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Will the Mandarin Immersion decision be unbiased?

Original post made by Jamie Maltz, Charleston Gardens, on Jul 20, 2006

The Chronicle (July14th), reported on five San Francisco school board members and four Principals that recently enjoyed an unannounced, free trip to China, paid for by the Chinese Government. I understand about 400 US Educators were invited on this trip. In the article, the SF school board members said it was not in violation of the Brown Act, because it was a “junket”, purely recreational, no business discussed.

I’m told Marilyn Cook, Associate Superintendent from PAUSD, as well as Becki Cohn-Vargas and Ruth Malen (former principal at Duveneck), went on this trip as well. I’m not sure if there were any others from PAUSD.

PAUSD is in the middle of a very heated debate, and pending VOTE by the School Board, on whether to start a very controversial Mandarin Chinese immersion program. The proposal is heavily backed by Chinese special interests (as evidenced by the letters of support attached to the proposal.) It sounds like San Francisco is also on the threshold of a similar vote on their Mandarin Chinese immersion program.

When Washington officials take free “junkets” or other free gifts from Special Interest Groups, it’s a huge scandal. Why is it OK for our PAUSD officials to partake in expensive free trips from special interests, on the threshold of this big decision? It’s unseemly that employees involved in influencing a decision and/or providing critical feasibility inputs should be accepting a free trip at this critical time in the process. On the other hand, if this was a fact finding trip for the feasibility study, how unbiased can a fact finding trip be that is funded and delivered by one of the interested parties? This raises further questions as to the impartiality with which the district is conducting the Mandarin Chinese immersion decision making process.

This should not have been allowed, especially by high level district officials that will be influential in the PAUSD Mandarin Chinese immersion decision making process. The board promised the community an unbiased feasibility study. Anyone in PAUSD who accepted a free trip should be completely disallowed from participating any further in that process. At the very least, the purpose, the attendees, the trip events, meetings and results/findings of the trip, as well as how the information gathered will be used in the process, should be reported publicly ASAP.

This seems improper to me.

Comments (56)

Posted by Art Kraemer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2006 at 11:20 am

Your statement says that you were "told" that three PAUSD officials accepted free trips to China. Before you accuse local officials of malfeasance, you should have more specific information. If your accusations are correct, disciplinary actions should be taken by the School Board.
Perhaps, the Palo Alto Daily or the Palo Alto Weekly could use their investigative skills to ascertain what actually happened.

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 21, 2006 at 11:35 am

I just got back from Beijing earlier this month. I was "dropping off" our 16 year old daughter, who will be a Junior at PALY, and is attending a university there for the summer to study Mandarin.

On my trip to China last August, my seat companions on the plane trip there were two Chinese high school teachers, who were completing a summer in the US, taking English classes, which is the course they teach their high school students in the Shanghai schools.

I strongly support the policy of having language immersion programs in Palo Alto, and my involvement in this policy dates back to when Spanish immersion was introduced in PAUSD in the erly 1990's, to great success and acclaim. My blond haired caucasian daughter and our family may be many things, but Chinese special interests is not one of the labels that comes to mind.

If anyone doubts the benefits of immersion programs, our Spanish immersion program is testimony to how successful it has been in Palo Alto. If anyone doubts the importance of China and the Chinese language in the 21st century, I suspect such a person has not spent any time in China, or follows what is going on in the world. You don't have to spend a great deal of time there to know how important China has become, and how much more important it will be in the coming decades.

Our school district, its leaders, and we families who have children in PAUSD must make important decisions about what it takes for Palo Alto schools to provide world class education for our children, so that they can be fully succesful in the 21st century. I for one think it is very helpful for people who are involved in educating our children and designing our future curriculum get away from Churchill Avenue from time to time, and see first hand what is going on in other parts of the world. It most definitely should affect their thinking about the policies they are formulating, and will provide them with facts and data points that cannot be gathered in a more effective way.

Ms Matz seems to be suggesting impropriety on the part of people affiliated with PAUSD around a trip they took to China, but a careful reading of her comments shows no evidence of impropriety. Ms Matz, in her apparent opposition to the concept of extending the district's immersion program policy to include Mandarin, is attempting to create an issue where none exists, and is an issue largely off point around the policy question we face. People are entitled to the opinion that adding a Mandarin immersion program to Palo Alto should not take place (a position with which I strongly disagree), but let's focus on the policy and practical implications as the decision is weighed.

To suggest that "Abramoff" type evil influences are penetrating and unduly influencing fragile, impressionable minds of District officials, and ergo to imply that a favorable Mandarin immersion decision is somehow against the interests of our students, educators and families in Palo Alto can be kindly called a "stretch." If this is the strongest argument that can be mustered against extending an existing policy to include another language, Mandarin, I predict a unanimous favorable vote by the School Board.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 21, 2006 at 3:18 pm

Dear Jamie,

I appreciate your engagement in this issue but I'm afraid someone may have given you some incorrect information.

Actually, the trip you refer to was sponsored by the College Board, which creates the SAT. The purpose of the trip was to help educators better understand teaching practices in China, and to consider which teaching strategies for Mandarin might or might not work well here. I don't see anything "biased" about learning more about teaching practices around the world -- the more information we have to work with, the more resources we have to improve our schools.

1. Here is the College Board ("whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity") press release about their announced partnership with the China National Office (including the US Educators tours):

060419 China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign
Language and the College Board Announce New Chinese Language
College Board Press Release, April 19, 2006
Web Link

The objective of the trip includes "Beyond the obvious
benefits of cultural enrichment these tours will offer, it
is anticipated that they will also provide incentives and
strategies for the educators to return to the United States
better able to support the growth of Chinese programs in
their own districts."

2. Here is the Chronicle article about the San Francisco visitors:

060713 SAN FRANCISCO, China trip for top schools officials
SFGate article, July 13, 2006
Web Link

3. Dr. Marilyn Cook, Associate Superintendent from PAUSD, was not on the trip. Becki Cohn-Vargas and Ruth Malen were the only PAUSD staff to take the tour. Becki is the Elementary School Director of Curriculum. She would be responsible for the curriculum of MI, if it is approved. She is working on the feasibility study which was approved by the school board in May. Ruth Malen, as a retiring elementary school principal was specifically looking at educational methodology in teaching Mandarin. Choosing Ruth to go seemed less to target a specific school (that's something yet to be studied by the Area Attendance Review Group), yet capitalized on her rich experience as it applies to teaching Mandarin in elementary school.

4. The "Chinese interests" who submitted letters of support with the MI proposal are the following:

1) Honorable Joe Simitian, Assemblyman, Twenty-First District
2) Dr. Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, Professor of Child and Adolescent Development, San Jose State University; Palo Alto resident
3) Honorable Wan Yunxiang, Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
4) Richard Konda, Executive Director, Asian Law Alliance, San Jose
5) Francisca Sanchez, CABE President (California Association for Bilingual Education)
6) Barry Chang, Former School Board Trustee, CUSD
7) Dr. Hsing Kung, Board Member, American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley Board Member, Former School Board Trustee, Fremont Union High School District

5. With respect to community support, PACE collected over 900 community members of PAUSD residents who signed the following statement:

We, the undersigned, strongly support the efforts to extend Palo Alto Unified School District's alternative elementary school programs to implement a Mandarin Chinese immersion program in a timely fashion."

These signatures were collected at schools, playgrounds, the Jr. Museum, neighborhoods, and included non-parents, seniors, and non-citizens. That breadth of support across the community is documented and the petitions are filed with the school district.

6. San Francisco has approved a Mandarin immersion program, starting Fall 2006:

060311 Students' families seek 'hidden gems', Despite decline,
applicants choose wider variety of schools
San Francisco Chronicle article, Mar 11, 2006
Web Link

Now for some opinions:
A. The heat of the debate on MI is from friction in the community, not in PAUSD. I'm personally not of the opinion that it is "very heated", as I have offered to discuss MI with opponents who have not responded to my offer.

B. As to the "very controversial" nature of the program, that is also your opinion. The school board voted 3-1-1 to move forward with a feasibility study to answer a number of the questions that have come up with the MI proposal. As controversial questions will be worked on for the feasibility study (we don't have all the answers to everything, yet), it is the intention of the district staff and parent volunteers to constructively address the questions listed in the Guidelines for Expanding Alternative Program. There's tough questions to answer, and we want to find resolutions that satisfy the community,
school board, parents, teachers, staff, etc.

If there are any questions left out from the Guidelines, you may send those to me, and we can work on answers to them. I can't commit for the staff, but as a community member and education advocate, I want to be available to concerns and suggestions.

I don't understand the argument against taking a trip sponsored by the College Board and the Chinese government. Neither of them have any monetary gain by Palo Alto investigating a MI program. The trip was meant to educate educators about teaching Mandarin, Chinese education
practices (good and bad, what works there, wouldn't work here, etc.).

The staff are conducting the feasibility study, gathering as much information to answer the Guideline questions, as possible. Information will be collected, and concerns and additional opinions welcome.

Thanks for the dialogue,

Posted by Rebecca
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 21, 2006 at 3:40 pm

Actually, I'm happy to hear that some of the people involved in deciding whether to implement a Mandarin language program in Palo Alto went to China. That tells me they're taking their job seriously.

If I were trying to determine the feasibility of a Mandarin language
program in Palo Alto, here's what I'd want to find out:

--Is Mandarin an important world language that students should have an
opportunity to study?

--How would Mandarin be taught in the schools?

--Are there any issues specific to teaching Mandarin that need to be

--What are the strategies that other schools use to teach Mandarin?

--Is this language important to our community in Palo Alto?

--Do we have the funding and resources to implement the program?

--What effect would the program have on the local school system?

It seems to me that a good way to answer the first 4 questions would be to go to China and see firsthand how Mandarin is taught by the experts. Visiting China with a group of interested educators is even better, since it gives everyone an opportunity to exchange information and learn about what other communities are doing to address interest in Mandarin language education.

Obviously, community input is needed for the final decision to be made. It would be impossible, however, to fully answer all of the above questions by staying in town and reading rumors about Mandarin education on the internet.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 24, 2006 at 10:24 pm

060724 Grayslake principal shares his China trip experiences
The News Sun (Suburban Chicago News) article, July 24, 2006
Web Link

Grayslake principal shares his China trip experiences

By Ed Collins

Educator joins U.S. delegation in overseas tour

GRAYSLAKE — It's a long way from Grayslake to Beijing but school board members of Grayslake High School District 127 made the trip with ease Thursday night through the photography of Dr. Randy Davis.

Davis, principal of Grayslake Central High School, shared color slides of his experiences with the board as one of 400 U.S. educators who journeyed to China from June 27 through July 5 to stimulate more Chinese language programs in U.S. schools.

The trip was sponsored and paid for by Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council of Elementary and Secondary Schools, in cooperation with the College Board.

"It was a long and tiring flight from Chicago to Beijing. We spent 23 hours in the air," Davis said. When he arrived, he said the temperature was 92 degrees and very humid.

"Beijing is really being transformed in preparation to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

They said some 82 new hotels are being built just to accommodate visitors," Davis said.

Beijing High School No. 80 was Davis' first exposure to the secondary educational system. The high school has about 2,300 students, 80 percent of whom live on campus, he indicated. Achievement testing determines the scholastic path one will pursue: college, advanced technical schooling, trades, etc.

The city is rapidly becoming bilingual, with signs both in Chinese and English," Davis mentioned. He said children begin their English studies in the third grade and become very proficient as they continue their education.

"While still very much a communist country, sprouts of capitalism are appearing, emphasizing the global marketplace," Davis said. However, he was also aware of a constant security presence during his weeklong stay.

Davis said wherever he went he found the Chinese very interested in having their language taught in American schools, just as they teach the English language.

He said there were already some modest efforts being made in the United States to develop such cooperative language programs. He said there may be exchange opportunities where the two countries could swap language teachers on a periodic basis.

"As we are a global economy and trade with China continues to increase, our students will have to become aware of its impact on their futures," Davis said.


Posted by vicki
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2006 at 7:18 pm

The language of the USA is ENGLISH, that is what we need to teach,
if parents want another one they can pay for it or wait till high school for German, French,ETC as an option.
What our children need to be taught is that China is not a democracy, has no freedom of religious belief and has very limited human rights.

Posted by member
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2006 at 10:32 am

Come on! Let's get real here. The Mandarin Immersion push is all about getting the school district to provide free Mandarin language instruction to some kids whose parent's have found a way to escape having to pay big bucks for private instruction. The school board is blinded by the thought of being "cutting edge"--how great will that look on some resumes! The school district is for sale to the highest bidder--in this case it's PACE! The rest of the community, the students, and the parents can go pound sand--it's a case of carving out yet another private academy within our district. Don't even come to my front door asking me to vote for school bonds again.

Posted by Wald-Bois-Lin-Mori
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2006 at 10:52 am

This is a good point, Vikki. English is the language of this country. If parents insist that their kids learn some foreign tongue, they should have to wait until it is too late. Also, they should only be able to try learn German or French or a language originally spoken in Europe. Frankly, even the Italians are too dark, so Italian should be out. Should be languages spoken in northern Europe, really. But not too far east--it gets so slavic out there.

And Member, you're dead right that these parents have found a way to escape paying big bucks for their kids' education. That's awful. I think I see where you're going with this: Why should the public pay to educate kids at all? I'm with you: The whole shebang is a free ride! The district itself is nothing more than a sellout to a special interest: children. If people want to breed, they should shoulder the responsibility of paying big bucks for someone to teach their offspring to read and add and subtract. If we can't do away with public education, maybe we can strip it down to such a low level that it will be meaningless. I sense a groundswell.

Posted by member
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2006 at 11:55 am

I wonder if Wald-Bois-Lin-Mori seems to be implying that the opposition to Mandarin Immersion as an approach to teaching foreign language is coming from a place of racism. Is throwing out the race card an attempt to stifle dissention?
I stand by my belief that if parents want their children to learn a foreign language by "immersion", then they need to look for a private school which meets those needs. The public schools have much broader goals to meet and limited resources with which to meet them. I would feel the same way whether the proposal were for immersion in Swedish, Portuguese, French, Farsi, etc.

Posted by Wald-Bois-Lin-Mori
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2006 at 12:56 pm

Hm, does it seem like racism? To be fair to myself, I was only unpacking Vikki's comment. One might ask whether playing the stifle-dissention card is an attempt to block discussion of racism.

So, you are not against language instruction, only against immersion because 1. it doesn't fit within broader public school goals, and 2. will drain limited resources.

1. Don't follow you here. You seem to feel that immersion fundamentally does not belong in public schools. How is immersion incompatible with the broad goals of a public school district? Which goals? The program would still have to meet PA and CA curriculum guidelines.

2. As far as I know, this immersion program is supposed to be cost-neutral. How is that a drain?

Posted by member
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2006 at 1:55 pm

PAUSD had some wonderful goals posted on it's webpage. I see that they begin with the premise that these goals are for every student, not for those who happen to win the lottery for special programs. I'd like to see a language education strategy which can be made available for every student before we add more choice programs to the mix. I stand by my opinion that immersion programs are a private school option, and at this time, not consistent with the goals of the district.
As to cost neutral, I'm not sure what that means.I admit to being skeptical that the PAUSD can implement a totally new program without using/taking away personel, facilities, time, attention from the general school population. My experience at the school board meetings is that the administrators are already unable to provide timely reports, supervision and other required oversight because they are overworked and understaffed. Those issues need to be remedied before we ask them to spread themselves any thinner.

Posted by Wald-Bois-Lin-Mori
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2006 at 4:51 pm

Oh, the website. Look around there and you'll find the PAUSD explanation about choice programs, which are not for every student. Ohlone, Spanish immersion, etc. They are all over-subscribed, making them "lotteries." (And then there are the other "lotteries" like sports teams, AP classes, etc.) PAUSD does not have the same, narrow goals for every student.

The point of these programs is that not all parents will want their kids in them. To listen to this complaint, you'd think that every parent in Palo Alto wants their kids to go to Mandarin immersion. If there is huge demand, the district can create more immersion tracks. (We'll need to maintain at least one or two traditional English-based classes, I suspect.)

I'm not against a language education strategy, but there is no reason to hold Mandarin immersion hostage while pushing for a program that is, basically, unrelated. Foreign language for every kid would certainly NOT be cost neutral. I have seen successful language programs that start in elementary school, and the one thing they all share is that they pick a single language and make it mandatory for 6-10 years. I am skeptical that anything less rigorous could bring long-term benefits.

That is, if the suggestion is for a system where kids pick from a bunch of languages and can switch every year or two, I'm against. I think that would be a colossal waste of money and kids classroom time (although it would allow parents to believe their kids are getting a cosmopolitan education).

Posted by Disbelief
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2006 at 6:55 pm

Right on Member. The public school system shouldn't be run as series of mini private school programs for every wack program that comes along. In fact, Wald's argument proves exactly why PAUSD should not be going any further with ANY choice programs - "Spanish Immersion Exists, Ohlone Exists, Hooever exists, or Basket Weaving, (or whatever), therefore PAUSD is committed to choice programs and I am ENTITLED to get mine". Once you create one speciality program, the district is somehow OBLIGATED to create one for every special interest that comes along with a checkbook?? Ridiculous. Not feasible.

The public resources are being used inappropriately, and then the district complains about needing special tax assessments to support the BASIC programs of the district? Understaffed? Overworked. Can't get to the basic business of the district. Can't complete basic math and reading assessments? Can get up to date classroom technology. Cant hire classroom aids. While they mismanage what they've already got!? Sure fire recipe for disaster for the whole district: Create a bunch of unsustainable costly designer start up programs, mismanage district wide resources as you go, show odd and unexplainable favoritism toward groups that can cough up their own private funding and let the other 95% of the district sit on it and spin - then cry like babies when the public stops supporting special tax assessments, stops donating to PiE, etc. Why? Because the public who's getting the sloppy leftovers doesn't believe a thing they say anymore. Guess what, not just about Mandarin Immersion - all the 'choice' programs are going to have to stand up and account for themselves. Yep even beloved Spanish Immersion. (Congratulations MI'ers, this may have been your alterior motive all along... to get rid of SI since you don't have one of your own.)

By the way, the community survey says the district doesn't really NEED elementary language instruction. If YOU need elementary language instruction for YOUR kid, go BUY IT in a PRIVATE school, after school, or move to Cupertino! I'm pretty sure they're happy to take non-residents. Or you could move there, that would be a good solution for all of us as well.

C'mon school board, how about we go find out what they care to teach kids in CHINA. Math and Science (and English!) Just like what WE really need. I'll be darned.

Holding Mandarin Immersion hostage? What a joke. Mandarin Immersion is holding the rest of the district hostage with their selfish, self centered demands. Like they're holding a great big prolonged four year temper tantrum. The funny thing is, there are TONS of mandarin classes available all over the bay area. Everyone and anyone is completely welcome to go out and get it any time. And what's wrong with that? Oh, they have to pay for it? Boo Hoo, so make everyone else pay for your hobbee instead.

By the way: Sports and PE programs are open to all comers, not lottery. Ever seen a softball game at an elementary school? About 25 kids per side. At the high school Varsity level, students qualify for sports based on tryouts. In fact PE is a requirement across all schools. (We could make language a requirement at all schools - is it worth it? How about we get a solution for that instead of a half baked entitlement program.) AP classes? Not a lottery, Jake. They're for QUALIFIED students who excel in basics like math and science, to accelerate those advanced students beyond the standard High School curriculum. (No doubt you'll argue accelerated math and science achievement is 'optional'.) AP classes also keep the regular classes at a 'normal' pace making those classes more efficient, and better value to all students. AP are open to all who are qualifed. No comparison whatsover to a 'choice' program.

And if we need language immersion classes so much, why can't the existing programs hold on to their students? They can barely scrape classes together by the time the kids are at the 5th grade level. Are you thinking its FAIR when most fifth grade classes are at about 22 kids per class, and the immersion classes are at about 17 or 18 per class and that's a COMBINED 4th/5th class? Where did all the gung ho immersion kids go between the time they signed up in kindergarten, and the time its time to get serious about their education??

The district is willing to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at this program, and even willing to let PiE go after MORE? How can a reasonable person say this scheme has an appropriate place in the public school system. Its so unreasonable that I'm in awestruck DISBELIEF.

Posted by Wald-Bois-Lin-Mori
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2006 at 7:23 pm

Disbelief--or are you Just Confused?

The MI program is cost-neutral, so your rant about the low quality of PA schools is moot as is the craziness about paying for your "hobbee" (sic).

Choice programs are a fact of modern American education, and you're just out of step when you want to force every kid into the same mold.

The educational system as it exists in China today is not something anyone here would want to emulate--I assume you don't know what you're talking about. Trust me, it would never work.

The survey does not measure what the district needs, just what some parents want. The MI group activity is another measure of what some parents want.

As for sports and AP, it doesn't matter what criterion you use, some kids are excluded. You're ok with that, but you weep at the thought your poor kid might not get into MI.

Instead of whining about all the things you think are wrong with PAUSD, why don't you follow the example of the MIers and do something to improve things?

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 2, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Just some excerpts from the Center for Applied Linguistics report, regarding foreign language learning, and not just "every wack program that comes along".

Web Link

Attaining High Levels of Proficiency: Challenges for Foreign Language Education in the United States

Margaret E. Malone, Center for Applied Linguistics
Benjamin Rifkin, Temple University
Donna Christian and Dora E. Johnson, Center for Applied Linguistics


The need for individuals who can speak and understand languages other than English is acute in many sectors in the United States, from business and social services to national security and diplomacy. The September 26, 2001, report of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (H.R. Rep. No. 107-219, 2001) identified language as the single greatest need in the intelligence community. The late Senator Paul Simon (2001) pointed out that “some 80 federal agencies need proficiency in nearly 100 foreign languages. While the demand is great, the supply remains almost nonexistent. Only 8% of American college students study another language.”

Of the relatively small number of individuals in the United States who learn languages other than English, an even smaller number achieve a high level of proficiency in the language(s) they study.


A learner at the Superior level can “communicate in the language with accuracy and fluency in order to participate fully and effectively in conversations on a variety of topics in formal and informal settings” (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 1999), while a learner at the Distinguished level “begins to approach the level of an educated native speaker” (Leaver & Shekhtman, 2002). Speakers at these levels also possess the academic discourse skills that would be expected of any educated person in the target culture, such as the ability to hypothesize and persuade.

It can take up to 720 hours of instruction for a student to achieve proficiency at the ACTFL Advanced level (one level below Superior); for a native English speaker to acquire proficiency at the Superior level in a language such as Russian, the Foreign Service Institute estimates that a minimum of 1320 hours is required (Omaggio-Hadley, 2001). However, typical undergraduate language programs at U.S. colleges and universities offer only 3 contact hours per week, which, after 2 years, yields at most 180 hours of instruction.


We must expand the number of Americans studying foreign languages, especially the less commonly taught languages (i.e., languages other than French, German, Italian, and Spanish), and offer the types of classroom and out-of-classroom experiences that will help individual learners develop high levels of proficiency.



The availability of resources to develop high-level proficiency, especially in the less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), remains limited, although several projects are addressing this challenge:

* Several federally funded language resource centers are focusing on increasing our knowledge about and resources for advanced language learning and teaching (

* The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota is developing and maintaining a database of LCTL course offerings (Web Link

* The Language Materials Project at the University of California, Los Angeles (, provides an online biblio-graphic database of materials for more than 100 LCTLs.

* The International Research and Studies Program of the U.S. Department of Education holds an annual grant competition to fund projects to improve and strengthen instruction in modern foreign languages, area studies, and other international fields (

* Several conferences have brought together stakeholders from various branches of government, the education community, and commerce to examine language needs across American society (

* The Center for Advanced Study of Language is working to enhance the ability of federal employees across all agencies and branches to speak and understand other languages at high levels of proficiency (

* The National Flagship Language Initiative has awarded grants to support the teaching and learning of Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Russian at universities recognized as leaders in language education (



The need to increase the number of students who reach high levels of proficiency exists for all languages but especially for the LCTLs. The following recommendations are offered as a starting point.

* Provide incentives to K–12 school districts to develop well-articulated, sustained language learning sequences beginning in the early grades.
Make study abroad programs available and affordable for students studying LCTLs.

* Support the development and implementation of programs that promote teacher quality in foreign language teaching at all levels and across all languages.

* Implement programs that incorporate overseas experiences and other effective approaches to developing high levels of language proficiency.

* Allocate adequate resources for technology that can improve the quality of language learning.

* Develop resources for full course sequences in all languages.

* Develop and make available tests that measure high levels of language proficiency in all skill areas.

* Provide incentives for students to attain high levels of proficiency.

* Provide financial support and other vital resources to institutions that offer LCTLs.

* Support heritage language maintenance and development.

* Research “what works” in language teaching and learning.


The need for speakers who are proficient in more than one language is clear in the context of national interests and security, as well as for personal and societal benefits. The cost of ignoring this need has already been felt. The situation will become even more urgent if sufficient effort and resources are not allocated to develop a language-proficient society that includes individuals with high levels of proficiency in critical languages.


This digest is based on a paper presented at the Conference on Global Challenges and U.S. Higher Education, Duke University, January 23-25, 2003, and on Malone, M., Rifkin, B., Christian, D., & Johnson, D. E. (2004).

Posted by Disbelief
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 3, 2006 at 1:18 pm

Not confused at all. Cost Neutrality is a false claim; The MI proposal has unrealistic cost estimates for the overhead it adds. For example, how much time has been used by board and all district employees on the thrash. not incremental? But eventually you load all the overhead functions with new work from MI proposal and you end up hiring new employees - not for MI - just because the work load has bulged up. All the choice programs bring extra overhead and maintence to the district and need to be fully loaded before claims can be made about 'cost neutral'. Also, how will the incremental costs continue to be cost neutral to the district once the initial grant money is used up? Where do those come funds come from? Is that committed funding? By whom? Is it inside the PiE model? or skirting PiE rules?

Again, not comprehending the dialog here - I am not implying we model China system - I'm commenting on the fact that our district employees ran over there to China to find out how to teach Mandarin... (What exactly did they go over there for???) So while they're there, if what China does is so important to our MI program, why don't they give us the full scoop on how great it is over there. Point being, whatever information they 'think' they were gathering from China, is hoaky at best. I guarantee they won't be coming back with the full story.

Survey doesn't measure what the district needs? Only what some parents want".. The survey covered parents, community members, teachers and students, and was professionally executed (and paid for at significant cost to the district). Someone ought to inform the board is was just as good as the petition that MI gathered standing on the street in front of the Jr Museum. Right. that MI petition is surely as scientific as the survey. Sorry, I believe the survey. And exactly what DOES define what the district 'needs' if its not defined by the priorities of the community it serves?

Tell you what, if you're willing to throw out the survey, I'm willing to throw out the MI petition.

Believe me, I'm not weeping about MY kid not getting into MI. You go ahead and put your kid in MI, my kid will do AP Math, and we'll meet you in the SATs.

MI improves PAUSD? How do you figure? MI Does what for PAUSD? MI does nothing for PAUSD, but only for a very small select few (who are already getting chinese language education elsewhere anyway). If you really want to do something for PAUSD how bout come up with a proposal that works for all the kids and doesn't create all this distraction, contention and disfunctional mess. Something that actually matters.

Looking forward to MI for your kid? Hope you're feeling lucky with that lottery coming up...

Posted by Wald-Bois-Lin-Mori
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2006 at 2:48 pm

OK, so you have a conspiracy theory about cost-neutrality--there's no answer to paranoia.

Don't know what the employees were studying in China, but it makes a certain sense for them to gather information about teaching language, don't you think? This again sounds like paranoia. Do you imagine the Chinese teachers were lying about how best to teach kids to read Chinese so China can sabotage our program? Don't know what you're getting at.

Setting district policy is not simply a matter of adopting a survey. It is just one means to gather information about the priorities of the community. Parent groups are another means to gauge priorities. Why do you want to throw out any of this information? The board makes the decisions based on any information it wants to use.

Why not a program for all kids? Well, I just think Mandarin immersion won't be for everyone. I guess by "distraction, contention and dysfunction" you mean that you and a couple friends don't like it. No need to exaggerate.

Posted by member
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2006 at 11:19 pm

So please get to the specifics of how this proposal will be cost neutral to the district...

Posted by don't think so
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2006 at 12:25 am

Wald-Bois-Lin-Mori states:
"Don't know what the employees were studying in China, but it makes a certain sense for them to gather information about teaching language, don't you think? "

Actually, I doubt that any short trip of US educators could learn much of anything useful in China about teaching Mandarin to NON-Mandarin speaking children!!! Classroom strategies for teaching non-native speakers to speak, read and write are NOT the same as those for native speakers. Their schools are organized differently; the concept of a public school with a common education is almost unknown (as opposed to sorting children out young by ability and specialization).

Think about it. For Spanish immersion, the reading and writing instruction is the same for the two languages being taught -- the same decoding strategies, the same writing strokes. But you'd have to spend more than twice the time in two radically different approaches to literacy if children to become fluent in reading and writing both English and Mandarin, due to the sheer volume of Chinese characters. And where is this extra instructional time going to come from?

As for the cost neutral claim, anyone who watched what happened to the support available for regular classrooms in Escondido School compared to privileged SI children of pushy parents knows it ain't so.

Posted by Great News
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2006 at 7:18 am

Actually, the strategies are mainly the same. It's immersion, not traditional language learning. The classes are taught in Mandarin for much of the day. Think about it. This is what makes young-child immersion so different from other language programs.

Learning to read and write Chinese does indeed require more time than English or Spanish. But native speakers learn to read and write in China, as do kids in immersion programs around the world.

What is your beef with SI, exactly? What is the "support" differential?

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 4, 2006 at 7:58 am

For the draft budget which was proposed for MI, check out the Mar 28 board packet (page 43):

Web Link

If you take some care when reviewing this budget, you will need to make the following adjustments. (This budget was originally proposed with three classes in the first year, so all the numbers need to be updated for the current scenario of only two classes the first year.)

1. This budget was based on three classes to start, so you'll need to change the number of first year classes to two.

2. Anticipated grants the first two years are not zero, but now $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

3. Number of teachers will be two the first year.

Also, note that the start up costs go to zero after the first six years, as the curriculum will be done (purchased and/or developed) for each grade incrementally the first six years.

As a first cut, based on the direct donation model of Cupertino and San Francisco's parent communities, this PACE budget shows how anticipated costs could be covered by donations. Copies of some of Cupertino's parent organization supporting their MI program are included in the board packet.

The district staff's preliminary budget for start up costs is on page 159 of the board packet. From the district project overview:

"Parent contribution to the start-up costs of the program

o Program start-up costs include qualified administrative time, staff development planning, curriculum and materials acquisition

o Program design would anticipate no additional cost for parents beyond start-up with any other parent contribution being similar to that provided to other district programs"

The district start up costs covered all six grades of curriculum development/purchase in one lump sum the first year.

The estimated first year start up costs from PACE (revised for two classes) is $41.6K. From the district, $135K. The assumptions of what is required in each estimate are in the packet.

The final budget will be refined during the feasibility study and reconcile these figures.


Posted by Jamie Maltz
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 4, 2006 at 11:31 am

Palo Alto has a different stated fund raising policy under the PiE model than Cupertino. Please see the Santa Clara County Grand Jury findings regarding Cupertino's MI program. Available online at Web Link

The grand jury findings state that since Cupertino does not have a stated policy against directly targeting fund raising to specific programs, that Cupertino's MI funding model was legal. They specifically contrast it to Palo Alto Unified School District's stated funding policy which disallows this direct funding approach:

"The Grand Jury’s role here is not to determine policy but rather to determine whether stated policies are being properly followed. PAUSD has a policy regarding public participation in school funding that allows it to capture the majority of contributed funds and to disburse them uniformly among the schools. CUSD does not have a policy like PAUSD and is not legally required to have such a policy. CUSD has a policy favoring individual school funding."

This seems to indicate that stated fund raising policies are legally binding, not optional.

Under PAUSD's PiE model, are donations and other fund raising sources such as grants, allowed to be directed at specifically targeted programs for administrative time, staff development planning, curriculum and materials acquisition? Is this an exception to the PiE rules? Or loopholes in the PiE rules?

If PiE is allowing exceptions or work arounds (loop holes), it apparently weakens the PiE foundation, and therefore opens the PiE model up for challenge. I'm sure there are alot of donors in Palo Alto that would like to bypass the PiE funding approach, and go back to the days of seeing their donations directed to the particular schools or programs of their choice. What is PiE's official position on this?

Is this a healthy path? Or a slippery slope?

Posted by Pauline Navarro
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Aug 25, 2006 at 1:26 pm

Holy Toledo. I was just catching up on my MI reading, and am very unhappy that the tone of the discussion is getting so mean. Nobody opposed to MI, to my knowledge, is stating or believes anything other than the whole issue being simply a matter, a business and community matter, of deciding how to use our limited slices of the dollar/staffing pie, and determining what kind of school environment we want.

1) The MI Grant proposal is publically available, call the District and ask for it. Read it. It is enlightening. Clearly not at all cost-neutral, at least for the first 6 years. No clue how to get the extra dollars without breaking every PiE agreement we have made. After that, judging from the enrollment at Cupertino,our most logical comparison model, there is no history of cost-neutrality in running even an up and running program, since the attrition is so high. They still have the the same costs to run a program that has 10 kids in it versus 20, except in any other classroom the kids would be disbursed to use the funds more efficiently. We have experienced this unintended consequence already in our other choice programs as well.

2)As for us already having unequal access to AP programs, sorry, doesn't fly. A lottery is a lottery, no matter which way you cut it.There is a difference between a lottery and having classes that require passing minimal requirements. And the difference is that AP Math doesn't mean only AP kids, who earned their way into a class through ability and hard work, get math. Everyone still gets math.If and when we decide we have the resources for foreign language in elementary schools, we want everyone to have equal access.

3) Nobody is talking about dismantling any of the choice lottery programs we currently have, we are simply talking about not allowing new choice programs in, until all the basic priorities determined by the community, which pays the bill, are met. Times have changed. Language instruction in elementary schools is near the bottom in priorities of the community, the parents and the teachers who were part of the survey. Get the survey and read it.Top priorities include English, and of course, math and science. No accident that countries who are sending us technical professionals because our kids can't compete in math and science have math and science priorities in their schools. This year our work visas limit from other countries was FILLED before the budget year even began, our companies are so desperate for competent employees.

4) This isn't a matter of some few folks who claim to "know better", deciding what is in "our" best interest for a few kids, using the whole community's money. Remember, just a few years ago Japanese was THE language that was popular to believe we needed to learn for "future competition", and after that Spanish was the language that was supposed to be best. India is now the new, up and coming business country. Nobody is saying that we need to learn any of the languages spoken in India. Surprise, English is still the common language for business. Remember, there are more English speaking Chinese in China than English speaking Americans. I am told by business travelers to China, Singapore or India, that if you attend a national conference in any of these places, the common language is English, because there are so many different dialects and languages.

We are not an ignorant, uneducated community. We can read and think also. Trying to imply that if only we went to China we would see how important Mandarin is to us, is insulting. When I go to France or Spain, I can see how important French and Spanish are also.

4) There is the matter of determining the future of our school environments, as well. How many more kids displaced from their neighborhood schools do we want? How many more cars on the road?

5) Nearly 1,000 students are projected to be moving into our southern Palo Alto area with all the new complexes being built. Almost a 10% increase. We are concerned about trying to plan for a future that will require space, space and more space for all these students. We don't want any MORE programs that will take up more "per student" space than is average, ie that is not maintaining the 20 student average per class we want.

It is a matter of our belief in the power of our concerned and informed opinion, as expressed in our community survey, to be heard and implemented. It wouldn't matter if it were a choice art program, choice French,choice Math/Science program, (my personal favorite), or increasing the number of Spanish Immersion entry classes so that the 3 out of 4 applicants who are turned down could get in, I would still oppose any new choice programs because of the future costs and inflexibility, and decreasing neighborhood school environment costs.

In case anyone cares, I was born in Spain, then lived in Morroco before moving here. We spoke at various times French, Spanish and Arabic in my home. I completely support foreign language instruction for many reasons, mainly because I have personally experienced the benefits in my thinking and language skills. However, creating a private school in a public school system is not the way to do it.

Thanks for reading through all this.

Posted by Nerissa
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2006 at 9:50 pm

I would just like to plead for a more civil tone in everyone's discussions, and less sarcasm. Yes, we all have strong opinions, but it does not help our community to create negative feelings on either side of this issue. I applaud Pauline for stating her ideas in such a calm, rational manner. Thanks.

Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2006 at 1:14 am

I'm wondering how many MI opponents also oppose (1) Spanish Immersion, and (2) all choice schools in Palo Alto?

Also, are you hoping to overturn or dismantle the existing programs they oppose?

I've heard nothing but great things about the Spanish Immersion program, and that there are too few spaces compared to the number of families who want to participate. People at Ohlone and Hoover all seem to be very satisfied, too.

It seems to me that an important measure of the success of the district is how satisfied the parents are with their children's school experiences. Overall, I would expect that choice school families improve this hypothetical satisfaction score. And if choice schools were eliminated, the score would drop.

While my kids probably won't be jooining MI, I'm not convinced that they will be harmed by my neighbor's children going to that program.

By the way, I've heard that the optional language programs offered at the neighborhood schools aren't filling up. Is this true?

To the MI opponents in favor of bringing foreign language to all schools, I'd like to ask if your children are taking advantage of the optional programs offered through the neighborhood schools? Or are you taking them elsewhere for language?

Posted by Andrea
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2006 at 12:24 pm

My feeling is that if SI or any of the other choice programs cannot provide specific data to measure whether they meet the goals set forth at the inception of these programs, then perhaps it may indeed be time to re-examine their value to the district and it's students. I'm not convinced that the "satisfaction score" would drop if choice programs were eliminated. Perhaps district efforts and resources would then be freed up and spread around to all of the schools and the satisfaction score would increase as a result. Just a thought.

I agree that MI proponents have plenty of optional language programs from which to choose, without the need for another choice program to accomodate them. The district has many other more pressing matters on it's plate at this time and not sufficient staff or financial resources to adequately deal with them, as demonstrated at the last Board meeting. The MI proposal is an unnecessary distraction from other priorities.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 3, 2006 at 1:41 pm


It seems that you asked these questions about SI on the other thread, "Why All This Controversy Over Mandarin Immersion?".

Instead of copying all the SI measurements from the district report of Nov 2000, I'll just paste in the summary:

SUMMARY FINDINGS (from the Nov 2000 staff memo):"When the Board placed the Spanish Immersion Program at Fairmeadow and Escondido Schools, the response of the community was mixed. There was considerable concern that the choice program would result in a loss of resources (fiscal and human) for the host school and that the program would compromise the school’s climate. The combined efforts of (then) Fairmeadow Principals June Schiller and Escondido Gary Prehn, parents of the Spanish Immersion students and parents of resident students resulted in a majority of parents at each school ultimately viewing the program as an asset to their communities."

Please don't rehash the discussion from the other thread over here. Unless you have something new to say.

Posted by MI: Bait and Switch
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2006 at 9:24 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Where can we get ~current~ results? And do they show enrollments and test results at each grade level separated between returnees that started in Kindergarden versus language proficient kids that started later? Rather than pouring over six year old results, where can we find current results?

Also, the opinions of the parents IN the program are not quite as compelling, because clearly they have motivated self interests in promoting their program. Especially the parents in the early start up years who personally fought for the program to come in to existence. And, 'a majority of parents at each school..' did the program parents make up the majority at each school at the time? Sounds somewhat like the fox assuring the farmer that the henhouse is secure.

Actually all that is completely irrelevent, we just need to see current quantitative results separated between original enrollees versus the enrollees that entered the program that were proficiency tested at entrance.

Choice programs in Palo Alto are required to meet specific criteria, such as similar cost per students as the rest of the district, adherance to PIE and PAUSD staff funding policies, student performance criteria, reaching a student population that is racially, socio-economically representative of the community, meeting standard minimum class size enrollments, and more. So it really shouldn't be any problem at all for each choice program to report this basic necessary quantitative data each year. If you're protesting this, why?

Even so, Spanish immersion is an irrelevent compare for MI.

Mandarin is 4 times more difficult than Spanish - more students and more diverse students, will make it through Spanish. And more diverse parents will come in the first place, as Spanish is far more likely to be feasible for non-Spanish speaking families.

The only program we have as a RELEVENT model for Mandarin Immersion is demonstrating dismal ~current~ turn over rates that indicate it doesn't work as promised. The Cupertino program exits about 7% of prior year students every year, and that's been a consistent year over year turn over result all the way up through 05 vs 06. That's a run rate of promoting only 65% of the original kinders through to 6th grade.

That's current data, not 'growing pains' data from early years of the Cupertino program. Furthermore, the Cupertino website states that kids that enter in first grade and beyond are TESTED FOR GRADE LEVEL NATIVE LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY. Therefore test results beyond that point don't tell us how well the program taught the proficiency, they only tell us that native language kids do better when taught in their own native language.

But MI proposal didn't suggest bringing PAUSD a Mandarin ELL program...

Thats why the test results for these program are basically garbage for proving the original promise of MI, unless you tell us the success rates (test results and promotion rates) separated by original Kinder enrollees versus the kids that came in at higher grade levels that were pretested for language proficiency.

Is is NOT PAUSD's mandate or responsibility to provide an ELL program to a student population that does not have an achievement gap. PAUSD does have kids with an achievement gap, and it absolutely IS our responsibility to address those kids and bring them into the fold with appropriate special programs (ELL language programs or otherwise.) Its negligible for our district to be showering so much on so few at the costs of defocusing our district resources from our most needy populations.

MI is being sold to the board in terms that are palatable to the board, as an opportunity for super ultra enriched foreign language education for a diverse population, and in reality can not, and will not deliver bilingual, biliterate, bicultural education to a diverse population. It fact, it will deliver PAUSD curriculum to native mandarin speaking families, in their native language, with highly favorable funding per student and class sizes.

Its a bogus claim - shame on the board for being hoodwinked.
Or - show us detailed quantitative results with demographic cuts, socio-economic cuts, original enrollees cuts, native language vs. English Language cuts to prove otherwise.

And yes, SI should be held to the same accontability, and they should have no problem whatsoever in doing so, since they claim such a wonderful success rate.

Posted by a mom who was on the fence
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2006 at 10:56 pm

As a PA parent, I've been trying to understand the MI debate. I don't have a personal/family interest in the program, and it's been an elucidating walk through our town.

I've noticed that people who have been involved in Spanish Immersion and other immersion programs outside of PA are just passionate about them. Their expereiences seem universally positive. I appreciated Paul Losch's response; it was an articulate voice of experience.

Opponents of MI seem to put forth a lot of misinformation and opinions not backed up by facts. They seem to foment fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Look at how this discussion started. I saw the same negative campaigning happening at the school board meetings, too.

For example, the financial picture looks extremely reasonable, and have you ever seen a program have so much parental and outside funding?! Not sure why Disbelief sees this as a bad thing. I'm amazed to see the level of support that the program would have. Ultimately it's the job of the school board - not members of the community - to assess MI's financial impact, and I'm sure they'll be going over the budget with a fine-tooth comb.

I hesitate to use the R-word, but I agree with W-B-L-M that there's more than a hint of racism and anger among the MI opponents. Gosh, I though we were such a progressive little town.

Immersion programs certainly aren't for everyone, just like football and cheerleading, AP classes, or after-school childcare. The MI proposal seems extremely well researched, and everytime a concern comes up the proponents seem to be able to come back with research and hard facts. They've done their homework.

PA might need to open another elementary school anyhow, and maybe these folks will get their day. I've certainly been swayed after examining both sides, and I hope that the school board will be, too.

Posted by MI: Bait and Switch
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2006 at 11:39 am

A copy of the Grant is available by asking at the district office
The Cupertino Mandarin Immersion program and PAUSD Spanish Immersion enrollment statistics were posted on these threads by MI supporters (with references).
The PAUSD Choice Program guidelines are available on the PAUSD website and in Board packet from 9/27.
The Cupertino MI proficiency testing policies are available on the Cupertino Unified School District MI website under parent Q&A.
The PAUSD funding policies and PIE funding policies are available through PAUSD website
All the board packets (ie: PACE original proposal claims, etc) are available through PAUSD online.

The data is all available for anyone interested in the truth. There is no misinformation being provided. If you don't believe the arguments against, they can be verified.

And yes, we fully expect the board and the feasibility study to do a throrough examination of the costs.

(By the way, if PAUSD opens another elementary school, that's a neighborhood school for students and families in that neighborhood. The displacement issues will still apply.)

Posted by Andrea
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2006 at 11:44 am

To Grace: Did I miss some protocol that prohibits me from responding to a comment which appears in a thread if I have already commented in another thread?

I wonder why these questions and comments touch such a nerve? The Feasibility Study Committee (of which you are a member) should be making every effort to research this data and incorporate it into their report if they are going to hold up SI as a model for success in the district. Can you tell me if that's happening, or are they relying on the year 2000 report that is held up as proof of success? More importantly, are they/you looking for this data from MI programs which are held up as models for the Palo Alto proposal?

To "mom who was on the fence": The last time I looked, football, cheerleading, child care were extra-curricular and not immersion. And as far as MI proponents coming up with hard facts and research, I beg to disagree. As Mandy Lowell said at the board meeting of August 21 when urging caution on a request from parents for a change to the district bus route, "anything that starts has a sense of entitlement..." The students and parents and community of PAUSD deserve unbiased, thorough fact finding; the integrity of our policies, priorities, finances and the ramifications of the Board's decisions depend on it.

Posted by By the Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2006 at 1:14 pm

If you are interested in understanding if the financial picture is reasonable, I highly recommend you read the actual grant application submitted to the federal government by PAUSD. The program as outlined there shows total program costs of (rounded) $350K (thousand) in YEAR ONE, $800K in YEAR TWO, and $1.3Million in YEAR THREE. The amounts requested from from the federal government are $201K in year one, $279K in year two, and $283K in year three. The grant periods takes the program through First Grade implementation only.

A scan through the list of items in the grant will allow you to make your own estimations of how much of this is incremental costs to the district if you wish. The costs of teachers, instructional supervisor, aids, can probably be counted as normal district costs, but most other items appear to be incremental. That would put incremental costs to the district in the range of $250K - $370K per year in years 1,2 and 3. (Certainly, the feasibility study should show us the final correct dileneation for what is incremental versus standard costs, as well as a continuation of the financials for years beyond first grade.)

If you feel that the amount of private funding supporting this program is a 'favorable' aspect, you may also want to ask, what happens in year four when there is no grant funding coverage, and the program costs continue to grow. Certianly we would 'hope' for a new grant funding round, and continued private donatations, and what if that doesn't materialize? And what if the driving forces behind the proposal move away, or become disillusioned with the program in implementation (if it deviates from their vision), or their kids don't get in through the lottery, or they find they have other committments, or a political change of winds dries up the Bush Administrations focus on 'Strategic Lanugage Initiative', etc. so forth. Fund raising is a monumentally difficult task.

With this data in hand, I disagree with the idea that the financial picture looks extremely reasonable. In fact it seems extremely risky.

This isn't the imagination of hate mongering liars. This is just facts you can read in the grant if you are a seeker of the truth.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2006 at 4:34 pm

Dear Andrea and Concerned,

I requested no repeats from other threads. Not demanded or dictated.

"Please don't rehash the discussion from the other thread over here. Unless you have something new to say."

There is netiquette protocol to not repost long discussions, but that's courtesy.

These questions do not touch a nerve. They may not all be answered, although they are being investigated. Other school districts are under no obligation to gather new information for us. PAUSD is relying on good will to find out about the other programs. We're not paying them money. If they have the data, they may give it to us.

Likewise, there's a ton of information that *could be* gathered about PAUSD programs. As I posted in the "Why All This Controversy Over Mandarin Immersion?" thread:

"As you can tell, there's certainly lots to investigate, but given our limited resources, we will do our best to gather as much information as possible."

Most of the information the I have posted was collected by myself over five years. Unfortunately, that's after doing a lot of research into public domain information.

For the feasibility study team to gather everything that's been suggested by community members, the board would need to approve more funding of staff time. And that would offend the community members who feel that there's already not enough staff time to do the other parts of their jobs. So, it's a Catch-22. Demanding the feasibility team research all the information requested is not reasonable.

The feasibility team will use their judgment on what information is most pertinent, what information is available, and what can be researched within the resource constraints approved by the board (funding and staff time).

One lesson I would like to pass on to the critics of the MI program and to the board's alternative program process:

The board and school district staff get relentless "advice" on how to do their jobs. They don't appreciate it when people are condescending, patronizing, and downright rude.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2006 at 5:03 pm

Now, to clarify some of the misinterpretation of the FLAP grant which has been posted.

For context, here is the abstract for the FLAP grant application:

ABSTRACT – Development and Implementation of a Comprehensive K-12 Mandarin Chinese Program with a Dual-Immersion Elementary Component in Palo Alto Unified School District


SCHOOLS: Elementary School TBD, Middle Schools TBD, Henry M. Gunn High School, Palo Alto Senior High School

The Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), Palo Alto, CA proposes to develop and implement a model K-12 Mandarin Chinese program beginning with elementary dual-immersion and culminating in Advanced Placement Mandarin Chinese Language and Culture. The program will begin in August 2006 with two classes of Mandarin Chinese Level I in each of the District’s two comprehensive public high schools and in August 2007 with two kindergarten classes of dual-immersion Mandarin Chinese/English to be located at one of the District’s 12 elementary schools.

PAUSD, located in the San Francisco Bay Area in close proximity to Stanford University, serves a highly diverse and internationally- oriented population. The District will partner with the California Foreign Language Project (CFLP) at Stanford University and the Confucius Institute at San Francisco State University for extended staff development, external evaluation, and cultural exchange. The program will also provide entry points for introductory Mandarin Chinese study at both middle school and high school which will lead to Advanced Placement Mandarin Chinese Language and Culture classes at the high school level.

By August 2012, the K-12 Mandarin Chinese program will serve 240 elementary dual- immersion students, and 500 secondary-level students. Students in the dual-immersion program will become bi-lingual, bi-literate, and bi-cultural, and will develop high levels of proficiency in both English and Mandarin Chinese. All students will demonstrate positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors. The program will have a strong technology component across the grade levels K-12 which will facilitate development of communication links with children and teachers through sister school relationships to be explored with Beijing’s Number 171 High School and Nanjing Foreign Language School, Xianlin Branch. The Mandarin Chinese program will provide intensive professional development activities for both program and site staff, and will contain a parent education component. Parents whose children are in the immersion program will be invited to participate in a Mandarin Chinese language evening class offered through Palo Alto Adult School and will preview their children’s curriculum so that they will be more confident in supporting their children’s progress.

If you carefully read the grant, you will find the following highlights which affect the funding request:

1. The grant is for K-12, so the amount of money is spread across more than just the MI elementary school program. High school classes (which have already started this year at Gunn and Paly), including many of the technology components, are covered in the funding request of $377K, $817K, and $1.2M for the three years of the program.

2. Because the grant requires fund-matching, PAUSD has to come up with money that would match the government award. The strategy in this application is for PAUSD's staff salaries to be the PAUSD amount which would be matched, dollar for dollar, to the grant funding. So, teacher salaries (including the current high school Mandarin teachers) are included in the total program budget.

3. Another strategy in writing grants is to ask for more than what you need. So, what some may interpret as incremental costs from the grant application, the district recognizes that some of that is "gravy" which is not required for the MI program. A big example is the technology that's mentioned on another thread. The grant application lists supplies like iPods and middle and high school Mandarin textbooks and online subscriptions, but that's not required for MI. Also, the MI curriculum development was asked for all six grades of elementary school MI, to be done in the three-year timeframe of the grant award. If we don't get the grant, the curriculum would be developed over a longer amount of time.

There's lots of incorrect interpretation of the grant. The facts of the grant are the straight requests for funds, for the listed program plan and objectives.

Extrapolating the final required costs for MI is not an easy task. The feasibility study will be coming up with the standard and incremental costs for MI.

If anyone wants to interpret the grant budget, they should be more informed about the application strategy, and not jump to conclusions based on assumptions.

Posted by Pauline Navarro
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 4, 2006 at 6:57 pm

Grace, concerning your point

"For the feasibility study team to gather everything that's been suggested by community members, the board would need to approve more funding of staff time. And that would offend the community members who feel that there's already not enough staff time to do the other parts of their jobs. So, it's a Catch-22. Demanding the feasibility team research all the information requested is not reasonable"

You have well stated a major problem. The Board and Staff DON'T have time to complete our priorities, let alone study everything that needs to be studied concerning this program, as shown at the last Board Study Session's discussion on which tasks could be delayed. The Bregman Survey, which we paid for, found that the community ranked language instruction in the elementary school LAST out of 11 subjects listed. This proposal is of extremely low importance to the community...the bill payers.

Therefore many of us are simply doing what any concerned taxpayers would do, which is helping them gather their data. All the hard data we have quoted is publically available to anyone who wants it. I have to admit that it is hard for me to understand how we even got to this point, given how I have heard nothing but " we need more money, we don't have enough staff, we can't even yet put back all the programs we used to have" for years, but here we are.

Posted by Pauline Navarro
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 4, 2006 at 7:05 pm

As for rudeness, I have been to almost all the Board meetings and study sessions, and I have not heard any rudeness from any of the opponents. If you are referring to anonymous rudeness online, well, that is different. There are some quite rude anonymous folks, but I suppose that is why they feel they can be rude, and since I have no idea who they are, then I just ignore them. So, if you are trying to paint the opponents with the "rude" paintbrush, please don't.

Posted by Jamie Maltz
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 4, 2006 at 7:07 pm

Of these positions listed in the grant - which are classified and which are certified?


Instructional Supervisor
Project Director
Internal Assessment Director
Mandarin Specialist (TOSA)
Mandarin Curriculum Coordinator
Clerical Support (Mandarin Speaking?)
Instructional Aids

Posted by Pauline Navarro
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 4, 2006 at 7:21 pm

As for Mom on the fence, if you are going to call opponents racist, please back this up with racist quotes by the racists in question. If you find anything racist that is by anonymous, well, I have already commented on anonymous writers, and I find comments on both sides that are offensive. As I and many others have said, this is about another choice program coming into the PAUSD. I would feel the same if this were another, separate Spanish program ( I was born in Spain and one of my sons is from Mexico), an Arabic program ( my father was born and raised in Morrocco and I lived there as a kid), a French program ( I grew up speaking at various time French, Spanish and Arabic, and, of course, English) etc. So would my opposition be racist? What if it were a choice music/arts program? What would we call my opposition then? So please, just quit with the name calling.

As for claiming that we are spreading fear and don't have facts, please quote them. If you are going to claim that something is false, it is only right and fair to quote it and then prove it wrong. Again, my "anonymous writers" comments stand. Slinging mud is for the politicians, not us, as we try to work our way through this.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2006 at 8:40 pm

Instructional Supervisor
Project Director
Internal Assessment Director
Mandarin Specialist (TOSA)
Mandarin Curriculum Coordinator

Clerical Support (Mandarin Speaking?)
Instructional Aids

Posted by Bill
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 4, 2006 at 10:02 pm

I’m with On the Fence.

PACE has proposed a revenue-neutral program similar to successful programs with proven track records. It answers the needs of some district parents and would serve a diverse population.

I only wish it had come along sooner so I could have entered my kids for the lottery.

Pauline, I don’t read Fence as saying all opponents of MI are racist. But without rehashing the comments toward the top of this topic, I think she’s right about some of those comments.

Posted by Lorraine
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2006 at 10:41 pm

Bill, PACE has been promoting those concepts as facts for some time now:
revenue neutral
similar to successful programs with proven track records
answers the need of some district parents
serve a diverse population
I applaud those who are attempting to apply some critical thinking to these notions. Let's stop trying to shut them down. How about actually looking at the work that they have done, the questions they raise, and see the value that it brings to the Feasibility Study table.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2006 at 11:03 pm

PACE has not promoted the whole proposal as facts. It is a proposal. Proposal components set for the future are not facts.

Some of the proposal has facts, based on historical documents, such as the following:

1. revenue neutral
Spanish immersion is approximately revenue neutral, based on the Nov 2000 district report.

The questions about current SI costs are relevant and are being investigated.

2. similar to successful programs with proven track records

SI, Cupertino's MI, and San Francisco's CI programs are considered by many to be successful with proven track records. Newspaper articles and enrollment waiting lists are documents supporting that statement. Some people interpret the attrition rate to be non-supportive.

Further study of attrition rate, root causes, and considerations as it pertains to the PAUSD situation will be investigated.

3. answers the need of some district parents

This is a fact, as stated.

4. serve a diverse population

In that the proposal recommends a lottery open to all students in PAUSD, with the educational objective of one third to one half native-Mandarin speakers, this proposal serves a diverse population.

I appreciate the helpful questions which have been brought up by the community. As I stated in the other thread, "Will the Mandarin Immersion decision be unbiased?":

"If there are any questions left out from the Guidelines, you may send those to me, and we can work on answers to them. I can't commit for the staff, but as a community member and education advocate, I want to be available to concerns and suggestions.

Lorraine, where has the attempt to shut down critical thinking been?

Posted by Jamie Maltz
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 5, 2006 at 3:40 pm

Grace, thanks for your insights on the grant. We were well aware the grant is written for a K-12 program and have mentioned that fact several times in the last couple board meetings hoping to have this explained (which it hasn't been yet, so maybe you can help give us the insights.) Actually we're simply hoping to get more information on how that came to be.

How and did the program outlined in the grant jump from the K-5 program put forth in the PACE proposal; The grant application covers a program that expands the high schools from the existing 4 Mandarin elective classes this year, to 12 classes two years from now. It also includes 4 middle school classrooms within the next two years, where we have zero this year. How did the concept blossom between the point of the PACE proposal and the point of the grant application?

Is this also grant writing strategy, and if so, what is the strategic thinking behind it?

Posted by By the Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2006 at 4:15 pm

Since we're not clear at this point which elements of the proposal were facts, and which were future looking visions, and which were outdated, irrelevent, assumptions and compares, can you clarify one point...

Was the PACE MI Petition with 900 signatures that was attached to the proposal, ever independently validated name by name for Palo Alto residency? Will it be? When? and By whom? When will we see the results of that validation process? Who will publish it?

Its quite relevent because it speaks to the potential demand for the program, and it also is important information/clarification for the Board who presumed PACE was providing 900 signatures as evidence of support for the program from among their voting constituency.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 5, 2006 at 5:19 pm

Sorry, BTN, this time I will take Pauline's advice and ignore anonymous posters who are rude. I feel it is rude for you and others to question the integrity of the 900 signatures collected by 40 PACE volunteers. We're all good-spirited and honest, which is contrary to what you're implying.

I've tried to answer reasonable questions from rude people; they can have valid concerns. Pauline, since you align yourself with the opposition to MI:

"As for claiming that we are spreading fear and don't have facts, please quote them."

Please ask them to keep things professional and polite. And if they want to be taken seriously, use their name.

Posted by Jamie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 6, 2006 at 9:09 am

I agree, the BTN comments above were unecessarily rude, and unfortunate because it derails productive conversation.

Grace will you share any insights about how the grant came to be submitted for a K-12 program rather than the K-5 program in the original proposal?


Posted by Bill
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 6, 2006 at 9:11 am


I don’t think anyone wants to shut down discussion.

On the contrary, Grace Mah has done a great job here of answering specific questions. I would guess the critical questions—as opposed to the potshots—are helping her to formulate a program that addresses the concerns of the community. I hope her answers have allayed some fears, too.

Posted by Response
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2006 at 3:50 pm

Bill, you are in luck, its not too late to sign your kids up for the lottery. The program has not been approved yet, let alone started to take names. (Unless you know something we don't know...)

By the way, PACE has not proposed a revenue neutral program, they have proposed a program that 'should be' revenue neutral based on the Spanish Immersion experience, (must be cost neutral if it wishes to get approved) but per Graces comments above, the proposal does not claim in fact that it IS cost neutral, only that it theoretically could be. (note the potential difference between what one can propose and the reality in practice.)

In fact, take a look at the grant, and you'll see the grant described program is not revenue neutral, there is quite a significant shortfall even with the grant dollars (and excluding costs of teachers.)

By the way, in the board minutes from meeting on March 28th, Mah noted that Cupertino program had lost its grant. Why? If that happens in Palo Alto, in year 4 we'll be on the hook for about 400K and more of yearly incremental costs. As a parent, you should be pretty interested in that, because the parents will foot the bill for incremental costs in order to keep this cost neutral??? That would come to something like $3333 per year for each student. (400K/120 students in year four... That's if you believe what you see in the grant.

The grant writers for some reason drew up a completely new program (for unexplained reasons)... In the same board meeting on 3/28 board asked about the potential for middle school impact, Mah said she had not addressed the middle school component in this proposal. Yet the grant asks for 4 middle school classes within the next two years.

Additionally, before you sign up you may be interested in making sure the district plans to hire certified teachers? At the last board meeting 9/27 we heard that they won't be able to find certified qualified teachers that are bilingual, biliterate able to teach in both languages to the level required so they'll have to hire Mandarin teachers and separate English teachers.. That's the way Cupertino does it - which may be yet another contributor to parent dissatisfaction (one reason for continued high rate of turnover? - we don't know, not sure if the feasibility study is even interested in finding out..)

Lastly for your child's sake, I hope you are a native mandarin speaking family, because kids who's family's dont speak language at home are going to have tough time with the program according to all the references we've been seeing (noted in grant, etc). So, you should plan on signing yourself up for Mandarin Night School (see grant), and hopefully you don't have two jobs or have spouse working nights and can't afford babysitting, or some other socio-economic situation that would preclude you from taking advantage of this very elite program.

Good luck.

I guess we'll have to wait for the "feasibility" study to show us if the program can in fact be revenue neutral, from what sources all this revenue will come, and they'll also be telling us more about the success of the cupertino program from the kid by kid persepctive.

As a parent getting ready to enter your kids in the program, I assume you're super interested in knowing if this works and what quality of teaching your kids will be receiving, and how much its going to cost you when the grant funding dries up.

Why do we write anonymously? Because no matter how valid the points or how reasonable the questions, it defaults to 'racism'(because its easier than answering the questions?). So we bring our points to the table without names (ie: without name calling). The points are no less valid. Why are people being rude (BTN)? Because of frustration.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 7, 2006 at 8:48 pm

Dear Response,

Alas, my children will be too old for the program….

I understand what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t take the grant numbers as the baseline for the program. As I understand it, in applying for a grant the strategy has been to ask for everything and then some. And in the end, the district cannot demand money from parents as a condition for kids’ participation. Those without funds cannot be kicked out.

Also, I believe the district cannot hire teachers who are not certified, so I assume the kids would have different teachers for English and Mandarin. A challenge, for sure, but not necessarily a negative.

No, we’re not native Mandarin-speakers. I agree that parents enrolling in Mandarin night classes is the ideal, not because you’ll be able to help your kid with homework (sure, you could for a while, but they’d outstrip your knowledge in a few years easy) but because it shows your children that you value what they’re doing. It seems to me to be a demanding program, but not elite.

I’m not bothered by anonymity but by some of the comments above. I’ve seen no “default” to claim racism here. Grace and others have thoughtfully engaged with the reasonable concerns of opponents. (The argument over cost neutrality is particularly intractable since the study is still in progress, and even that is not real life.) But the assertions relating to certain racial groups ought to trouble us as a community, and we shouldn't shy from calling out that behavior.

Posted by Jamie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 7, 2006 at 10:07 pm

But I still don't understand how the program expanded from K-5 to K-12. Why that leap from the original proposal? What's behind that? Whats the reasoning that allows that leap to be made? I can see asking for bells and whistles on the K-5 program, but arbitrarily bringing in the 6-12? Where did that come from?

This is an honest question. I hope someone who knows will answer it before the board is asked to approve this program.

Posted by Lorraine
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2006 at 9:23 am

There it is in black and white folks. Todays PA Daily news quotes Dr. Marilyn Cook's response to the fact that the district did not receive the federal grant for MI as "This does not affect the feasibility of the program". That should put to rest once and for all doubts as to whether the feasibility study will be impartial. From the first, despite Cook's vows to the contrary, the Study Committee was stacked with proponents who are hell bent in getting this done and today's quote confirms that the decision is made. Funny a few months back at a board meeting, I heard Callan vehemently declare that without the grant funds, MI was not going to happen. Silly me, I wanted to believe her. Looks like we're headed for a private Mandarin school within our district after all.

Posted by Tulley
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Oct 27, 2006 at 4:50 pm

Lorraine, if you read all the way to the end of that article today, you see that you'll get all your questions answered. Grace said so. She's doing the feasibility study even as we speak. And she's the founder of Palo Alto Chinese Education group, so when it's all sewn up, it will be tied up in a nice little bow and you'll have your 3 minutes to comment. You'll get a quick little thank you from the board and then you can go home and stop bothering them.

Posted by Open Minded Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2006 at 12:45 am

Lorraine, the feasibility of the program is not affected by the grant because the program was never dependent on the grant. Furthermore, the program proposes a PUBLIC Mandarin immersion school, open (albeit with limited enrollment) to anyone within our district. If you choose to continue driving your grandkids to their neighborhood school every morning, then don't sign up for a choice school. That will leave more seats for those of us who may be interested in one.

Posted by Lorraine
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2006 at 7:06 am

Open Minded, you must have be confused with a different Lorraine. My grandkids walk to school every day, except when it rains, to their "neighborhood" school. As they are so fond of reminding me, it's a one mile walk, through an area which has a cluster of one private school, two elementary schools (one is a choice school) one middle school and one shopping center. As you can imagine, with many parents driving their kids to these schools, the traffic is horrendous, even away from the major intersection, at the driveways, so it's necessary for an adult to accompany them on their walk to school for their own safety.

As to the grant, I am not the only one who heard Supt Callan say that without the grant, the MI proposal would be dead. I'll be interested in hearing what the report has to say about funding.

As to not signing up my grandkids for MI if I don't want to drive them to school (?), I really would like to explore that. Let's say there came available a slot in the MI program. If her parents wanted to sign up their second grader for Mandarin Immersion, and she does not already speak Mandarin, do you honestly expect me to believe that she has any chance of being admitted if she only speaks english? My understanding is that she would be tested, and I'm guessing that the slot would be filled by a student who currently is fluent in Mandarin, or at least is fluent to second grade level. After kindergarten, you might as well put up a sign that says "Non-Mandarin speaking students need not apply". Doesn't that make the MI program essentially a PRIVATE school, funded by the public school district?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2006 at 11:00 am

Its a decent question, clarification would seem due.

Is the program going to be lottery admission, or will it require language testing? For Kindergarten I assume it must be lottery based (because they said it will be - is that still a fair assumption?) What about at first grade? second grade? beyond?

How does the program add children to vacancies beyond kindergarten? Or do they not admit past Kinder?

Out of curiosity, how many vacancies are generally opened throughout the course of a Mandarin Immersion program in each grade?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of El Carmelo School

on Jun 5, 2017 at 2:02 pm

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