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Not every proponent of MI felt the Feasibility Study convincing.

Original post made by Angie, Walter Hays School, on Dec 29, 2006

I wasn't able to attend Tuesday's night’s board meeting but I did manage to read the Feasibility Study and talk to some proponents on how it went.

I am a proponent of the Mandarin Immersion program but I must admit that I was a little embarrassed by the Feasibility Study. Where is all the supporting data, the backbone of the study? I expected to see many appendixes with charts and numbers that showed without a doubt justification for every significant statement in the body of the study, especially ones regarding costs. After all, PACE did pay $66,000 for this 22-page document.

The opposition is already leery that the Mandarin Immersion program is a ‘done deal’ as they put it, with PACE paying the bill and the key players of the study being strong proponents. If you have the hard data, please put it in the study. As it stands now, the Feasibility Study reads like it was a road trip to several successful Mandarin Immersion programs where you chitchatted with the schools. For $60K, we needed to push those schools to get the hard data that would sell this program.

It would be a great selling point to both the board and the opposition, if you had a cost neutral chart comparing the seven schools showing each of their start up costs along with the on-going costs associated with the first three years or at least an average yearly cost and compare it with their regular classroom costs. And spell out the material costs they had. If they could stay cost neutral and didn’t get free material, that says something. Then the report could say something like “All Mandarin Immersion programs we visited were able to achieve their goals of staying cost neutral (see appendix B).” And then Appendix B would show yes this school was cost neutral, and yes this school was cost neutral, and this school was close, etc. In other words, prove to the readers without a doubt. Such a powerful statement that would make.

Also, instead of saying that we’re not worried about finding Mandarin/English teachers, in fact we have some that we didn’t even know we had. How about strong statements that says: “We are going to need 12 Mandarin/English teachers in the next six years and we have 14 already available to us right here at PAUSD.”

I was also hoping that you gathered data regarding the children in 4th and 5th grades of these Mandarin Immersion schools that showed the percentage of children with only one language spoken at home. This would prove that the attrition concerns are unfounded if you could state that “Seventy percent of the 4th and 5th graders have only one language spoken at home and they still remain at 95% capacity”. No more attrition discussions. And it would show that these schools are providing language opportunities that the parents can’t. Wow! If you can get that data and that percentage is high, get it in the study.

I’m sorry for coming on so strong, but with the Board asking more and more detailed questions and the holidays upon us, I’m afraid we won’t be prepared for Jan 9th.

Comments (19)

Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2006 at 1:18 am


You make good comments, I hope you send them to the board and Marilyn Cook.

I'm curious if you understand the fundamentals of 2-way immersion if you really support a participant selection process that excludes bilingual kids (another thread).

Unless you were just kidding over there...

Posted by DW
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2006 at 6:23 pm

I can't believe what I just read. A reasonable person, speaking the truth and asking for logical convincing arguments in favor, and data to back it up. jeesh, what a concept...

While they're at it, it wouldnt hurt to admit to and honestly discuss some of the known challenges other programs have faced, and how PAUSD plans to address them. Instead of pretending there won't be a single one (which also implies they'll be sitting around wholly unprepared for those challenges once the inevitably surface.)

If I were the person who paid for that study - I'd be really mad about it after taking a mortgage out on my house to fund such incompetence.

Posted by Bewildered
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2006 at 6:52 pm

Why are we still spending time and money on this issue? With everything else our schools and city needs this is so far down the priority list it should be over by now. Let's get the focus back on ALL of our kids and improving our schools for everyone. The recent PIE comparison study was illuminating - our schools compared to a national set of schools in comparable neighborhoods are clearly falling behind. PAUSD was close to many of the averages but wasn't really leading in any area. And investment in infrastucture was near the bottom. Our schools appear to be on borrowed time...

Posted by Jorge
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 2, 2007 at 7:38 pm

Yes, I too think the Feasibility Study was weak. I hear people referring to it as the 'Trust Me' document.

Posted by LJ
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 4, 2007 at 2:44 pm

These are very good points. No reasonable conclusions can be drawn without real data; the points made by the study just sound like conjecture.

The feasibility study should have been done by an objective neutral party supported by funds provided by PACE AND by those opposed to implementing MI in the PAUSD. Otherwise the risk of bias is just too great. Anyone familiar with basic research principles knows that you can not put much faith in results that favor the viewpoint of the funder.

Just curious - where any districts visited that considered a language immersion program but chose NOT to implement it?

I truly hope the school board doesn't rely on this study to make any serious decisions about the future of the district.

Posted by Trudy
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 4, 2007 at 5:42 pm

You might also ask the board why the experiences of districts that have implemented Mandarin immersion programs, and have had bad experiences, were not described in this study.

Probably one of the most biased tricks in the book.

What I still don't understand is what our district staff's incentive is to be biased on this issue? Why would they have risked looking so utterly unprofessional? Something doesn't add up.

Posted by Right on, Trudy!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2007 at 6:33 pm

Yes, Trudy, you've hit it right on the head.

The staff have no incentive to be biased. The opposition's insulting remarks of the study being unprofessional is unfounded. Have you seen other unprofessional studies done by the staff? Is this a pattern? (Don't come back with the mistrust thing, that's not unprofessional studies...)

There isn't reports from unsuccessful immersion programs because there aren't any. Everyone who undertakes it, makes it work, to everyone's benefit.

It's a great program, a no-brainer. Let's do it!

Posted by Who's insulting who?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2007 at 6:42 pm

How do you reconcile that even some in favor of MI have raised concerns about the depth and balance of the study? How insulting!

Posted by Right on, Trudy!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2007 at 6:52 pm

If you mean the original poster, Angie, she turned out to be inconsistent in her support of MI, based on curious' post right below Angie's.

Touchy, touchy, where's the insult? Can you answer the question of other district studies being inadequate? A track record? Or is this just YOUR (and some others) opinion that this ONE study is unprofessional.

Posted by Who's insulting who?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2007 at 7:49 pm

Let's see. I just did a search of this entire thread for the word "unprofessional" Hmmm. Interesting that it it only used twice.

"Why would they have risked looking so utterly unprofessional?" posted by Trudy.

"The opposition's insulting remarks of the study being unprofessional is unfounded" - posted by RightOnTrudy!

I said "concerns about the depth and balance of the study"

Perhaps you have heard others refer to the study as "unprofessional" I don't know. Perhaps you just hear voices. The study is what it is. Reasonable people will disagree on whether it provides enough data or not.

Oh, btw - it really should be "The opposition's insulting remarks of the study being unprofessional ARE unfounded" If you are going to make something up, you might as well make it as "professional" as possible.

Posted by Right on, Trudy!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2007 at 8:50 pm

Don't be so ingenuous as to ignore the other threads where the feasibility study has been mercilessly torn apart, knuckle by knuckle.

Lisa's voice keeps ringing in everyone's ears.

Posted by Who\'s insulting who?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2007 at 9:47 pm

I guess we will just have to disagree.

I do see a big difference between "mercilessly torn apart" (i.e. evaluated) and your assetion this means people are saying the report was "unprofessinal."

I think the folks assigned to the task did as good a job as they could and don't think their bias was purposeful.

I do think, however, that the report's findings and lack of depth in evaluating the con arguments are correlated to study's funding and the fact that these folks were not outside consultants tasked to look solely at this issue.

My hunch tells me that they actually had OTHER priorities to deal with concurrent to conducting the study. As such, they did not have time/energy to answer the host of questions that now cloud the report.

Let's see -

1) Overworked staff
2) provided with $66K by an advocacy group to "research" a program
3) comes back with a feasibility study that says, wait a minute..."It's feasible."

Is it ingenuous to think there might be a connection?

I fully admit people have criticized the report itself but I am hard pressed to see where people have actually called it "unprofessional" (your words) or questioned the integrity of the authors.

Frankly even if people are critical of the authors, I think the report speaks for itself. It only addresses the question of "feasiblity."

A feasibility study is a preliminary study undertaken before the real work of a project starts to ascertain the likelihood of the project's success. source at Web Link

I admit it is quite "feasible" to implement MI. But just b/c it's feasible DOES NOT MEAN it is a good idea. One must look as ALL the other costs (both tangible and intangible), before giving any project a green light.

It's sorta like Bush asking Don if it's "feasible" to invade Iraq.

Don then interviews a bunch of folks some who say "Sure, it's feasbile but you should consider ALL costs before proceeding." (see Powell's cautions at Web Link

Please know that I am not comparing MI to Iraq in terms of severity. Although I will think it sad if the Board fails to grasp the negative consequences of MI, no lives will be lost and life will certainly go on.

The analogy I am trying to make is that just b/c the report says it's feasible does not mean it is sound policy for our public school.

Posted by Right on, Trudy!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2007 at 10:19 pm

You're "hard-pressed to see where people have called it unprofessional or questioned the integrity of the authors."

Maybe you need your eyes examined.

The original post said, "the Feasibility Study reads like it was a road trip to several successful Mandarin Immersion programs where you chitchatted with the schools".

You must think that's a professional comment full of integrity.

You need a dictionary, Lisa.

Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 4, 2007 at 10:21 pm

The third posting says, "fund such incompetence".

Oh yeah, that's polite.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 4, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Angie, you said it well.

Starting this week-end, check for a Rebuttal to the Feasibility Study to learn why Angie is right.

Angie, whoever you are, thanks for your courage in speaking up. This subject is so sore that pretty much anything anyone says is going to be anonymously attacked, so it took guts for you to post. I hope the mean stuff doesn't stop anyone from talking...

Posted by Who's insulting who?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2007 at 10:22 am

I have several dictionaries - thanks. Sorry if you are sore that people have raised concerns about the report.

"the Feasibility Study reads like it was a road trip to several successful Mandarin Immersion programs where you chitchatted with the schools". I take this statement to reflect the concern (shared by many) that the reports LACKS DATA.

I, for one, have no beef with the authors and think the report speaks for itself.

Oh and btw, I am not Lisa

Posted by Guess Who
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2007 at 10:42 am

Margracille: how was it professional to omit all data, for nearly all assumptions and statements. How was it professional not to even discuss the challenges and difficulties experienced by almost every local city and school district that has attempted a start up (including)
Mt. View SI
Cupertion MI
Fremont MI

The professional way to go about this would have been a discussion of the pros ~and~ the cons, a description of likely issues and challenges, and then (if so inclined) how PAUSD would be able to avoid those issue.

And why would the study not have discussed (disclosed) difficulty of Mandarin language compared to Spanish, issues with parent participation/parent education, shown examples of Mandarin program student outcomes, attrition rates, rate of graduating 5th graders who started as Kinders,

And why did the feasibility study outline the COMPLETE start up costs, including all the time that would be spent by various district staff during the start up? - which Becky Cohn Vargas listed by name in the 12/12 meeting as would be needed, BUT NOT INCLUDED in the study.

and on and on it goes (more than twelve pages worth of what the feasibility study failed to do, actually...)

I'm really not clear on how anyone is able to still defend this report as a complete, professional report.

More than unprofessional, I'd call the feasibility study arrogantly dismissive of the community concerns.

Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 5, 2007 at 10:43 am

I'm not Lisa, either.

You don't have a beef with insulting people, that's why you sign yourself Who's insulting who(m). To you, all of this mean talk falls off your back.

That's nice.

Posted by LJ
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 5, 2007 at 6:36 pm

I'm sorry to see this discussion get so cranky.

I am assuming that the feasibility study was done with good intentions. However, I do not know what the directive was - to claim that implementing MI is feasible (by providing statements to support it) or to evaluate whether it would be feasible to implement (by looking at the pros and cons of including such a program). If it was the former then the feasibility "study" fulfilled its objective. If it was the latter, then the process was not done properly (see posting above - having an outside neutral party conduct the research).

I think the frustration with the "study" is that many people expected unbiased data-driven results, which making a decision of this magnitude requires. I would think that if independent research which clearly states both sides of the issue were to determine that adding MI to the PAUSD was supported by a majority of families, cost-neutral, and non-impacting to the existing school programs then there would be many fewer voices in opposition.

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