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Ongoing issues at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion highlight existential questions of Mandarin immersion

September 4, 2017

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, Mass. has faced criticism for several years due to one of the fundamental issues many Mandarin immersion schools face – Mandarin immersion isn’t for everyone.

At the same time, public schools must be for everyone. And yet not everyone wants Mandarin immersion, not every parent and, at a certain point, not every student. How does one deal with those conflicting requirements and demands?

All this is true. Also true is that many school district deliberately choose Mandarin immersion to draw in those families who do what it.

So this is in many ways the existential conundrum of Mandarin immersion – it draws peoples into public schools although it isn’t for everyone, but is subject to criticism for not being just that.

In many ways, it’s the conundrum all our public schools face when they offer programs that appeal to some but not all families. How can you have magnet programs which pull families in but don’t draw all families? Are magnets fundamentally inequitable? There are those who say they are, and yet many districts embrace magnet programs as a way to keep families in public schools (and, incidentally, out of charters.) And if we make everything totally and utterly equal, will everyone with the means simply leave for the suburbs, or even private schools?

It’s a question that I don’t think has been answered yet. I’m curious how other programs deal with this. Can a school be everything to everybody? Must it be? And if it’s not, does that mean that Mandarin immersion (and by extension all immersion programs, and all magnet programs) are untenable within the public schools?

I welcome your thoughts and stories.


Chinese immersion charter school, again seeking expansion, remains dogged by critics

A small Hadley charter school that produces consistently high student test scores and is ranked by the state as a top-tier school remains dogged by criticisms that could thwart its ongoing effort to expand.

The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School’s new expansion application, announced last month, is the latest salvo in a nearly decade-long drive to build out a full K-12 school to comply with a $1.5 million federal grant awarded in 2008, according to school administrators.

Kathleen Wang, the school’s principal, said it has been unfairly caught up in “small town politics” that detract from its mission.

“Some of the mud-slinging is, quite frankly, extremely disappointing to me, and is wasting yet another generation of students’ education,” she said.

Please read more here.

Other recent stories on  Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School

Hadley charter school looks to increase enrollment

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