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Whole-school public Mandarin immersion program opens near San Francisco

February 16, 2017


West Contra Costa Unified, a school district, based in Richmond, Calif. (just north of Berkeley) will be opening a whole-school Mandarin immersion school in the fall of 2017.

The school will have a whopping 72 seats for Mandarin immersion, three full Kindergarten classes!

But don’t just take my word for it. See their great press release below. (And thank you to Richmond for doing putting out a press release. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to find out any information about new MI programs, districts often seem to pass out a flyer and then rely on word of mouth. So hooray for Richmond, on multiple levels!)



Marcus E. Walton

Communications Director

West Contra Costa Unified School District

510.231.1151 voice / 510.205.3092 mobile / 510.236.6784 fax /





MEDIA CONTACT: Marcus Walton

For Immediate Release 510.231.1150
February 16, 2017



RICHMOND—Students in the West Contra Costa Unified School District will be offered an opportunity to learn the world’s most spoken language at a new school scheduled to open in August, increasing the number of educational options available for local families.

The Board of Education this week approved a Mandarin Dual Language Immersion program to open in August 2017, on the site of the Serra Adult School in Richmond. It will be the 58th public or private school teaching Mandarin in California and one of just four public schools in the state to offer the language in a schoolwide program, according to the Mandarin Immersion School Parents Council.

“Adding a Mandarin language immersion program expands academic opportunities for our students,” Superintendent Matthew Duffy said. “The research shows that such programs enhances student learning for all students. The Board and I have made improving the academic outcomes for students our top priority and providing additional opportunities for students to become bilingual is one way in which we plan to address the academic needs of this District.”

The school will educate students beginning with three kindergarten classes opening in time for the 2017-2018 school year. Additional grades will be added in subsequent years. Students who choose to attend the program would begin in kindergarten with 90 percent of instruction taking place in Mandarin.

In addition to the 72 kindergarten seats available in the Mandarin school, the district is also adding 24 kindergarten spots in its Spanish language immersion program at Washington Elementary School in Point Richmond for the Fall of 2017.

While English is the language spoken by academics, businesspeople, aviators, and other global professionals and is the world’s third most popular language, Mandarin is the world’s most spoken language with more than one billion native and second-language speakers.

The Mandarin program will utilize the simplified script.

For more information on the Mandarin immersion program, please visit or contact Eric Peterson at (510) 307-4641. Applications for the new school are being accepted through the District’s Transfer Office. The Transfer Office can be reached at (510) 307-4535.





About West Contra Costa Unified School District

West Contra Costa Unified School District serves a diverse student population of some 29,000 students at 52 schools in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. The belief that all students can achieve at high levels of proficiency and that the effects of institutionalized racism can be mitigated is central to how equity is viewed in the District. As a Full Service Community Schools district, WCCUSD works with its community partners to provide the resources necessary to achieve educational success, well-being and self-efficacy for students, families and communities. Among other initiatives, the District has embarked on ensuring that every school has a college-going culture supported by the resources necessary to ensure that students are eligible for, and successful at the college of his or her choice. For more information, visit the District website, Facebook, Instagram orTwitter.



Marin county wants a Mandarin immersion program

February 8, 2017

Marin county, just north from San Francisco across the Golden Gate bridge, doesn’t have any Mandarin immersion programs. That’s surprising, given that there are more more than a dozen in the greater San Francisco bay area. Clearly some parents would like that to change, and one Mandarin-speaker is suggesting they turn to charter schools to get on as local school districts don’t seem interested.

Marin Voice: The case for bilingual education — why not Mandarin Chinese?

In November, Californians voted yes on Proposition 58 with almost 73 percent support, lifting restrictions on bilingual education for English language learners and authorizing school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers.

This was an important win for parents who want their children to begin learning a second language at an early age.

Dual-language immersion is a method of teaching in which the learners study subjects such as math, science and social studies in a second language. Studies suggest that immersion is the most effective way to learn a foreign language, and that the critical window for learning is between birth and about 10 years of age.

Please read more here.

Kansas getting its first Mandarin immersion program

February 2, 2017


The Sunflower State is getting its first Mandarin immersion program.

The Blue Valley School District, one of districts in the Kansas City metropolitan area, is opening an entirely new, whole-school Mandarin immersion program in the Fall of 2017.

The school, for now known only known as Elementary 23, will be home to a Kindergarten through fifth grade, 50/50 Mandarin immersion program with 60 students per grade.

Having a school district create a new Mandarin immersion program and give it not only its own building, but a newly built one – and make it a stand-alone school rather than a strand within a school – is something most programs can only dream of.

There’s ample evidence that whole-school programs, where the entire school takes part in the MI program instead of only a few classes being part of a larger, English-only school, is highly advantageous.

It’s exciting to see Blue Valley launch such a big, bold program at a time when other districts keep making programs deal with the difficulties of being a strand.

I’ll keep you posted on what I hear about the program.


A note about Chinese-Americans, immigration and the role of Chinese immersion schools in looking hard at history

January 30, 2017

This thoughtful take on the President’s immigration executive order comes from the head of the Chinese American International School, the nation’s oldest Chinese immersion school, based in San Francisco. Too few programs teach about the history of Chinese-Americans in the United States and the terrible racism and bigotry that the community was subject to, especially the heinous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.


I applaud Jeff for speaking out about an issue that is too often ignored in our programs – and which is newly relevant today.



Dear CAIS Community,

On Friday, January 27, not long after all our kids had been picked up from the Mass Greeting celebration, President Trump signed an executive order that indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days.

Since that time protests have broken out at airports around the country, and a legal challenge to parts of the executive order has been sustained.  This morning, Sunday, I find myself wondering, “what is our role, as parents and educators, in the face of all this?”  I’d like to share some of my thoughts.

Over a year ago, in December of 2015, I read a piece in the Washington Post comparing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to then candidate Donald Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.  Is this a valid comparison?  In 1882 the United States Congress passed, and the President of the United States signed into law, the Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-00-21-amSuccessive federal laws made Chinese immigration to the US increasingly exclusive until its repeal some 61 years later in 1943 when China became an ally to the US in its fight against Japan in WWII. However, Chinese immigrants still faced restrictive quotas for more than two more decades.  It was not until 2012 that both houses of the US legislature passed a resolution expressing regret, “for the passage of laws that adversely affected the Chinese in the United States, including the Chinese Exclusion Act.”

Here at CAIS, nearly three-quarters of our students and half of our faculty and staff claim some Chinese ethnic heritage.  We claim this heritage in our school name: Chinese American International School, and in our mission: “Embrace Chinese.”

Think about it, the vast majority of our school community members are descendants of people who were or could have been excluded from the US under the Chinese Exclusion Act.

If nowadays, as a part of our children’s education, we talk about the Chinese Exclusion Act, or about systematic discrimination against any historically marginalized group, would anyone in our community feel offended that we were criticizing their political party of preferred presidential candidate?  Would anyone think that we were indoctrinating our students and preventing them from being free thinkers?

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-01-08-amHow many people reading this are even familiar with which president signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law or his party affiliation?  It was President Chester Arthur, and he was a Republican, the party of Abraham Lincoln who had been selected as president 22 years earlier (for comparison, 22 years ago it was 1995, and Democrat Bill Clinton was president).

At CAIS our work on curriculum is and should be a process of ongoing revision and improvement.  As your head of school, I believe there is a new urgency in our curriculum work around citizenship education.  This means continuing and improving our emphasis on thinking critically about historical instances during which groups of people were marginalized, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, or historical movements in which engaged citizens organized and took a stand to claim their Constitutional rights, such as the Civil Rights movement.

It means continuing and improving our efforts to learn from our history of immigration and systematic discrimination in our country.  It means continuing and improving our commitment to provide our students with the tools they need to examine critically contemporary political events and make up their own minds.  I am talking about tools like an understanding of the US Constitution–separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, the history of important legislation and judicial interpretations of constitutional law.  And it means a greater emphasis on questioning–critically–the actions of our leaders today, actions such as the President’s executive order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”

This is not partisan education, it’s citizenship education.  It is not political indoctrination, it’s critical thinking.  I encourage you as parents to engage in similar conversations with your children at home, in conjunction with our zoomed in study at school, challenging your children to become engaged citizens.

For a long time as your head of school I have been applying a great deal of my energy and focus on the Chinese piece of Chinese American.  It is time that I apply equal energy to the American piece of Chinese American.  It’s patriotic, it’s inclusive, it’s respectful of a diversity of perspectives, and it’s grounded in the Constitution of our country.

If I am completely honest, I do not know exactly what citizenship education will ultimately look like in the different grades given the new sense of urgency we now feel.  But I do know that we need to adjust to a changing world if we want our kids to be able to create their places in it.

Finally, if there is anyone in our school community whose family has been impacted by the President’s executive order limiting immigration, please regard our community and our school as a resource and share any concerns you have so that we can support your children.

It is an honor to be able to serve as your head of school. Equipping your children to become their best selves is a responsibility that I and all of my colleagues take very seriously.   Best,

Jeffrey Bissell | 毕杰夫

Head of School, Chinese American International School, San Francisco

Happy Year of the Rooster!

January 28, 2017


Wishing everyone a happy Year of the Rooster.


So how does immersion work, anyway?

January 22, 2017

The folks at CARLA, the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition in Minnesota have made a great video to show how it works and why it’s important.

Utah’s high school plans for immersion

January 21, 2017
For anyone with kids in Mandarin immersion, here’s a look at what a well-planned K-12 program can look like.

What happens with immersion in high school (in Utah)?

Some people have expressed confusion about what happens to dual language immersion students when they get to high school. There have been some very exciting developments over the past year and the purpose of this post is to explain the Utah State plan. We’ll discuss AP tests, college language courses taken in high school (for dual credit), and how this will impact Regents Scholarships (spoiler: it’s really good news!).

Please read more here.