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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.

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