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PAUSD Mandarin Immersion Feasibility Study available now!

Original post made by Nico, Fairmeadow, on Dec 8, 2006

The Mandarin immersion feasibility study is available online at:
Web Link

The feasibility of PAUSD adding a new Mandarin dual immersion program will be discussed at the school board meeting next Tuesday evening. Here are some of the findings from the study:
1. A Mandarin dual-immersion program is consistent with PAUSD’s mission and goals, programs and instructional strategies.
2. Start-up costs for the program will be $10,950 (which I think can be raised by fundraising, for example by parent donations/bake sales, or grants). Ongoing costs for the comparable with PAUSD norms.
3. PAUSD can recruit and hire the staff they need to implement the program. (Staff means mainly bilingual teachers and a principal, both resources may already exist in the district and may not be new hires.)
4. Necessary curriculum and assessment materials, exist or can easily be created for the program. The MI program will adhere to PAUSD best practices and standards.
5. Student selection will largely follow the existing Spanish Immersion program’s process. The program will be open by lottery to all PAUSD students. Attrition should not be an issue based on research on other MI programs.
6. Location will be a challenge for the Attendance Area Review Group, who will make site recommendations in January 2007. Their priority is to find MI a home without displacing any neighborhood kids.

This study will be discussed at the school board meeting on Tuesday, December 12. PAUSD Board of Education meeting
Tuesday 12/12/06
starts at 7:00PM
25 Churchill Ave. Palo Alto, CA
The meeting room is in the way back. Drive to the back of the driveway and it is right before the tennis courts.

I am very excited about the prospect of PAUSD adding this great new program! After reading the feasibility study, I am optimistic that it can and will be implemented with PAUSD’s usual high level of quality.
If you want to show your support for the program, come to the meeting wearing red!

Comments (44)

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2006 at 6:02 pm

Don't be misleading Nico. The start up costs of $10,900 is PER CLASSROOM. This would mean that for a two strand school $22,000 would have to be raised each year for the first 6 years at elementary and that is at today's costs. This adds up to a lot of cookies and brownies, or else in a classroom of 20 Kids, the first groups of parents would be expected to "donate" $500 every year.

Posted by another bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2006 at 6:13 pm

Not to mention that the "consistency" conclusions include a statement that the program will further the goal of narrowing the achievement gap because every resident child will have a chance to participate. I guess they forgot to mention this means every child can enter the lottery for K-1. And I'm still not getting how this addresses the achievement gap in any way.

Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2006 at 9:07 pm

So much that we teach our children in history and science is obsolete by the time it reaches the classroom. Language is learning that lasts a lifetime. Imagine how different our present circumstances might be if we had enough citizens who spoke Farsi? Immersion classes in Mandarin are worth far more than they cost.

I can't see the logic to the argument that something of this value shouldn't be available to any of our children because we aren't proposing to offer it to all who want it.

Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2006 at 9:47 pm

So much that we teach our children in history and science is obsolete by the time it reaches the classroom. Language is learning that lasts a lifetime. Imagine how different our present circumstances might be if we had enough citizens who spoke Farsi? Immersion classes in Mandarin are worth far more than they cost. I can't see the logic to the argument that something of this value shouldn't be available to any of our children because we aren't proposing to offer it to all who want it.

Posted by Balkan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2006 at 10:18 pm

I've been on the fence about MI. Palo Alto kids do not learn foreign languages early enough and it is a very good idea to start in elementary school. However, reading this proposal and the 14 page document on the PACE site does leave me asking questions.

The most important is, will this lead to the "balkanization" of the Palo Alto school district? Both documents imply that 50% of the kids will be native speakers of English and the other 50% native speakers of Chinese. However, it seems that a definition of native speaker can be fuzzy in some cases and I'm wondering if MI might become primarily a Chinese school. Will the kids in this school interact with children of Hebrew or Indian descent? Or will it become a enclave without concern for the wider Palo Alto school district?

It is not realistic to say that the demographics of MI must be identical to the wider Palo Alto school district, but this proposal should be up front about how it will ensure the demographics of this program remain balanced. Are kids from E. Palo Alto that get into the Palo Alto school district excluded? Will a child from a bilingual background be counted as an English speaker to inflate that category?

I've not seen these question well defined, and would prefer that they are. Can a supporter of MI clarify? Perhaps I've not see all the docs on this.

Please don't take these question the wrong way. They are important though.

MI uses SI as a precedent to justify why it should be started. But wouldn't more kids benefit if we add a period at the end of the day for teaching a wider variety of foreign languages? We have significant number of kids of Korean, Indian and Hebrew descent. Why not languages expand programs for all the kids?

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Dec 9, 2006 at 6:43 am

Even if this feasibility study had shown that this program were completely cost neutral, it starts from several false premises. 2 are below.

ONE- It is admirable for our District to have a great program available by lottery to only a few of all qualified students. Putting in another Immersion program for 5% of the kids before we have foreign language instruction for ALL the kids in elementary school is like having a super enriched math curriculum for 5% of the kids in elementary school and nothing for anybody else.

Either this is a core subject critical to our kids, or a "very important but not core" subject, or it isn't worth the trouble at all. If it is critical, we do it for all the kids in any given grade about even starting with all the kids in 6th grade? Work our way back each year after? I almost wouldn't care how it is done, as long as it were for all the kids who were capable of it in any given grade level.

IF it is "very important, but not as critical as core subjects", as we have determined art, music and PE to be, then we treat it the same as those subjects, and offer it to all on whatever basis we can.

If it isn't either of the above, then we don't do it at an enriched level that makes a few completely proficient while not even exposing any of the rest of the kids.

TWO - The choice of some parents is more important than the choice of other parents. It is a fact, not a "belief"... look at all the boundary maps with the "little dots" for each school, look at the attendace charts for numbers, and see that about 20% of the kids in any given alternative program could be considered "local" or "neighborhood". The other 80% come from outside the boundaries, or what would be the boundaries if it were a designated neighborhood school, which means the kids living within the boundaries lose their seats from what what would be their neighborhood school. So, the parents who want the alternative program are more important than the parents who want to keep their kids at their closer school.

The meeting is this Tuesday night at 7pm. It will be packed. All can speak. Evidently PACE is putting out the word to show up in red if you want this..In response, please show up in green if you don't want it.

Thankfully this discussion is coming to an end soon. I, for one, will be glad to have this issue resolved. Please be part of the solution.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Dec 9, 2006 at 6:53 am

By the way, the AAAG already recommended Dec 5th to locate the program at a re-opened Garland school. It would still displace the kids who will live within the Garland boundaries, though. So, it solves nothing, unless you want to consider that the sacrifice of the future families who will be displaced is a good solution, since it isn't one of "us".

Also, if MI is approved to start this still has to be somewhere for a few years until we get back Garland, assuming it ever, don't be fooled.

Posted by Nico
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2006 at 8:36 am

Hi Balkan,
Thanks for your question. I am not an expert on the subject, but I can address a couple of your points.
- “adding a period at the end of the day” – This is called “FLES” Foreign Language in Elementary Schools. That is a great idea. PAUSD has researched this before, and probably will again soon. It is really different from immersion though. Looking at the study PAUSD did in 1994, FLES can give kids exposure to language but the only road to bilingualism is immersion. In immersion you are spending 70% of your school day in the “target” language so the amount of exposure and breadth of exposure leads to true bilingualism. I can’t find the link now, but if you look on the “choice vs. luck” thread in town square it might be there. There was a lot of discussion on FLES there.
- I do not think that MI will lead to“Balkanization” I think this due to my personal experience as well as some data that PACE has collected.
First my family is 100% Caucasian, and as far as I know none of our ancestors has ever spoken Chinese. When I went back to work part time, my son was 6 months old. I found a Mandarin daycare and babysitter for 20 hours/week. He is now 5 and is completely fluent in Mandarin. The reason why I have become involved in PACE is that I have seen how effortless it is for children to learn language. And I am convinced from my experience that immersing them in the language is the best way to go.
You ask about how a true “bilingual” is treated in the lottery, and I actually think that they might be treated as native speakers if they are fluent. I am totally guessing here, I think the teacher does the “fluency test” and it might be up to him/her how a student is categorized. But, my fluent Caucasian son might be counted as a “mandarin speaker.”
Second, PACE actually collected some data to look at who would be attracted to the MI program. It was presented to AAAG on November 13th. I am sorry but I don't think that data is online. If you want it, I can see if it can be posted somewhere?
PACE did a survey of 66 potential students (from 53 families) and asked their ethnicity, among other things. The largest category of interested kids was “multi-racial” kids (38%). All races, with the exception of Native American, were represented. You mention Hebrew and Indian specifically so one piece of data relevant to that is we asked about “languages spoken at home, or children are learning.” Of the 29 families that answered this question, 3 (10%) were learning Hebrew, 12 (41%) were learning Spanish, one child was learning Hindi. Other responses to this question included German, Dutch and French. If you are interested I can see if we can post the data on the PACE Website. I would have to get help with that though.

Posted by Nico
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2006 at 8:53 am

to Bystander, you are right about the start-up cost. It was not my intent to mislead, I was watching both kids while writing and missed that. Start-up would be $21,900 for 2 strands or $16,350 for 1.5 strands. ..... I better get baking.
Also, I like the "holiday color" theme emerging for the MI meeting Tuesday; Red for supporters and Green for opponents.

Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 9, 2006 at 9:23 am

Having so many Mandarin-speaking Chinese parents in Palo Alto will be helpful to this program. Children acquire language very easily, but they do lose it over the years if they have no time to practice. As children move through this program, perhaps they should be given the obligation to help the classes behind them.

Development, not MI or SI, will make attendance at particular schools dicey for elementary students. In fact, it already has. The Staff and Council have paid no attention to capacity of elementary schools, nor available libraries or parks in approving residential projects. Growth in traffic will also make walking and biking to school more hazardous. That's another topic: Stanford development; Palo Alto development. High land cost; little investment in parks or schools.

Posted by wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 9, 2006 at 12:45 pm

I think it is important to realize that the 'neighborhood' aspect is only one aspect of schooling, and not necessarily the only one. In fact, it is effectively as much a "choice" issue as is child-centered education Ohlone-style, or structured eduction Hoover-style, or language immersion SI or MI style.

We make choices all the time. What we wear, what we eat, where we live, who we befriend. And what kind of education we want for our children. If we make a decision for all Palo Alto that the neighborhood aspect of schooling is the ONLY thing we care about, that effectively makes the choice for everyone, whether they agree or not. PAUSD -- wisely in my opinion -- recognized that there are additional educational issues, other than geographical proximity and the "community" aspect, and offers them as choice programs.

But making choice *for* something often means making a *negative* choice for something else. A trade-off. For example, people who prefer Ohlone effectively say they prefer it OVER the neighborhood-community aspect. I see nothing wrong with that, yet some here seem to have no problem telling others what should *their* educational values be. I find it patronizing.

Wouldn't it be nice if we did not have to make trade-offs? But we do. A school can't be "open" and "structured" at the same time. We can't offer SI and MI to every kid at the same time, especially since not every parent would even want it. The sooner we recognize it, the better we all will be. By insisting on the neighborhood aspect as the only one, we force a one-size-fits-all solution on all of Palo Alto.

I don't think absence of choice is good; neither for the children, nor for Palo Alto. If one disagrees, one should consider why we should not simply accept a dictated school program from Washington or from Sacramento, and get on with our lives.

Posted by yet another question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2006 at 1:31 pm

Hey Nico: how is this program being marketed to Spanish-speaking-only families? Will they receive program information in Spanish? If a Spanish only child gets into MI, how would the English-Mandarin-Spanish thing work? Would there be a native language tutor who is tri-lingual? I'd like to get the word out to families at my school so they can get into the lottery when it happens, so if you have info, that would be great.


Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 9, 2006 at 1:46 pm

I am one of the people who has nothing against Mandarin language instruction, just the aspect of giving an immersion to a small percentage of our children.

When it comes to seeing what happens in Continental Europe where I think many of the inhabitants are not only bilingual, but often speak 3 or 4 languages fluently with a passing knowledge in 1 or 2 others, we have to ask ourselves how they do it? Firstly, their children spend more than our 180 instructional days in school and their school hours are longer too, often with Saturday morning school. Secondly, they start their children learning probably 2 languages at a much earlier age than we do. They also have what we would call camps and summer school which are designed as an immersion program. I wonder if anyone in PAUSD has looked into this aspect.

So, my idea is to spend our language dollars on FLES and then to try thinking outside the box when it comes to language instruction. Why not have immersion summer school programs and immersion winter and spring break camps? Why not have immersion after school care or Saturday immersion classes. I know that this is not necessarily something that PAUSD could do on its own, but possibly with help from the City rec. dept. some or all of these ideas could be worked out. The rec. dept. already liaises with the schools for middle school sports, so the machinery to start must already be in place.

To sum it up, immersion in a language has to be a good idea, but what is suggested now is not the way to go. Lets look at other ideas and find something that can help everyone.

Posted by Nico
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2006 at 3:31 pm

Yet another question,
Actually the MI program is not being marketed to anybody yet. If it is approved, then PAUSD will advertise it. In the feasibility study, on page 19, there is a timeline for rolling out the program. In this timeline there are “informational meetings” in February/March followed by a lottery. I think at those meetings would be a good time to ask your question about tri-lingual support. It would also be a good time to ask if the program is good for Spanish-speaking-only children. I think it would be great to have informational materials at those meetings in English, Mandarin and Spanish. Could you help with translation to Spanish and outreach? If so, please email me at [email protected]

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 9, 2006 at 4:23 pm


The question of how to educate the most children in a school district like PAUSD in a foreign language is addressed through a FLES type program, as you accurately point out. FLES and immersion are compatible with each other, and you can have one without the other.

As has been documented in many studies around this, including the one I was involved in when Spanish Immersion was introduced in PAUSD in the mid-1990's (USEFL), there are two key differences between FLES and immersion (lnaguage not important):

--first, there is a different outcome for the students, FLES students do not and are not expected to achieve fluency in a language, immersion students are fluent by around grade 5

--second, the cost of a FLES program is quite substantial, and requires wholesale modification of the teaching curriculum, while the cost and ease of implementing an immersion program is much much less. (I don't want my comments here to become an argument about what the true costs of immersion are, my point is that a FLES approach is a much more significant effort and cost to the District to implement)

My own preference is that we do, as you seem to suggest, have language exposure as part of the basic instruction rubric. I also support continuing Spanish Immersion and starting Mandarin Immersion as another ocmponent of this language policy change. If the school board adopts such a policy, it is much faster and easier to implement the Mandarin Immersion program than make the changes and funding allocations necessary for FLES. I am of the point of view that it is a perfectly acceptable "on-ramp" strategy to implement the two programs on different timetables, as long as both are clearly spelled out and understood. The implication would be MI would be started sooner, and FLES would follow for all students a couple of years out.

As for your ideas about immersion becoming an after school or weekend program, I respectfully suggest you study the reports and research so that you will understand that unless it is in the daily fabric of the instructional day, it is not immersion, and it will not achieve immersion type outcomes.

Separately, I a member of the City of Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission. A language immersion program at the elementary school level and the middle school recreation program run by the City are not at all alike, and the City is not equipped to take something of this sort on as a program. Bug us about playing fields or shabby tennis courts, but don't ask us to take on foreign language instruction! Kidding aside, the sorts of after school and weekend ideas do exist in town at present, largely via private organizations and some churches. And they are not immersion.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 9, 2006 at 5:17 pm


Thank you for your comments and I am glad to see that we agree on many issues. I am not against immersion. I just don't want to see immersion happen and then nothing else. I am also against having another choice programme. However, these are not the reasons I am replying to your thread.

I am pleased that you as a parks and rec. member have seen my comments. I am not saying at all that this department should get into the instruction of a language. However, my idea stemmed from the idea that some of the current programs, particularly the "fun" ones could be done in a different language. Mandarin is not necessarily the one that comes to mind. However, something like Kids love soccer, where most of the instruction is by example, or some of the day camps at Foothills, could definitely be done as a language camp. I know that if advertised as say Spanish, it would be viewed as something for native Spanish speakers only, but with some advertising and specific targeting, I am sure we could get it to become a fun way of getting into using Spanish as an everyday method of learning a language. We could call these language camps.

These are only ideas of course. But I do know that language is not a barrier to children. I was taken to Europe as a child many times and when taken to the beach or somewhere, I was often playing happily with a group of children, all who spoke different languages and we were all able to get by. My idea was just taking this one step further.

I know that none of this is immersion in the same sense as a full academic programme would be, but my point is that we should try thinking outside the box. The camps idea, is just a thought. My real reason for mentioning this was summer school with the additional idea of winter break and spring break language camps as a follow up.

Posted by fan of public schools
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 9, 2006 at 5:26 pm

What a joke about the "the MI program is not being marketed to anybody yet". In fact, interested parties have already lined up realtors to pounce as soon as the Board caves in to this proposal for taxpayer funded private education.

Check out the excerpt from the MI feasibility study (p. 17)below. In fact, enrollment growth in the PAUSD is likely to spike if this program is approved -- and what do you suppose those who are disappointed by the outcome of the lottery are going to do? Advocate for language instruction for all?

"Implementation of Mandarin immersion has the potential to further increase enrollment growth from two sources. First, the District currently has approximately 1,000 students who live within District
boundaries and who attend private schools, including International School of the Peninsula (for Mandarin immersion). How many families might be drawn into the District for this new choice program is unknown. Secondly, the District has received many inquiries from parents who have not yet moved to the District wishing to purchase homes in the vicinity of the new proposed Mandarin immersion program. How many families might relocate to Palo Alto specifically because of the attractiveness of a new choice Mandarin program is unknown. Since the District is currently facing increasing enrollment, this potential for increased growth challenge must be recognized."

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 9, 2006 at 5:39 pm


Thank you for the clarification about your "camp/language" idea. I understand better what you mean.

As you may know, there are many programs that the City's Recreation Department conducts, and it may be possible to do something along the lines you are suggesting. There may be private organizations that also could do (maybe some already are doing) something along these lines.

I will close with that, this posted topic is about the MI study just released, and it would be inappropriate to further occupy this space on this other item.

Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 9, 2006 at 5:50 pm

"Fan of public schools" (and who isn't in this town?) argues that MI, and presumably other choice programs, may increase enrollment. I don't worry so much about additional people coming to Palo Alto as this is already happening due to our school's excellence -- as it should! -- but at the same time it also increases the property values and taxes that support the same schools. However, s/he also brings up the potential of kids moving from private schools into public schools, and s/he views it as a negative. How can it be negative it s/he believes s/he is a "fan of public schools"? Isn't the hope of people who truly are fans of public schools that *all* kids will got public schools?

If this truly bothers some people, that PAUSD may become more attractive, it may also explain why they are against choice programs. The less attractive PAUSD schools will become, the more kids will leave for private schools, and the more money will be left for their own children. How considerate of them!

Posted by another parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 9, 2006 at 6:59 pm

yeah, let's dumb-down our school district so people won't move here - NOT!

Posted by Jamie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 9, 2006 at 7:06 pm

1000 x $10,000 = $10,000,000

Potential increase in PAUSD yearly operating cost if we increased by 1000 students. Enrollment growth is VERY risky in PAUSD which is a basic aid district. We currently spend about $10,000 per pupil per year.

OK, you say, not all 1000 will automatically come. But how many will apply?

If you throw 1000 private school attendees (+ interest from outside palo alto) into the lottery pot, along with the 49 they mustered through what the feasibility claims is a very broad community support network, how many of the 240 spots will be filled with new incremental PAUSD enrollment?

To make the numbers easy, lets say 200?
(I think that's too low, there should be a very low probability of choosing all 49 of the 49 thrown into the pot of 1049) - Its a probability problem - I'm not sure how to solve - anyone out there statistics person?

But if we say 200 spots are filled with new growth x $10,000 = $2,000,000 increase in yearly operating costs for PAUSD.

And some will come and wait in the wings... And some will come and get on waiting lists with the expectation of showing overwhelming support for the program, expecting an imminent increase in the size of the program to 4 strands. A fair guess is that the increase in new enrollment will be ~at least~ 240 ($2,400,000). We can argue about the numbers, but its reasonable to say the yearly operating cost increase for new enrollment is material, and likely exceeds $2M per year

Even if we are WAY conservative - and cut that in half - $1,000,000? Cut by a fourth 250,000 per year? These numbers are big.

I recall a board meeting in June where the board required a group requesting an expansion of the J bus line, who said they could make it cost neutral by selling bus passes and they already had folks lined up for those, for a guarantee, an indemnification against the risk of increase in cost to PAUSD for $3,500! (Three Thousand Five Hundred Dollars).

Cost per year per pupil in PAUSD is already low relative to our benchmark peers per the PIE Study. The assumption here is that fund raising, (PIE, PTAs and and other measures) would have to step WAY up to cover this new enrollment growth (surely PACE isn't agreeing to cover this risk), or else we risk dropping per pupil spending even further and putting OTHER PROGRAMS at risk.

And capacity???
So much for the 13th school solution. AAAG didn't even take in to consideration the bump in enrollment growth from this program in their projections. I asked two AAAG members at last weeks meeting who were vocal proponents of a choice program as a way to relieve enrollment pressure in overenrolled schools (they approached me) - they said NO, the AARG did not consider new enrollmemnt growth for MI).

So we potentially fill this program with entirely new enrollment, and don't even solve ~any~ of the BOUNDARY issues they thought they could solve with the choice model!

And if the numbers get as high as 1000... Forget the 13th school, you'll need about THREE more schools... (at $7M a pop).

This has the potential for getting VERY risky, VERY fast, and VERY easily. And no way to predict the impact?


I don't see how the board will be able to ignore this risk.

The thing they don't make clear is that other districts who bring this program in do so to HELP enrollment growth, either to fill up school sites at risk of closure, to help a large population of ELL students (ie: to help close the achievement gap), or because enrollment increases HELP their bottom line - those would be districts who are NOT BASIC AID districts which get incremental dollars from the state per pupil. Its well known that these programs attract incremental enrollment.

This is not a 'no harm done' program. This will have a serious financial impact for our district. The board discussion on this will be fascinating. Utterly illuminating.

Wolf dismisses this risk as 'natural' for our excellent schools to attract enrollment. Well of course we attract enrollment and its causing us capacity problems at the current rate, and that's all been covered by the AARG enrollment projections. By the way, at the AARG discussion last week the demographer made quite a point of how Asian families tend to bring higher pupil density per household than others, particularly first generation. So this blows the demographer density projections over the top???

This is new growth, a jump up from what we naturally already incur, and there really no good reason at all to go out of our way to worsen the enrollment growth problem.

Posted by Daunna
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2006 at 7:24 pm

-- Moving to Palo Alto
By the second year of SI when I was the SIPAPA president, I had people calling me from out-of-state saying they were moving to California and were interested in Palo Alto's SI program. Once they heard about the lottery, they were a lot less excited about moving to Palo Alto. Any realtor who doesn't set prospective homebuyers straight about school boundaries and lotteries for choice programs would be subject to lawsuits.

-- Mandarin speakers
I assume a bilingual child would count as a Mandarin speaker. In the SI program, a bilingual child counts as a Spanish-speaker. That's because there are almost no monolingual Spanish speakers. Even when a language other than English is spoken at home, a child who watches TV, shops in the community, plays in the park, goes to preschool, etc., tends to pick up at least some English. In an ideal immersion program, there would be 1/3 bilinguals, 1/3 English-only speakers, 1/3 target language-only speakers. But ideal doesn't seem to exist in any immersion program because demographics are always lopsided one way or the other.

-- Spanish speakers in MI?
Could a Spanish-speaking child take part in MI? Generally, it's recommended that the child speak English or the target language, but it is not unheard of for kids who are not skillful in either language to enroll in immersion programs. In fact, several years ago there was an ELL student (of Chinese origin, I believe), who was admitted to the SI program thanks to strong advocacy on the part of the mother, and the child did well. The difficulty is less for the child and more for the parents: if the parents don't speak English, how will they communicate with the teacher? (Ah well, this is the same problem faced by Spanish-speaking parents when their kids are in the traditional English program, isn't it?)

Posted by Daunna
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2006 at 8:43 pm


Could you explain your estimate of 1000 new students in the district due to MI?

The only comparable program to MI in PAUSD is the Int'l School of the Peninsula. How many students would ISP lose to PAUSD? The ISP website says their elementary MI program has 130 students — and the students live in cities all over the area. How many of them live in Palo Alto and could take part in the MI lottery? (BTW, no one can take part in a lottery unless they first register their child in PAUSD, and they can't have their kid's name on a waiting list either if they're enrolled elsewhere.)

If most of the 1000 new students in the district do not come from a private school, then they have to live somewhere. Let's say these extra kids come from 500 families new to the district. These 500 additional families will need housing, but I'm not aware of a surplus of lots to build on in Palo Alto. I mean, there is existing real estate which might turn over, and there is planned development which will add kids, but these account for the already-anticipated new enrollment. I'm trying to figure out where the 500 additional MI-hopeful families could find a place to live. In other words, I can see more demand for housing, but not more supply, so I would think the increased demand would just drive up costs rather than add kids.

I can see a small increase of students entering an MI lottery, but I can't understand more students if there's no increase in housing. What am I missing?

Posted by Jamie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 9, 2006 at 9:58 pm

I suppose there are always rental units. Which would add no additional property tax revenues to the district at all.

I got the numbers of students from the feasibility study. 1000 students currently attending private schools that live within the PAUSD district boundaries. Plus many inquiries from families outside the district interested in moving to PAUSD for the program. All this was stated in the Feasibility study.

I didn't say we'd get all 1000. Its the upper limit of exposure for purpose of attempting at putting some brackets around a range of dollar impact. (I'm not even sure its the upper limit, because it doesn't include some unknown number of non-palo altans who would move here for the program.) I believe the lower limit I offered was $250,000, which would only take 25 new enrollees.

There was no quantification given for the potential numbers that would come from outside palo alto, and I had no idea how to estimate that. So if we use your 500, that raises the upper limite to 1500 = $15,000,000. If nothing else, it puts quite a few more names in the pool, further increasing the probabilities of enrollment growth, and in particular for loading the program with all new enrollees.

I believe there are many private Mandarin language schools in the immediate area. I guess PAUSD staff has a way of knowing if they have students that would otherwise be district enrollees attending private schools.

I think the incentive is fairly large for a family to move from a private program to a PAUSD quality public school program. I've heard it said elsewhere on these boards that private chinese school can cost $15,000 a year. That would be a $90,000 savings for a family that made it into the program in K. And even a $45,000 savings for a family that made it in by 3rd.

(In all grades above 1st, the attrition must be filled with mandarin proficient students at grade level, so I guess those will primarily be from private programs.)

And with sibling preference those savings could be double or tripled. (It didn't say anything about this in the feasibility study that I noticed, but I believe I saw a comment about sibling preference mentioned in either the grant and/or the original proposal (can't remember where off hand. But I think that's the way other choice programs work already.


Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 9, 2006 at 10:51 pm

I don't have anything against MI (in fact I signed early petitions), but I'd like to first see early elective language instruction available district-wide. Why offer a lottery calculus class before offering everyone math first? I'd be much more supportive of an MI lottery school if language instruction for early grades were a real alternative.

Posted by Shan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2006 at 3:48 pm


I agree that language instruction in early grades should be a real alternative- in fact MI is one such alternative. I think what you mean by "language instruction" is typically referred to as FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools).

Based on posted comments like “lets not offer Calculus until everyone gets a chance to take math” most of the people saying that FLES should come first imply that Immersion is just more FLES They believe that immersion kids just get a double-extra portion of something good in their curriculum. I think if you read up on this you will find that this is not how researchers or teachers see it. As you increase the amount of time devoted to the target language, a threshold is crossed and something different happens: the curriculum is delivered in the target language. They learn history in the language. They learn math in the language. Immersion is not an addition to the curriculum but a different way to deliver it (think Ohlone or Hoover). Most parents who want their children to enter Immersion would not be satisfied with FLES and most parents that support FLES would not want the amount of dedication to acquiring a target language needed to make immersion a success.

I fully support finding ways to make Foreign Language a more important part of curriculum here in Palo Alto. Lets not hold MI (or any other program that enriches the district) hostage by saying that FLES should be a pre-requisite.

Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2006 at 5:09 pm

Shan, I think you may misunderstand the problem. The disagreement is why are we giving the BEST to a few and ZERO to the rest? It really doesn't matter at all that immersion is the 'best' way - that's not the public schools job. The public school's job is to offer a reasonable education (or high quality educatoin if you think we can muster it), to all children equally. If language is important enough to be considered a basic need, it needs to get to all students. Even if the method is less than perfect.

Total fluency is not even a valid goal -its too rich for our system. It seem much more reasonable to give all kids a running start on language exposure - perhaps they enter 6th grade at 'level 2' instead of entering highschool at 'level 0'. This to me seems like a much more reasonable and equitable approach for a public school system.

Highly specialized approaches that concentrate enrichment in a very few students seems to me belongs in a private school environment, no matter what the subject.

Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2006 at 8:08 pm

sounds like they ought to make sure there isn't sibling preference in this program, or else some families could indeed gain a financial advantage by having their kids in PAUSD MI instead of any of the dozens of schools that teach Mandarin in this region.

Posted by Brian Kaplan
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2006 at 11:35 am


MI is an elitist program being proposed and funded by a very small minority of parents (mostly Chinese-Americans) that want something "special" for their children that, no doubt, would provide their kids with distinct life advantages.


The PASUD is a public institution and, therefore, has a mission to serve ALL students -- not just those from wealthy backgrounds.

The MI support group is rather small. But it is very vocal and well funded (witness the more than $60,000 dollars used to influence a "feasibility" report).

The vast vast majority of parents, however, once introduced to the arguments against MI, realize it is fatally flawed and not in the best interests of our district.


When I first heard about the idea - I thought "wow, this sounds cool. This would provide students with some great advantages, what’s there to be opposed to?" But then I thought more about which students would benefit (the rich & already privileged) and what affects the program would have on those not selected (the erosion of neighborhood schools). Given what I now know about the program, I am actually appalled the District is still even considering it.

So here's the only way I could ever support an MI program - make it available ONLY to Title 1 students. [See Web Link ]


If MI is such a great thing and helps students academically then it should be offered first and foremost to those most in need. Would MI backers support making the program available to those with the fewest advantages? Of course not; their real interest is self-serving. Having the district pay for a MI program is certainly cheaper than sending their kids to private schools or paying for after school language tutors (the way many of us do with our kids).


MI supporters want the PAUSD to use our tax dollars to fund a special program for their kids.

I keep hearing that the "lottery" system will be fair and that every student that applies will have an "equal" chance of being one of the lucky 5% chosen. This misses the whole point of who will apply.

Will economically disadvantaged parents even know about this "choice" school?


As an example of self-selection just look at Hoover, a "choice" school with more traditional academic structure.

It's enrollment is open to "all" students by lottery. However, it sits with the lowest % of Free and Reduced price lunch students at 5% - only Ohlone is lower with 4%. In addition, Hoover also has the lowest % of Hispanic students (4%)in the district and the highest % of Asian students (62%). So, the "lottery" system is fair only in the sense that each "application" has an equal chance of being selected. The reality, however, is that self-selection drives outcomes that clearly show distinct differences.

{see Web Link

There is no doubt that MI would produce a similar result. Those that would end up in the program (and gain its benefits) would not look like the district at large. The District has no business promoting the interests of one small group over the needs of all others - that's what private school is all about.


Many look to the existing Spanish-Immersion (SI) program as a model for why MI makes sense for the district. The only similarity is that instruction takes place in a non-English language. Let's look at Spanish for a moment. In California, 40% of the population speak a language other than English. Spanish, by far, is the largest category within this group at 25.8%. Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese) is a far far distant second at 2.6% (see Web Link

I feel much more comfortable having my tax dollars fund SI given it helps students build relationships with the dominant second language group in our state that I do with helping students (primarily Chinese-American) be more successful in forging trade relations with China. Teaching Spanish helps bridge the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots." Teaching Mandarin helps those that already have privilege gain access to even greater economic benefits.


Choice programs, by definition, mean parents are sending their kids to schools farther away. There is the argument about increased traffic and safety but these (with funding) can be mitigated. What can not be mitigated, however, is the erosion of a sense of community that our neighborhood schools enjoy. Will MI parents be as likely to come to school wide community building events like the "ice cream social" or the "community conversation" when they live half way across town? Of course not. What makes our neighborhood schools special is that fact that we are neighbors. We get to know each other, our kids have play dates together, we see other at the local parks after school, etc. This is special and is lost by the introduction of more and more "choice" programs.


Measure A was passed with certain expectations about how the district would spend its time and resources. MI was not part of the conversation. Parents expect the district to spend its time on restoring programs that benefit all our children, not just a few. I voted for Measure A, but can hardly imagine supporting the district in a similar way should the district fail to live up to its promises. I suspect there are many parents who will also be less inclined to give should the board be foolish enough to pursue MI.

I realize that many on the other side are passionate about the benefits of MI. Consider yourselves lucky to have the money to privately fund language instruction for your child. As you grumble about the expense or the drive you need to make, please think about those in the district that do not have similar options.

Brian Kaplan received his MBA from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley and is currently pursuing a Masters of Education at Stanford University with the hopes of teaching history in the public school system.

Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2006 at 2:34 pm

I agree with the points made by Brian Kaplan indicating numerous reasons to oppose installing a select MI choice program now in PAUSD. Frankly, I think the proposal for MI was a curiosity, that's all, and that PAUSD is a big operation that has major operational challenges and ongoing issues to focus on: enrollement projections, facilities utilization and planning, district-wide programs, strategic and long-term goals, closing the achievement gap...

Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2006 at 8:18 pm

Brian, You make some excellent points. I'm convinced with MI being such a difficult language to master, the attrition rate will also be higher than with SI. As a result, in addition to the self-selection you mentioned would exist at the outset, there will be additional selective pressures when a proficiency test in Mandarin is required to fill open spaces after Kindergarten. If the point of the program is to educate a cross section of our students in Mandarin, I'm afraid this program will be an utter failure.
I hope sent a copy of your letter to every board member as well.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2006 at 8:56 pm

Brian Kaplan says:
*Mandarin Immersion is mainly for "Chinese-Americans"
*They are "rich & already privileged" (and they should feel "lucky to have the money to privately fund language instruction" for their children)
*MI kids "would not look like the district at large."
*He feels "much more comfortable having [his] tax dollars fund SI" rather than "helping students (primarily Chinese-American)"

From this, I think it's fair to say Brian Kaplan:

*believes no or few non-Asians would sign up for MI (false)
*has concluded that Chinese-Americans in Palo Alto are rich (I don't know)
*objects to funding a program in which most of the children do not look like the other kids (i.e. in which most look Chinese)
*is comfortable funding SI because it is packed with the impoverished (unsupported assumption; given the context one has to ask if it matters to him that there are fewer Chinese-Americans than there would be in MI)

Brian Kaplan's fixation on the race of kids who would enter MI is disturbing. Brian Kaplan's unsupported claim that Chinese-Americans in Palo Alto are richer than others is disturbing (the implication being that they are an economically dominant race). Brian Kaplan's introduction of race into this debate is disturbing. Brian Kaplan's introduction of the wealth of families is disturbing.

Let's be clear. Race does not belong in this discussion. Wealth does not belong in this discussion.

Posted by Nico
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:16 pm

I was a title 1/free lunch kid in the California public schools. I will be thrilled to have the opportunity to enter my Caucasian children in a lottery for MI.

Posted by Shan Phillips
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:17 pm


I find your post troubling or a number of reasons but I’ll focus on two:

Firstly it is racist to say this program should not go ahead because it benefits Chinese-Americans. Bottom line there is enough demand among Palo Alto tax-payers and you should not be throwing around the race card.

Secondly as a fellow Haas B-School grad I’m ashamed of your lack of economic insight and parochialism.

You state that ”Teaching Spanish helps bridge the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots." It sure it does but I suggest you look at the average income of all Chinese around the word and you would see that teaching Chinese helps bridge an even bigger gap.

You also say that all the “rich folks” who want this program should go to private school. By killing this program you will destroy any chance for the poor parts of our district to learn Chinese. If you really believe in what you espouse- more opportunity for the less advantaged- why would you want to make it so only the rich can afford it?

Posted by Board Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2006 at 2:55 pm

I notice that the alternative/choice program guidelines state the program should reach an ethnic, racial, socio-economic population representative of the community. I don't think the the board members who wrote that were trying to be racist -were they?

How will the program be measured against those requirements?

I also notice recent court rulings posted on ACLUs website also find school districts that segregate (by accident or by choice) in proportions far beyond the diversity balance of the community are violation of the law.

It think it is not racist to bring up these questions. I think it is uncomfortable for us to speak about openly. I think we should be vigiliant to protect the caring diversity in our community, and not to allow segregations (I believe I've heard this referred to as 'balkanization'). It would be a very dangerous unintended consequence if we find ourselves OPTIONALLY creating racially segregated schools.

I disagree with posters who blame brian for trying to point this out, as clumsy and difficult as it can be.

The board should show us they are looking at model programs carefully to prevent this risk. Unfortuantely, this is one of the major areas that the feasibiliyt fails - it does not even discuss the issues or the risks, or the preventative measures. They do not being any PAUSD or comparative district statistics to the table to prove or disprove how this will play out.

PAUSD should also be watching its current programs to make sure we are not creating these racially segregated pockets 'by choice'. Its not good for the community, its not good for our children.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2006 at 11:44 pm

Observer, it's not just clumsy but racist to oppose a program because of the race you think it will benefit.

If a disproportionate number of ethnically Chinese apply for the program, then they will be over-represented. So be it. That is not segregation. (And no, there is no requirement that choice programs be racially representative of the community.)

Drop the racism.

Posted by John Nalpak
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2006 at 12:34 pm


Actually it is racist for the District to proceed with ANY program that offers a direct benefit to one particular group over the rest of the students in the district. So I agree, drop the racism and kill MI.

Posted by Lisa Jones
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2006 at 1:13 pm


Your point about "bridging the gap with MI" makes no sense.

Let me ask it this way. What is more likely:

1) PAUSD students fluent in Mandarin ending up working in rural areas of China OR

2) SI students ending up serving (or being better connected to) the Latino community here in the United States?

My gut tells me that Palo Alto students fluent in Mandarin are likely be end up being good capitalists; helping the US do business in China.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing. The US could use more Mandarin speakers; but given the enormous costs (inequities created and erosion of neighborhood schools) public K-5 education is NOT the place to develop Mandarin speakers.

Parents motivated to have their young kids learn Mandarin should seek out ways to do so privately.

The argument Mr. Kaplan was making was that SI serves a more understandable public good; helping kids of priviledge connect to members of the community (local, state, and natinal) that don't have as many priviledges. Sorry if this comes across as "parochial."

MI is totally different. It helps connect kids to economic advantages. You have to come clean on this. The current national interest in Mandarin stems from China being perceived as the next great economic superpower (and has nothing to due with humanitarian goals).

Mandarin should be offered as an elective in public high schools along with Spanish, French, German, etc. High school students (and their parents) who see the value in Mandarin can receive exposure to the language and use college as a time to delve more deeply as they see fit.

Thanks for listening.

- Lisa, another parent against MI

Posted by Nico
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Do you think that PAUSD should cancel the (incredibly popular, 11 year old ) Spanish Immersion program, and that it only benefits one particular group. Or is there something special about Mandarin? If you think there is something "special" about Mandarin, that is what is going to sound like racism to me. For the record, I am Caucasian.
Also following your argument, that all programs should benefit all, maybe we should get rid of Hoover and Ohlone too. Also, maybe we should cancel the football team or electives like AP physics or orchestra? They only benefit a small number of students in the district. But for people involved in them they are really important.
MI, like SI will be open to all students in a lottery. The lottery is blind and they don't ask ethnicity so all have the same chance. As I have mentioned earlier, my Mandarin speaking Caucasian son will probably enter the lottery for "Mandarin speakers" not "English speakers" so assumptions about race (racism) do not always hold true.
I believe that having an opportunity to enter an MI program in PAUSD is a beneift "for the entire district." Just as having a SI program is. I am not going to enter the lottery for SI, Hoover or Ohlone but I am really happy that parents who are passionate about Spanish immersion, structured education and open education have options in PAUSD. I think that diversity of opportunities, along side strong neighborhood schools, is what makes PAUSD great.

Posted by Nico
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2006 at 3:39 pm

MI will help kids connect to the Asian communities here in the United States, not just “rural China.” I think connection to other cultures, including local ones, is one of the great opportunities afforded by immersion programs. I am not sure why you impose a “privilege” filter on this exposure. Any program that helps encourage cross-cultural interactions is valuable to the whole community, no matter what the culture. My son was invited to attend a traditional Chinese birthday banquet with a friend lately. He was the only non-Chinese person there. There was probably no English spoken all night. I think that must have been a pretty cool experience for him, and I bet the food was tasty. In my opinion this doesn’t matter, but since it seems to in your opinion, the guest of honor was a friend of the family who is in his late ‘60’s from Tianjin, China. He speaks little English and just was laid off from his assembly job in Fremont where he made minimum wage.
As far as opportunities to interact with other cultures, Mandarin immersion kids will have many as Palo Alto is 17.2% Asian (these are not all Mandarin speakers, but I would guess the majority are) and only 4.8% Hispanic. In fact in the PAUSD feasibility study it states “Mandarin speakers are now the largest language group other than English in PAUSD.” I am proud that we have a Spanish immersion program. I think it makes a lot of sense to add a Mandarin immersion one now.
For Palo Alto ethnicity data See: Web Link

Posted by can we see the numbers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 27, 2006 at 3:18 pm

It would be nice to get a breakdown on the Asian number mentioned in this web-link: Web Link

White 44,391 75.8%
African-American 1,184 2%
Asian 10,090 17.2%
American Indian & Alaskan 122 0.2%
Other 827 1.4%
Mixed Race 1,900 3.2%
Hispanic (included in categories above) 2,722 4.6%

This is a very limited set of categories and could mean anything. I really do hope that the feasibility study wasn't just quoting this number and using it to justify MI.
Where did the numbers come from in the study and can we see a breakdown?

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2006 at 6:00 pm

Bill; not opposing MI because of the race I think it will serve. Opposing MI on many fronts, one of them being that it will serve a disproportionate number of a single race, entirely non-representative of the community. The ACLU has helped many school districts across the country fight racist programs that create segregation by 'choice' or that disproportionately benefit one group over all others. Its very ironic that the ones crying race loudest are the ones ignoring and trying to hide and deny and sweep under the rug the hard fact (presented in the feasibility study) that the program will start out disproportionately serving native chinese, and will continue to build its chinese population to the exclusion of other races.

Tell us again - How is it racist to oppose a racist program?

By the way, if you were proposing a program to serve white only, black only, pink only, purple only, green only, you'd be on the receiving end of the same argument. Frankly, I couldn't care less what ethnicity expects special treatement. None are entitled to it.

Posted by anon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 27, 2006 at 6:48 pm

And do you think the ACLU will similarly fight to close the Spanish immersion program which, according to you, so clearly serves a disportionate number of a single race, entirely non-representative of the community?

It's pretty clear that you're racist.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2006 at 7:53 pm

I don't know, good question. At the same time we ask them about MI, we'll ask them about SI. As I said, Pot Calling the Kettle Black...

By the way, will the board be counting legal fees as part of the incremental costs?

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