Monday, November 3, 2008

Is immersion right for your child?

Please join Potrero Residents Education Fund (PREFund), Parents for Public Schools and SF Advocates for Multilingual Excellence on Thursday, November 6 at Daniel Webster Elementary School and learn about the benefits of language immersion.

Mr. Karling Aguilera-Fort, SFUSD Assistant Superintendent for Learning Support & Equity, Academics and Professional Development, will discuss the District's language immersion programs and offer some guidelines to determine if this track is a good fit for your child. A panel of parents who have children attending immersion programs in the city will follow with their experiences.

The panel will include:
Hydra Mendoza, Fairmount Spanish Immersion & Board of Education Member
Renee Tan, Starr King Mandarin Immersion
Lisa Kirvin, Daniel Webster Spanish Immersion
Kellyn Dong, Jose Ortega Mandarin Immersion
Lauren Irons, Alvarado Spanish Immersion

Thursday, November 6, 6:30pm
Daniel Webster Elementary School
465 Missouri Street (at 20th Street)
Street parking, Muni #22, 53, 48
In English with Spanish Interpretation

If you have any questions, please contact me at

Melissa Millsaps
PREFund Founding Member


  1. did anyone go to this? i was planning to and...well, you how it goes. i was wondering specifically if anyone asked about 1st grade EO applicants: chances of getting a spot, if they're upholding the 50/50 balance to the letter as they did this year after the flynnarado "eviction"; if they're going to hold marshall and revere to the same standard (up to now they have not)...etc.

    i imagine they will get lots of 1st grade applicants this year because so many people went 0-15, so many wanted immersion and didn't get it and because of the flynnarado families.

  2. I wasn't there but in previous conversations with Karling he has said SFUSD is not going to force a standard (50/50 vs. 33/33/33) on any school, that it is up to the principal to tell SFUSD which distribution they want and whether they want it remedied if EPC gets it wrong. So it is a school decision.

  3. Well hopefully, the Principals and teachers will speak up after Round I if it is not balanced and they want it remedied.

    The school district should really require the families to bring their child when they register and do a language test right there with the K or 1 teachers. No last name assumptions, etc.

  4. Absolutely.

    They claim not to have the resources to test everyone, but I can think of no other way to ensure the classrooms are balanced and minimize the lying.

    I can't tell you how many families we know who claimed their kids speak Spanish just because the nanny taught them 2-3 songs and 20-30 words.

  5. Apparently not right for every child. I heard that recently a Buena Vista Spanish immersion K teacher told a family that she could not teach their Anglophone child Spanish. Of course a public school can't expel a child, but after that, the parents withdrew the child. I don't know what the specific problem might have been, but I understand that the parents are not aware of any learning disability.

  6. Well - if this was done after the wait pool closures, then it would be good news for Kim and others who may want to join the class in the 1st grade!!

    Just looking at the sunny side. Of course, being an Anglophone is a definite disadvantage these days. Not too many language options for these kids - other than after school or weekend class.

  7. THey still have more options in the public school world than private school world.

  8. I went to the mtg. Karling said they expect to test 900 kids this year - but admitted they do not know how/where/when this will be done. He did not address ANY issues related to 1st grade slots, or assignment in general except to say that they are going to aim for the 1/3-1/3-1/3 mix. There was no time for more detailed Q's about the immersion programs in general. The panel was great.

  9. How are they going to get the 1/3,1/3,1/3 -- have they upgraded the computer system to allow such coding? Guess they will test 900. Will they test the 900 before August 1 so they do not have the same fiasco like last year?

    I'm glad I'm not a incoming K Anglophone parent or even 1st grade parent looking for immersion.
    Chances look very grim indeed.

    Of course, the end result is probably that the programs will be better as the classes are balanced, or rather that it will be easier to achieve the language skills.

    Lets see if the District/Karling/ Garcia figures out that the number of spaces for Anglophones is far far outstripped by demand and to maintain bilingual programs (hey, even create more, see Hillcrest) is just a waste of limited resources. Oh, I forgot, resources are unlimited for certain programs because that's how the funding stream is set up.

  10. this conversation is making me think the original post should be rephrased as: "it doesn't matter if immersion is right for your child and here's why...."

    here are some other tidbits i've picked up along the way that may provide food for thought:

    -- lots of kids tagged as spanish-speaking in the system turn out to not have fluency or anything close. there are lots of reasons for this. it can compound imbalances caused by other factors.

    -- for all its supposed defense of program integrity -- presumably against the hordes of unsavory anglophone bobos bearing down on these programs -- SFUSD applies a double standard: many english speakers were denied entry to marshall and revere in round II and later in spite of the fact that those programs were at various times grossly imbalanced in favor of spanish speakers. infer from that what you will, but there is no denying this de facto policy not only enrages english parents, but also does spanish students a disservice.

    -- i have the strong sense that, whatever the historic cause, what to do about any imbalances has been somewhat left up to the school in question. (certainly EPC would rather have swept flynnarado under the rug this year. again.) based on my experience this year, i believe there is an WIDE range of positions at the different immersion schools on this point, as well as how best to serve all the populations who apply and attend the schools. culturally, some programs are just more political than others and this may be reflected in how they deal with testing, class rosters, imbalances, first-grade EO applicants, etc. caveat emptor, baby ;- ) .

    -- it appears that EPC's database system does not even accommodate bilingualism, period (for either a dual-immersion target language or finnish or masai or whatever). i don't have proof of this, but, based on anecdotal evidence, i suspect it. (it's like, you're either english or something else.) would love to get your input on this.

    -- in spite of the number of families who did not receive an assignment of their choice this year and, indeed, still have no school, or one they are unhappy with, SFUSD has elected to leave seats empty rather than exacerbate an imbalance (no matter how small). what do we think of this policy? (i have no way of validating this, but was told that 2 spanish seats remained open at one immersion program at the time the WPs were dissolved with nary a spanish applicant in sight!). personally, i think this position is rigid and misguided -- as long as the imbalance is small.

    -- balanced bilinguals: do they still exist? so many educators have told me this group is shrinking. perhaps this calls for a different definition of what constitutes bilingualism? or a different target? (who doesn't know a kid who has 100% comprehension and answers in english 'cause only one parent speaks the target language...)

    next year will be interesting. how in the hell can they test 900 kids? and, yes, if the education gods are smiling on immersion as a successful magnet approach to integrating schools, then why not increase supply sooner rather than later? (mind you, i now realize that not everyone shares the view that attracting middle-class families to struggling schools is a goal. i have noticed that some educators, administrators and parents in this town do NOT seem to think that closing the achievement gap necessitates fostering a mix of advantaged and disadvantaged students and families. or perhaps they just don't like everything middle-class families bring with them. all that ultimate frisbee and organic produce can get a little old....)

  11. Kim - you say it so well. I am total agreement with you on all points.

    I would really like to see the research that show bilingual classes help the ELL kids more than the immersion, because I can see no other reason to continue down that path. A few reasons come to mind as to why the District continues with bilingual programs --
    a) some have mentioned its not easy to find teachers for immersion, the bar is a lot lower for the bilingual classes. Does that sound like an acceptable excuse? Of course, as long as you never look, you will never find. The sooner you set up a plan, a goal, and work toward implementation the sooner you will find such teachers!

    b) some have said the bilingual programs serve not just linguistic purpose but cultural (ie, birds of feather flock together - naturally, latinos and Cantonese chinese would feel more comfortable with families of same ethnic makeup and presumably have other issues that "white"/middle class families could not understand). So these programs serve a purpose in allowing these families to bond and accomplish other activities. Having the typical immersion families (think -pushy middle class do-gooder PTA familiy) join the mix upsets the balance of the school.

    I am quite curious why the Monroe teachers several years ago push back so hard on having Cantonese immersion at their school. The school ended up with Cantonese bilingual, serving only half the population of potential school kids who want to learn a 2nd language. Really, when Alice Fong Yu and West Portal are ridiculously, yes ridiculously oversubscribed.

    I heard rumblings that immersion would upset the feel of the school. Of course, the school ended up with Spanish immersion, but that's a separate strand and so if you are in the Cantonese bilingual, you may not be impacted much by these pushy middle class parents. Let the Spanish ELL families deal with it. How cool that school would be if they do have both Spanish immersion and Cantonese immersion -- a truly progressive school in terms of language acquisition. The goals would be the same, even the methodologies, just the language would be different. Think of the possibilities. But no..

    Lastly. Politics, of course. Anyway, doesn't really matter. I'm just a curious parent/citizen.

  12. Yeah, there does not seem to be a way to indicate a kid is bilingual on the enrollment form. I have heard that if he or she speaks the target language -- and it is spoken at home -- that the parents are just supposed to code them as target language speakers. So there are probably a lot of bilinguals "hidden" by that coding. Sucks for me as my kid's bilingual preschool teachers think she could probably pass the test even though we don't speak the target language at home.

  13. Well, I guess by bilingual, they mean a true bilingual, in that one parent speaks one language, the other English. (Or substitute primary caregiver, someone who comes in frequent contact with child that would force child to have to speak a different language).

    Alas - where will the District find all these wonderful children who have parents that WANT them to join an immersion program.

    Meanwhile, they have hoards of Anglophones asking, begging, to get into an immersion program and NO seats. Yes, from 10 seats, you now have 6 seats, because we have to reserve some for these true bilinguals. Oh, yes, they exist, but in such great numbers?

    And our President, and just about everyone else on the planet poohs poohs the American born child who is monolingual. Even that video that starts with what do you call someone who is monolingual? An American.
    Well, give these kids an opportunity! Sheez.

  14. Is anyone going to the School Summit on the 22nd at Everett Middle School?
    These are good questions (Kim's post) that I would like to post to SI.
    Moving to the 21st century may require some different thinking, and pitting races and families against each other, well that just sounds so passe, given the Obama election. And the District should admit its got a love hate affair with certain populations in this city.

  15. ^^Thanks!!