Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hot topic: French immersion

An SF K Files visitor asked me to pass on the following message:

"Following up on the thread announcing the expanded SFUSD language program initiative, I just put up a web site,, with the hope of bringing together parents who are interested in working to lobby SFUSD to establish a public French Immersion or bilingual-bicultural program. I’m particularly hoping to find someone who knows how to work with the district and is interested in participating. I hope this can be a thread."


  1. I think you should definitely promote/expand the Africa and Caribbean angle.

    French is used as an official language in quite a few countries and understanding/knowing French can be useful for those who wish to pursue a career in say UN, etc.

    Of course, the accents are all different in these countries but that's another issue.

  2. I would think the important thing would be to find a core of families committed to public schools who are interested in this. French is a funny language in that it was once very important internationally, and with that has been a common second language for English speakers (and still is in England and Canada). But I think trying to sell it to San Francisco public school parents based on the fact that they speak it in Haiti or Algeria or Senegal is a waste of time.

    It will more be about catering to the "Stuff White People Like" angle. If having a French "FLES" program in one of the schools in the southeast will boost the percentage of white, middle class families, I could see it happening.

    Plus, the French gov't and other organizations might be persuaded to put up some money.

    The big challenge to making this happen is the competition from the private schools. There are three schools with French, with immersion at the Lycee and FAIS, plus NDV having an Enrichment-like program (though apparently even the 8th graders can't speak any French). With so much competition and with financial aid (especially for French citizens), I think convincing French-interested parents to send their kids to the Bayview won't be easy. But there's only one way to find out.

    On a related note, I saw on the SF-AME group that Paul Revere was supposed to start a French immersion aftercare program (along with ASL) in January 2009. Any Paul Revere parents here to confirm or deny?

  3. Why not try to put together a charter school focused on French?

    I think you might have trouble attracting families, though. French-American gives a lot of financial aid to French *and* American citizens. And most of the families we know at FAIS are there despite the French, not because of it. (Several tried but failed to get into SFUSD Spanish-immersion programs.)

  4. I think French Immersion would be a hit. La Perouse and French American School are private schools.

    I know many families who would love to have a French Immersion program, including us. But that will probably happen too late for us, since our son that will start K in 2010.

    Good luck.

  5. 4:15 -- Did you even apply to FAIS? They are very generous w/financial aid. And at the pre-K level they accept 75 percent of applicants. (That doesn't exactly paint a picture of huge pent-up demand...)

  6. About time! I love this idea!

  7. To 6:23pm.
    We did look at FAIS. Tuition is $20K a year. Even with a 50% financial aid, which we would not qualify for, we'd still be at $10K after tax. We have two kids, that would be $20K. Just can't afford that.
    Besides, there is no garantee that financial aid will be reconducted every year.
    I know quite a few French speaking families who went public, even though they could have gotten a cheap tuition at La Perouse.
    I also know quite a few families in Immersion programs who would have loved to go for French Immersion.
    A lot of those families did not look into FAIS or La Perouse because of tuition. I don't think you can make any conclusions from the number of applicants in Private Schools.

  8. Considering most preschools are around 10K a year, that seems quite reasonable for a private elementary school.

    Aren't most of the people reading this blog sending their kids to preschool? I mean, having the jump in income from going public would be great, but if you can afford preschool it seems that affording private is doable with some financial aid.

  9. 9:26, speak for yourself. A lot of us did co-ops, or qualified for public support for our 4-year-old, or got financial aid off the $10,000 so it was more like $4,000 or $5,000. Or maybe we were able to swing it for a couple of years but not more than that, or not with two+ kids at a time--you can space preschool but not elementary. Also, for many of us our financial circumstances have changed with the economy and layoffs and loss of equity in our homes and investments.

    I think it is very presumptuous to assume that most people can afford $10,000/year outflow at all, or certainly indefinitely. Let alone $20,000, or $40,000 with two kids. Most of us are saving for college, so even if we did afford the $10K we would like to put it into college savings.

    The objective fact is that only a very small percentage of families can pay this kind of money without thinking about it (if at all). That may be hard to see if most of your friends are 2-earner professionals, or law firm partners, but it's the reality for the overwhelming majority of families in this town that private school is fundamentally unaffordable.

    That is why it is so important to build up the public system, and work for important 21st century goals such as 2nd-language competency *in the public schools*.

  10. Yeah, those situations make sense. I know a lot of parents with more expensive preschools than we have, and so I wondered if it would just be more of the same for them.

  11. I'm the one who put up the web site and asked Kate to start this thread. Just FYI, if this is a success, our own child will be too late for immersion since based on birthday, he'll already be in first grade this fall. I'd just love to see any opportunity at all for this language, spoken around the world, in our public elementary schools and am willing to work for it even if it does not benefit us personally. We're currently a happy private school family, but our school costs significantly less than French-American and we did not get into Lycee or NDV. We're in that space where we don't qualify for financial aid but it's been a stretch and forced us to cut back in many other areas to cover private elementary PLUS university for our older child. I don't mean to whine when many are experiencing far worse than we are, but that's our reality and I know we're not the only ones like us in this expensive town. We're on the edge of the cliff already, looking out at an economic situation that bodes ill for our businesses. We're seeking ways to cut expenses just like most people. One thing SFUSD appears to do unequivocally well is elementary school language programs. My dream would be a school with both an immersion program and a BBP so our younger child could start at a later grade. To those who have e-mailed me from my web site to support this idea, thank you for your support, I hope you will come to think of it as "our" web site, and please spread the word to anyone who might be interested.

  12. I think people get the idea that $10-20K of tuition is no big deal because so many of the discussions around private school contain comments like "I could use that saved tuition money to take the family on an overseas trip each year" rather than "I haven't got $2K to spare much less $20K"

  13. Most top tier privates give aid to families making less than 250,000 or 200,000 dollars. So unless you have applied for aid and been rejected, don't assume.

  14. We would also have LOVED a french immersion option. My family hails from french roots, Louisiana based. And we also are squeaking by with 10K for preschool, only knowing that public will be free (apart from aftercare). There is no way we could afford to pay tuition for 6 years for grammar school. And there will be no vaca away for us this year, and little put away for retirement or college. Just the way it is right now. Just chiming in on the variation of family here on the blog. Please be considerate of others when posting. Got my hackles up...

  15. I posted on a thread regarding French immersion or a FLES/enrichment program a few months ago, and got a grand total of three responses from interested parties. If there is greater interest in French at this time, I would love to participate in the push for an immersion or FLES program.

    I hadn't heard of the plans at Revere, but there was a buzz recently regarding a possible French after-school club at Feinstein.

    IMO, a case for French could be made in the Flynn GE strand or in another elementary school that wants to implement the international baccalaureat PYP standards based on the fact that French, Spanish, and English are the current languages used by the PYP. I also think a French option might bring more African American families into immersion programs.

    My daughter (entering K) has attended a local French immersion preschool for three years, and I worked at another until very recently. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help push this along.

  16. Me too! Our daughter will be entering kinder somewhere this fall... and we'd love French, if not for her, for her brother in 2011. We're from Canada and although our French is rusty, its there, waiting to be practiced. Let me know if there's something concrete to do...

  17. There is something concrete to do. Write to Maria Martinez at the SFUSD ( She's responsible for collecting info about language demand for the new Master Plan. She'll be collecting data until about April. See this old SF K Files post for more: New Multilingual Master Plan by San Francisco Public Schools

    As for trying to create a French-in-SF group, I wrote to and never received a response. How is a group supposed to get any momentum if the folks that make a call for interest don't respond? Apparently there were two others who also responded, but I don't know who they are.

  18. Check out the in Aurora Colorado.
    They are a French/Spanish/Chinese Mandarin Immersion school...3 languages and applying for the International Baccelaureate certification.

    Anyway, they may have some info on how to get the French program up and running.

    And your model could be different, just French Immersion or why not meld it with another language? How about Arabic or Russian. And make it a World Language/Multi Cultural School. Slightly different focus than the district just thinking putting a language into each school.

  19. Hi, I know that you are in the States, but there is a wonderful organization in Canada - Canadian Parents for French who are advocates for French language here with a sizable membership - I am sure that they can help point you in the right direction. Here is their website:

  20. So some folks have posted websites and email addresses here, but I've gotten very few responses to my inquiries, so I've started my own blog to cover French language education in the Bay Area:

    My goal is to bring together all the French language resources for educating children in French. Immersion, bilingual education, enrichment, after school, public, private, parochial, whatever. If you've got something to add, please add it.

  21. re price.
    three kids in La Perouse - with no major increase in tuition - that goes in the $720.000 of tuition up to the Bac.
    even with the laughable 10% rebate on the second kid... it's quite insulting to assume all french families would simply cough up that amount of money "just because it's french education".

    quite the contrary. For 09-10 kinder, I barely know any applicant in private, and most families have found some great public programs and schools for their kids. And some would have considered public with french if available.

    as for me, I'd die before I'd send my kids to a frenchy-french school (Le Lycee would be just behind MalcomX on my list), but I'd consider sending my kids to a french program. PYP Flynn could indeed be a great start.

  22. ^^Thanks!!


  23. it will not happen with public school. Immersion languages are based on the % of the public/need. I doubt there are enough to meet the % base. I do not recall the % needed, but it's not going to happen because there just aren't enough FRENCH people with children in SF who need it. It works both ways.

  24. Just noticed that someone just posted on here last week and want it to be fresh if others search this topic. We have made A LOT of progress and over 100 people send emails re: French interest to the multilingual dept. If this interests you, the strong group getting traction with SFUSD is the blogger above, Frank. Click on the google group link to get involved! We think there is great hope for a French program for Fall 2011. Thanks.

  25. I'm a french parent. With my husband we can not afford the Fais or Lycee tuition even with financial help. So I opened a licensed French Immersion Preschool for my child and her little friends interested to learn the Official French Program as in Fais or Lycee but less less expensive.
    Mornings are for the 3-4 y
    Afterschool afternoons are for the 5-6 y
    Check my website : or follow the activities on Facebook : Petit Peton French School.
    All nationalities are welcome ! email Delphine :