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Just how well do Mandarin immersion programs do?

November 4, 2021
Bryce Canon

The short answer is, we don’t really know all the way out to high school. I haven’t seen any national studies looking at how students do when they reach the end of high school.

Anecdotally, motivated students in districts with strong programs seem to do well, but how do students do overall? It’s the perfect project for someone getting a Ph.D. in education (hint hint) but so far I haven’t seen any studies on it.

Which makes this news snippet out of Utah all the more interesting. Parents in St. George (near Zion and Bryce Canon) are upset because too few of their high school are passing the Advanced Placement test for Chinese Language and Culture.

Harmony Vanderhorst, a local parent with three children involved in Chinese immersion classes, said the rate of students passing the 10th grade exams to demonstrate their Chinese fluency was extremely low.”

“The ball has really been dropped with the Chinese program,” Vanderhorst said. “There are some huge gaps that need to be addressed. I think the program has amazing potential, but it definitely needs to be readdressed.” 

See the full article from the St. George News here.

I’d be curious to hear how students in your school district do when they get to high school and take the AP exam. Feel free to comment below.

Read more here.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristy permalink
    November 4, 2021 9:33 am

    The first year our school did it only 11 passed. I’ve heard the two years since then have been higher but I don’t know the numbers. This is the first year one of my kids will take it so we will see. The man in charge of immersion in our district said only 33 percent of Chinese immersion students pass. 🤷‍♀️ Not great, but Chinese is hard.

    • November 10, 2021 1:20 pm

      Unacceptable to say “Chinese is hard.” You’re being too nice. You’ve been ripped off if those pathetic pass rates are an indication. Why are we all paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to government schools for 13 years to supposedly make our kids fluent and excel in Mandarin? (Here in hellhole Los Angeles, mandarin immersion is k-12.)

      We’ve visited Tooele County, Utah and seriously considered moving there because of their mandarin program, inter alia. I hope that their AP pass rates are much higher.

      • Kristy permalink
        November 10, 2021 9:30 pm

        They said our first group that did so bad had a lot of behavioral problems. Supposedly people coming after have done better. I’m in Utah and they keep telling us we have one of the best immersion programs but I don’t know if that’s really true. I don’t get many straight answers about numbers but I’m curious to see how my son’s class will do. I wonder if the first group maybe had the disadvantage of being the guinea pig group.

  2. nick santy permalink
    November 4, 2021 9:42 am

    My son attended a chinese immersion school (Barnard Elementary K-5) in San Diego CA. The kids that stayed in the program matriculated to Pacific Beach Middle (6th-8th – 2 hrs/day) then on to Mission Bay High (9th – 12th – 2 hrs/day). We moved from CA to MI for his junior high school year. He took the AP test last year here in MI and did very well. I give credit and thanks to the motivated teachers in SD for their hard work! A huge shout out to Mr. Eddie Park for ensuring Barnard’s existence and success!

  3. Luyi Lien permalink
    November 5, 2021 9:29 am

    I think saying “we don’t know” how Chinese immersion students test and then only sharing a negative example may not be telling the full story. Looking at other parent comments, it really depends on the district and location – some have positive experiences, and some negative. Students at our school in Minneapolis pass with an average score of 4.5 if they choose to take the AP exam. Of course guaranteeing continued engagement with the language is hard, but if a school is able to provide a strong linguistic baseline for their students, the AP exam should not be too big of a challenge for immersion students.

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