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Pleasanton, Calif. ponders possible Mandarin immersion school

November 11, 2018

School board considers potential K-8 models

Staff highlights dual language immersion, IB program at hour-long workshop

The Pleasanton school board started talking over possible kindergarten through eighth grade (K-8) pathways to be implemented on the north side of the city during a workshop last week that sparked much dialogue and excitement from trustees.

The hour-long session on March 27 was deemed too short for the full overall discussion, so the board decided to continue the conversation by folding it into another workshop (set for April 10) on facilities planning and the district’s most recent enrollment report — topics that also address capacity issues in northern Pleasanton.

“I think that this is super exciting,” trustee Jamie Yee Hintzke said during the workshop last week. “I mean, this is really the next direction our school district needs to go in.”

The conversation about new educational programs comes as the board has been considering whether to open at least one new elementary school in the near future to address existing and projected overcrowding at schools on the north side of town.

No decision has been made about whether to build a new school, let alone the potential location or if it would be traditional K-5 or the district’s only K-8 campus, but the board is looking at its options.

Staff briefly presented 10 different models for specialized learning that could be implemented as part of a potential new K-8 school: LEAD (literacy, enrichment, academics and digital arts), a dual language immersion program, project-based learning, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), International Baccalaureate (IB), Montessori, an international school, STEAM (STEM subjects plus arts), a visual and performing arts academy, and a Waldorf school.


Please read more here.


The Falun Gong and Shen Yun Performing Arts

October 31, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 11.35.39 AMI have no opinions on Falun Gong myself (so please don’t email about it!). I post this only because every year many Mandarin immersion programs get sent fancy, full-color brochures about the Shen Yun Performing Arts troupe if it’s presenting anywhere near them.

The group performs Chinese classical dance, though the final piece is often somewhat political and focuses on the persecution of Falun Gong members in China (which can make it a little scary for small children.)

I’ve heard people object to Shen Yun’s statement that it is “reviving” classical culture, as if it were dead everywhere but in their troupe. But that’s not the issue I wanted to address here.

It’s helpful for parents to know that there’s a tenuous connection between Falun Gong (a spiritual practice group that’s banned in China) and Shen Yun, because if they have teachers from China in their schools they might  be mystified by how those teachers could react to being invited to the performances.

I know one mom who bought two tickets to a performance and gave it to her child’s teacher as a present, but was confused at the teacher’s immediate return of the ticket and mumbled explanation that it wasn’t appropriate. The mom was worried she’d somehow offended the teacher because they’re pricey. But it turned out — after some behind the scenes discussions — that the teacher, who was on a two-year contract through Hanban in China, was worried she’d get in trouble if she attended such a performance.

So a little bit of background might help. I have no idea if it’s even an issue for teachers from China as I’ve only heard the one story, but hope this might be useful. I know I myself was initially mystified as what the underlying issues were.


Falun Gong still worries China, despite efforts to crush the sect

In China the movement sputters on. Abroad its profile grows

From The Economist

TUCKED away in a corner on Gerrard Street, in the heart of London’s Chinatown, three middle-aged Chinese women sit on the ground, their legs tightly crossed, in silent meditation. A deafening loudspeaker behind them blasts out a stream of invective against the Chinese Communist Party. Before long, one of them gets up and starts handing out flyers to passers-by. But pedestrians from China who are approached by the woman grimace and dart away. Most do not even bother to glance at the meditators, who are adherents of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice which China banned in 1999 and calls an “evil cult”.

Such a brusque response should offer some solace to China’s government, which has been trying for nearly two decades to crush Falun Gong, a movement that once enjoyed widespread mainstream acceptance. The ruthless campaign, however, has significantly weakened, but not destroyed, the sect. Chinese officials still worry about its influence at home. Official lists of proscribed cults still put Falun Gong at the top. But it is the sect’s activities abroad that are an even bigger, and growing, concern for the Communist Party.

Officials like to tar Falun Gong with the same brush as apocalyptic cults such as America’s Branch Davidians and Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, but it shows no sign of the violent extremes associated with those sects. It is likely that the Chinese government overstates the comparison as a way of undermining the appeal of a movement that it sees not so much as a threat to society, but as a challenge to the party itself. As Carl Minzner of Fordham University puts it in a new book, Falun Gong has become “by far the most organised” among anti-Communist movements within the Chinese diaspora. Chinese dissidents in exile are prone to factious squabbles; they find it very hard to unite. Falun Gong shows little obvious sign of disunity.

Please read more here.


Phoenix students receive their lifelong Chinese names in special ceremony

October 24, 2018

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Most Mandarin programs have a special ceremony for the day when students receive their Chinese names. It’s very sweet and something of a tradition in many schools, marking when you really enter into Chinese culture. And of course kids who already have Chinese names are included as well.  

CCUSD kindergartners receive an official Chinese name

It is never too early to prepare American students for the global economy! Kindergartners in the Cave Creek Unified School District’s Chinese Immersion program received their official, lifelong Chinese name during a celebratory naming ceremony.  From this point forward, these 5-6 year olds will use their Chinese name when they are on the Chinese classroom side of the program (50% of the school day).

World Language Program Coordinator, Cristina Ladas, often hears students calling each other by their Chinese name on the playground, “It very much becomes a part of their identity when they are exposed at such a young age.”  Cave Creek Unified School District has placed an emphasis on developing language proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and French from PreK-12th grade as a way of building better critical thinkers, ready to tackle the world!

Please read more here.

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School has 69 Kindergartners on wait still, still trying to expand

October 19, 2018

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Chinese Immersion school seeks to expand into Chicopee, other towns

From: The Reminder

BOSTON – The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School has filed an application with the The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESI) to expand into a number of communities, including Chicopee.

DESI made the announcement recently. The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School is one of five existing charter schools that submitted requests to expand enrollment.

DESI will decide by mid-September which applicant groups it will invite to submit full proposals for new schools. The final decision on the applications will b e made between December 2018 and February 2019.

Please read more here.

From The Daily Hampshire Gazette

Twice denied by state, Chinese charter takes another swing at expansion

HADLEY — The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School has yet again requested that the state’s education board grant the school permission to expand.

The charter school submitted an expansion request in 2016 that was recommended favorably by then-Commissioner Mitchell Chester, but the board denied the request in a 7-2 vote.

Alison Bagg, director of the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign, explained in a March 2017 letter that the school should delay submitting another expansion request until it addressed several of the education board’s concerns. But the school filed a similar request, and was again denied this spring.

“You’ve got to hear this board,” Chairman Paul Sagan said after the board chose not to take action on the school’s expansion request this March. “We like your school. We like the educational opportunities you provide. But we’re not persuaded that doubling capacity works for the system.”

In its latest request, the charter school is asking the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to allow an increase in maximum enrollment from 584 students to 952. The school’s previous requests had asked for a maximum enrollment of 1,036.

“The PVCICS Board of Trustees wishes to make this change to satisfy persistent unmet demand for Kindergarten seats, expand opportunity and choice for urban, suburban and rural students to attend desegregated/integrated public schools, and increase the integration of staffing in public education,” the expansion request reads.

A letter on Aug. 1 from Executive Director Richard Alcorn to the education board states that the school has received 69 applications for the 44 additional kindergarten seats requested in the latest application, which would expand kindergarten from two to four.

Please read more here.

But it’s all quite political, as you’ll see below:

From: The Greenfield Recorder.
Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Comerford knocks charter school expansion plan

Jo Comerford, candidate for State Senate in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district, has come out against the most recent request by the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School to expand enrollment:

“I am extremely dismayed that the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School is once again seeking permission to expand its enrollment. This recent expansion request could not come at a worse time.” she said in a statement “Just last week, negotiations to fix the flawed education funding formula that plagues municipalities across the state — and especially in our district — fell through, leaving our public schools dramatically underfunded and in continued jeopardy.

“We simply cannot afford an increased charter school budget drain.

Please read more here.

Lansing, Mich. uses Mandarin immersion to keep families in the district

October 14, 2018

People sometimes say to me, “Come on, do district really add Mandarin immersion just to draw in or keep families?” Oh yes they do. Here’s a recent example:

Lansing’s Post Oak Elementary draws students from other districts

From the Spartan Newsroom at the Michigan State School of Journalism

In its quest to keep students from moving away, the Lansing school district is expanding one of its most attractive programs: The Chinese immersion program at Post Oak Elementary.

At Post Oak, half the day is taught in English, and the other in Mandarin Chinese.

Ann Jones, the international baccalaureate program coordinator for Post Oak, said every class has two teachers, one for English and one for Mandarin. They work closely to coordinate curricula.

Lansing schools recently passed a $120 million bond, and part will help Post Oak build an addition. The school is adding seventh and eighth grade, and the addition will accommodate new students.

Please read more here.


And here’s some more on Lansing’s magnet schools.

Magnet schools exert their pull on Lansing students


Spartan News

A student who loves to act doesn’t have to wait until graduation to grab hold of their dream. The engineers and the health specialists don’t have to stand by until college to begin polishing their areas of expertise. An interest in international language doesn’t have to be delayed until adulthood. Lansing magnet schools allow for immediate immersion into specific interests.

How did they get started?

A parent’s decision on where to send their child for K-12 education is influenced by countless factors: socioeconomic status, location and high school graduation rates—just to name a few. The Michigan Department of Education requested back in the ’90s that intra-district schools of choice be implemented.  The goal was to give parents and students the freedom to choose between different schools in their own district.

Lansing took advantage of this opportunity. According to Dr. Eva Lois Evans, the retired deputy superintendent in charge of instruction, the district expedited intra-district schools of choice. Evans was on the front-lines of this decision, helping each school select and embrace a specific focus. Concentrations included visual, performing and communication arts, biotechnology and international studies. These allowed students and their parents to choose an ideal career path.

Please read here for more.

Atlanta immersion school doubles in size, adds Mandarin

October 8, 2018


As it doubles the physical size of its primary school with a new building addition, the Atlanta International School is also adding onto its language programs with a new Mandarin Chinese track. 

The private school in Buckhead announced Sept. 4 that the new Primary Learning Center, which houses grades K-5, opened as the new school year began. 

The center doubles primary-school space and adds 20 new classrooms, along with a cafeteria and multi-purpose space. The building occupies three floors centered around a courtyard, with two grades assigned to each floor. 

About 100 new primary-school students joined the school this year. 

The new space helps make room for a new Chinese program, which joins French, Spanish and German offerings for primary school students. 

Please read more here.

America needs more Chinese teachers, but U.S. immigration policies may make it harder to get them

October 2, 2018

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While demand for Chinese language education is on the up, stricter rules on immigration may make it harder for schools to find enough qualified teachers

From the South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018
Every year Sharon Huang, founder of HudsonWay Immersion School, anxiously awaits October.

That is when she will learn if several of the Chinese language teachers at her primary schools will be able to carry on teaching or if they will be forced to leave the country midway through the semester.

“It’s very stressful on everybody,” said Huang, who runs two schools in New York and New Jersey. “We’ve had teachers who were denied visas and then very shortly thereafter they had to uproot their lives. It’s sad for the kids and the whole school community.”

Huang files around half a dozen applications to upgrade her teachers’ temporary graduate visas into something more permanent.

But each year a couple of those will not make it through the H1B visa lottery system.

Though H1B visa sponsorship is expensive, the process is a problem for the growing number of American schools offering a Chinese immersion curriculum, where elementary students take at least half their classes in Mandarin and teachers are typically native-level speakers.

Please read more here.