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San Francisco Mandarin program too full for siblings

June 8, 2016

The San Francisco Unified School District Mandarin programs is in four schools. The two elementary schools are Starr King and Jose Ortega. Starr King has two MI classes per grade, Jose Ortega one. Both feed to Aptos Middle School which in turn feeds to Lincoln High School.

With the growing popularity of Mandarin immersion preschools in San Francisco, many of which are 100% Mandarin with no English spoken, many students from English-speaking households are testing in at Kindergarten as Mandarin proficient.

This is a shift because the District’s program was originally designed to support children from Chinese-speaking immigrant families who needed help learning English. Instead, those slots are filling with children whose families speak only English and often have no connection to China at all.

The District hasn’t quite come to terms with this shift. We believe that its current system is to allot 50% of  Kindergarten spaces to students who speak English and 50% who come from Mandarin-speaking households. Though we’re not sure, as the District is very opaque about the criteria. It’s also possible that it’s 33% English, 33% bilingual Mandarin-English and 33% Mandarin.

What we do know is that whatever system the District is using was not constructed with a  flood of students from English-speaking families arriving at Kindergarten speaking fluent Mandarin, as is now happening.

–  Elizabeth Weise

Sought-after Mandarin program at SF elementary school divides siblings

 The Mandarin immersion program at Jose Ortega Elementary School is so popular that parents are asking the school district to add a new class to meet the demand. (Mike Koozmin/2014 S.F. Examiner file photo)
The Mandarin immersion program at Jose Ortega Elementary School is so popular that parents are asking the school district to add a new class to meet the demand.

Days before the school year ended last month, parents were in an uproar after a half dozen children were not admitted alongside their siblings into a unique language program that immerses students in Chinese culture at an elementary school in the Ingleside District.

While officials with the San Francisco Unified School District attributed most instances of sibling separation to parents missing application deadlines, others believe the Mandarin immersion program needs to be expanded to meet increasing demand for such courses.

Please read more here.

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