Monday, March 30, 2009

Hot topic: Future of multilingual education in SFUSD

An SF K Files visitor has some questions:
After the Immersion night with Dr. Met and the original posting about the Multilingual Master Plan, it seems that the input phase for the new Master Plan is winding down. Does anyone have any information about what will change or be added?

- Will the district combine or change the immersion and bilingual threads? Will the goal still be 1/3, 1/2, 1/3? Or 1/2 and 1/2?
- Will the FLES (enrichment) programs become more academic and a viable language acquisition pathway?
- Will extracurricular programs get a defined curriculum?
- Italian and Russian seem to have started. What languages are next? Arabic? French? Something else?
- When will the changes be made public? When will they be implemented?

14 comments:

  1. Is there any one place in the district with information (accessible to families) about all the existing language options, including extracurricular language programs at various schools? A parent told me Lafayette has a Mandarin program after school (every day?)... and I believe Stevenson and Miraloma have programs, too (though, maybe not every day?)... and Lawton has Mandarin one or two days after school... but the best I have found is Giannini, with three different levels of Mandarin every day before school (8-9)... and Spanish before school, too, though I am less familiar with that program. I believe the PTA organized both these programs, and that there is a semester fee of--- maybe $450?--- with workbooks included, I think. (At least for the Mandarin program...)

    For families who would like to organize some language lessons ASAP, on-site before or after-school classes would probably be much easier (and quicker) to arrange than classes during the school day. Maybe the families from schools (like Giannini) with pretty comprehensive programs could share how they made it happen. Of course, there are fees involved. Perhaps school fundraising could help fund kids who can't afford the programs... or the fees could have a bit extra built for scholarships... or?

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  2. M, sorry, I'm confused--are you looking for elementary or middle language options? Giannini is middle, Lawton is K-8, and the others you mentioned are elementary.

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  3. I say we fix the GE problem before we add more of these crazy language programs.

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  4. Well I know that there's a group trying to get a French program started for elementary schools. We'll see if it happens, but the Google group is here: http://groups.google.com/group/french-education-in-sf-public-schools

    If anyone's interested, the next step is to contact Maria Martinez at SFUSD to express an interest: martinezm6@sfusd.edu.

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  5. 9:08 AM

    Sorry to be confusing! I wasn’t actually speaking to my own situation, but letting parents (who aren’t already aware) know that there are existing extracurricular language options at some schools, but that there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to locate them. (And I was wondering if that type of knowledge is actually gathered together in any one place in the District- and accessible to parents.)

    Also, I was suggesting that for families who would have liked language immersion or other language options for their children (K- 8), if those options don’t currently exist at whatever school they are assigned/attending, it is possible to start (as a parent driven initiative) before or after-school programs like those I mentioned, and that it may also be possible to get some advice on creating and implementing those programs from parents like those at Giannini who have already “invented the wheel.” (There are also several Catholic K-8 schools with after-school language programs, and some, like Star of the Sea and Saint Monica, are even 4-5 days a week.) So... for parents who are hoping for something sooner rather than later (in terms of the Multilingual Master Plan), if enough families at a school are interested in on-site extracurricular language classes, there are several existing programs that could be models for how to accomplish that.

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  6. I agree with 9:20am.

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  7. Well, that would be shortsighted, 9:20 and 11:58, given how wildly popular the language programs are and how they are linked to improved academic achievement when they are added. Granted that they are not for everyone, surely the district should not be dropping everything else while "fixing" the GE schools (many of which are doing quite well, actually--hmmm, Miraloma, Rooftop, Sunset, Feinstein, Argonne, Grattan, the list goes on).

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  8. Tammy Radmer of SF Advocates for Multilingual Excellence did an amazing series of charts covering exactly this last year. They're up on the SF AME site on Yahoo. I'll send them to this blog to see if there's a way to post them. Hugely useful, and the kind of thing the district should do but doesn't. So Tammy just made a billion calls and did.

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  9. Thanks, Beth!

    That would be a wonderful resource for families... and kudos to Tammy for all that time consuming research!

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  10. Interesting thought in raising the question, "Are language programs helping things or are they hurting things?" I'm so firmly on the side, "of course it's helping!" that view that I can't really see how they would be hurting anything, but I'd like to be open to it.

    My opinion, which I think is along the same lines as a lot of folks here, is that one could directly attribute the increased interest (applications) in SFUSD kindergarten to the language programs. Plus, elementary language programs seems absolutely obvious when you think about the world's needs and children's development - And just because most of the US isn't doing it doesn't mean it's a bad thing. I'm so firmly on this side that it seems that SFUSD should evolve such that language immersion elementary programs the standard, and "english only" elementary programs the exception.

    But maybe I'm overlooking something. Does anyone out there have a link to the argument, "increasing focus on multilingual programs is a negative (in net) for our kids and schools after all things are considered?"

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  11. I agree with you that we should have a language component in all classrooms beg in elem school.
    FLES, with rigorous standards would be an excellent start. Immersion would be another layer, a special program with its own lottery -- immersion is not for all kids (similar to any other magnet program - science/math, etc -- we need to beef up our kids in this area to if we want them to have a hell's chance at a decent job 20 years from now).

    My biggest problem with the District is their closeminded view that all languages programs must somehow be created or revolved around a benefit to ELL kids. Granted, the gov't funds us that way, but maybe it will change since Obama announced to the world how our silly monolingual American kids are so lacking (put your money behind your words!!) But not all kids are ELL. Shouldn't the non-ELL kids also be learning a 2nd language to compete in the future.

    So put more FLES into schools. Maintain rigorous standards/ curriculum. SEt up OW immersion programs -- do not need to have ELL in the target language - its ok to have OW immersion -- Arabic, Russian, French -- all great for the future.

    A serious review of the bilingual programs vs immersion needs to be considered. Schizophrenic policies here. Hillcrest opens a Cantonese bilingual program last year. Enrollment requests, 1 or 2 this year. Maybe it will fill up but check out the number of CB programs there are and the demand for each one. Then DeAvila opens a Cantonese immersion, presumably, they need those same ELL Cantonese kids. Why not make DeAvila one way immersion, so at least you can serve the non ELL kids too.

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  12. I'd love to see more languages offered in the public school system as FLES or immersion. I think there are programs in Spanish, Japanese, Cantonse, Mandarin, Korean, Russian, Italian? What about French? German? Arabic?

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  13. Yes, there are different kinds of intelligences.

    But all children seem to be able to master their own native language, even if they are at heart kinesthetic or visual learners and not linguistic learners.

    And that is precisely the point.

    Start young enough, and you learn a new language the way you learned your native language: effortlessly, seemingly through osmosis.

    Start later in life, and, well, only those with "linguistic" intelligence can really get far by that point.

    Many, many children grow up speaking more than one language. THey are no smarter than those who don't. THey don't have some special "talent" for languages. They are just born into circumstances that require they acquire more than one language at once.

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