Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Immersion Works, Expert Tells Parents

The following article was written by Elizabeth Weise, Starr King parent and president of the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council

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“There is no greater gift you can give your child than the gift of early bilingualism,” immersion expert Dr. Myriam Met told an audience of almost 200 parents in San Francisco on March 16. Children’s brains are pre-wired to learn language, a skill that has already begun to fade by ninth grade when most students begin studying a second language, she said.

“Immersion also gives your children tools to live in a new world, different from anything we can imagine,” said Dr. Met, a nationally-known expert on immersion programs who has helped create them across the globe. The biggest concern most parents have about immersion is whether it will hinder their children’s overall academic progress and whether they won’t learn English well. It won’t, Dr. Met told them.

Students in language immersion programs do at least as well as their monolingual peers in school, and often better, especially if they stay in immersion until at least the 8th grade, Dr. Met said.

The Evidence
Her evening talk covered what national and international research has shown about language immersion programs. For children who are native speakers of English, the benefits of immersion are clear. Research shows that when they are in one-way and two-way immersion programs, and are tested in English, their math and language arts scores were at or above national average by 5th grade. But they did even better when they stayed in immersion through at least 8th grade. Immersion is just as good for children who are learning English. In fact, the research shows that they do better in immersion than children learning English who aren’t in immersion, Dr. Met said.

The research she cited is based mostly on studies done of students in Spanish and French immersion, with minor studies done looking at Chinese immersion. While some of the studies were conducted within the San Francisco Unified School District, most were not. Dr. Met spoke generally about immersion, not specifically about immersion in San Francisco. She addressed head-on concerns about the well-known statistical achievement gap between native English speakers and students who are learning English in schools.

Nationwide research clearly shows that in general, English language learners who are in one and two-way immersion programs and are tested in English score at or slightly below national average by 5th grade in math and language arts. They, too, had the best outcomes when they continued in immersion through at least 8th grade. Most importantly, nationwide studies indicate that those students do better than their peers who are in not in immersion programs.

The statistical evidence suggests that immersion programs do not cause the achievement gap and in fact reduce it, Dr. Met said. Secondly, however much it might seem that more classroom time in English would help English language learners, there’s no evidence that transferring them from immersion programs to an English-only programs improves test scores. And as they move through school, English language learners in immersion programs drop-out at a lower rate than English language learners in English-only programs. “More time spent learning English doesn’t necessarily improve performance,” she said.

Don’t Panic
This is crucial information for parents either contemplating immersion or who have children in immersion programs, because somewhere between first and third grade, a substantial minority of parents note that other children, in English-only programs, seem to be ahead of their children. And they decide that it must be the immersion that’s the problem. In other words, said Dr. Met, “They panic.”

In extreme cases, the parents pull their children out of immersion and switch them to English-only programs. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do, the research shows. Immersion is a process and families have to trust in the process. All the benefits don’t become apparent in the first one or two or three years. It’s by 5th grade, and especially by 8th grade that the full benefits of the immersion experience become clear.

Pulling children out just as they’re starting but before they’ve had time to reap the benefits of immersion is a mistake that’s all too often made, she said. Of course results do vary, depending on the degree to which the school’s program is faithful to the immersion model, Dr. Met said. But there’s no statistical evidence that she’s seen that would indicate that immersion isn’t working in San Francisco schools.

One way to combat this early elementary slump is to create a buddy system, where families in the lower grades are paired with families in upper grades, so the new families have an example of where they can expect their children to end up. “Nobody is as convincing to a parent as another parent,” said Dr. Met.

Immersion works
“Immersion delivers on promises made,” Dr. Met said. Across the board, no matter what language they speak at home and what language they’re learning in school, students end up fully bilingual and biliterate, able to speak, read and write fluently in both languages.

One reason for that is the number of hours they spend learning in their immersion language, she noted. At the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, where the U.S. military and embassy staff learn languages, it’s assumed that it will take 240 hours of classroom time to reach an intermediate level in Spanish, and 480 hours to reach the same level in Chinese.

A typical high school student who studies a foreign language gets 125 hours of instruction a year, Dr. Met said. Immersion students in Kindergarten get 750 hours of classroom - five hours a day for 150 days. “That’s the power of immersion,” Dr. Met said.

What makes programs work?
For an immersion program to work well, several things have to be present, Dr. Met told the audience.

* It must be carefully planned.
* It must be ‘articulated,’ meaning what students learn flows clearly from year to year, and especially from school to school.
* Teachers must be well-trained.
* The school must have strong leadership from its principal and strong administrative support from its school district.

Getting trained teachers is a problem nationwide because today there are not enough teachers training for immersion in college. That creates a situation where “you’re flying the plane while you’re putting on the wings,” says Dr. Met. But until sufficient numbers of teachers trained in immersion begin to come through the pipeline, most immersion teachers will need on-the-job training and mentoring from more experienced teachers. The good news is that that happens in many San Francisco classrooms today.

Thank an immersion teacher today
Teaching, as anyone who’s spent any time in a classroom knows, is hard work. But it’s harder for immersion teachers. They must be able to function fully in two languages, they must always be ‘on’ in class, using mime, their imaginations and a host of props they often create themselves to get ideas across in a new language.

And they often have to translate or create their own teaching materials — all the while dealing with parent, school district, and state and federal level expectations. Immersion teaching “is the hardest kind of teaching there is,” said Dr. Met. “So thank your child’s teacher.”

Sources
Further information about research Dr. Met cited in her talk can be found at:

* www.lindholm-leary.com
* njrp.tamu.edu/2004/PDFs/Collier.pdf

Thanks
Dr. Met’s talk was sponsored by The San Francisco Unified School District’s Multilingual Education Dept., San Francisco Advocates for Multilingual Excellence and the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council. Financial support for childcare was provided through the generosity of the San Francisco’s Mayors Office. The talk was held at James Lick Middle School in San Francisco.

For more information on immersion in the San Francisco Public Schools, you can subscribe to an email list for San Francisco Advocates for Multilingual Excellence by sending a message to SF_AME-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

The Mandarin Immersion Parents Council can be found at http://miparentscouncil.org.

Elizabeth Weise, who is the president of the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council, can be reached at weise@well.com

63 comments:

  1. Be careful, though. Immersion programs mask learning disabilities, which often are not discovered because of those programs until after 3rd grade. Parents should get their children educational evaluations periodically, just to make sure they are not missing dyslexia or other issues which should have been addressed earlier.

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  2. I am all for the bi-lingual movement. But until we can get these kids learning the basics at an improved level, I say shelve this initiative to provide increased immersion programs.

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  3. GUess you didn't read the part about English-speaking immersion kids scoring at or above the nat'l average.

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  4. Guess you don't care that the native speakers in these classes score far below the average.

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  5. 10:10, the achievement gap is an issue. However, the relevant comparison is between ELLs in the immersion classroom and their socio-economic status ELL peers in non-immersion classrooms, either bilingual or english-only. My understanding of the research there is that ELLs in immersion out-perform their peers by the 5th grade.

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  6. I am a Chinese from Malaysia where we had to learn 3 languages in Chinese public school. Everyone knows at least 2 -3 languages. Outside of our school, we speak another 2-3 dialects so in total, most of my friends and I speaks 5-6 languages. My father who is a business man that had to cater to many different customers self taught 8 languages. Yes, that's right! He was so poor he couldn't afford to go to school but he taught himself to speak 8 languages so he can keep his business going and put food on the table. In my country, if you know only one language, people laughed at you.

    When my friends and I came to America to pursue our undergrad, we were able to adapt to many different situation and environment. I speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Fukkienese (Chinese dialect spoken in Taiwan), English and Malay. When I met my husband who grew up in San Francisco, I could pick up his Tai San dialect (Native dialect of Canton, most elders in SF Chinatown speaks that) in a year. Now I understand more than 80% of the time when his family converse in Tai San.

    My 3.5 years old daughter is trilingual now. I speak to her in Mandarin, her father and grandparents speak to her in Cantonese and she learn English from preschool. I truly believe that immersion program is the greatest gift you can ever give to your children. Yes, different children adapt differently and adjust differently. Some of my Malaysian friends are better in English and didn't do as well in Chinese class and vice versa. But now that we are in our 30s and a parents ourselves, we were glad we learn all those languages to prepare us for life and many changes that came with it.

    Please embrace immersion program and don't be afraid of the unknown. My friends and I are great examples that knowing more than just one language will give you an edge in life.

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  7. 10:10 -- to your comment, then the District needs to set up One Way Immersion Programs. If the dual immersion programs are not a benefit to the ELL kids, then let them continue on the bilingual path.

    Recognize PLEASE everyone -- it is the SFUSD that set up dual immersion programs and tell the English speakers this is your only choice to learn a foreign language (or try the spots in FLES).

    One Way Immersion programs though not as good in theory as dual immersion, would still accomplish purpose to let English speakers learn a 2nd language. And you can then take away the argument that ELL kids are being harmed!! Or used for nefarious purposes.

    I wish this district would stop pitting groups against each other with their shortsighted policies.

    Also - does anyone know how many ELL kids in the Bilingual Programs (designed just for ELL kids) who start in k or 1, remain in the program for the 3 or 5 years (depending if k-3, or k-5)? If the goal is for them to learn English, then it seemsthey be moved to Gen Ed after 1 or 2 years. One would think the program is set up to be able to accept incoming kids at each grade level, not to have same cohort remain through the 3 or 5 years (I would consider that a failure then since the goal is for them to learn English, like a kid from Russia or Algeria would in Gen Ed with additional resources).

    If the goal of the Bilingual programs is to enable these same ELL kids to become biliterate/bilingual/bicultural then isn't that diametrically opposed to the dual immersion model which says you should have role model kids in the other language?

    Because if so, then K-5 bilingual sure seems like OW immersion going the other way. The beauty of OW immersion is that the world of languages is opened to us. Such as Arabic, Russian, French, Swahili.

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  8. Who said ELLs are being harmed?


    THe whole point is that ELLs in dual immersion programs do better than ELLs in English-only or early-exit bilingual classrooms.

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  9. Thank you for running this article. I am always amazed when I hear arguments against immersion. Yes, some students may have a learning challenge that makes immersion inappropriate for them, but that is something for individual parents and their children's teachers to discuss on a case by case basis. Parents who think this might be a situation their family encounters should look at schools that have an English strand as well as immersion. In that way, they have more possibility of keeping their child/children in their school community if they need to change from immersion (or have one kid it works for and another that it doesn't).

    Thank you again. We are extremely impressed with the immersion program our child is attending in SFUSD. Honestly, we don't think we could have "bought" this educational opportunity for our child at any private school!

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  10. As far as learning another language, is concerned, I wish to put in a word for the global language, Esperanto.

    Although Esperanto is a living language, it helps language learning as well.

    Five British schools have introduced Esperanto in order to test its propaedeutic values. The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester and the initial encouraging results can be seen at http://www.springboard2languages.org/Summary%20of%20evaluation,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf
    You might also like to see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670

    Confirmation can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

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  11. I just looked up some stats I had dug out a year or two ago for Korean immersion: Korean kids score higher in dual immersion programs than Korean kids in Gen Ed.

    http://tinyurl.com/c7jr8o

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  12. Interesting that the article says the results are mostly based on European and specifically Romance languages, not Asian languages. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that Romance languages are far more conceptually and grammatically close to English than Chinese. I can say from experience that my study of a Romance language greatly enhanced my understanding of English grammar. I wonder if the same beneficial long-term results will hold up for native speakers of both languages in a larger statistical sample of English-Asian immersion programs.

    Also, immersion is not for every kid. For example, children with dyslexia may have a hard enough time trying to manage one language, much less two. And I heard about an English-speaking kindergarten child who was essentially asked to leave Buena Vista's Spanish immersion program because the teacher said she could not teach that kid Spanish.

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  13. --I wonder if the same beneficial long-term results will hold up for native speakers of both languages in a larger statistical sample of English-Asian immersion programs.--

    Short answer: yes.

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  14. It's a stupid fad trend, way over-hyped.

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  15. ---But there’s no statistical evidence that she’s seen that would indicate that immersion isn’t working in San Francisco schools.----

    But there is not evidence that SFUSD is doing best practices, especially for ELL kids, either.

    I fully agree that good language programs will ultimately make a more educated kid. But in SFUSD, there are so few kids that are non English speakers that go from K-8 in these programs, there is little evidence to show that these kids in SFUSD fair better than if they were in GE.

    Just a few years ago English speaking parents were parading a 'study' showing that kids in 8th grade Buena Vista were doing better than kids in GE programs. However, it only reflected the 'survivors' and did now note how many dropped out over the years (many) nor how the kids that dropped out of the program were doing, or how far behind/ahead those kids were.

    I know that the English speaking kids (mostly from middle class homes) fair well, and their parents advocate strongly for these programs. But who is taking a HARD look on how well these programs do vs. others IN SFUSD.

    SFUSD has no comprehensive program planning happening (note the willy-nilly addition of DeAvila this year, for example.) And curriculum across schools is not consistent. What's the plan for the bubble of Spanish Immersion elementary kids when they get to middle school? They don't all fit at Lick and Hoover.

    So, great that 'research shows' - but it ain't happening here at 555 Franklin, yet anyway.

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  16. "As far as learning another language, is concerned, I wish to put in a word for the global language, Esperanto."

    Esperanto? April Fools?!

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  17. I fully support foreign language education for young children, the more languages they learn the merrier. However, I have serious reservations about how it's done in SFUSD. At last year's SF School Fair, I spoke to several mandarin immersion teachers at their booths and found none knew where to find the district's mandarin curriculum. How do I know what my children are supposed to learn if the teachers don't know. As someone else mentioned in an earlier post, the district/teachers are flying the plane as they build it. An admirable effort, but not sure it'll achieve the intended results.

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  18. Yes, the teachers are having to fly the plane because the District sets up program and puts the burden on them.

    In support of MI, there is actually a curriculum specialist that works with the teachers from both JOES and SK so there is much more articulation across curriculum. Not sure if such a counterpart exists in SI.

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  19. It is true that the District is not taking the time to do a global strategic plan of how to increase immersion programs, make sure they are effectively offered to all families and that they are implemented well.

    Parents and teachers are shouldering the burden of the implementation of these programs and the District is popping them into schools that have poor test scores and high concentrations of one ethnicity in an effort to "improve" them.

    Parents and teachers should band together to hold the District accountable for what they are implementing, but who has the time? We are all stretched so thin as it is.

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  20. Before the district puts all its eggs in the language immersion basket, they need to figure out how much of its current popularity is tied to like attracting like. They could be left holding the bag when some other program or school choice method captures the fancy of the educated middle class.

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  21. I have 2 kids and honestly couldn't care less about language immersion. So good news: more room out there for the rest of you that value this.

    I took years and years of foreign languages in school. they certainly expanded my mind and my learning. But then so did geography, calculus, history and philosophy.

    I see many of my peer parents focused on immersion like it's the ticket to a great child. they'll be set for when China takes over the world!! Oh joy.

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  22. What I don't understand is why anyone who doesn't want immersion cares if others do? The fact is, most schools that have gone immersion are places you wouldn't have sent your kids to ever, anyway. And now some of the GE strands attached to the immersion programs are becoming more popular.

    Also, in theory anyway, the English speaking kids come out with the same basic education AND a second language and the ELL do the same. Not either or.

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  23. I think what many non-immersion folks object to is being made to feel that a language immersion education is somehow "better". It's the attitude overall that can be annoying. Oh, and I'm not 12:43.

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  24. ^ Just to add: I think the same argument can be made for public vs. private, etc.

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  25. thank you 6.51

    the immersion crowd seems like the private crowd in many respects.

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  26. My children are in immersion program... I can tell you honestly it is not for every child.

    So those of you who somehow feel bad, don't, because it may not be for your child either.

    I chose immersion because I value knowledge of languages... but others think science, math are cool.

    I honestly wish the District would create really really strong science/math programs (Spring Valley maybe, but don't know much about it). Foster City has some great science/math programs that are immensely popular.

    Language is not for everyone - though agreed that learning language at a younger age is much much better than bothering to teach someone in HS... and science/math you could perhaps get more bang for the buck by doing that at a later grade, I don't know.

    Sorry that some of you feel that immersion types are being a little bit uppity. I guess its because for those of us that really really want it, its literally like winning the lottery if you are not a ELL child with the target language.

    That being said, still, no excuse to make anyone feel lesser for choosing Gen Ed with other type of program. So apologies to all if I made you feel that way.

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  27. Ah, point taken about the superiority complex some people have. You are right, it's out there. It does seem, however, like some posters are on a mission to tear immersion down and I don't understand that either. I really don't care where any of you people send your kids. I'm sure you're all good, concerned parents. Maybe your priorities are not the same as mine -- so what? So what do other people care if my kid has a propensity for language acquisition that I want to encourage?

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  28. I hate it when people talk about valuing languages vs. science or math.

    Truth is, there are thousands of top scientists around the world who speak languages other than science. You can learn science and math in languages other than English. In fact,that is the beauty of immersion. YOu aren't learning Spanish, Mandarin or Cantones INSTEAD of learning Math and Science...You are learning Math and Science in those languages.

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  29. There are many multilingual countries, like Switzerland and Brussels, where children are required to learn more than one language. I don't think parents can get a doctor's note to opt out of a multilingual education there.

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  30. I just think it is silly to require kids to learn a foreign language -- but not until high school or college, when there is little to no chance of their ever being able to master it with a native-like accent and studying the language requires tedious memorization of verb tenses.

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  31. 7:19 - my point is not about language being more important or less so than science/math.

    the point is that if the District is going to spend my good tax dollars for a program, there should be other specialty programs (by specialty -- think over and above what the standard State curriculum calls for). I opt for immersion. My neighbor, who is already trilingual and kid is trilingual, may think science/math is most important. By the way, science/math is very important in the 21st century. But thats another topic.

    And the truth is, some kids are not set out to handle two languages at once -- read the book about multiple intelligences. Some people are logic smart, some are word smart, etc etc.

    Why force a square peg into a round hole?

    There are other magnet programs - art/project based, etc. Not sure how they all work, but for one thing, I know many parents who would opt for a school that had a heavy dose of math/science.

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  32. April 1, 11:36 pm here again

    In response to this:
    ----Also, in theory anyway, the English speaking kids come out with the same basic education AND a second language and the ELL do the same. Not either or.---

    The problem with SFUSD is that this is 'in theory' only for the ELL kids in immersion programs! No data to show that best practices are happening in SFUSD for ELL kids in immersion.

    My kid didn't get into an immersion program way back when even thought I would have liked it. Now, in 6th grade honors, I wonder when he will even have an opportunity to get any serious exposure to language at school - other than afterschool clubs.

    I have no issue with parents feeling 'superior' about the program - for the English speaking folks, I think the immersion programs are an excellent value and are doing fantastic things for their kids. But the data isn't their IN SFUSD for the ELL kids in these programs to show that they are achieving desired results.

    I have wished, however, that these parents would see themselves less as 'immersion parents' and more as public school parents in their advocacy efforts.

    I recall at a PPS meeting a while back, parents complaining about having no books, no supplies, etc for 'their immersion program' when it was happening due to budget cuts across the state! It was annoying that they felt so persecuted when, really, it was all of us. But that's probably they case with a lot of things: everyone thinks they are getting the shortest end of the stick.

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  33. 10:33 and others

    Thank you for speaking up about your perceptions of immersion parents and their attitudes. My kids have been both in and not in an immersion program. I have felt very, very lucky about the language exposure and felt it served our needs/desires well and has had good, though not perfect, outcomes. I am primarily a *public school* parent, though.

    I would like to see an overall plan from the district about their approach to languages, one that articulates the logic of the different programs and the siting of programs--recognizing that part of the reason of placing immersion programs is to encourage voluntary desegregation, and I am fine with that! Just think it should be transparent. I think we would be well-served to have a mix of immersion and FLES programs throughout the district. Some parents want immersion and certainly others do not, but I have yet to hear a parent say they would want NO language exposure at all. Or did I miss something? Anyone feel that way?

    I would also like to see more longitudinal research on the outcomes for ELLs in immersion programs (compared to ELLs in bilingual and GE, and controlling for SES) in SFUSD's program in particular. It's a little hard to interpret what is there now, and made harder by the fact that the district places newly arrived primary Spanish speakers into the upper grades/middle schools--I'm not one who says they should necessarily be barred from James Lick or Hoover, but how can we count their test scores in any accounting of outcomes-over-time for this program?? Thing is, we DO need good, solid research, especially as this question keeps coming up. I have no doubt, having gone through it, that the program is beneficial for anglophone kids like mine, but let's resolve this question of the ELLs and not trade anecdotes to make a political case.

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  34. Immersion programs are not the only way for your children to learn a foreign language. There are excellent weekend and afternoon programs to supplement GE. Personally, I would rather go to a school with fabulous administration, teachers, facilities, and well executed GE curriculum than a hodgepodge immersion program.

    Unless your children can keep up with the language beyond the district program, all that time spent learning a foreign language can be better spent writing English poetry, expanding English vocabulary in all subject areas.

    Of course, if your school's GE program is weak, then choosing the immersion route will at least feel like you are getting a better deal.

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  35. The irony, of course, is that English speaking students who master a foreign language have a better appreciation for their own language (from the grammar to the poetry)...

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  36. 3:48. Your sweeping generalization sweeps a little too far. Plenty of monolingual people have a deep appreciation for their own language and plenty of multilingual folks, well, just don't*.

    *This comment in no way suggests that multilingual language is useless or not worthwhile.

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  37. There is research to indicate that children who learn a second language gain a better understanding of how their native language works (grammar, etc).

    It isn't a "sweeping generalization" but a research finding.

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  38. 10:37

    So cite the actual research.

    Give us a link to the scientific studies. It's easy enough to say "research shows" but when you ask the people who say that WHAT actual research, they fail to produce it.

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  39. Ad, dear poster. "Appreciation" and "understanding" are not the same and you're not a very careful reader of your so-called research if you think they are.

    Moreover, I wouldn't particularly trust research that measures "appreciation". That research would surely be qualitative and full of causal holes.

    Research is useful, interesting, and furthers knowledge of many subjects but it isn't the holy grail of truth, especially when you're invoking a nebulous "research shows" argument.

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  40. "The irony, of course, is that English speaking students who master a foreign language have a better appreciation for their own language (from the grammar to the poetry)..."

    How do you know this? And why do you feel the need to to prove your superiority? If you're speaking about your own appreciation for language, then please speak for yourself instead of using fake "research" to prove your point.

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  41. --Personally, I would rather go to a school with fabulous administration, teachers, facilities, and well executed GE curriculum than a hodgepodge immersion program.--

    And I'd rather go to an immersion program with fabulous administration, teachers, facilities and well executed curriculum than a hodgepodge GE program. But that's not really what we're comparing, is it?

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  42. Anyone know what's going on with the New Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila. I registered for this school after being convinced by SFUSD that really could be a great school. Now it seems just disfunctional.

    We received a letter today changing the direction of the school from previous conveyed information. They "Hope" to offer 2 programs - a 2 way Cantonese Immersion and a 1 way Mandarin program.

    I was willing to take a risk on a AFY and WP model with some strong leadership. Now,I just feel totally confused.

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  43. Anyone know what's going on with the New Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila. I registered for this school after being convinced by SFUSD that really could be a great school. Now it seems just disfunctional.

    We received a letter today changing the direction of the school from previous conveyed information. They "Hope" to offer 2 programs - a 2 way Cantonese Immersion and a 1 way Mandarin program.

    I was willing to take a risk on a AFY and WP model with some strong leadership. Now,I just feel totally confused.

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  44. Hang in there, 9:12. I wouldn't try to defend the communication skills nor the decision-making processes of the powers that be of sfusd. but this project will do well if you can weather the bumps. It will attract strong families, and the district wants it to succeed. Won't always be a smooth ride, but it'll get you there if you hang in with it and expect of the ups and downs. Do keep asking questions, though.

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  45. The new Chinese School may have two Kindergarten classes of Cantonese immersion and two of Mandarin. There had been a fair number of parents who had wanted Mandarin and a fair number who wanted Cantonese.
    It's not such an odd fit as one might think. Jose Ortega houses a Cantonese bilingual program and a Mandarin Immersion program. There's a lot of overlap in programs, teacher needs and teacher community.
    This may, and I stress may as I don't know first hand, actually have been a case of the District putting one thing into motion, hearing from parents that some would like something else and taking parents' desires into account. And in a fairly reasonable format, from the sound of it.

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  46. Sounds like good news to me. District actually being responsive to parent desires.

    Thanks for the info, Beth.

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  47. I think what the poster meant was "meta=linguistic awareness." People who speak more than one language have a better understanding of and appreciation for *how* language works and how language is used because they have come to understand more than one system.

    They also have the ability to view their own language as an outsider might and understand the peculiarities, eccentricities and strengths of their native language because they have deep knowledge of another.

    BTW: Is there not an appreciation for poetic imagery inherent in understanding that what we call a "hangover" in English is described as an "undertow" in Spain, "raw-ness" in Mexico and "Hair of the dog" in French?

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  48. Is the new one-way Mandarin program at De Avila open to all SFUSD families?

    How would we sign up?

    We are waitpooling Alvarado (immersion program closest to our Cole Valley home) but DeAvila is even closer.

    How can we learn more?

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  49. I am pretty sure you can just change your waitpool school choice by April 10th seeing that you have one already submitted by the first deadline March 27th.

    The SFUSD letter does state that preference to either program will be given to Round 1 registrants with the caveat being that they will do their best to accomodate each request.

    There is no information on the letter about the Mandarin program just that it will be one-way immersion.

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  50. Wow
    Shocking the district is giving up on its progressive policy of adding imm to lower perf schools in favor of a brand new school w all the advantages mirroring afy.

    Meanwhile kids at the muirs of the world will continue to suffer. Is there any plan to get these kids language options...will they ever see special programs?

    What a crime..all this research benefits a special class of lucky lottery winners; with no oppty for other kids to have those benefits.

    Seemed like all imm programs were seeing rising interest y-o-y.

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  51. yes putting more money and resources into setting up well run and thought out FLES programs would open up more access to all kids to learn a 2nd language.

    as for OW immersion or De Avila -- hey, the demand is there, why not.

    and frankly, sticking immersion programs in low performing schools is not what its made out to be. there is a lot of negative tension that detracts from the whole issue of learning.

    i for one, if i had a K kid entering this year and wanted immersion would RUN to DeAvila, a school being created from ground up without any of the baggage that other schools have. I'd be happy to donate and send resources to low performing schools, but frankly I do not need the headache of constantly being maligned for being a middle class parent in a low SES school. no one cares if you were poor and worked your way up to being middle class, the fact is YOU are NOW the EVIL educated middle class, assumed to be pushy, selfish and whatever. who needs that.

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  52. I'd be happy to donate and send resources to low performing schools, but frankly I do not need the headache of constantly being maligned for being a middle class parent in a low SES school. no one cares if you were poor and worked your way up to being middle class, the fact is YOU are NOW the EVIL educated middle class, assumed to be pushy, selfish and whatever. who needs that.

    You know, I wonder if part of the reason you evidently experience such negative reactions is because your starting assumptions (as stated above) are so negative. Speaking for myself, it's very hard to work effectively with someone who assumes worst intentions from those around them.

    It's easier and generally more productive if I assume that everyone is interested in the same goal: a healthy, happy environment for all learners. We may have different ideas about how to get there, and cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic differences in communication styles might cause misunderstanding and acrimony at times. I'd love it if everyone else did the same for me, but if not at least I save myself the blood pressure increases and heartburn that accompany wasting my energy on putting a negative spin on everything people do.

    As a middle-class white person (who also grew up poor - but no one knows that just by looking at me, do they?), I think the onus is on me to listen with open ears and consider my cultural lens and biases. The system favors me, and my culture's norms are the dominant ones. It's on me to demonstrate that I come ready to share, not take over.

    I think the specific issue of add-on immersion plans at poor schools is that people notice demographic differences between the GE and immersion strands. I think talking openly about these issues can help at least clear the air.

    Just my thirty-two cents.

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  53. Wise words, 8:51.

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  54. yeah, i'm probably feeling very negative right now... really, the families are all just fine at the school, i do not sense any resentment from them.

    you are right though, having a positive outlook and just taking things as they come is much better, and not be so serious.

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  55. "We received a letter today changing the direction of the school from previous conveyed information. They "Hope" to offer 2 programs - a 2 way Cantonese Immersion and a 1 way Mandarin program."

    The linguistic background of most Chinese in SF is Cantonese, so that's why the 2-way Cantonese but 1-way Mandarin.

    The "hope to offer" I'd read as just weasel words as they don't know what the demand will be for the two programs.

    In my observation, it is a worthwhile risk to be the guinea pig class for a new immersion program, as they won't introduce kids not fluent in the target language after 1st grade. So, if the class doesn't have the full 20 (now 22-) kid complement by 1st grade, and assuming the class isn't so small SFUSD pulls the plug, then your kid not only gets immersion teaching, but a better student/teacher ratio until grade 5.

    Frex, I know one parent who was waitlisted by CAIS a few years back, and decided to take the risk with JOES first Mandarin immersion class, and now her kid is in a class with only 12 kids until Grade 5. She's too much of a lady to rub it into her friends at CAIS that her kid gets almost twice the teacher/student ratio as their kids at CAIS, plus no $25K fees. [Personally, I'd rub it in at every opportunity.]

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  56. “I know one parent who was waitlisted by CAIS a few years back, and decided to take the risk with JOES first Mandarin immersion class, and now her kid is in a class with only 12 kids until Grade 5."

    Waitlisted at CAIS “a few years back,” then decided to try Jose Ortega? Do you mean she was waitlisted the year before last? (Because this is only Ortega’s second year of Mandarin immersion.... or was the kid waitlisted for CAIS preschool?)

    “She's too much of a lady to rub it into her friends at CAIS that her kid gets almost twice the teacher/student ratio as their kids at CAIS, plus no $25K fees. [Personally, I'd rub it in at every opportunity.]”

    Not that it isn’t still incredibly expensive, but CAIS is more like $20,000 per year. (Plus, in our case, we receive financial aid, and will not even be paying $20,000 for two kids combined next year.) Also, my 1st grader’s class currently has 17 students, while my 5th grader’s class has 14 kids. (Mind you, with attrition, the Jose Ortega class will probably have fewer than 12 kids by 5th grade.) There are also classroom assistants for both English and Chinese.

    All that said, your friend is getting an INCREDIBLE value (IMHO), and was very fortunate with the timing. (Before MI classes get too popular to get into.) One of the parents who was critically instrumental in getting the Mandarin programs started in the SFUSD received a lot of support from CAIS with that effort, and now works for the CAIS Institute while her child attends CAIS. In other words, CAIS and the SFUSD immersion programs are allies in their efforts to support and promote Mandarin education in San Francisco, so maybe that’s why your friend doesn’t feel the need to “rub it in.” She knows we are all on the same side. (I believe CAIS is even hosting a summer camp this summer specifically for SFUSD immersion students… using simplified characters since that’s what is used in their classrooms.) One of the CAIS founders, Carol Ruth Silver (an amazing woman, and a former “freedom rider”) initially tried to interest the public schools in Mandarin immersion… but that was more than 25 years ago, and back then she was something of a visionary in terms of immersion (in general) and Mandarin (in particular). Still, even though it was only possible to start CAIS as a private school, CAIS has helped inspire and support many Mandarin programs in public schools across the country.

    A few CAIS kids (including my younger child) took the District’s language proficiency test this year in order to apply to the programs at Starr King and/or Ortega. (In our case, this was due to financial considerations.) My daughter passed the test (and was admitted to a program), but CAIS subsequently offered more financial aid than we were previously getting (our circumstances had changed), and since both kids LOVE CAIS and really didn’t want to leave, we will stay at CAIS. (Which is not at all a reflection on the Ortega and Starr King programs which are excellent.) But what I’m trying to say is that the SFUSD programs are on the radar of many CAIS parents, and some would definitely have tried for them if they had come along earlier… but probably most would not switch now unless the financial situation became untenable, because our families are part of a community that we would find hard to leave.

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  57. thank you for the insight.
    i also do not necessarily see CAIS and the public schools programs in a competition.

    both programs actually support each other in the long run...

    there will be some overlap, sure in the families who can choose either school but for the most part, both will have their share of "customers"

    i hope to see more partnerships between the schools as we advocate for stronger Chinese programs and more importantly, how we can perhaps enable our children to be advocates of some of the better values in America (NOT materialism! :)) and yet be sensitive to some of the cultural/political issues of China -- sort of aiming for a better world some day when both sides understand each other. (not like some of the fiasco with the Beijing Olympics).

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  58. --She's too much of a lady to rub it into her friends at CAIS that her kid gets almost twice the teacher/student ratio as their kids at CAIS, plus no $25K fees. [Personally, I'd rub it in at every opportunity.]--

    To piggyback on M's comments, CAIS Institute's mission is to advance Chinese education nationwide, and they've been instrumental in setting up Chinese programs all over the country. They consider the Mandarin immersion programs established in SFUSD (which they helped set up) to be a wonderful, positive development.

    That aside, I don't consider the CAIS curriculum to be interchangeable with the SFUSD Mandarin immersion programs. We were drawn to CAIS because at the time there were no other options for Mandarin immersion. But what I have come to appreciate over the years is how strong the English curriculum is, too, which is balanced at 50% unlike the SFUSD program.

    The CAIS curriculum was originally weighted much more heavily towards Chinese, like the SFUSD immersion formula, but they found that their graduating classes were not as proficient in English as their monolingual independent school peers, so they went to a modified 50-50 program. Kids graduating from the middle school now achieve very high outcomes in English as well as Chinese.

    Part of the mission of the school is to educate kids to be bilingual, bicultural and with an international perspective. The English/Chinese curriculums are carefully designed and integrated to support that. Something else that I don't think is on the radar of the SFUSD programs.

    Had Mandarin immersion been in the public schools when we were looking for K, we would have certainly looked into them. We might have even gleefully concluded that they were like getting CAIS for free. But really, there's a whole lot more to a program than just their identification as Mandarin immersion.

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  59. 7:34, thanks for pointing out some of the distinctions so thoughtfully.

    Of course, many families will look at the cost difference of $300,000 and judge that they are not willing to pay *that* much to gain those elements that you describe--I mean, that much would pay for a nice private college education! Even with substantial financial aid that cuts the cost in half or more, with most of us having more than one child it's still a huge hit or just plain unaffordable for the majority of parents.

    One thing I'm glad to hear from the CAIS posters here is how supportive you and CAIS seem to be of the development of public school Chinese language programs, seeing it as a plus and not so much competition or something you have to put down. Because these new developments are extending these opportunities and Chinese language/culture further out into the community!

    Anyway, thanks....

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  61. --Even with substantial financial aid that cuts the cost in half or more, with most of us having more than one child it's still a huge hit or just plain unaffordable for the majority of parents.--

    7:34 here, and I hear you! For the record, I also have 2 kids at CAIS who are massively subsidized by financial aid in order to attend. So count us as among those unable/unwilling to spend $300,000 on elementary education. (Also, when we started, tuition was $10K, which seemed sustainable at the time. Little did we know....)

    Anyway, it's definitely a good thing that there are so many more options for Chinese immersion today.

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  62. Yalan King at the CAIS Institute has been hugely helpful with both Starr King and Jose Ortega's Mandarin programs. And their Chinese Language Conference every year is a tremendous resource for programs across the United States.

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