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St. Paul, Minn. Mandarin immersion school one of the most popular in the city

August 6, 2017

St. Paul looks to boost unpopular schools to turn enrollment tide

August 5, 2017 at 7:00 am

Mired in a cycle of enrollment losses and budget cuts, St. Paul Public Schools leaders are eager to play offense in the arena of school choice.

The district’s share of K-12 students in St. Paul has fallen to 63 percent from 72 percent in the past decade, according to a recent presentation to the school board. Students are fleeing mainly to charter schools but also to nearby public school districts through Minnesota’s liberal open-enrollment law.

Board members say the district has been slow to react. And while they don’t share one vision for how to turn things around, they agree it’s time to start competing.

Please read more here.

China’s Xinhua news agency looks at Mandarin immersion in Los Angeles

July 29, 2017

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LOS ANGELES, July 10 (Xinhua) — The 135-year-old Castelar Elementary School in downtown Los Angeles, California in west U.S., never stops its efforts of academic diversification.

With a Mandarin language immersion program in full wing for six years for K-5, the school rides the trend again, as U.S. learners of Chinese language are becoming younger.

“The youngest students I have are the five-year-old, the ones in preschool. The younger they are, the faster they learn,” teacher Wendy Yang told Xinhua.

Principal Wing Fong also noticed the advantage, saying that “when you learn at a very young age, you do not have that accent that older people have when they tend to learn the language.”

More specific details came from Program Director Magaly Lavadenz, who said that “it starts in kindergarten. And also we are seeing a sprinkling of preschool programs that are offering Mandarins.”

Please read more here.

Raising a truly bilingual child

July 20, 2017
For those of us who don’t actually speak a second language natively, immersion is the closest you can get. 
From The New York Times

True bilingualism is a relatively rare and a beautiful thing, and by “true,” I mean speaking two languages with the proficiency of a native — something most of us will only dream of as we struggle with learning languages in school and beyond.

Highly competent bilingualism is probably more common in other countries, since many children growing up in the United States aren’t exposed to other languages. But the steps along the road toward bilingualism can help a child’s overall facility with language. And early exposure to more than one language can confer certain advantages, especially in terms of facility with forming the sounds in that language.

But parents should not assume that young children’s natural language abilities will lead to true grown-up language skills without a good deal of effort. Erika Hoff, a developmental psychologist who is a professor at Florida Atlantic University and the lead author of a 2015 review article on bilingual development, said: “For everybody trying to raise a bilingual child, whatever your background and reason, it’s very important to realize that acquiring a language requires massive exposure to that language.”

Please read more here.

A look at how things are going in Pasadena

June 25, 2017

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It’s not often that you get to see the full scope of a program laid out for all to see, the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s impressive that Pasadena has produced this report that gives a full overview of how things in its Mandarin immersion program are going, what is working well and what needs improvement. Although the language is a little academic, it’s worth a read. You’re sure to find yourself nodding your head, “Oh, yeah, we have that too…” or perhaps learning something about how your program might work better.

External Evaluation for the Pasadena Unified School District: Mandarin Dual Language Immersion Program

Patricia Carroll, Ph.D. Jia Wang, Ph.D.

August 22, 2016


From the executive summary:

The purpose of this independent, external evaluation was first to study how the MDLIP was meeting its current goals of bilingualism/biliteracy, academic excellence, and multicultural understanding. We also examined how the program was expanding, specifically to gauge the district’s ability to manage the growth in K-5 to a wall-to-wall program, to expand to all grades at the middle school, and perhaps eventually start a program at the high school level.

We examined student performance data, including state content assessments in English language arts and math, the English language proficiency test, and the Mandarin language assessments. To gather evidence on language use in the classroom, we were welcomed into classes at both sites and observed teaching in Mandarin and English. To gain insight into students’ experiences, we conducted student surveys and focus groups in grades 4, 5, 6, and 7. To gather evidence about program goals and learn about the manageability of future plans, we used focus groups and one-on-one interviews to hear from several stakeholders including teaching staff, parents, advisory group members, and district personnel. We also conducted a parent questionnaire to include as many families as possible in the process.

Overall, there are three aspects of the MDLIP that are worth commendation. We commend the successful growth of a community of learners where bilingualism and biliteracy are valued, and deep friendships have formed. We also commend the successful development of many aspects of the academics, especially in grades K-2 which has become a strong foundation for the program over 7 years of development. Furthermore, we commend the hope for future expansion which has been fostered throughout the years, as evidenced by how many families wish to continue to the middle school and some to the high school program. There is wide support for choosing Pasadena High School. Families are interested to know more and some will likely enroll if advanced planning, curriculum, scheduling and staffing meet their expectations.

There are several aspects of the MDLIP that need improvement, some urgently. The urgent recommendations have been expressed to district leadership throughout the evaluation. We urgently recommend that PUSD (1) hire a program leader who is fluent in Mandarin/Chinese, (2) create transparent plans for program growth before initiating the high school expansion, and (3) enact a recruitment plan for Mandarin/Chinese fluent teachers and substitutes.

In addition, we recommend that PUSD consider ways for program and district leaders to partner with teaching staff and parents to (1) support the development of curriculum and assessment, (2) create ways to monitor and celebrate student learning, (3) create opportunities to increase Mandarin language use, (4) improve classroom management and professional development, (5) improve multicultural awareness and inclusion, and (6) provide support and guidance for parent involvement.

Please read more here.

See what our amazing friends in Edmonton in Canada are up to with their huge (and hugely successful) Mandarin immersion program

May 29, 2017

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Most folks in the U.S. don’t know that Edmonton, Alberta on the great Canadian prairie, has an enormous immersion program. The school district offers French, Mandarin, German, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish and American Sign Language.

For Mandarin, the program is offered at six elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools.

Not only that, but they have what is the world’s largest and well-organized parent support organization, the Edmonton Chinese Bilingual Education Association.  I would urge any parent community in the U.S. to take a look at their organization and see what a really strong and organized parent group can do.

Canada turns 150 this year (Happy Birthday!) and as part of the celebrations ECBEA has entered a video contest about great things happening there. Watch their video (and vote for them, of course).

A side note: I’ve been saying for years that the Chinese American International School in San Francisco, founded in 1986, was the world’s oldest Mandarin immersion program. I had not realized that Edmonton’s first school started in 1982. That honor appears to belong to Canada.


From the ECBEA

ECBEA has entered the Canada 150 in 150 contest to share the story of our successful Chinese Bilingual program with all of Alberta, Canada and the world.
Please click on the following link to see our video and vote for our story.

Who would have believed an upstart language learning experience in a prairie city would become the “best Chinese language program outside of China.” Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Edmonton’s Chinese (Mandarin) Bilingual Program offered in 13 Edmonton public schools boasts 2000 students learning Chinese language, history and culture. With the dynamic support of the Edmonton Chinese Bilingual Education Association, the program is trending toward record enrollments. Chinese language acquisition is a fun, challenging, stimulating and fulfilling educational experience. See our students in action who share what they’ve learned with our diverse inter-generational community at public events. Earning an international reputation, the Chinese Bilingual Program is an unparalleled investment in our youthful human capital that enriches our understanding through education.

To see more please click here.

Some better links to the Portland immersion study

May 25, 2017

The Utah Mandarin Immersion Parents Council site appears to be down, so here are some better links for the RAND study that looked at students who “won” the lottery in Portland Public Schools and got into immersion programs compared with those who applied but didn’t get in.

Here’s a presentation by Portland Public Schools about the study and what it found.

Here’s a paper on the topic.

Here’s what the Utah parents wrote about the study:


Dear immersion friends,

The top-ranked education journal* in the US just published a study on the efficacy of immersion learning on student performance. It appears that the article is open-access and is available here:

Some key findings:

“We find that students randomly assigned to immersion outperform their peers on state accountability tests in reading by about seven months of learning in Grade 5 and nine months of learning in Grade 8. Examining mathematics and science scores, we find no statistically significant immersion benefit but also no detriment. This is important given that students receive 25% to 100% of their mathematics and science instruction in the partner language through Grade 5.”

WOW! By 8th grade DLI students are almost a full year ahead of their peers in their English reading. No detriment on math and science. Plus they are bilingual!

From the article: “What is clear is that among students randomly assigned to immersion, those whose native language matches the partner language show a 6 percentage point reduction in the probability of being classified as an English Learner as of about fifth grade and a 14 point reduction in sixth grade. This finding corroborates other research showing an immersion advantage in English Learner reclassification beyond the early grades.”

In other words, students who native language is not English also have  significant benefits from DLI VS non-native English speakers who are not in DLI.

This is cutting edge research that needs to be shared! J

*The American Educational Research Journal is the flagship journal of the American Educational Research Association. Top of the top tier!

First Provo Mandarin immersion students head to high school

May 19, 2017

Provo’s first set of Chinese immersion students entering high school

By the time they graduate from high school, students in Bob Tsai’s Chinese dual immersion class will be a few credits shy of a minor in the foreign language.

His students, who are currently eighth graders, are the first set of Chinese dual language immersion students in Provo City School District. When they enter high school in the fall, they’ll have the opportunity to take the Advanced Placement test for the language and start accumulating college credits.

“We are really excited to have them move on,” said Jamie Leite, the instructional coach for dual language immersion in Provo City School District and the director of the state’s Portuguese dual language immersion program. “This group of children and parents are incredibly committed to Chinese dual language immersion.”

Please read more here.