf to the U.S. government (our tax dollars at work) for funds to support the program.

At this point, a parent asked the board if it thought there was conflict of interest. Good question, I thought to myself.

(published in the Palo Alto Weekly 6/7/06)

Comments (16)

Posted by Betsy Allyn
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 8, 2006 at 5:57 pm

Palo Alto Unified School District parents owe board member Gail Price many thanks for not supporting the Chinese-immersion program.

This debate is solely about space, and the lack of it, for many programs.

Elementary schools are overcrowded (observe lotteries for parents to place children in local neighborhood schools). The exceptions are Barron Park and Juana Briones in south Palo Alto.

Also, at this time the school district was ordering portable classrooms for school sites assuring less field space for school and after-school recreational programs.

Palo Alto has 3,250 proposed housing units and 300 applications in process now. What will these units have? Children. Where will the majority be located? South Palo Alto.

The school board will soon begin re-drawing boundary lines for elementary schools (remember, these children will eventually attend junior and senior high schools already overcrowded).

So where will 240 immersion students be placed? Obviously at Juana Briones and Barron Park schools in south Palo Alto. Exactly where the most expected growth will take place. Barron Park is a possibility for placement of Los Altos Hills students (closer) because of overcrowding at Nixon School due to more Stanford graduate student housing.

To compare this immersion program to "water polo teams" is disingenuous. We're describing valuable limited space in the buildings we have. This school board has many very difficult decisions ahead of it.

This Chinese-immersion program should be way down on the list.

(published in the Palo Alto Weekly 6/7/06)

Posted by Very Tas
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 9, 2006 at 3:29 pm

Ms. Allyn has it right on this issue.

On the one hand, it's important for our children to be multi-lingual. It's a smart move for kids growing up into a more diverse future, as well as a proven boost to certain kinds of cognitive skill, to lengthy to write about here.

Why not sponsor an after school program for students who want to learn Mandarin? It's not as effective as total immersion, but at least it would be a start, and relieve some of the tensions that are going to get more animated as this thing moves forward.

Another possinility would be to create a program for Saturday instruction in Chinese, underwritten by parents who want this language skill made available to thier children. This is currently the case with Hebrew and Italian, with small programs being offered after school for those that wish to participate. In fact, the Italian program is fully accredited toward both PAUSD graduation requirements and UC entrance requirements. Why not use that as a model?

Perhaps someone(s) might start a Chinese School, modeled after a local school that has its instruction entirely in French.

What bothers me most about this program is the lottery aspect. Why should any taxpayer want to put a program in place that relies on chance to get in? It's absurd on its face in a public institution. It's even more absurd when one considers the absolute numbers of children involved. Why are we spending this kind of money, on this topic?

Has anyone queried the principals and teachers about this? Have they taken the time to see how space issues might impact the already constrained environments that ouru teaching staff operates in?

If the schools are going to do any more immersion programs, they should be fully funded and available to ALL who want to take them; otherwise, stop this nonsense and get on with more important matters.

Posted by Kathy
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2006 at 4:09 pm

I also do not understand why it is necessary to have this Mandarin Immersion program. It IS absurd that while the residents pay for it, there is no gurantee that their kids can attend.

Speaking of smiliar program, Palo Alto already has Chinese School. It takes place every Friday night at JLS, from 7pm to 9pm. Like many Chinese kids in the area, I spent most of my Friday nights there when I was young. I took a simple test and I was credited with college units.

Another option I see is to create Mandarin classes on campus as language electives, like Japanese, Spanish, French, German, etc. It is a lot more cost effective that way.

There are private schools around here that offers Mandarin Immersion, such as International School of Peninsula, Yew Chung International and more. Why "create" another one??

By curving out a special program for Mandarin, in my opinion, it also sends a message that Mandarin is a "special" language that needs "special" treatment and that a person cannot learn the language without "living" in it. Again, adding the lanaguage as one of the choices would have been enough.

Posted by Nerissa
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2006 at 11:44 pm

I am a member of PACE but I do not claim to speak for the group. Here are my thoughts on the comments posted on this thread.

Of course Mandarin Immersion is not necessary. It is, however, desirable.

The US government has offered large grants to schools that offer mandarin immersion because it realizes that Mandarin is a critical strategic language for the future. I don't know why Lisa Steinback is opposed to applying for grants, but every school district I know of is happy to receive grant money.

PACE is a group of parents who wish to help the district implement this program. We are a parent organization like the one which raised money and helped the district plan to build lights on the football field at Gunn High School. Did anyone ask whether THAT was a conflict of interest? Does it make people feel sick that they raised the money and took the initative to try to make their dreams a reality? We are willing to volunteer many hours and thousands of dollars towards this cause, even though our children may not get into the program, so that some children in Palo Alto can benefit from it. The money we raised has been donated to offset the costs of the feasibility study precisely so that there would not be any burden on our school district budget.

Some have said, "Why should we pay for something that our kids may not be admitted to because of the lottery?" First of all, the proposal is revenue neutral, meaning that the program will cost the district nothing. The same amount of money per student will be spent as in any classroom in the district. This proposal does not raise anyone's taxes. You are already paying for it.
Secondly, residents of the district pay taxes to support the schools whether they have school-aged children or not. It's a community good that you pay for even if you don't take advantage of it.

In my mind, it only makes sense that the administrators and staff that could be implementing this proposal study it's feasibility. It's not a conflict of interest-- it's practical and necessary that they see for themselves whether it is something they can and want to do.

Spanish immersion, hoover elementary, and ohlone elementary are all extremely successful and popular choice/lottery programs in our district. Are the people who are against the Mandarin immersion also against all of these programs? Our community is diverse and people want different things out of their elementary experience, and choice programs acknowledge that. The presence of these innovative programs makes our district more desireable, not less.

Why have some people adopted a sour grapes attitude, that since my kids couldn't win the lottery, then no one's kids should have the opportunity? Lotteries are fair-- they do not favor rich people, nor chinese people. If you want to get in the program, you have an equal chance. They are also practical. Not everyone wants mandarin immersion, so the program is relatively small, but can grow if the demand is there.

The district certainly has growth and space issues to consider, which is why the redistricting is a good idea, and mandarin immersion's location should be considered during this process. this program does not add new students to the district, nor does it take up any more space than is currently being used. it only shuffles things around. it may even help alleviate the current overcrowding problems by drawing some students away from their crowded neighborhood school by choice, and opening those spots for students who wish to attend their local school. this is the perfect time to start the program, because the district can decide on the best place for it, taking future growth and current concerns into consideration.

Mandarin IS a special language which requires significantly more time and effort to learn to speak, read, and write because of it's dissimilarity to English in both it's sounds, tones, and writing system (unlike spanish, french, italian, german, etc.) A child who does not speak this language at home cannot attend a class for a few hours a week and hope to become fluent or literate. This program provides a great opportunity for non-chinese speakers to learn.

It is true that private immersion programs exist. they are very expensive, and as taxpaying residents of this district we would like to have our kids attend school in the district.

The proponents of this program certainly do not wish to raise tensions in the community. We also do not wish to give up on the cause we believe in because there are some obstacles and some opposition. As a teacher of Mandarin in the area, I know that there is a large silent group out there who is hoping that this program will pass and who would like to participate. And there is a large silent group of people who do not see this program as a threat or a problem, but welcome it as another reason why Palo Alto is a wonderful place to attend school. There is nothing the school board does which does not make some people unhappy. PACE can only work towards our goal, and hope that the greater community and the school board will agree that this is a forward-thinking move that will greatly benefit the community.

Posted by Jocelyn
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 15, 2006 at 1:04 am

I applaud the Palo Alto's school board decision to study the feasibility of adopting a mandarin immersion program. Board Member Barbara Mitchell gave a succient yet powerful summary as to "why Chinese Immersion?":

- Mandarin is a critical language in our children’s future, spoken by one in five humans
- Silicon Valley will play key role in defining the future relationship between the U.S. and China
- Bi-literate students have expanded opportunities in the future workforce
- Our community is interested in expanding K-12 World Language offerings
- Immersion is the most effective way to create fluent listeners, speakers, readers and writers
- The 11 year-old Spanish Immersion Program model provides a successful compass
- New grants and donations would fund district choice program planning, start-up and ongoing costs
- Program would be open to all district students by lottery, with space for about one in every twenty Kinders
- Immersion model is expandable and comparable to non-immersion program in ongoing costs.

The Chinese immersion program is a wonderful opportunity for Palo Alto, as a community. The concerns about logistics, housing and lottery are legitimate. However, Palo Alto has dealt with Choice Programs in conjunction with the neighborhood schools for decades now. None of these issues are new. Palo Alto's school system has shown that it manages and overcomes these potential problems.

Let's remember that the school board -- like the community -- has historically been innovative in its policies and we have a school system of the highest caliber to show for it.

Posted by Very Tas
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 17, 2006 at 2:27 am

OK, some good arguments here from parents and other proponents of Chinese immersion.

What I would like to hear now is how PAUSD teachers and site principals think about this program, in general. So far, I haven't heard a peep from teachers in support of this program. Has that support been forthcoming? If not, why not?

If I see/hear support from a majority of teachers and site principals, then I'd be much more inclined to support this program. In the absence of that support, I'd be inclined to be against it.

Posted by I. Think
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2006 at 4:35 pm

Please think critically about some of the arguments in support of MI:

"MI program is "Revenue" neutral"... Revenue neutral, meaning they'll find dollars to fund incremental costs (for now) but the program is certainly not cost neutral. All the teachers, adminstrators, board, PTA, time, effort, classroom space, and all other tax payer resources spent on one program, are resource not spent on some other programs. There is only so much of the PIE to go around. And what happens when the grant money disappears.. Year 2, 3, 4? Who funds it then?

"Bi-literate kids have expanded opportunities"... So do kids with excellent advanced skills in science, math, technology, communication skills, etc. Some who excel in sports, drama and music also have expanded opportunities. This argument can be used equally for any other program the district might care to support.

"One in five humans on planet earch speak Mandarin"... One in five humans on planet earth lives in China, so it would be logical that there are a lot of Chinese people speaking Mandarin. Don't be fooled into thinking this means we have to rush out and teach our Palo Alto kids Mandarin in order to get jobs in 10 years. In fact the global economy works predominantly in English.

"Spanish Immersion provides a succesful compass"... Yes, we understand immersion works as an effective vehicle for teaching language. This argument should be translated as: You gave them SI, now we demand MI. There are plenty of successful ways to teach language. Immersion program is the ultimate, the extreme. There are only six MI programs in the US. There are alot of other methods that work that are LESS than immersion that can be offered to more of our kids.

"We already do alot of innovative choice programs, that's what makes us great"... Indeed we are ALREADY splitting this district too thin. What makes us great is focus on excellence. We object to MORE choice programs that enrich a few and leave the rest of the kids out. (Yes, many who oppose the MI proposal also object to the Choice program model in general, and prefer very excellent neighborhood schools for all.) The management of PAUSD as a series of private school programs is rapidly decreasing in feasibility, and creates a population of haves and have nots. Eventually, the board will be required to end the madness. But luckliy for PACE probably not until after they get theirs, and then what do they care?

"And our community as alot of choice programs and we always figure it out"... So let's jump now and ask questions later? That way, a special interest group gets its way, and the rest of us have to figure out a way to make due. And tough luck if 240 families (or more) get displaced from their neighborhood school, and too bad if we don't like the traffic congestion created by choice programs, and too bad if we don't like the fact that two schools right across the street from eachother are wildly different in performance, test scores and 'revenue' resources. The rest of us lottery 'losers' can just suck it up and tough it out...

"Our community is interested in expanding foreign language education in K-12"... Some might be, but that's not what the recent community priority survey says. More are interested in making sure our kids excel in the core subjects of Math, Science, English literacy, technology. Some want more PE. Some want smaller class sizes. Some want ESL for English language learners, not language enrichment for an elite few.

"Program will be lottery open to anyone and will reach 1 in 20 Kinders". Why in the heck if language is such an important and valuable skill are we coming up with a program that only benefits 1 in 20? And then some will drop out of this program because of the rigors and difficulty of Mandarin (relative to their native english, and for lack of mandarin support at home), and so the eventual graduates of this program will be even fewer than 1 in 20. In fact, I'm sure PACE is confident that while many of their supporters' children will not initially get in, they will have plenty of native Mandarin speakers who will eventually be able to take advantage of the program, at the ready to fill spots in grades 1-5 as the non-native mandarin speaking children and parents begin to move back in to English. All our schools and programs do have attrition, you certainly could not fill a Mandarin Immersion program with non-native speakers at grade levels beyond first grade. Naturally we'll have to load the program with those with kids who would have otherwise been going, or have been going, to Chinese school privately.

"And another choice program will actually aleviate the overcrowding in some of the Palo Alto North schools, ie: a solution for the Neighborhood School problem".... I guess this assumes that they will not choose Addison or Walter Hays as the MI site. One can only hope... Be careful what you wish for. Actually this will displace 240 kids from one of our neighborhood schools... Hope YOU are not one of the unlucky ones! And do you want your kid in the SAME class of SAME 20 kids for their entire elementary program. No change, no new faces, no new chances, no new diversity? This is what would happen in a 3 strand school with 2 strands MI. (One strand left for regular class, and you'd have NO choice about being part of that program!)

There are just so many reasons why MI is not logical. But logic doesn't seem to have any part in this debate. What's going on? Really...

There are alot of enrichment opportunities for our kids that are a matter of private choice, and this should be one of them. This is a private school program that does not belong in a public school.

Posted by Melissa
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 7, 2006 at 5:44 pm

I am hoping that my children will be able to get into the Mandarin immersion program. School districts all over the US are adding Mandarin to their curriculum. I would think that Palo Alto would be ahead of the curve, not lagging behind.

My preschooler loves watching DVDs, in the meantime, which teach her some Mandarin. We have the Early Start Mandarin DVDs and a Follow Jade DVD. I'm happy to have her watch something educational!

Does anyone have any suggestions for other DVDs or Saturday school?

Posted by Jen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2006 at 1:24 pm

I also was hoping my child could go to Mandarin Immersion, but after seeing the numbers from the Cupertino program I am worried that maybe its too hard for the kids, maybe they are struggling too much in the program to acheive academically? Why only 7 stay with it? Now I'm thinking I probably do not want to take the chance that my son's academic progress could get delayed. So I think I will take care of Chinese education separately. I don't think its necesarily important to be first. Its more important to do the best thing for the children.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 11, 2006 at 12:22 pm


My top suggestion is get your children together with Mandarin speakers. You could find a Chinese babysitter, locate a playgroup, attend Chinese story time (MV library has this, I think, as does Books and Me, also in MV).

Books and Me also has CDs bundled with books, not sure if they have DVDs. The Nanhai bookstore in Millbrae has lots of DVD’s, too. I’d go for story-based DVDs rather than educational. You can get old American cartoons in Mandarin, Chinese-dubbed Japanese manga (some of which have traditional Chinese stories), etc. My kids like the Sunwukong monkey as well as traditional romantic tales. Fruity Pie, a kids series from Taiwan, airs mornings on KTSF (ignore the cross-dressing). Some regular American DVDs, including Mulan, have the option of being played in Mandarin. In these cases, our player is broken and will only play the Chinese version.

As for Saturday schools, I’m skeptical though I haven’t seen any statistics to say how effective they are. After speaking with parents whose kids attend and former students who are now grown, it seems to me the kids hate it and don’t progress far. There are some schools geared to teaching native-speaking kids to read and write. Again, I’m skeptical they can learn to read and write in vastly less time than native speakers in China and Taiwan.

Jen, it does look like the first class of the Cupertino program shrank drastically, and I don’t know why. But the troubles seem gone: Grace Mah’s numbers show a remarkable retention rate for more recent classes, with some even growing in size. For instance, the 2001 class grew from 25 kids in K to 32 in fifth grade.

Of course, this doesn’t say anything about whether the program is “hard.”

Posted by Jamie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 12, 2006 at 4:51 pm

From the perspective of a parent with an entering Kindergartener, the relevent question is: How well are the kids doing that enter the program? In other words, how well is the program serving the needs of its children? Will my child thrive?

So to follow the original Kinders that entered (for 2000 also tracked the original 1st and second graders that entered), I subtracted the kids that enter mid program (these are kids infused in mid years), so that I could see over time how well the program is retaining and eventually promoting the kids that enter as Kinders.

(By the way, I'm not arguing against the merits of entering kids mid program, I am just using this method to show the enrollment progress of the original kids...)

An over simplified example of how we care about promotion... JLS says it promoted 100% to the high school in June '06. (Impressive, but no better than what we've come to expect from Palo Alto Schools. I dare say, that's why we pay $1.5M for dumpy little 3&2s..)

Anyway, to do this math I started with Grace's table and anytime there was a year over year increase in a strand I subtracted that increase out of the numbers - just to be able to pinpoint how the original entrants progressed over time in the program (Example: There were 28 Kinders in 2000, and went up 31 1st graders in 2001. That means 3 new kids entered in 1st grade. I wanted to follow the 28 original Kinders. So 31-28 = 3... I subtracted 3 from that strand for each following year. So theoretically at 100% retention I'd be left with 28 sixth graders in 2006. In this case, there were only 15 of the original 28 entering 6th grade in 2006. Thats 54%. The program success rate for this class(measured by promotions) is 54%.

There is another way to measure the promotion rate:

How many kids return from prior year. Using all the kids from one year (all kids, original and infused) - that's the base year. Count all the kids in the next year, exclude the new entering Kinders (they weren't in previous year), and exclude the new infused kids (they weren't in the previous year.) Doing this math the program is losing 23 kids year over year from 2005 to 2006. In fact the program loses about 7% of the prior year kids ~every year~. That means that the attrition isn't just growing pains from the original start up year, it keeps going even into the 2006 projected enrollment.

All the years results are below.

THE BOTTOM LINE question I think on EVERY parent's mind is how well is my five year old going to thrive in this school, and what's the very best thing I can do for him or her? Perhaps they might wonder if a 50/50 chance of success is enough. That amounts to flipping a coin with your little one's future.

The evidence sited in the Grant application states that “According to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, Mandarin Chinese requires 2400-2800 hours to reach ~conversational ability~ compared to Spanish, which requires 750-750 hours to reach the same level of competency.” (I wonder if there are any statistics available that desribe how long it takes to reach full literacy. If those are available, please pass them on or let us know where to find them.)Our own Spanish Immersion enrollments seem to indicate that Spanish Immersion is not suffering from the same severe attrition rates.

Furthermore, the grant application states “For the new dual immersion program, an informational meeting will be held to inform parents about the education model and challenges specific to learning Mandarin Chinese, ~including different issues for students with some Mandarin fluency and English-only students.~” So apparently, English-Only speakers should expect more challenge (presumably lower success rate), than native speakers. Data on this from the Cupertino MI program would also be useful to parents making this decision.

Summary of Promotion Rate: Now entering...
100% Class of 2005 Entering 1st Grade
100% Class of 2004 Entering 2nd
89% Class of 2003 Entering 3rd
70% Class of 2002 Entering 4th
68% Class of 2001 Entering 5th
54% Class of 2000 K Entering 6th
74% Class of 2000 1st Entering 7th
32% Class of 2000 2nd Entering 8th
53% TOTAL Class of 2000 Avg all Grades

Summary of Year over Year Attrition:
School Year: YOY % YoY

01 vs 00 -5 -8%
02 vs 01 -5 -6%
03 vs 02 -8 -5%
04 vs 03 -16 -7%
05 vs 04 -8 -3%
06 vs 05 -23 -7%

Posted by Bill
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 13, 2006 at 8:27 am


Your reworked numbers are startling, but I’m not sure they show a problem in Cupertino or how relevant they’d be to PA.

In assessing the success of Cupertino, I think you have to throw out the numbers from the early years (teething issues, apparently) as well as those relating to grades past fifth (many families are going to choose to move kids into a regular middle school at that point). Also, families move away, some change schools for various reasons, and some will drop out of the program for one reason or another.

So, it’s not obvious that Cupertino is “not serving the needs” of their kids or has an attrition problem. The recent numbers look pretty high, much better than the toss of a coin.

And extrapolating the numbers to PA begs questions about the cause of this “problem.”

Is it related to this particular Cupertino program itself? To Mandarin? (The Defense Language numbers are fine, but they don’t tell us about children learning by immersion; how do other Mandarin immersion programs fare?) To choice programs generally? (What is the “attrition” rate for kids at Ohlone and Hoover?) Is it related to immersion programs?

And yes, the challenges for non-speakers are different but not necessarily greater. I went to the Cupertino introduction meeting, and what they stress above all is that immersion demands a commitment: don't enter with the idea of just trying it out for a year or two to see how it goes because the real payoff is consolidated around grade four or five.

Posted by Jamie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 15, 2006 at 11:15 am

Of the students that were enrolled in 2005, 23 are exiting, not coming back in 2006. That's the current year result (not an early year result).

There may even be more 2005 kids exiting because these numbers are presented as NET numbers (more could have exited, masked by some new kids being infused in later grades in 2006 - which we can't see from these numbers.)

But using what we can see (-23), that's 7% exit year over year, which looking back is a consistent average year over year exit rate. Projecting forward, assuming 7% attrition each year, that means only 65% of the kids that enter get through to 6th grade.

The Cupertino statistics are relevent because PACE and PAUSD use Cupertino as the local model of success to PROVE the success of the MI program, and plan to partner heavily for curriculum and materials and general start up learning for our program. It would be faulty reasoning to use it as a model of success, but to disregard the actual outcomes from that program.

The rate at which kids are making it through the program seems like one of the most relevent statistics of all. In fact it is sort of the bare bones minimum standard (the LEAST) we should expect - does the program promote the kids to the next grade?

The root cause certainly DOES need to be understood! I hope PAUSD is getting to the bottom of this now, before they approve the MI model with this sort of gap in understanding.

Whether the root cause is in Mandarin language difficulties, Immersion method, Choice program model, Parents don't stick to the rigor of the extra committment, Kids are not thriving, etc.. the final bottom line outcome is a poor results, and as a parent of a kinder its quite difficult to ignore the end result - liklihood of success somewhere between 32%-65%!

It's like asking the mortgage lender to excuse your missed mortgage payment this month because your car broke down and your water heater burst, your kid broke his glasses, and your dog ate the monthly statement, and you ran out of stamps. Some things just have a minimum bottom line, and no excuse is a ~good~ excuse for not delivering.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2006 at 8:46 pm

With respect to how the kids are doing, I have data from San Francisco's Cantonese immersion program (CIP) broken out by grade. Standard test data (Reading, Math, Language, and Spelling) is broken out by home language (Chinese only, English only, and both C&E), and compared to the SFUSD average. I will attempt to create these tables so that the information can be easily interpreted.

2001 CIP Standardized Test Scores

________________________Reading ______Mathematics______Language______Spelling
CIP 2nd Whole____________62.3__________73.6_____________67.5__________59.2
2nd Chinese only__________48.9__________68.6_____________49.5__________47.6
2nd English only___________59.3__________69.9_____________70.1__________54.4
2nd Both E & C____________73.4__________84.8_____________73.3__________75.9

________________________Reading ______Mathematics______Language______Spelling
CIP 3rd Whole_____________67.0__________80.2____________73.5__________60.8
3rd Chinese only___________63.5__________84.8____________73.2__________68.3
3rd English only____________68.7__________79.4____________72.2__________53.9
3rd Both E & C_____________67.0__________77.6____________75.9__________66.2

________________________Reading ______Mathematics______Language______Spelling
CIP 4th Whole_____________62.2__________73.9____________66.8___________66.5
4th Chinese only___________64.3__________72.8____________69.4___________62.3
4th English only____________57.6__________71.2____________64.8___________61.9
4th Both E&C_____________72.4___________82.4____________73.4__________78.6
4th Neither E nor C_________41.7__________57.9____________48.5___________50.9

________________________Reading ______Mathematics______Language______Spelling
CIP 5th Whole_____________59.5__________67.2____________62.0____________60.8
5th Chinese only___________46.8__________64.9____________50.0____________59.2
5th English only____________59.5__________60.8____________61.0____________53.9
5th Both E & C____________77.8__________87.3_____________82.4___________83.8
5th Neither E nor C_________59.0__________66.6____________61.4____________56.5

As you can see, the CIP program overall does better than the San Francisco district average in all standard tests. Looking at each grade level, the 2nd graders with Chinese only at home, do below the 2nd grade SFUSD district average. This is commonly known as the ¡°2nd grade panic¡±. By the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, the Chinese only children have exceeded the district average.

There are only a handful of students who have a home language that is neither Chinese nor English (e.g. Spanish, Vietnamese). Those test scores may not be statistically valid due to the small sample size, but they are included in the data received from SFUSD.

For Palo Alto¡¯s SI program, the NPR (National Percentile Rank) scores also show the ¡°2nd grade panic¡±, but the kids make the jump into 3rd grade with scores over the PAUSD district averages:

2nd grade 1998

3rd grade 1999 (same class of 2nd graders the following year)

Spanish Immersion students, when tested in English, do as well as, or better than, district average in Math and Language. Reading scores went from below district average to above district average as students went from 2nd grade (no English instruction) to 3rd grade (beginning English instruction).

Dr. Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, Professor of Child and Adolescent Development at San Jose State University, a world-renown expert on immersion education, has done extensive research on immersion programs. Her website has lots of information regarding immersion programs and their academic performance:

Web Link

One of her presentations, "Language and Education Issues Affecting Asian Pacific American Students", Keynote Speech to the California Association for Asian and Pacific American Education and National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans, Quality Public Schools For Every Child: Opportunities And Challenges For Asian And Pacific American Children And Educators, Woodland Hills, California, August 2003, has data showing the success of Asian immersion programs including Cupertino and San Francisco's programs:

Web Linkpresent&handout/AsianPacAm_EdConcerns.pdf

From page 34 and 38 of Dr. Lindholm-Leary's presentation (ELL = English Language Learner, EO = English Only):

Chinese ELL students score very high in English reading
Students score much higher than EO students in the state, and similar to the EO students in the school and the district

From all the data above, I draw the following conclusions:

Native target language speakers (Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese) do well on English testing, typically above the district averages (except for the "2nd grade panic").

English-only speakers achieve English test scores generally far above the district averages, despite spending a significant amount of their time learning curriculum in the target language.


Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2006 at 8:54 pm

I do not have all the details of the Cupertino class size changes. I know that a number of transitions to the program have contributed to enrollment fluctuations:

1. The program has been at five different school sites. Moving to different schools results in attrition (Cupertino's school district is large, encompassing parts of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Los Altos, Saratoga, and all of Cupertino). The pilot class of Cupertino's program has been moved around a lot, and geographically, that's challenging to stick to a moving target (literally).

2. Figuratively, the Cupertino program has had to transition to five different school environments and principals, also moving targets. The attitudes and community acceptance at each location makes a big impact on the program's focus and success. That also greatly affects attrition.

3. The Cupertino MI program has had significant curriculum changes over the years. It started out as an enrichment program (10% Mandarin, 90% English), moved to 50/50, and is now 70/30 for kinders. Changing curriculum caused major attrition.

Only the pilot families *truly committed* to the *immersion philosophy* have stuck with the program after all of these changes.

So, in putting together the feasibility study for PAUSD, the lessons we will learn include the following:

A. Don't move the program around too much. The Attendance Area Review Committee will have as one of its objectives: to develop scenarios for where MI would go, if it is approved by the board in January.

B. Do extensive community outreach to the neighborhood school, all the school staff (classified and certified), PTA, Site Council, etc. We will be holding some public awareness meetings for everyone to attend and better understand what immersion is, what the program proposal is like, and discuss community concerns.

C. Decide on the curriculum and adhere to it. Set expectations and don't veer from the fundamental objectives.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of The Greenhouse

on Sep 26, 2017 at 11:54 am

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